How to Cook Quick and Healthy Stir-Frys Every Time!


How to Cook Quick and Healthy Stir-Frys

by Jacqueline Samaroo


How to cook quick and healthy Stir fry

Want to know what happens when you master stir-frying? Something wonderful! Suddenly, you have a sure way to get great tasting, scrumptious looking and healthy food on the table in no time flat!

This quick Chinese method of cooking has spread across Asia and into the Western world. Many people embrace stir-frying as a part of their weeknight meal routine because it dramatically cuts cooking time. With a stir-fry, you and your family get to enjoy a freshly made, home-cooked meal even when you are short on time (and energy).

Let’s take a look at some stir-fry basics and once you are ready to get started, we have some quick and easy stir-fry recipes for you to try.


To Wok or Not to Wok?

When you think “stir-fry” a wok immediately springs to mind. This round-bottomed pan is an integral part of the traditional Chinese stir-fry method. Unfortunately, woks with rounded bottoms don’t work so well at heat distribution when used on the flat surface of an electric stove.

So, what the answer? Well, you actually have 2 choices.

  1. Go with a flat-bottomed wok. These are designed with high sides to facilitate all the quick and often vigorous stirring that goes into stir-frying. They sit nicely on a flat cook top, distribute heat evenly and do a great job of ensuring bits of food don’t go flying all over the stove.
  2. Use a regular skillet. Most persons already have frying pan, skillet or sauté pan at home which will make a pretty good wok substitute. Just ensure that it is wide enough to give the food maximum contact with the heat. It should also have sufficiently high sides to keep food in the pot as your stir.


classic stir fry wok

Tips for Stir-Frying Success

Prep, Prep, Prep!

In stir-frying, the heat is high, the oil is hot and everything cooks (and possibly burns) real fast. That’s why you have to be prepared.

  • Make the stir-fry sauce You can mix it in a bowl or shake it in a jar and set it aside. Give it a final stir or shake just before adding it to the stir-fry to ensure that all the ingredients are well-combined.
  • Have your vegetables, spices and aromatics (onion, garlic, ginger, etc.) ready in bowls nearby. For firm vegetables, such as carrots and peppers, cut them into small and/or thin pieces so they will cook easily.
  • Ready the meat by having it thinly sliced, seasoned if required and at room temperature if possible. Meat that is too cold will lower the cooking temperatures and slow the process.

Use tender cuts of meat in your stir-fry. Beef and pork fillets are a good choice, as is chicken breast meat. Cut the meat across the grain and if you prep the ingredients in advance, then season the meat and allow it to marinate. This will help to tenderize it but you can also try poking it all over with a fork as a way to help break up the strands of protein and have the meat cook quicker.


Choose the Right Oil

Due to the high temperatures involved in stir-fry cookery, you will need to use oil with a high smoking point. Some good options for stir-fry oil are:

  • groundnut oil
  • almond oil
  • extra light olive oil
  • sunflower oil
  • peanut oil
  • corn oil


Order Matters and It’s a Matter of Choice

At the end of your stir-fry you want to have all the food sufficiently cooked regardless of whether they are meat, another type of protein such as tofu, firm vegetables or softer leafy ones.

In order to accomplish this, there are different approaches you can try. In all cases, you will have to end up cooking most proteins longer than the vegetables to ensure they are properly done. Fish and most other types of seafood will, however, cook quickly and so can be added in with the vegetables.




Technique #1 – In this method, the protein is cooked first and removed from the pan while the rest of the dish cooks. It is returned to the pan later.

  1. Set the pan on medium-high heat and heat the oil.
  2. Brown the meat or other form of protein, remove it from the pan and set it aside. If it is a little underdone, that’s okay – it will finish cooking later when you toss it back in.
  3. Allow the pan to reheat and add more oil if needed.
  4. Stir-fry the aromatics until their fragrances start to fill your kitchen.
  5. Add in the firmer vegetables and allow them to cook until near done.
  6. Return the meat to the pan along with the more tender vegetables and stir-fry some more.
  7. Stir in the sauce to thicken as it coats all the food.
  8. Serve with the garnish of your choice.


Technique #2 – Here the aromatics are first in and first out. Next in is the protein which cooks while the other ingredients are added in stages.

  1. Set the pan on medium-high heat and heat the oil.
  2. Add the spices, garlic, onion and ginger. (Nuts can go in at this stage as well.) Allow them to brown then remove them and set them aside.
  3. Allow the pan to reheat and add more oil if needed.
  4. Stir-fry meat until it is opaque.
  5. Add the firm vegetables and let them cook for a while before adding the more tender ones.
  6. Return the aromatics to the pan.
  7. Stir in the sauce to thicken as it coats all the food.
  8. Serve with the garnish of your choice.


Garnish for Extra Flavors

When you plate the stir-fry, the garnish you choose will add an attractive final touch. Don’t just garnish for eye-appeal, however, as the right garnish can help bring out the flavors in the dish or add its own unique taste to the stir-fry.

Here are some good stir-fry garnishes:

  • green onion stalks
  • cilantro (coriander leaves)
  • toasted coconut
  • sunflower seeds
  • peanuts
  • cashews
  • sesame seeds
  • maraschino cherries
  • hot sauce
  • tomato slices
  • carrot curls


Here is a video of a yummy stir-fry that adds noodles to the list of ingredients.

By including the noodles you end up with an easy, satisfying and complete one-pot meal. For stir-frys, the noodles are usually either cooked or softened before they are added to the stir-fry. You can have fun trying out the many noodle options that are readily available.

So, are you ready to try your hand at stir-frying? Check out your fridge – those leftovers would make great additions to the dish. Grab them and get cooking!





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  • Darren Clunie
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