Learn to Cook: Stir-Fry

How-To, Learn, Primers, Tips & Techniques

Learn to Cook: Stir-Fry

New Year’s resolution: learn to cook! This is the year to leave your kitchen fears behind and create fabulous food with ease. To get started, look to our new cookbook Cook Good Food, full of simple techniques and foolproof recipes for everyday eating. Throughout the month, we’ll be sharing key technique primers from the book, along with great recipes to go with them. Start reading — and make good food tonight!


Stir-frying is a quick cooking method with roots in Chinese culinary traditions. It’s essentially a high-heat, high-speed version of sauteing, where bite-sized ingredients are tossed quickly in smoking-hot oil. It’s the ultimate one-pan cooking method — chopped and sliced ingredients are cooked in batches, then added back to the pan at the end for a complete dish.


A wok is the classic pan for stir-frying in Asian countries, as its shape helps to move the food around quickly in the pan. You can also use a straight-sided saute pan or Dutch oven. Choose an oil with a high smoke point to withstand the high temperature you need for proper stir-frying — we recommend peanut, grapeseed or canola oil.


Secrets to Success


Prep first. Make sure you have all your ingredients sliced, measured and within easy reach of the stove before you begin.


Heat the pan. Warm it for a few minutes before starting. You know it’s ready when you feel pronounced heat rising when you hold your hand above it.


Swirl away. Once the pan is hot, add the oil and quickly but carefully tilt and rotate the pan so that the oil is distributed over the surface. You are supposed to use the whole surface area of the pan when stir-frying, so be sure all parts are well coated.


Use two hands. The quick cooking pace and high heat that stir-frying demands means it’s best to use two hands when cooking, tossing and stirring the ingredients rapidly and pushing them up the sides of the pan to expose them evenly to the heat.


Timing is everything. To ensure even cooking, add the slowest-cooking ingredients to the pan first, and end with the fastest cooking ingredients. Or, add individual ingredients to the pan in batches, and pour them onto a plate when they are done. Recombine the ingredients just before serving to heat them through.


How to Stir-Fry


Assemble your stuffAssemble your stuff
Since stir-frying goes so fast, it’s helpful to have everything ready and near the stove before you start.
Add the first ingredientAdd the first ingredient
Stir-fried recipes often call for adding the ingredients in batches. After swirling the oil into the hot pan, add the first ingredient.
Stir & tossStir & toss
Leave the food undisturbed for a few seconds to encourage browning, then grab your tools and stir and toss vigorously with both hands.
Remove & repeatRemove & repeat
Transfer the first ingredient to a plate or bowl, then add the next set of ingredients to the pan and repeat the stirring and tossing.
Re-combine & finishRe-combine & finish
Add all the ingredients back to the pan. Add the finishing sauce, if using, and stir to heat through and thicken.




Stir-Fried Tofu with Mushrooms and GreensStir-Fried Tofu with Mushrooms and Greens
Here, mushrooms, tofu and broccoli rabe are stir-fried with ginger and scallions, then tossed in a bold-flavored sauce before serving.
Stir-Fried Chicken with Walnuts and BasilStir-Fried Chicken with Walnuts and Basil
Boneless, skinless chicken breasts are perfectly suited to stir-frying; peppers and basil add fresh flavor, while walnuts give this dish some crunch.
Stir-Fried Pork and Bok ChoyStir-Fried Pork and Bok Choy
This hearty stir-fry comes together in a snap, with thinly sliced pork tenderloin and earthy bok choy. Serve with nutritious brown rice to soak up the sauce.
Stir-Fried Lamb with Broccoli and MushroomsStir-Fried Lamb with Broccoli and Mushrooms
Here’s a nourishing dish for a cold night. Slices of lean lamb leg steaks get an extra kick from an Asian-inspired sauce, fresh lime juice and mint leaves.
Stir-Fried Soba Noodles with Beef and CabbageStir-Fried Soba Noodles with Beef and Cabbage
Beef marinated in a gingery sauce is the perfect accompaniment to nutty, delicate soba noodles and just wilted cabbage in this quick main course.
Stir-Fried Tri-tip with RadicchioStir-Fried Tri-tip with Radicchio
Tri-tip is often grilled, but it’s leanness and stringy muscle structure make it a better candidate for stir-frying. Radicchio and watercress add a fresh, pleasantly bitter note.
Stir-Fried Wild RiceStir-Fried Wild Rice
Hearty, deliciously chewy wild rice is wonderful stir-fried with vegetables like bok choy, peppers and bean sprouts. Serve with meat or seafood, or on its own as a meatless entree.

2 comments about “Learn to Cook: Stir-Fry

  1. Kristen

    I just pulled out my wok last night and was like, hmmm, what shall I do with this? Thanks for the step-by-step instructions!!


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