Stir-fries really are the best weeknight food. They are quick and low-effort to throw together once you’ve mastered basic technique. Most of the easy-to-stir-fry recipes follow a similar basic formula, which means they’re also super customizable to suit your tastes, plus easy to substitute. That makes stir-fries a great dish for one of those “clean the fridge” nights when you have multiple ingredients you need to use (or just don’t feel like running to the store).
Stir-fries simplify your cooking in another way, too, because they generally offer a nutritionally balanced, complete, and filling meal in one dish. The standard components of a stir fry generally include noodles or rice, meat (or a plant-based protein), cooking oil, and greens, which pair very well with general expert advice on how to make a satisfying and enjoyable meal. SELF columnist Jessica Jones, MS, RD, a certified diabetes educator and co-founder of Food Heaven, has previously told SELF that the most physically and emotionally satisfying meals generally include three to four food groups: fat, protein, starch. and fruits or vegetables. “By doing this, you not only get a variety of textures and flavors, but also nutrients that work together to give you a steady and steady flow of energy,” according to Jones.
Most important of all, though, is the fact that stir-fries are delicious. You’ve got that mix of textures (crunchy veggies, chewy noodles, and tender meat) and flavors (in much of the sauce, which can come down to salty, salty, spicy, and sweet notes). Additionally, stir fries are, by definition, fresh from scratch, intended to be eaten steamed, fresh off the stove.
Are you convinced to make stir fries for dinner every night? If you’re looking to add more stir-fries to your weekday rotation, we’ve got professional tips and tricks, plus a collection of easy stir-fry recipes for you to cook up.
What makes a stir fry a stir fry?
A stir fry is not defined by what is on the plate but by how it is done. “A stir fry is a cooking method originally from China that is characterized by cooking food over very high heat while constantly moving, usually in a wok or pan,” says stir fry fan Mike Le, who He runs I Am a Food Blog with his wife Steph, he tells SELF.
In addition to the high heat and continuous movement (which occurs by tossing or stirring), stir fries require a relatively small amount of cooking oil with a high smoke point that can withstand high temperatures, says Le (such as canola, veggies, avocado or peanuts). oil). The method also requires cutting ingredients (like meats and vegetables) into small, uniform pieces that cook quickly and evenly, explains Le. (This also makes their bites easier to eat with chopsticks.)
The sauté method also involves cooking the ingredients in separate batches or being strategic about the sequence in which you add the ingredients to ensure each is cooked for the perfect time. “Sauté masters usually cook meats and vegetables separately, removing and recombining them last,” Le explains, “or they schedule the addition so that the longest cooking ingredient is added first and the instant fried ingredients are added last.”
As for those ingredients? While stir fries are really defined by the cooking method, a basic stir fry recipe commonly includes these components: noodles (such as udon, chow mein, rice or pasta noodles) or rice, a protein (such as chicken or beef), vegetables ( like broccoli or carrots), aromatics (like onion and garlic) and a sauce rich in umami. (The recipe for a typical, basic stir-fry calls for chicken broth, soy sauce, oyster sauce, toasted sesame oil, a pinch of sugar, and cornstarch.)
What is the difference between a stir fry and a stir fry?
This is a common question. Stir-fries and stir-fries have a few key differences when it comes to temperature, cooking fat, and technique.
Sautéing generally involves medium-high heat, which also means you can use oils and fats with a slightly lower smoke point (like butter), Le explains. But again, for stir-fries, you need a cooking oil with a high smoke point.
Another difference is the amount of active cooking involved, basically how much you move the food. For example, you can only stir a vegetable stir fry a couple of times or flip a fish fillet once. But “when you fry, the food is constantly on the move until it’s cooked,” says Le.
How do you make the best stir fry?
Now that we’ve covered the basics, you’re ready to turn pro. For a stir fry that is cooked in the most authentic, expert and delicious way, the details are important. Here are the best tips and tricks to remember the next time you turn on the wok.
- Prepare everything first. “Fries cook fast and you don’t want to mix up your sauce or reach for a spatula while protein or veggies are overcooking,” Le explains. “If you prepare everything, including the sauce, in bowls or small plates near the stove, once you start cooking, everything will be fine.”
- Preheat your skillet. “Wait for your cookware to heat up before adding the oil,” says Le, “and then immediately add your ingredients.” This will help produce the ideal browning and prevent sticking.
- Invest in a wok. The shape of the container for traditional stir fry cooking is ideal because “the high, deeply sloped sides will give you more confidence to move your food,” says Le. Opt for conventional carbon steel or cast iron. (Skip the nonstick pans because the coating is generally not designed to withstand really high heat, Le notes.)
- Do not fill the pan. Stir-fries are best when using a smaller amount of food in a larger wok or skillet, Le says. Ingredients will be better fried, rather than steamed, when they have enough space (another reason cooking ingredients in stages is a good idea).
Okay, now that you’re ready to master the art of frying, it’s time to put your knowledge to the test and try one of these quick and easy stir fry recipes. These creative stir fries range from traditional to newer interpretations, and it should all make for the perfect stir-fry.