by Buck Reed
Stir Fry Guidelines
Stir-frying is a great way to prepare a quick main course or meal. These dishes are low in fat and taste fresh, and the textures are very appealing. However, getting them to turn out right can be a little challenging. Using the following guidelines and practice can help.
A heavy skillet can do the job properly; you really should investigate purchasing a wok. The design of the wok helps to distribute the heat, which is needed to cook the ingredients properly and evenly. This shape also keeps the oil from splattering, and it prevents the contents from spilling over the sides as you stir or toss them. A wok can work well as a regular fry pan or even a deep fryer.
Use wooden spoons to keep your ingredients moving in your wok. Using two of them will also help you pick up and turn the ingredients.
You will need an oil with a high “smoke point,” that is, one that you can heat to a high temperature without it burning. Peanut, sesame, safflower, vegetable, and even olive oil or a combination of any two, will make excellent choices. NEVER use butter or margarine as these will not work well under the kind of heat that you need to generate.
Choose vegetables that are fresh, and clean them under warm water. Cut each vegetable into the same size pieces so they will cook uniformly. Some canned vegetables are acceptable, such as water chestnuts and bamboo shoots, but try to stick to fresh whenever possible.
Most any kind of meat, poultry, or seafood can work well. Cut into a uniform size.
Be Ready With All Ingredients
Since this is a very quick cooking method, make sure all of your ingredients are prepared and ready to go into the pan.
You will not have time to find that one essential ingredient as your stir fry burns away.
What to Add First and Last
First, add the oil to your heated wok. Pour it in so that it covers the sides. After the oil heats, add any aromatic ingredients: onions, garlic, ginger. These will help flavor the oil and transfer that flavor to the rest of your dish. Stir them around a few seconds, but do not allow them to burn.
Then, progressively add the other ingredients, starting with the ingredients that require the longest cooking time. Meats or poultry would probably be your first choice, as you will want to get a fast sear on them before they start to cook.
If you are cooking seafood, such as shrimp and scallops, you may want to sear them and cook them most of the way, then remove them. Add them back to the stir fry towards the end to heat them back up and finish cooking them.
Then, denser vegetables like carrots and celery should go into the wok, followed by softer things such as green beans, zucchini, and bell peppers. Then, you’ll want to add leafy vegetables, like spinach, near the end of the cooking time. Also, this is a good time to add any canned vegetables or nuts you may be using.
Finally, add any sauces or flavorings that the recipe requires, and, in some cases, thicken with corn starch. As you are cooking and adding your ingredients, use your wooden spoon to toss and stir them. You want to get every part of the stir fry into contact with the base as evenly as possible, so they cook properly.
All kinds of ingredients are good for stir fry, so do not be afraid to experiment. You can make a different one each time, experimenting with different sauces and vegetables and meats.
If you follow the guidelines and practice often, you will soon be making stir fry dishes that you and your family will thoroughly enjoy.