How to stir fry beef

On September 22, 2004, in Food and Drink, by psu

Don’t be fooled. This is easy. You just have to follow a few simple rules and you too can make a beef stir fry that will show up the dishes at P.F. Chang’s as the chewey carboard crap that they are.

First, the typical chinese stir fry starts with flank steak. I don’t know why, but it’s what my mom did, and she’s generally right.

Second, cut the meat as thin as you can across the grain. This is critical. If you cut with the grain, you get rubber biscuit. I’m assuming for the rest of this piece that you started with about 1/2 to 1 pound of meat.

Third, marinate for a while in a mix of soy, sherry and chopped ginger. A while is around a half hour.

Now, heat your pan. Any pan will do. I like the small non-stick omlette pans. My mom always used a cast iron frying pan. You can use a Wok if you must, but it’s not critical. When the pan is hot, add oil. I usually have olive oil, so that’s what I use even though it’s sort of wrong. Add about a teaspoon or two of corn starch to the meat and mix it around. Toss the coated meat in the pan and mix it around so the meat isn’t all stuck together. Toss in more ginger, some salt, and pepper.

The fourth secret is as critical as the second. Let the meat cook until it starts to make its own gravy in the pan. Do not under any circumstances add any liquid of any kind to the pan. If you do this, you will get rubber beef.

When the meat is done, it will expel some juices back into the pan and give you a nice sauce. At this point you can add oyster sauce or something if you like that. You can also toss in cut up green onion and wilt it with the meat.

Otherwise, just throw the meat on a plate. You are done.

The meat should be tender and coated evenly with a nice brown sauce that is not gloppy.

To make the classic variation on this dish, take the meat out of the pan just before it is done. Throw garlic, scallion and big chunks of tomatoes into the pan. Cook until the tomatoes start to fall apart. Add the meat back in. Mix and take out of the pan. Don’t cook the meat with the tomatoes too long or it will get tough (see point 4).

This is all you need to know about beef stir fry.


4 Responses to “How to stir fry beef”

  1. peterb says:

    Is the corn starch an essential element, or can it be eliminated and/or replaced with something else?

  2. psu says:

    Corn starch is essential. It both protects the meat in the initial searing from getting tough and becomes the basis for the sauce being nice and thick. You can use flour, probably, if you want, but you have to use something.

  3. a. says:

    How high should the flame be? Also, about how many will this feed (my guess is 2-3)?

  4. psu says:

    I use medium high to high heat. Whatever gets you a reasonably hot pan without stuff sticking badly.

    Should feed 2-3, yes.