Stir-fry will always be there for you. If your goal is to cook slightly more, knowing your way around a stir-fry is a great place to start. This versatile dinner can be made with an infinite combination of ingredients. You don’t even need to start with rice. Stir-fries can be built on noodles, rice, or other grains. Here’s how to master making a stir-fry out of whatever you have on hand. 

Stir-Fried Tofu & Vegetables with Spicy Sesame-Peanut Sauce
Stir-Fried Tofu & Vegetables
with Spicy Sesame-Peanut Sauce

What is stir-frying?

Stir-frying is a high-heat cooking technique, similar to sauteing. Traditionally, a stir-fry is made in a wok with a small amount of oil. The meat and vegetables are tossed and stirred until they are cooked. 

Stir-frying in a Wok

If you have one, a wok is an excellent tool for stir-frying. The high, sloping walls are designed so that food can be tossed vigorously without flying out of the pan. The walls also make it easier to cook multiple foods at once. Once an ingredient has finished cooking, it can be push up to walls and kept warm while another ingredient cooks in the center. 

Steps for making a good stir-fry

Set up your station

Stir-fries cook VERY quickly. You’ll want to have everything prepped and ready so you can focus on the cooking once you start. Gather all of your utensils and chop everything into a bite-sized piece. It will cook faster and make for a better eating experience. 

Don’t add too much to the wok or skillet at once 

If you overcrowd the pan, the moisture from the vegetables will cause the stir-fry to steam rather than fry or saute. 

Add foods to the pan according to cook time  

For example, don’t put broccoli in the pan at the same time as a snow pea. By the time the broccoli is cooked through, the snow pea will turn to mush. The heartier the produce, the longer it will take to cook. You can add things together that have the same cooking time. 

Best oil for a stir-fry

Use oil with a high smoke point. You want to cook with high-heat, so choose an oil that can complement that. Canola oil, peanut oil (though that potentially introduces an allergen) or grapeseed oil are all good options. Olive oil has a low smoke point, and isn’t the best choice for a stir-fry. 

How to make any kind of stir-fry

Use this template as a handy guide. 

Add meat first

  • As the meat caramelizes, it will build ‘fond’ in the pan that will flavor the rest of the dish. Set the meat aside while you cook the rest of the ingredients.

Cook vegetables next, as these usually take the longest.

  • Start with heartier vegetables like carrots or broccoli.
  • Lighter vegetables, like spinach, cabbage, or even bean sprouts, can be thrown in at the end to soften and wilt.
  • Don’t forget abut aromatics! Garlic, ginger and scallions should be added with the vegetables.

Mix in your eggs

  • If you’re including scrambled eggs, take the vegetables out of the pan and pour in the beaten eggs to quickly scramble them. If you’re working with a wok, you may be able to just move the vegetables to the side of the pan instead of taking them out completely

Cooked rice or noodles & sauce

  • Rice, noodles, or any other starches should be precooked. When you’re stirring everything together at this point, it’s just to quickly heat through. 
  • The sauce will thicken as it cooks, so don’t leave it on too long, unless you’re looking to thicken it up. 
  • If you want to crisp up the rice or noodles, add the sauce after. If you want to prevent sticking, add the sauce at the same time to help it all evenly coat. 

For more easy, healthy weeknight dinners, check out Blue Apron’s limited-time menu from chef Sam Kass.