For years I’ve struggled with stir fry. It seems easy enough: chop meat and veggies, fry them up in a hot pan, toss with sauce and serve over rice or noodles. I could do the veggie part right, but the meat always turned out pale and chewy. I wanted that crispy beef you get at a restaurant that’s tender and flavorful.
I finally figured it out. It isn’t even hard. First, my kitchen stove isn’t hot enough. It can’t heat a wok like an industrial restaurant flame can. So right away I was set up to fail. My first step was to ditch the wok. My stove just can’t heat the bottom of a wok to a high enough heat. Instead I place a cast iron skillet in the oven and heat it to 500 degrees before putting it over a hot flame. This produces the hottest pan and will help with that caramelized sear I’m looking for on the meat.
Second, tenderize the meat. In the past I just sliced my beef thinly and tossed it into a pan. I find poking it all over with a fork or a meat stabber creates a more tender final product.
Third, don’t overcrowd the pan. Adding a large quantity of cold meat to a hot pan will lower the pan’s heat and it’ll take longer to reheat it. Cook your beef in two batches and the pan will stay hotter. Lastly, don’t move that meat! To achieve that perfect sear, toss in the beef and don’t stir it, shake it or flip it for a minute.
Here’s a recipe I came up with tonight, inspired by this recipe, and using what I had available in my kitchen. I hope you don’t feel intimidated by the number of ingredients. Most of them are staples in my kitchen. Use whatever veggies you like. That’s the great thing about stir fry. It’s customizable. Serve over noodles or rice, whichever you prefer. I happened to have udon noodles so that’s what I went with tonight.
Perfect Beef Stir Fry — A Free Recipe from Alaska Knit Nat
Ingredients (all of these measurements are estimated):
- 1 pound of beef, I think we used New York strip steak
- 1/2 pound udon noodles
- 1 Tbs. corn starch
- 2 Tbs. soy sauce
- 2 tsp. vinegar
- 3 tsp. sesame oil
- 4 cloves garlic, smashed
- salt and pepper
- 1 Tbs. cooking sherry
- 2 Tbs. oyster sauce
- 1/4 cup chicken stock
- 1/2 tsp. powdered ginger (I didn’t have any fresh)
- 3 dried red chilis
- 1/2 onion, thinly sliced
- 2 bok choy heads, chopped into bite-sized pieces
- 6 kale leaves, stems removed and torn
- 1/2 tsp. sugar
- cooking oil
- 3 green onions, chopped
Tenderize the beef with a meat stabber or a fork. Slice thinly across the grain. In a bowl combine soy sauce, vinegar, 2 cloves of garlic, 1 tsp. sesame oil, corn starch, salt and pepper. Add the sliced beef, coat in the mixture and set aside.
Place a cast iron skillet in a cold oven and set the temperature to 500 degrees. Set a large pot of water to boil. Cook noodles for nine minutes, rinse with cold water and set aside.
In the meantime, chop the onions and bok choy. Massage the kale for a minute. This helps it be more tender when cooked. In a medium bowl, combine the sherry, oyster sauce, chicken stock and ginger; set aside.
When oven reaches 500 degrees, remove the cast iron pan and place it over a high flame. Add some cooking oil, enough to coat the pan, and let it heat for a minute. Add half of the beef and spread it evenly on the pan. Now don’t move it! Let it sit and sear for one minute. Flip each piece, toss in the dried peppers and garlic and let it sit another minute. Place into the bowl with the sherry and oyster sauce. Add a little more oil to the skillet and let it reheat for a minute. Add the second batch of beef and cook the same way.
In the now empty pan, add a little more oil if needed and toss in the onions. Stir and let cook for a few minutes till onions begin to soften and brown slightly. Add the bok choy, kale and sugar; toss to coat in the oil. Add a splash of chicken stock and let the greens cook down for a few minutes, until tender. Add the beef mixture and green onions and toss well. Serve over the noodles.