Out of all the different cooking methods, stir-frying is the one method we can always rely on for a quick, healthy, and delicious meal.
How to Make a Stir-Fry
Stir-frying is a great way to bring together just about any vegetable and protein combination in a fast and tasty way.
Whether we’re trying to get dinner on the table in the shortest amount of time possible, or use up some veggies in our fridge, stir-fries are the way to go. Stir-frying is a Chinese cooking technique that is done over high heat and with a small amount of oil. Since cooking is done at high temps, the ingredients will brown and develop flavor, but still maintain their crispness.
To stir-fry, you’ll want to use a wok, which is a round-bottomed pan shaped like a bowl . The bottom of the wok gets the highest temp, and the ingredients that call for lower heat can be pushed up the sides of the wok. The high sides also allows the ingredients to be stirred quickly without spilling over.
However, round-bottomed woks don’t fit too well over electric stove tops, and heat will not distribute evenly. That’s why there are flat-bottomed woks available, making it easy for you to make Asian stir-fries in your own kitchen.
To be able to apply this cooking formula without consulting a recipe, you only need to follow these steps:
1. Choose & Prep Ingredients
This is the fun part. You can make any kind of stir-fry you like, tailored to your taste buds. There’s no wrong combo! You can even use what’s leftover in your fridge or freezer; it’s such a great way to reduce food waste. The main ingredients to a stir-fry are proteins (chicken, beef, pork, seafood, tofu, tempeh, seitan), aromatics (garlic, green onions, shallots, ginger), and veggies.
Stir-fries consist of cooking over high heat, which helps maintain the ingredients’ flavors, as well as keep the color and texture of the foods. Because of this quick cooking, it’s best to have everything prepped and chopped and ready to go. Once you have this step ready, all you have to do is toss the ingredients into the wok, and you won’t have to worry about anything getting burned.
2. Make Stir-Fry Sauce
A stir-fry sauce is made with basic ingredients that you most likely have in your pantry – soy sauce, rice vinegar, brown sugar, and cornstarch. Just like your ingredients, make your sauce before you start cooking to make sure that it gets added in at the right time without your veggies and proteins getting overcooked. To make the sauce, you can either mix all the ingredients together in a bowl or shake it up in a jar. Give the sauce another stir or shake before adding it to the wok, since the cornstarch would have settled to the bottom of the container.
Now you’re ready to make your stir-fry!
3. Cook Proteins & Veggies Separately
Cook your proteins and vegetables separately, since they have different cooking times. Start off with your wok on medium-high heat and cook your protein until golden. It doesn’t have to be cooked all the way, since you’ll be adding it back into the wok in the end for a final toss. Remove from the wok.
If you plan on using aromatics, add them next until fragrant. Then add your veggies until tender but still crunchy.
4. Add Stir-Fry Sauce
Once your veggies are near done, add the protein back in, toss together, and then make a donut by pushing all the ingredients to the sides of the wok, leaving an empty hole in the middle.
Give your stir-fry sauce a stir or a shake and then pour the sauce into the hole. The heat will activate the cornstarch, which acts as a thickener, and the sauce will start to darken and bubble. That’s when you know your stir-fry is about done. Toss everything together until every piece is coated with the now-thick sauce, and you’ve got your stir-fry!
5. Finish the Dish
One of our 5 Cooking Secrets is to finish the dish with some acid. This tip applies to stir-fries as well. It might seem unnecessary, but it makes a huge difference. We like to finish a stir-fry with a squeeze of lemon or lime juice to really bring out all the flavors. And as always, taste your food to see if it needs more lemon or lime juice, or even just a bit of salt.
And don’t forget about garnishes! They can add a new flavor component to a dish, so don’t write them off as just something to make the dish look pretty. Add a bit of sharpness with freshly chopped green onions, some freshness with minced cilantro, or some crunch with toasted peanuts or cashews. Or for those who like a little kick, top with your favorite hot sauce.
Complete Guide to Stir-Frying
What we love the most about stir-fries is that they allow for so much flexibility and creativity. The best part is that once you learn the basics of stir-frying, you can combine any random assortment of proteins and veggies for a variety of stir-fried dishes to enjoy at any time.
In our guide, we walk you through EVERYTHING you need to know to master the basics of stir-frying from aromatics to sauces to how best to order ingredients so that everything finishes at the same time – PLUS 26 delicious stir-fry combos that you can use as a starting point.
Add this simple and versatile cooking formula to your cooking repertoire today!