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Tips to stock your pantry for stir-fry in a snap

Learn more about garlic, a stir-frying staple.

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Stir-frying is a great way to get a low-fat, tasty dinner on the table in a flash. Worldwide, it's one of the most popular forms of cooking. Stir-frying is centered on very high heat that sizzles, sears and smokes your food. The secret to success is to cut your meat, poultry, fish and vegetables into bite-sized pieces that cook evenly in minutes.

Debunking the Wok Myth

The big myth of stir-frying is that only a wok will do. In fact, a skillet or a Dutch oven works fine, some argue better, since American stoves don't deliver enough heat to make the sides of a wok piping hot.

Wok 'n' roll

If you're keen on using a wok, the ideal set up is a wok in a ring-shaped stand on a gas stove. Special flat-bottomed woks are good on electric stoves. Electric woks are also available and usually have a nonstick finish. Season your pan before using (see Ask the Chef). A metal wok spatula with a rounded edge that conforms to the contours of the wok is handy, but you can also use a metal skimmer or wooden spatula.

What's in a Stir-Fry

In a traditional stir-fry, meat, poultry and fish serve as seasonings and vegetables are the main event. Get creative, asparagus is just as good in a stir-fry as broccoli or water chestnuts. And be sure not to crowd too many ingredients into your wok or skillet because the food will steam instead of sizzle and sear. Instead, it's better to stir-fry in batches.

It's important to use oil with a high smoke point like peanut oil or grape seed oil so that it doesn't burn.

Stir-Frying 101

  1. Heat an empty wok or cast iron skillet.
  2. Add a small amount of oil. It's important to use oil that can handle high temperatures, such as peanut oil or grapeseed oil.
  3. Add aromatics, like garlic or ginger, stirring and tossing until they become fragrant, usually about one minute.
  4. Add the longest-cooking ingredients and stir vigorously. Continue to add ingredients. It's important to cut your veggies, meat, poultry or fish into bite-sized pieces so they cook evenly. Chop everything ahead of time, the pace of stir-frying is too brisk for any mid-cooking prep work.
  5. Add sauce.


Shrimp Stir-Fry With Chinese Cabbage, Carrots and Broccoli
Tofu with Tomatoes and Coriander
Classic Thai Fried Rice
Chicken Stir-fry with Broccoli, Water Chestnuts and Mushrooms

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Stir-Fry Pantry Staples

Peanut oil or grapeseed oil
Low-sodium soy sauce
Chili paste
Fish sauce
For more ideas see our Pacific Rim Pantry


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