Stir-frying is the ultimate healthy fast food cooking method. It’s a great way to get a variety of vegetables into one meal in a tasty way that the whole family will enjoy. Plus, we all know that we should be eating less animal protein in our diets.
Stir-fries are the perfect way of using small bits of meat, fish, or poultry as seasonings and flavorings rather than making them the focus of the dish.
The main work involved with a stir fry is the prepping of the vegetables. Try to cut them into even-sized pieces. I like to put them into separate small bowls according to how long they take to cook.
Carrots and onions take the longest, while snap peas, green beans, and peppers cook a little quicker. Mushrooms are quick so usually get added at the end along with leafy vegetables like cabbage.
One thing that new cooks often struggle with is when to cook the meat or fish. Should it be stir-fried first and then the vegetables added second or should it be added after the vegetables have started cooking?
We’ll help you with this question here and give you other tips for the perfect stir fry too!
What should the perfect stir-fry taste like?
You want everything to be fried, not stewed or steamed.
The vegetables should retain their color and a bit of crunch, while the meat, poultry, or shrimp should be cooked through with a bit of caramelization on the outside for maximum flavor.
Of course, at the end of cooking, we add sauces like sweet and sour sauce, soy sauce, or whatever your recipe calls for.
Should You Cook Meat Or Vegetables First?
Top Tips for the Perfect Stir Fry
1. Don’t add everything together
A common mistake beginner stir-fryers make is adding too much to the wok at the same time, thereby cooling down the wok and causing everything to simmer and steam.
By adding everything together, you will also not be taking into account the different cooking rates. For example, carrots need longer to cook than snap peas.
2. Get the wok smoking hot
And yes, you should use a wok. A frying pan isn’t deep enough. Cooking with too low heat is a common home cooking issue. Restaurants use ranges with extremely high heat.
This means they can sear meat beautifully and fast, giving the food superior flavor and texture.
Use the biggest and hottest burner you have and be sure to heat the wok and dry it for at least 5 minutes. (You can’t use a non-stick wok for this as it will damage the coating).
Add your oil only once the wok is extremely hot. Refined sunflower oil is best for this.
3. Use room temperature meat
You’ve just gone to a lot of trouble to heat your wok so why would you cool it down now with meat straight out of the fridge? Take the meat out about half an hour before you want to cook it.
During this time, you can marinate it in soy sauce and rice vinegar. Be sure to drain and pat it dry before putting it into the wok or it will stew not fry.
Avoid buying those pre-cut “stir-fry strips” you find in the supermarket. Rather buy a piece of skirt, flank, or sirloin and cut it into strips yourself. Cut against the grain for extra tenderness.
If you’re using chicken, use the breast meat and cut it into even strips. Shrimps should be shelled.
4. Stir-fry the meat first in small batches
Never overload the wok. Cook small batches of meat at a time so that as the meat releases its juices, they can evaporate immediately. You want to fry the meat at the hottest possible temperature here, not stew it in liquid.
Spread the meat over the base of the wok rather than piling it in altogether. A rookie mistake is to stir it straight away. Rather give it a couple of minutes to brown on the bottom before stirring.
Once browned on both sides and almost fully cooked, remove the meat and set it aside while you reheat the pan, add a little more oil, and cook the rest of the meat.
5. Stir-fry the vegetables after the meat
Reheat the wok, add a little more oil, and stir fry the vegetables. Do the hard vegetables that need longer cooking like carrots, broccoli, and onions first, then add the others as everything cooks.
Keep stirring! Leafy veg like cabbage gets added at the end.
6. Add the flavorings
Once the vegetables are done to your liking, add your seasonings like soy sauce, vinegar, or hot sauce.
7. Lastly, add the cooked meat
Add the meat, poultry, or fish at the end and mix them in with everything else. Do not continue cooking or everything will be overcooked.
We hope this helps you with understanding the order of adding ingredients to a stir-fry. Of course, you can cook some rice or noodles separately to serve it with.
Be sure these are ready when the stir-fry is done as it should be served straight away.