A stir fry is a quickly-cooked dish that is distinct from other dishes in both its speed of preparation as well as method. This is because cooking a stir-fried dish may take mere minutes compared to other cooking methods that require longer cooking times.
This makes stir fries an easy option for people who need a meal fast. But you have to remember: stir fries require prep time for ingredients, too.
If you are still new to cooking and need to know how to stir fry food right, here are step-by-step instructions on how to stir fry food in a wok or any large frying pan:
1 Prepare your ingredients properly.
This can’t be said enough: always prepare your ingredients before you start cooking. This is especially important when stir-frying because the ingredients will be going into the hot pan or wok in a speedy manner.
In fact, ingredients should also be within arm’s reach because as soon as you use an ingredient, you may need to reach for another immediately after with the speed of this cooking process. You don’t want anything to overcook so speed and efficiency are needed. To be both speedy and efficient, prepare your ingredients ahead of time, cut up into similar shapes, sizes, and thickness as indicated by the recipe, and have it all organized in bowls or plates beside the stove. You’ll thank yourself later when you realize how easy it is to cook a stir fry when you execute it right.
2 Heat the wok over high heat.
The wok is the best cookware for this kind of dish. However, if you do not have one, grab your biggest frying pan. Whatever pan you have to use for stir frying will need to be heated as hot as you can get it. This is the key to a great stir fry! High heat cooks food quickly but it also gives it a char that only high heat can give it. It might smoke up a little and your food tastes a little charred, and those are both characteristics that you want to achieve with high heat.
Once your wok is hot, add the oil. It should shimmer and maybe even smoke within seconds!
3 Start with the aromatics.
Aromatics are ingredients that give aroma and thus, flavor to the dish. These include onions, garlic, ginger, and scallions. This could also mean chilis, if using. Add these into the hot wok and you should hear a satisfying sizzle as soon as the ingredients hit the oil. Toss well so these don’t burn. Be ready with the next ingredients because ingredients are going to be added, tossed, and flipped with regularity from now on.
4 Sear the meat.
Meat is a general term here because it refers to both chicken, pork, and beef as well as seafood such as shrimps, squid, and other shellfish. You need to cook these with the aromatics to season the meats as well as give it a delicious char.
This is one of the rare moments when you can stop and just let the food in the wok cook. You want the proteins aka the meats to sear in the hot wok before tossing it, so leave those alone and take stock of what you need to do and add next.
You may want to remove the meat from the wok and transfer it to a plate after it’s been cooked to prevent it from overcooking. This may be necessary especially for beef, pork, and seafood which can toughen if cooked too long. You can add it back into the wok later when it’s almost ready to serve.
5 Stir fry the root vegetables.
Got carrots? Love broccoli and cauliflower? You will want to add these in now so it can cook a little longer than the other more delicate vegetables. Any vegetables, whether root or not, that need more cooking than other vegetables are best to be added early so it can be cooked at the same time as the faster cooking veggies.
6 Return the meat to the wok.
Once the veggies in the wok are almost done, return the meats and all the juices that oozed out to the work. Those juices are that something extra that will only elevate the flavor of your dish. Toss again to make sure the meat and veggies are well combined.
7 Season to taste.
You can definitely add oyster sauce, a little soy sauce with a drizzle of sesame oil and call it done with regards to seasoning. However, there is more to stir fry sauces than just soy sauce and oyster sauce. You can jazz up the flavors of your stir fry just by changing the sauce ingredients you are adding to the wok!
Experiment a little before cooking to test what condiments you have that combine well into a delicious stir fry flavor! Add tang with calamansi and lemon juice. Deliver the heat using gochujang and togarashi instead of siling labuyo if it’s not available fresh. Warm up the flavors with different bean pastes and fermented ingredients that other cuisines like to use in their dishes. Bagoong is not unheard of in other cuisines and it delivers a decidedly salty, briny punch that’s more potent than mere fish sauce.
Make your sauce and be ready to double it up just in case you need to add more flavor to your stir fry. Add it in soon after the vegetables go in and remember to toss regularly to prevent scorching ingredients. This is your chance to make sure everything is cooked through and seasoned perfectly.
8 Serve immediately.
If there is one thing that makes stir-fries a favorite among busy homeowners, it’s that it needs to be served immedaitely. Stir fries are meant to be cooked fast and it also needs to be served quickly, too. Freshly cooked stir-fried food is best when still piping hot fresh from the wok.
Thinking about what to cook next? Join our Facebook group, Yummy Pinoy Cooking Club, to get more recipe ideas, share your own dishes, and find out what the rest of the community are making and eating!
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