Cook Any Stir-Fry In Six Easy Steps

Once you realise you don't need a recipe for everything, you may find yourself cooking a lot more often. Stir-fry is a perfect example — the steps stay the same, and you can use whatever is in the fridge.

Image remixed from bonchan (Shutterstock).

There are a few technical issues that are really the key to stir-fry success. You need to get your pan hot enough, but a non-stick frying pan will do what you need it to do perfectly.

The other misstep is when you try to cram too many ingredients into the wrong-sized pan — this is my most common stir-fry failure. Easily solvable, with a little thing called patience.

The Six Steps

1. Stir-fries cook quickly so act like a scout and be prepared. Cut all vegetables small enough that they'll cook fast and line up all ingredients next to the stove in the order they'll go into the pan. Always dilute soy sauce in a ratio of one part soy to one part water — when it hits the hot pan it will reduce, gaining back its strength.

2. Choose your noodle. I find all noodles are good noodles as long as they're long. Cook them to al dente and cool them — I like to steep rice noodles instead of boiling them, which only takes about 10 minutes.

3. Cook the protein first, adding half the diluted soy after the protein has caramelised. Remove the protein to a plate, wipe out the pan and reheat it.

4. Sear the vegetables until tender. Be sure to add the vegetables that take the longest to cook to the pan first. Carrots first, ginger and garlic last.

5. Combine everything in the pan and toss just till it's warmed through, adding the remaining diluted soy sauce last.

6. Add the garnish — here, chives and spring onions — which in Asian food isn't optional. It's an actual ingredient that needs to be added for flavour.

Still want a recipe? Here are a few for inspiration:

How to Make Any Stir-Fried Noodles in 6 Steps [Food52]

Tom Hirschfeld is a contributor at Food52. He's a stay-at-home dad and a trained chef. He taught at the local culinary school for five years and has a small farm where he gardens, and raises chickens, turkeys, geese and ducks. He talks about small farm life at


    The "garnish" needs to be cooked first to release its flavour completely. And then you quickly add the meat and other vegetables
    This would include the spring onions, ginger and garlic

      Yep. That's the way I was always taught. Start with the aromatics so that their flavours are released into the "protein" (i.e. meat, for the non-politically correct).

    With the first step cut the vegetables with two key considerations;

    1. Bite size and chopstick friendly,
    2. Cooking time of each veggie relative to it's cut size/shape. E.g. Carrots thinner than beans. Cauliflower smaller than broccoli. This gives an appropriate cooked result for each piece over the same time period in the wok.

    3rd optional consideration is for look of the finished dish. E.g. Carrots, Spring Onions on the diagonal.

    And I'm puzzled as to why it's necessary to dilute the soy sauce, and why oyster sauce isn't being used - gives a much better flavour.

    Asians (and authentic stir fry fans) represent. This gwailo technique needs to be taken down a notch :-) The method described definitely doesn't match up with my experience or understanding of how to make stir fry. (Noodles? Seriously?) The only correct things are the two tips before "The six steps".

    Soy sauce and water may be a simple "marinade", but it's a waste of time. Adding some oyster sauce as kami said, and about a teaspoon of cornstarch not only enhances the flavour, but also the stickiness and texture of the sauce. If even that's too hard to do then I doubt the person will even be bothered making a stir fry in the first place.

    Aromats first, people - and especially, onions, garlic and ginger. By frying and caramelising these, the flavours are released to coat the meat and vegetables :)

    1) Prepare & Cut.. yep very imporatnt as teh cooking is so quick you dont want to stop once you start
    2) get your aromatics in, and QUICKLY cook that meat. Especially chicken, everyone seems to cook chicken too long.
    3) getthe meat out into a bowl, cover in alfoil and pop in the oven (turned off, just out of the way)
    4) throw in a few more aromatics and maybe a bit more oil and then the vegies. Slow cookers first, but really its a matter of seconds between each.
    5) immediatly after you've added those final snow peas or whatever, tip the meat back in, give it all a good flip through and serve.

    balance is the key: bitter, sweet, salt. Tamarind paste is excellent for bring a bit of sharpness back. Brown sugar will counter bitter vegies.

Join the discussion!

Trending Stories Right Now