A stir-fry is only as good as its ingredients. Use fresh vegetables, preferably ones with contrasting colors, flavors and textures. If pressed for time, you may use packages of pre-sliced vegetables and meat.
PICK A PROTEIN
Choose a lean, tender cut, such as:
Ÿ Boneless, skinless chicken breasts or tenders.
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Ÿ Pork tenderloin or center-cut loin.
Ÿ Steak, such as flank or boneless sirloin.
Ÿ Thick, firm white-fleshed fish, such as catfish, halibut or sea bass, and shellfish, such as shrimp or sea scallops.
Ÿ Firm or extra-firm tofu.
CHOPPING AND SLICING
All the ingredients — meat, seafood, vegetables — should be sliced thinly and uniformly to ensure that everything cooks quickly and evenly.
Ÿ Bell peppers: Cut into thin strips.
Ÿ Bok choy, asparagus, green beans, scallion greens: Cut into 1 1/2-inch pieces.
Ÿ Broccoli, cauliflower: Cut into small florets.
Ÿ Carrots, sweet potatoes: Cut into 1/4-inch-thick slices.
Ÿ Meat, fish: Cut across the grain into strips 1/4 inch thick and 2 inches long.
Ÿ Seafood (shrimp, scallops): Leave whole.
Ÿ Snow peas, sugar snap peas: Leave whole, with ends trimmed.
MAKE A SAUCE
Prepare the sauce in the same pan you’ll be using to stir-fry the protein and vegetables. Heat the seasonings, such as garlic and ginger, to bring out their fragrance and flavor. Then add the remaining ingredients and cook until sauce thickens to the consistency of heavy cream. You can prepare sauces in advance, or make a double batch and refrigerate half for another time. (But don’t double the cornstarch — that will make the sauce too thick. Instead, use 1 1/2 times the specified amount.)
COOK THE VEGETABLES
Because some vegetables take longer than others, add them to the pan in stages, beginning with those that require the most time. Green beans: 9 minutes.
Ÿ Cauliflower: 8 minutes.
Ÿ Sweet potatoes: 8 minutes.
Ÿ Asparagus: 4 minutes.
Ÿ Carrots: 4 minutes.
Ÿ Bok choy: 2-3 minutes.
Ÿ Broccoli: 2-3 minutes.
Ÿ Snow and sugar snap peas: 1 minute.
Source: Real Simple
IT PAYS TO BE QUICK
Cooking food fast is the key to good stir-frying.
Cutting the food into small, thin pieces and cooking small amounts at one time make the quick cooking possible.
When cooked quickly, vegetables keep their crispness and color, and meats stay tender and juicy.
Source: Better Homes and Gardens
THE RIGHT SKILLET
You don’t have to own a wok to make a terrific stir-fry. But you do need a good 12-inch skillet.
At America’s Test Kitchen, the professional testers prefer a skillet with a traditional rather than non-stick surface, precisely because they want the food to adhere slightly, to create the caramelized, browned bits, called fond, that are the foundation for great flavor.
What’s more, while even the best non-stick surface will wear off eventually, a well-made traditional skillet should last a lifetime.
Skillets are simply frying pans with low, flared sides. Their shape encourages evaporation, which is why skillets excel at searing, browning and sauce reduction. Traditional versions come in three main materials: stainless steel, anodized aluminum and cast iron. The test kitchen is not a big fan of the dark surface of anodized aluminum, because it makes it hard to judge the color of fond. And while cast-iron skillets have their uses, they are cumbersome and can react with acidic sauces.
A great skillet will transmit heat evenly across its cooking surface; has a steady, moderate saute speed and will not require endless fiddling with the temperature dial to balance any shortcomings. It also will have a generous cooking surface.
Source: Cook’s Illustrated