How to Stir-Fry
Stir-Fry Cooking 101
Although it originated in ancient China, stir-fry cooking has been popular in Canada for the past 40 years. A stir-fry meal involves cooking bite-sized pieces of beef, chicken, fish or pork and vegetables in a wok over high heat and is served over rice or noodles. It’s a quick way to feed your family a delicious healthy meal, since cooking time is only about five minutes at the most. Much of the work is in the preparation.
Why Stir-Fry Cooking?
A stir-fry makes a great meal anytime whether you’re entertaining or serving the family. The cooking time is fast — about five minutes — which is great for meals on the fly. Preparation takes a bit more time, but prepping everything beforehand actually lets you spend more time with friends and family. Stir-fry dishes are even easier to reheat the next day, and usually taste just as good.
When done properly, a stir-fry is also friendly on your waistline. By cooking the ingredients quickly, all of the nutrients are preserved. Using smaller, leaner cuts of meat also cuts down on the amount of cholesterol in the dish. If you don’t eat meat — no problem! Stir-fry dishes are just as delicious with a mix of vegetables and tofu.
Save Time & Money
Stir-frying is also beneficial for your electricity bill because everything cooks so quickly, requiring little energy from the stove. Unlike time-consuming oven meals, which can heat up the entire kitchen, stir-frying can be done year round without worrying about working in a hot kitchen in the summer. A stir-fry is also a cost-effective way to use up leftovers, or produce in your fridge that’s nearing its “best before” date.
You’ll need a wok or skillet. Wok stir-frying is the traditional method, and also the best. The sloping sides allow you to cook the meal in stages, placing ingredients up and out of the main cooking surface until you’re ready for them. Woks are available in two types: those with a round bottom, which come with a stand to place on top of your stove’s element, and those with flat bottoms that can be put directly onto the stovetop.
Choosing Your Ingredients
Stir-fry dishes work equally well with rice or noodles. Peanut oil is ideal, but if you have allergy concerns other oils can be used. Garlic is a must; use about two cloves. Use frozen vegetables if you’re in a hurry, however fresh options include sweet peppers, zucchini, carrots, broccoli, onions, pea pods, cabbage, spinach, asparagus, mushrooms and Asian greens such as bok choy. Choose tender, quick-cooking meats like chicken breasts, lean boneless lamb, beef and pork. For seafood, shrimp and scallops are the best options.
Creating a Stir-Fry Sauce
Choose a convenient store-bought sauce or create your own using broth, soy sauce, rice wine, sugar, oyster sauce or premade chilli pastes. A typical sauce is both sweet and salty. Cornstarch or arrowroot is used to thicken the sauce. Although you may choose to use a thicker or runnier sauce to suit your taste, it should just coat the ingredients, not drown them. Aromatic flavours like fresh chillies, lemongrass, cilantro and basil are also good.
Preparing Your Ingredients
Everything should be bite-sized. Slice the meat into small portions, chop the vegetables into similarly-sized pieces and mince the garlic. Mix the ingredients for your sauce or have the store-bought stir-fry sauce on hand. Whether you choose rice or noodles, cook them accordingly to directions so they’re done when you are ready to serve the meal.
- Heat 1 tablespoon oil in your wok or skillet over a medium-high heat until the oil shimmers
- Add the garlic if you’re using it and stir for 15 seconds
- Add your vegetables and stir constantly for 2 to 4 minutes or until they’re crisp-tender, then remove them
- Add your meat to the pan (and more oil if necessary) and stir until the meat is cooked through
- Push the cooked meat to the sides and add your sauce to the center, stirring until bubbly.
- Put your vegetables back in and stir everything until your meat and vegetables are both coated with the sauce and heated through (about 1 minute)
- Serve with hot cooked rice or Asian noodles — garnish with chopped nuts if desired
Who needs takeout when you can make these meals? Kids will enjoy Chicken Chow Mein with veggies and noodles. Chicken Fried Rice uses cooked or leftover rice mixed with vegetables and seasonings for a quick to-the-table meal. Try Orange Chicken, made with orange juice and chilli paste for a spicy kick. Enjoy Pork or Beef Chop Suey with meat and vegetables in a savoury sauce. Beef and Broccoli stir-fry is a classic quick meal made with oyster and soy sauces.
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