How To Master Stir-Frying?
Stir-frying is one of the easiest, fastest, most convenient mid-week cooking methods in your culinary repertoire. Originating in China, stir-frying is a cooking technique that involves stirring or tossing fresh ingredients in a hot wok or pan. The flash fry method using fresh ingredients also makes stir-frying a nutritious option compared to other cuisines. In this article, we’re sharing our top tips to excel in your stir-frying technique and the best protein, vegetable, and sauce combinations to add to your recipe collection.
Preparation is key!
When it comes to stir-frying, the preparation is just as important as the cooking itself. How proteins and vegetables are sliced makes all the difference to the flavours and texture of the dish. A super sharp knife will make preparation easier, and a santoku or chef knife will cover all bases.
To ensure your proteins remain tender during cooking, cut with the meat's grain and into thin strips. Because stir-frying is a quick process, if the protein is left too long to cook, it can make the meat tough and overcook all other ingredients. For vegetarians, tofu is a popular protein option commonly used in Asian cuisines. For a stir-fry, an extra firm, vacuum-packed tofu is best as it will obtain the heat without disintegrating and maintain its shape.
Cutting vegetables into smaller thin strips ensures they cook through while retaining crunch and colour. It also makes the vegetables bite-sized, which won’t require using multiple utensils, just chopsticks or a fork.
Bottled sauces are incredibly convenient; however, nothing beats creating your own sauce where you can modify it to your taste, adding as much heat, sweetness, or sourness to the sauce. If you choose to make the sauce yourself, including cornstarch to add thickness to the sauce is recommended.
The aromatics are your flavour bases for the dish. This is most commonly garlic, ginger, shallots, and green onions (the white part) for stir-fries. We recommend these be cooked at a lower heat to avoid burning. These flavours will carry on throughout the rest of the cook, so it is important to get these cooked correctly.
The garnishes are the final little sprinkle when serving your dish and are generally optional. Popular garnishes to put in stir-fries include:
● Peanuts or cashews
● Green onions (the green part)
● Sesame seeds
● Fried shallots
● Fresh herbs such as Thai basil, parsley, and coriander
● Hot sauce
These are great to include as extra little flavour bombs and add some texture to the dish. If any of these need to be toasted or fried, cook them at the beginning and keep to the side for the final touch.
Wok vs Frypan
While both pans are suitable for high-heat cooks and can evenly distribute heat, woks are highly recommended for stir-frying.
Traditional woks have a curved base for high-heat cooking over a fire. However, in the modern kitchen, you will find that woks now have a flat bottom to sit comfortably on the stovetop without falling over. The concept of the wok remains the same, though. Unlike frypans, a wok’s construction is built for the purpose of the tall, gently sloping sides that allow you to cook in stages, resting ingredients on the side of the wok out from the hot spot found on the bottom of the wok. This avoids overcooking your ingredients. If you’re not ready to invest in a wok, a deep, large pan like a sauté pan will do the job.
What Is the Best Stir-Fry Cooking Method?
- Start by pre-heating the wok on a low to medium heat. For stir-fries, we recommend using cooking oil or a combination of cooking and peanut oil, as these are sustainable to high heat. It is not recommended to use olive oil for stir-frying as it can smoke and burn and is not intended for high heat.
- When the oil has heated, add in garnishes. Cook any fried garnishes first, then sit aside until the end of the cook. Then continue with the aromatics mentioned earlier to flavour the oil and set the base for the dish.
- After a minute or two, the aromatics will start to scent the kitchen, letting you know it’s time to add in proteins. Stir regularly for even coverage.
- Add in vegetables. You want to keep of crunch to the vegetables (dare we say al dente) for flavour and texture.
- Add in the sauce. If prepared correctly, the sauce should be thick for a quick cook. You shouldn’t need to water down or thin the sauce as this will prolong the cook, which can overcook meat, making it tough and vegetables overcook.
- Serve with rice or noodles and finish it off with garnishes.
Six Classic Stir-fry Flavour Combinations
You could create a million and one flavour combinations for a stir-fry, and you can use ready-made sauces from the supermarket without judgement. For flavours made to your preference, we recommend making them yourself. Listed below are 6 classic stir-fries you can try at home today.
Need a ready-to-go recipe? Check out our tried and tested Vegetable Stir Fry recipe!
Now that you know how to cook stir-fry and classic stir-fry combinations, you can start making your own! Try this with your friends and family at home and share your creation, tagging us on Instagram @RobinsKitchenAU. Together we can bring our meals to life through culinary inspiration using the best kitchen tools making cooking in the kitchen healthier, wiser, and happier.
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