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Stirfry...more like SUCK-fry!

KillgrimageKillgrimage Registered User regular
edited July 2009 in Help / Advice Forum
I'm bad at stirfry.

Really, I've tried doing it many times, with different sauces. My chicken always comes out tasting bland, and the sauce is either overpowering and gross, or too thin and there's not enough taste. I want to try with tofu but I'm afraid.

H/A do you have any good recipes that you've tried and loved? Because I don't.

Killgrimage on

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    NewtonNewton Registered User regular
    edited July 2009
    It can be really hard to stir fry chicken without it drying out if you're using breast meat. A trick you can do is called velveting. You make a thin paste out of cornstarch and a liquid, either egg white, oil or rice wine and coat the chicken with that. It definitely helps getting the meat part good.

    I've had really good results with this recipe for cashew chicken:

    http://rasamalaysia.com/chinese-food-recipe-cashew-chicken/

    My standard stir fry is a basic veggie stir fry. The trick to getting that right is to cook your vegetables in batches. Start with longer cooking things like carrots and broccoli. Cook them until tender and then transfer to a bowl. Then move on to faster stuff like bell peppers, onions and mushrooms. AS each ingredient is done, add it to the bowl. When all you're vegetables are cooked, put them back into the pan and add in some chopped garlic and give it a quick stir. Then add in enough soy sauce, hoisin, oyster sauce and a sriracha to coat the veggies and serve with rice.

    Newton on
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    xa52xa52 Registered User regular
    edited July 2009
    I used to do stir fry with szechuan sauce, but I had the same problem- either too much or too little. Now, I stir fry in plain oil, I add ingredients like chopped ginger, garlic, chilies (or chili garlic sauce) to give it flavor, and put in a little sauce near the end to coat everything. It lets the flavor of the vegetables come out more- things like mushrooms and onions can contribute more to the dish than some bottled sauce that's mostly corn syrup and msg. A good flavorful rice like jasmine is important too. Another thing to remember is to cook on high heat (stirring frequently so things don't stick to the pan and burn). You'll need to cut your ingredients fairly thin for this to work, but it should give you a good tasty exterior without overcooking, so the vegetables stay crisp and the chicken tender.

    xa52 on
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    Mr BlondeMr Blonde Registered User regular
    edited July 2009
    I got this sauce recipe from my ex who is Filipina. It is to date the best damn stir fry I've ever had and even my incredibly picky father loves it.

    Equal parts hoisin sauce and oyster sauce. About 2 tablespoons of each (can use more if you're making a lot of stir fry). After it has combined with all the ingredients take a taste of the sauce - if it's a bit too bitter add a little more oyster sauce. Cook it like Newton said, but if you want to add meat, I suggest you cook some garlic in oil and right when they start to brown throw in some cubed chicken breast or beef. Let that brown, then start tossing in veggies.

    Mr Blonde on
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    ChanusChanus Harbinger of the Spicy Rooster Apocalypse The Flames of a Thousand Collapsed StarsRegistered User regular
    edited July 2009
    You could try marinating the chicken before you cook. Not for very long (as the acid will cook it), but long enough to get some flavor into it.

    Chanus on
    Allegedly a voice of reason.
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    MichaelLCMichaelLC In what furnace was thy brain? ChicagoRegistered User regular
    edited July 2009
    I do the cornstarch and oil method, using toasted sesame oil. Basic carrots, broccoli, maybe 'shrooms, with a little garlic at the end.

    MichaelLC on
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    CorvusCorvus . VancouverRegistered User regular
    edited July 2009
    You could try using chicken thighs instead of breast, they're fattier and less likely to dry out. Also, what kind of spices are using? Using say, fresh garlic and ginger instead of dried makes a world of difference.

    Corvus on
    :so_raven:
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    Al_watAl_wat Registered User regular
    edited July 2009
    Sometimes I will cook the chicken separately from the vegetables and only add them all together at the end.
    Either cook the chicken in another skillet or wok, or cook it first and put it aside. You can add whatever sauce to it that you want when you cook it; I'll also sometimes throw certain stuff with the chicken like mushrooms.
    Then just cook the vegetables afterward like normal.

    I don't know what to say about using too much or too little sauce. I generally don't make precise measurements, although I'll try to add maybe a little bit first and then sequentially more as it cooks if it looks like it needs more.

    Al_wat on
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    KillgrimageKillgrimage Registered User regular
    edited July 2009
    This is good stuff guys. I especially like the "velveting" technique which I will try in the future.

    Basically this came about after Wil Wheaton posted a tweet about some sweet and sour tofu that he made from Trader Joe's. I did it with meat instead, but it didn't taste that good :?

    Any tips on stirfrying tofu?

    Killgrimage on
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    CorvusCorvus . VancouverRegistered User regular
    edited July 2009
    Al_wat wrote: »
    Sometimes I will cook the chicken separately from the vegetables and only add them all together at the end.
    Either cook the chicken in another skillet or wok, or cook it first and put it aside. You can add whatever sauce to it that you want when you cook it; I'll also sometimes throw certain stuff with the chicken like mushrooms.
    Then just cook the vegetables afterward like normal.

    I don't know what to say about using too much or too little sauce. I generally don't make precise measurements, although I'll try to add maybe a little bit first and then sequentially more as it cooks if it looks like it needs more.

    I do something similar, I usually add meat first, along with longer cooking veggies, such as carrots, and once the meat has browned, add the rest of the veggies. I like to get my peppers and everything to still have a little crunch to them, so it avoids getting them over cooked and soggy by adding them too early.

    Corvus on
    :so_raven:
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    desperaterobotsdesperaterobots perth, ausRegistered User regular
    edited July 2009
    This could be a problem of ingredients, or just overcooking, or both. You need to cut the vegetables in small enough pieces that they cook really quickly. Nothing should be thicker than your average snow pea, except your brocolli.

    Your wok should really be hot enough that cooking takes all of 4 or 5 minutes tops. Transferring meat to and from other woks seems to defeat the main benefits of a stirfry - minimal cooking effort.

    My stirfries got heaps better when I learned that the wok had to be piping hot the entire time.

    So once my oil is hazing at the bottom of the wok (you know, has that hazy smokey surface), I'll run the oil around the wok and throw in the meat. Keeping the meat moving so it doesn't stick, I'll add a very generous amount of a spice mix. I use one called 'Chinese Stir-Fry', it's got heaps of garlic and sesame seeds and stuff.

    If it's Chicken, I'll usually do this slightly longer than normal, because I'm paranoid about Chicken.

    Once the meats brown, I'll throw in all of my vegetables at once. This should cool down the wok a fair bit, but it heats up again quickly so everything has to keep moving. I'll throw in a few dollops of Oyster Sauce, maybe more spice mix too.

    Once the greens start to brighten up (this should take about 2 minutes from the time I put the vegetables in) I'll throw in the noodles I prepared before I heated up the wok. Another 2 minutes mixing them through, and it's done.

    The vegetables should be crisp, almost raw, for their flavour to come through. If your carrots are sagging, you probably overcooked them.

    I often chop up enough vegetables for 4 stirfries at the one time, cooking only what I need each night (or maybe double that for lunch the next day) and keeping the rest in the fridge. It's good to come home from work and just pull out fresh, ready ingredients from your fridge. Healthy!

    desperaterobots on
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    AresProphetAresProphet Registered User regular
    edited July 2009
    Chanus wrote: »
    You could try marinating the chicken before you cook. Not for very long (as the acid will cook it), but long enough to get some flavor into it.

    That's not how marinading works. Not even close.

    I find this threat interesting because I just made stirt fry last night and it was a little lacking in the sauce department. I went the safe route and cooked the chicken beforehand (sauteed then baked to finish) then chopped it up and threw it in when the veggies were all done. I don't own a wok and I wasn't about to try and fake it with a frying pan.

    desperaterobots sounds like he knows what he's doing.

    AresProphet on
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    NewtonNewton Registered User regular
    edited July 2009
    Chanus wrote: »
    You could try marinating the chicken before you cook. Not for very long (as the acid will cook it), but long enough to get some flavor into it.

    That's not how marinading works. Not even close.

    I find this threat interesting because I just made stirt fry last night and it was a little lacking in the sauce department. I went the safe route and cooked the chicken beforehand (sauteed then baked to finish) then chopped it up and threw it in when the veggies were all done. I don't own a wok and I wasn't about to try and fake it with a frying pan.

    desperaterobots sounds like he knows what he's doing.

    You're better off with a frying pan than a wok. The curved bottom of a wok doesn't work well with standard stoves. You end up with one tiny hot spot and that's about it. You don't get enough cooking area to do anythng properly. No residential stove is going to get a pan hot enough to do a proper stir fry in the first place, but a flat bottomed frying pan will get you much closer than a wok.

    Newton on
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    desperaterobotsdesperaterobots perth, ausRegistered User regular
    edited July 2009
    A gas stove + a wok is perfectly fine. Woks are terrifically thin, so they're pretty easy to get very hot.

    You probably shouldn't be trying to stir-fry if you're on electric, a whole different thing.

    desperaterobots on
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    MichaelLCMichaelLC In what furnace was thy brain? ChicagoRegistered User regular
    edited July 2009
    A gas stove + a wok is perfectly fine. Woks are terrifically thin, so they're pretty easy to get very hot.

    You probably shouldn't be trying to stir-fry if you're on electric, a whole different thing.

    A non-stick pan woks (ha!) fine on electric, not as great as a wok, but it gets the job done.

    But generally, yeah, a wok is not designed for a flat cook area, gas, electric, or induction.

    MichaelLC on
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    ChanusChanus Harbinger of the Spicy Rooster Apocalypse The Flames of a Thousand Collapsed StarsRegistered User regular
    edited July 2009
    Chanus wrote: »
    You could try marinating the chicken before you cook. Not for very long (as the acid will cook it), but long enough to get some flavor into it.

    That's not how marinading works. Not even close.

    Uh... wut?

    Chanus on
    Allegedly a voice of reason.
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    KillgrimageKillgrimage Registered User regular
    edited July 2009
    For the record, I do use a wok, and I have one of those awesome glass topped electric stoves. :^:

    I was wondering why the food always seemed to take forever since the recipes always say "2 to 5 minutes." I guess this is the reason!

    Maybe I can turn my wok into a hat or something, I dunno

    Killgrimage on
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    ChanusChanus Harbinger of the Spicy Rooster Apocalypse The Flames of a Thousand Collapsed StarsRegistered User regular
    edited July 2009
    For the record, I do use a wok, and I have one of those awesome glass topped electric stoves. :^:

    I was wondering why the food always seemed to take forever since the recipes always say "2 to 5 minutes." I guess this is the reason!

    Maybe I can turn my wok into a hat or something, I dunno

    Yes, the wok works best over open flame because it better heats the entire surface.

    Chanus on
    Allegedly a voice of reason.
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    AresProphetAresProphet Registered User regular
    edited July 2009
    Chanus wrote: »
    Chanus wrote: »
    You could try marinating the chicken before you cook. Not for very long (as the acid will cook it), but long enough to get some flavor into it.

    That's not how marinading works. Not even close.

    Uh... wut?

    Marinades do not cook meat.

    They do not "break it down" they do not "tenderize" it they don't do anything other than add flavor and moisture.

    AresProphet on
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    ChanusChanus Harbinger of the Spicy Rooster Apocalypse The Flames of a Thousand Collapsed StarsRegistered User regular
    edited July 2009
    Marinades do not cook meat.

    They do not "break it down" they do not "tenderize" it they don't do anything other than add flavor and moisture.

    A marinade requires at least two ingredients to be defined as such: Oil and Vinegar.

    Guess what Vinegar is: It's acidic. Yay!

    Guess what acid does to meat: It cooks it. Whee!


    How do you think ceviche is made without killing or poisoning people who eat it? I'll give you three guesses and the first two don't count.

    Chanus on
    Allegedly a voice of reason.
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    KalTorakKalTorak One way or another, they all end up in the Undercity.Registered User regular
    edited July 2009
    Acid doesn't cook meat, particularly not an acid as weak as vinegar.

    Ceviche is raw fish. So is sushi. Neither are poisonous.

    KalTorak on
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    QuothQuoth the Raven Miami, FL FOR REALRegistered User regular
    edited July 2009
    Some portions of ceviche are actually cooked beforehand, in fact. And acid doesn't cook the meat, it pickles it. To cook something, by definition, you have to apply heat. And not all marinades have both oil and vinegar, or even either.

    For stir-frying, I thought the point of the wok was that you're supposed to move the contents around so you don't overcook everything. So why would it matter whether you can heat the whole thing at once? Aren't you not supposed to?

    Quoth on
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    KalTorakKalTorak One way or another, they all end up in the Undercity.Registered User regular
    edited July 2009
    Quoth wrote: »
    For stir-frying, I thought the point of the wok was that you're supposed to move the contents around so you don't overcook everything. So why would it matter whether you can heat the whole thing at once? Aren't you not supposed to?

    Yeah I think the design of the wok is supposed to make it so the food at the very middle/bottom of the pan gets most of the heat, so that you can add things to a stir-fry and push cooked ingredients out to the edge so they don't get overdone.

    Still, since there's barely any flat surface on the bottom of a wok, it won't do as well on an electric burner as on a gas burner. Electric burners transmit heat most efficiently by conduction, and the rounded surface of the bottom of a wok means not much of the pan is getting the full heat of the burner, even the concentrated portion that's supposed to be getting the heat. Gas burners work by radiation of heat, so the curved surface doesn't matter as much.

    KalTorak on
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    AresProphetAresProphet Registered User regular
    edited July 2009
    Chanus wrote: »
    Marinades do not cook meat.

    They do not "break it down" they do not "tenderize" it they don't do anything other than add flavor and moisture.

    A marinade requires at least two ingredients to be defined as such: Oil and Vinegar.

    Guess what Vinegar is: It's acidic. Yay!

    Guess what acid does to meat: It cooks it. Whee!


    How do you think ceviche is made without killing or poisoning people who eat it? I'll give you three guesses and the first two don't count.

    Have you ever even used a marinade?

    Furthermore, a marinade needs an oil and an acid (and a salt), of any kind. Vinegar is one option for the acid. Citrus juice is my personal favorite.

    If you left meat in a marinade for like two weeks you'd have pickled meat, but only if you used like 90% vinegar. A day or two in the fridge with any reasonable kind of marinade is going to have no effect on the meat whatsoever except for adding flavor and helping it retain moisture.

    White meat chicken, in particular, almost requires marinating to absorb any kind of flavor and to stay moist during cooking.

    My asian-style marinade, which I used for my stir fry, is olive oil + soy sauce + fresh squeezed lemon juice + ginger + garlic. It's quickly becoming one of my favorite things to do with chicken.

    AresProphet on
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    KillgrimageKillgrimage Registered User regular
    edited July 2009
    Marinating is a great idea and I with I'd thought of it first. Definitely like the soy sauce/garlic/oil idea.

    On a side note, I asked my boyfriend about chemical cooking, which is something people do I guess. But he said that acetone was what people used, not acid. Either way I don't think I'd be interested in eating meat had just sat in a corrosive liquid that comes out of batteries or takes off nail polish :P

    Killgrimage on
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