MASTER ONE CLASSIC TO MAKE DOZENS OF STIR-FRIES
Stir-frying is a great way to turn beef, pork, or chicken as well as a handful of vegetables into a complete dinner. It seems so simple. You start with a tender cut (we like flank steak, pork tenderloin, or chicken breasts) and a few well-chosen vegetables (to provide a variety of colors, flavors, and textures). Add seasonings (garlic and ginger are almost always a must) and a quick sauce, and dinner is served, right? Too bad that “fast” dinner is often a watery, bland disappointment.
The problem is that the classic restaurant method—the one described in most recipes—doesn’t work in most home kitchens. In restaurants, round-bottomed woks rest in cutouts in the stovetop, and intense flames heat the entire pan. At home, on a flat burner, the results are usually underwhelming, with poor browning and not nearly enough evaporation and concentration of flavors.
Our advice is to skip a wok in favor of a large nonstick skillet. The diameter of a large skillet provides a wide, broad cooking surface that promotes good browning, which translates to great flavor. We like a nonstick pan because it reduces the amount of oil needed. In addition to switching up the pan, you need to cook items sequentially. You can’t dump all of your ingredients into the pan all at once and expect good results.
On the following page, we offer a detailed beef and broccoli recipe plus guidelines for creating your own combinations. If you have a protein, one or two vegetables, and some Asian pantry staples on hand, you have the makings of a good stir-fry. All you need is a method designed for your stovetop rather than for a restaurant kitchen.
WHY THIS RECIPE WORKS
Slice the Meat Thin and Marinate
Beef, pork, and chicken must be sliced thin (¼ inch is ideal) and marinated. (Freezing the meat for about 15 minutes will make slicing easier.) Make sure to cut across the grain to maximize tenderness. Salty liquids like soy sauce or fish sauce not only boost meat’s savory flavor but also act as a brine, helping the meat retain moisture during cooking. When ready to cook, drain well to remove excess moisture and promote browning.
Use a Heavy Pan
It is essential to use a skillet that heats evenly and that quickly recovers heat each time food is added to it. Flimsy pans need not apply.
Cook in Batches
Adding all the ingredients at once will cause the food to steam rather than sear. Cook the protein in small ½-pound batches and make sure to leave space between individual pieces for even browning. And batch-cook vegetables, too, especially if using vegetables with varying cooking times (such as broccoli and bell pepper).
Nomenclature aside, it’s best to stir your stir-fry infrequently. Western-style burners have a relatively low heat output, so stirring food infrequently allows for proper browning.
Don’t Add the Aromatics Too Early
Garlic and ginger can scorch if added to the pan too early. Wait until the protein and vegetables are done before adding the aromatics (mixed with 1½ teaspoons of oil to help them cook).
Make a Potent Sauce
Watery sauces will wash away the browning on food. Use small amounts of potent ingredients and add 1 to 2 teaspoons cornstarch so liquids thicken quickly when they hit the pan.
Batch-cooking is the key to a stir-fry that ends well.
Stir-Fried Beef and Broccoli with Oyster Sauce
- 20 minutes to prep ingredients (start by placing meat in freezer to make slicing it easier)
- 10 minutes to make sauce and marinate meat
- 10 minutes to cook (don’t start until everything is prepped and ready to go)
- 12-inch nonstick skillet with lid
- Chef’s knife (very sharp)
Substitutions & Variations
- The technique embedded in this recipe can be used to cook 1 pound of pork tenderloin (cut crosswise into ¼-inch-thick slices, then cut into ¼-inch-thick strips) or boneless, skinless chicken breasts (remove tenderloins and cut across grain into ¼-inch-thick slices). Add 1½ pounds of your favorite vegetables and you have enough food to serve four people as a main course.
- Long-cooking vegetables such as broccoli, carrots, cauliflower, eggplant, and green beans should cook for 3 to 7 minutes (less if you add water and steam them as directed in this recipe).
- Medium-cooking vegetables such as asparagus, bell pepper, bok choy stalks, celery, frozen shelled edamame, mushrooms, napa cabbage, onions, scallion whites, snap peas, and snow peas cook in 1 to 3 minutes.
- Fast-cooking vegetables such as bean sprouts, bok choy greens, frozen peas, scallion greens, tender greens, tomatoes, and water chestnuts cook in 30 to 60 seconds.
To make slicing the flank steak easier, freeze it for 15 minutes. If you prefer, replace the flank steak with an equal amount of sirloin tip steaks or blade steaks. Serve with steamed rice.
- 5 tablespoons oyster sauce
- 2 tablespoons chicken broth
- 1 tablespoon dry sherry
- 1 tablespoon packed light brown sugar
- 1 teaspoon toasted sesame oil
- 1 teaspoon cornstarch
- 1 (1-pound) flank steak, trimmed and sliced thin against grain on slight bias
- 3 tablespoons soy sauce
- 6 garlic cloves, minced
- 1 tablespoon grated fresh ginger
- 3 tablespoons peanut or vegetable oil
- 1¼ pounds broccoli, florets cut into bite-size pieces, stalks peeled and cut ⅛ inch thick on bias
- ⅓ cup water
- 1 small red bell pepper, stemmed, seeded, and cut into ¼-inch pieces
- 3 scallions, sliced ½ inch thick on bias
- For the Sauce : Whisk all ingredients together in small bowl and set aside.
- For the Beef Stir-Fry : Combine beef and soy sauce in medium bowl and toss to coat. Cover with plastic wrap and let marinate for at least 10 minutes or up to 1 hour, stirring once. Meanwhile, combine garlic, ginger, and 1½ teaspoons oil in small bowl.
- Drain beef and discard liquid. Heat 1½ teaspoons oil in 12-inch nonstick skillet over high heat until just smoking. Add half of beef in single layer, break up clumps, and cook, without stirring, for 1 minute. Stir beef and continue to cook until beef is browned, about 30 seconds. Transfer beef to clean medium bowl. Repeat with 1½ teaspoons oil and remaining beef.
- Add 1 tablespoon oil to skillet and heat until just smoking. Add broccoli and cook for 30 seconds. Add water to pan, cover, and lower heat to medium. Steam broccoli until crisp-tender, about 2 minutes, then transfer to paper towel–lined plate. Add remaining 1½ teaspoons oil to skillet, increase heat to high, and heat until just smoking. Add bell pepper and cook, stirring frequently, until spotty brown, about 1½ minutes. Clear center of skillet, add garlic mixture, and cook, mashing mixture into pan, until fragrant, 15 to 20 seconds; stir mixture into bell pepper.
- Return beef and broccoli to skillet and toss to combine. Whisk sauce to recombine, then add to skillet and cook, stirring constantly, until sauce is thickened and evenly distributed, about 30 seconds. Transfer to platter, sprinkle with scallions, and serve.
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