The Asian technique of rapidly frying small pieces of meat and vegetables over very high heat with constant movement.
Stir-frying is not only fun, but it makes a delicious one dish meal. Depending on what kinds of oil you use, and what kind of sauce and ingredients you put in, stir-frys can be as healthy (or not!) as you choose. Stir-frying originated in Asia and has become a staple way of cooking in many American kitchens. The reason for this is that it is such a quick and easy way of preparing a meal. You can choose your ingredients and make a delicious one dish meal in no time at all! Stir-frying uses oil and high heat to fry food quickly while still retaining its natural colors and textures. While woks are the general pan of choice for stir-frying, a good skillet can also be used. The thing that makes woks so preferable, however, is the high sloping sides and the flat bottom. While the bottom heats to high temperatures, the sides are much cooler and can be used to rotate the food to cooler temperatures to prevent over-cooking. Keeping the food in constant motion is also much easier in a wok. However, in a pinch, skillets can be used for smaller amounts.
The key to a successful stir-fry is to make sure that your meat and vegetables are cut into small bite-sized pieces before you start to cook. The reason for this is two-fold. One, small pieces cook quicker; and two, once you start cooking, you can't stop to chop vegetables! The meat can be cut into small pieces and left to marinate while you get on with cutting your vegetables. Once you have everything ready, heat your pan or wok to a high heat with a small amount of oil. Add your meat first, keeping it in constant motion, either by stirring or shaking, and allow it to brown. Then start to add your vegetables. Add the thicker and denser vegetables (such as carrots) that will take longer to cook first, then the other vegetables. If you are using a sauce, don't add it until the rest of the ingredients are about 3/4 of the way finished cooking. This will prevent the veggies from becoming soggy!
- If you are doing a lot of different vegetables, remove the meat after browning before adding the vegetables. Add the meat back in toward the end of the cooking of vegetables.
- Keep all the food in constant motion! If it sits, it will become soggy. (yuck!)
- Try to separate your vegetables before starting the stir-fry. Decide which will take longer to cook and arrange them accordingly. This way, you can simply grab and add without thinking and wasting time!
- You can also add different flavors to your stir-fry by using fresh herbs. Simply chop or crush them and add them to the oil before adding any of the ingredients. Allow them to cook a minute or so with the oil, flavoring it, then remove them before adding your food. If using garlic in this way, wait until the garlic turns yellow, then remove.
- Get creative with your herbs and sauces! Half the fun of stir-fry is discovering new flavors and textures!
- Always be sure to use an oil with high burning point. For instance, extra virgin olive oil, peanut oil, and grapeseed oil all have very high burning points and can withstand the high temperatures of stir-frying.
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