Stir fry is a fast and healthy cooking method that anyone can conquer. What are the REAL secrets? Use a good wok (or heavy-duty skillet), fresh, not frozen, veggies, and a super-hot heat source. Add a bit of practice and you’ll soon find yo-self a stir fry pro.
Steppin’ Up Your Stir Fry
Getting the stir fry technique just right takes some practice and some helpful tips. That’s why stir fry in a restaurant tastes so stinking good… because they know the tricks! But now you can, too. Below I’ve got seven simple strategies for getting that restaurant-quality stir fry right in your own kitchen.
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First Things First: Mise En Place Your Ingredients
Stir fry goes fast – your ingredients need to be ready to rock and roll, right in the moment. Having everything measured and prepped (that’s the mise en place) is essential to be sure your ingredients go in at just the precise time, and in the right order.
Insider Ingredient Secrets
A good veggie-to-meat stir fry ratio is 2-3 cups of fresh veggies per 1 pound of meat. Also, as you prep the vegetables, be sure to pat them dry (so they keep their crispness) as you cook each batch. Keep in mind that the aromatics (the garlic and the ginger) added at the very beginning of your recipe (see below) should be cooked at a low temperature, while the veggies and meats that will follow need high heat for a short amount of time.
When You’re Talking Successful Stir Fry, Size Matters
Make certain all of your ingredients are equally cut to proportion so they cook evenly. This means the meat pieces should all be cut to the very same size, as well as the veggies.
If you love Asian flavors, then you MUST try my popular Asian Beef Bowl recipe! Guests go crazy over it every time, and it uses a lot of these same stir fry principles.
Batch Cooking is a Beautiful Thing
Good stir fry is made in small batches, there’s no getting around it. The alternative causes over-crowding in your wok, and this is precisely when stir fry goes from crisp and wonderful to soggy and sad…..a complete and utter travesty! Keep a plate or shallow dish nearby for reserving each batch that’s removed from the skillet.
Order in the Court
First comes the oil, then the aromatics, and next are the veggies as you work in batches – this sequence is crucial. Once all the veggies are cooked just to crisp-tender and reserved, it’s now time to cook the meat. After all the meat pieces are batch-cooked, return the veggies to the wok and pour in the sauce, tossing the stir fry to coat everything. Serve at once while the stir fry is piping hot!
Be Savvy with the Saucing
When you’re ready to add the sauce as the final step of your stir fry, slowly drizzle in the warm, prepared sauce, adding it only around the very outside of the wok or skillet, as close to the edge as possible. This technique is way better than simply pouring the sauce right into the middle of the ingredients in the wok since the heat from the sides of the pan can get it up to temperature quicker.
Wok This Way
Nope, you do NOT have to have a wok to make stir fry, but a carbon-steel wok is truly a wonderful piece of equipment that lasts a lifetime. After you make stir fry in a wok for the first time, you’ll be wondering how you’ve ever lived without one. The tall, sloping sides of the wok make it easy for constant stirring and tossing of ingredients that stir fry requires. However, if you don’t own a wok, don’t let that deter you. Stir fry can be made in a large skillet, as long as it’s not a non-stick skillet. Non-stick surfaces can’t handle the heat needed to create a stir fry that’s nicely seared and caramelized.
Now it’s Your Turn to Stir Fry
Using all of the tips above, I’ve created a simple yet delicious teriyaki stir fry recipe for you to practice. Wash, cut, and prep all of your vegetables first, make sure your wok is well-seasoned (read below the recipe for how to season your wok), and crank up the heat. Dinner is done!
Printable Recipe for Chicken Teriyaki Stir Fry:
Chicken Teriyaki Stir Fry
- 2 Tbs. canola or vegetable oil divided use
- 2 cloves garlic crushed
- 1 tsp. minced ginger root
- 3 boneless skinless breasts, cut into 1-inch pieces, seasoned with salt and pepper
- 2 cups snap peas
- 1 cup small broccoli florets
- 1 sweet red bell peppers seeds and membranes removed, diced
- kosher salt and pepper to taste
- ¼ cup low sodium soy sauce
- ½ cup water
- 3 Tbs. dark brown sugar
- 2 cloves garlic crushed
- 2 tsp. minced ginger root
- 1 Tbs. honey
- 2 tsp. sesame oil
- 2 Tbs. water mixed with 1 Tbs. cornstarch
- 2 Tbs. sesame seeds for garnish
Heat 1 Tbs. oil in a wok or large, deep stainless steel skillet over medium heat; add the garlic and ginger, cooking for 30 seconds.
Increase the heat to medium-high or high; when the wok is very hot, add the snap peas, broccoli, and bell pepper, cooking until just slightly softened, 3 to 4 minutes, working in batches to keep your wok from being overcrowded.
Season the veggies to taste with salt and pepper; remove to a plate as you work; cover and reserve.
Add the remaining 1 Tbs. of oil to the wok over medium-high or high heat; when the oil is nicely hot and almost smoking, add the chicken and cook, tossing only occasionally, until the chicken is browned and cooked through, 4 to 5 minutes, per batch; season to taste with salt and pepper.
Meanwhile, in a small saucepan over medium-high heat, combine the soy sauce, water, brown sugar, garlic, ginger, honey, and sesame oil. Stir until the brown sugar is dissolved, bringing the sauce to a boil; reduce heat and simmer for 2-3 minutes. Whisk in the cornstarch slurry and simmer an additional 1-2 minutes until the sauce is nicely thickened and smooth; keep warm.
Add the reserved vegetables back to the wok with the chicken. Slowly drizzle in the warm, prepared sauce, adding it only around the very outside of the wok or skillet, as close to the edge as possible, allowing the heat from the sides of the pan to get the sauce nice and hot.
Sprinkle the stir fry with sesame seeds and serve at once!
How to Season Your New Carbon-Steel Wok
If you purchase a carbon-steel wok, a 14” flat-bottomed wok is a great option. It will, of course, need to be seasoned before you create your first batch of stir fry.
- Use hot soapy water to scrub any factory oil that may cover the surface of the wok. (Using soap at this point is the best way to get rid of any oil. Once your wok is fully seasoned by following the steps that come next, you won’t want to use dish soap on your wok ever again.)
- Set the washed wok over low heat until it becomes completely dry.
- Making sure you have good ventilation in your kitchen (either by open windows or a good exhaust fan), turn the heat beneath your empty wok to high.
- When the wok is hot enough that water droplets evaporate almost on contact, you’re golden.
- Remove the hot wok from the heat and immediately add a bit of vegetable or canola oil, swirling the oil to coat the bottom and all the way up the sides of the wok.
- Place the wok back over medium-high heat and add 1 Tbs. minced garlic and 1 Tbs. minced ginger root.
- Reduce the heat to medium, cooking the aromatics for 20 minutes, constantly moving them all over the bottom and the sides of the wok as they cook.
- Remove the wok from the heat and let it fully cool.
- Discard the aromatics and rinse the wok with very hot water.
- Lastly, again place the wok over low heat until it is fully dry.
Moving forward, try to never use soap when washing (rinsing) your wok and always dry it by placing it over low heat until all moisture is completely gone. Always coat your wok with a very, very thin layer of vegetable or canola oil to store it.
More Skillet Recipes Your Family Will Love:
- Chicken & Quinoa Thai Ginger Stir Fry
- A One-Skillet Recipe for All Your Summer Veggies: RATATOUILLE
- Easy Asian Pork and Noodle Bowls