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BACK TO How to Cook Get Set to Stir-Fry in 3 Steps
How to Stir-Fry Chicken and Beef

Get Set to Stir-Fry in 3 Steps

Stir-frying is a fast cooking process that requires minimal upfront effort and only minutes at the stove. Done right, stir-frying chicken and beef results in a sensational dish of intense flavors, brightly colored vegetables and juicy meat. Don’t be intimidated by this speedy technique—these tips will help you get fantastic results every time.

Done right, stir-frying chicken and beef results in a sensational dish of intense flavors, brightly colored vegetables and juicy meat.

Step 1: Wok and Roll

A wok is the classic stir-fry pan. Its deep bowl shape allows for intense heat on the bottom to brown and sear; the gently curved sides, which are naturally cooler, act as a buffer and help prevent the ingredients from overcooking or scorching—just push them up the sides to bring their temperature down. Because of a wok’s wide top, steam can escape rapidly so vegetables don’t wilt.

No wok? No problem. A large, 10- to 12-in. heavy-duty sauté pan does a good job too. Be sure it’s big enough to hold ingredients without crowding too much.

Step 2: Gather Your Ingredients

The most important step in stir-frying is prepping all the ingredients before you fire up the wok. Because cooking is so quick, you don’t have time to chop and mince as you go.

  • Beef or chicken: Choose a lean cut of beef—boneless sirloin or flank steak are good—or boneless, skinless chicken breast for stir-frying. Both should be sliced as thinly as possible for the quickest cooking. When slicing, always cut the meat against the grain—that is, across the muscle fibers—to make it more tender, and be sure the pieces are bite-size. They should be large enough to pick up easily with fork or chopsticks, yet be small enough to chew easily.

Freeze the meat for 20 to 30 min. before slicing. This firms it up so it can be sliced very thinly. Never try to slice rock-solid meat—the knife blade can slip and cause injury.

  • Vegetables: Most vegetables can be stir-fried. Choose up to 3 and no more than 5 of your favorites, keeping texture, color and flavor in mind. Group them according to their density as you prep them—for example, keep slow-cooking hard vegetables like carrots and broccoli in one pile, softer, quicker-cooking vegetables like onions and bell peppers in another, and very fast-cooking vegetables like spinach and green onions in a third pile. This allows you to add them to the wok in stages so they’ll all cook evenly.

Cut the vegetables into bite-size pieces so they’re easy to eat and cook as quickly as possible.

  • Aromatics: Aromatics are fragrant vegetables and herbs that add deep, intense flavor. Garlic and ginger are the most common. Mince aromatics so they disperse throughout the dish.

Use the edge of a spoon to scrape the papery skin off of fresh ginger root before mincing.

  • Sauces: Mix all ingredients for the sauce in a measuring cup with a pour spout. This is a great place to get creative with flavor combinations—try adding orange or pineapple juice to add sweetness, chili paste for heat or prepared condiments like hoisin or oyster sauce for authentic Chinese taste.

Add a tsp. or 2 of minced garlic and ginger to the sauce. They’ll add fresh flavor to the finished stir-fry.

  • Oils: Choose a neutral-flavored oil with a high smoke point for stir-frying. Safflower oil is the best option, but other choices include vegetable and corn oil.

Toasted sesame oil—also called Asian sesame oil—is not a good stir-fry option because of its low smoke point and distinct flavor. Instead, drizzle over the stir-fry before serving.

Step 3: Fast and Furious Frying

Because everything happens so quickly when stir-frying, it’s important to rely on all 4 senses—touch, sight, sound and smell.

  • Touch: Preheat the wok or sauté pan over medium-high until you feel heat radiating from the pan. Hold your hand just above the pan’s surface to check.
  • Sight: Drizzle in the oil; it should “shimmer” on the bottom of the pan.
  • Sound: Add the aromatics to the hot oil—listen for the sizzle. If there isn’t much or any noise, the pan is too cool for proper stir-frying. Turn up the burner or let it come up to temperature before adding more ingredients.

There should always be a prominent “sizzle” sound from start to finish when stir-frying. If you lose the sizzle, increase the heat under the pan.

  •  Smell: Stir-fry the aromatics just until they’re fragrant. This will take no more than 30 sec. if the wok is at the proper temperature.

Continue using your senses as you add ingredients to the wok.

  • Add the beef or chicken after stir-frying the aromatics, stirring frequently, until the meat starts to caramelize. Transfer the meat to a plate—it doesn’t need to be cooked through at this point.

Add more oil or a splash of Swanson® broth or stock to the wok if the meat starts to scorch.

  • Drizzle in more oil then add any slow-cooking vegetables. Stir-fry until the start to soften, 3 to 4 min. Add any quicker cooking vegetables and stir-fry another 3 to 4 min. Finally, return the meat to the wok along with the sauce. Cook until the sauce thickens and coats all the ingredients.

Stir the sauce before adding it to the wok. The cornstarch tends to settle as it sits.

  •  Serve the stir-fry right away with steamed rice or noodles on the side. Garnish with chopped nuts like peanuts or cashews, fresh cilantro, additional green onions or a drizzle of sesame oil, if desired.