Thursday, February 14, 2013

Quick Stir Fry

I have done stir fry dishes on the grill, what I like to call "stir fire", for years. 

The ginger chicken that I stir fired last night.

I have been taking classes from Rouxbe Online Cooking School and when I recently took two stir fry lessons, I really didn't expect to learn much since I had stir fried for so long.  But I was wrong, I learned many things to improve my stir fry skill set.  Here are 5 things that I took away from the lessons:
  1. A little goes a long way.   I have been using too much meat and too much sauce in my stir fry dishes.  I adjusted down this time and saw an improvement.  It should be about 4 oz of meat, 2 cups of veggies, and 2-3 Tbsp of sauce.  
  2. Turn up the heat.  I used to worry I was getting the wok too hot, not any more.  Commercial wok burgers kick out up to 200,000 BTU's compared to a home stove burner of 15,000 BTU's.  
  3. Blanch hard veggies first.  Hard veggies like carrots take a lot longer to cook.  I just used to put them in earlier than other veggies.  But taking the time to blanch them ahead of time not only shortens the stir fry time, it does a better job preserving the color and texture of the veggies.
  4. Dry your ingredients.   Wet meat and veggies lead to a mushy looking stir fry.  
  5. Velveting.  Ever notice how the meat in stir fries at good restaurants seems more tender than your stir fries at home?  Many use a technique called velveting ahead of time.  The meat is coated in a mix of cornstarch, egg white, and rice wine vinegar and then partially cooked submerged in hot oil  Use your best George Takei voice and say, "Oh my!"
Why do I like stir firing on the grill instead of stir frying inside?
  • Because I can get my grill hotter than my stove top,
  • Because it's outside,
  • Because coal fires were the original heat source for wok cooking, and
  • Because I can. 
Here are three tips from me about "stir firing" on your grill.


Mise en place
Having your ducks in a row is important with stir frying.  It is doubly important with stir firing.  In the kitchen, if you forgot something, it's just arms reach away.  At the grill, you can be 20-30 paces away from that one thing you forgot and seconds count on the wok.  And not just ingredients, you need to have any piece of equipment that you will need ready.  Tongs, resting racks, food gloves, heat resistant gloves, pinch pots, etc.  

Organized chaos.


No Place To Run To Baby, No Where To Hide
On the stove top, the sides of the wok are cooler than the center because they are not directly over the burner AND they are higher up from the heat source.  On the grill, they are only higher up from the heat source, but still directly over it and hot.  So it is extra important to keep stirring and moving the ingredients around.  That also means your forearms will be directly over the pits of Mordor.  You will definitely want long sleeved heat resistant gloves.


Along Came A Spider
If you have a Kamado style ceramic cooker like our Big Green Eggs, I HIGHLY recommend a "spider rig" for holding your wok in place.  They are cheap and effective.  Plus you can also use them with a small cast iron grid for searing steaks right next to the coals.  Note:  I have to use mine "legs down" because of the long handles.  My next wok will have the short handles so I can use the spider "legs up"

The "spider" is the wire rim on which the wok is resting.
The dinner itself was basic so I won't right up a recipe.


  • Two thighs, sliced and seasoned with salt, pepper, 5 spice, ginger, and garlic.  Cooked until just done, about 4 minutes.
  • Seasoned more oil with 2 garlic cloves and 3/4" of fresh ginger.  Removed and cooked blanched carrots, bell pepper, and onion about 3 minutes.
  • Returned meat to wok.  Added 1/4 cup of my sweet stir fry sauce (Yoshidas, rice wine, sherry,  soy sauce, sriracha, garlic powder, black pepper, red pepper flake, sugar), tossed to coat and then mixed in a cornstarch slurry. 
What are your favorite stir frying tips?   If you have a favorite stir fry dish, post a link in the comments, I'd love to try it out.

16 comments:

  1. Great and sensible tips for a different variety of stir fry. Mise en place is indeed everything. For the hard veggies I like to run them through the grating wheel of my food processor. They don't end up tiny but are small enough to both cook and retain some crunch in the wok.

    ReplyDelete
  2. Looks delicious. Thanks for sharing these tips.

    ReplyDelete
  3. I absolutely love the idea of stir frying on the grill. The intense heat of the grill makes for a really hot wok, that a regular stove, just cannot do-

    Velva

    ReplyDelete
  4. The velveting tip is the key. I like clams, ginger, black bean sauce, some basil, and red chili flakes.

    ReplyDelete
  5. Oh, that sounds terrific. I live in a city - where balconies are rare and yards are practically unheard-of...so I can't stir fire, but I can apply your tips to stir frying :)

    ReplyDelete
  6. I can see where stir frying on the grill would have it's advantages. I try to get my wok as hot as I can, but then I have smoke and splatters all over my stove. Great tip on blanching the veggies.

    ReplyDelete
  7. i really needed this. i make stirfry all the time and it NEVER comes out that good. next time i make one, i'm referring to this post!

    ReplyDelete
  8. Wonderful tips....I would love to take cooking classes!You are the grilling King, Chris! :)

    ReplyDelete
  9. Love the tip about blanching some of those longer-cook vegetables. I'd like to enroll for those Rouxbe classes.

    ReplyDelete
  10. Great tips. Thanks for sharing. I'm way guilty of too much meat.

    ReplyDelete
  11. Thanks for the tips Chris! I always make sure I have everything prepped and lined up but I never tried blanching my veggies first. . and I have a hard time keeping my wok hot enough - usually by the end I'm sauteing rather than stir-frying.

    ReplyDelete
  12. Andrea the Kitchen Witch turned me on to Velveting - it truly does make a difference. Thanks for the tips regarding stir frying - I have to keep my meat to veggie ratio higher because of the carnivore I live with, but otherwise, I follow most of those tips..... most of them :)

    ReplyDelete
  13. My stir fry skills are definitely lacking...likely because I crowd the pan too much. And never have everything ready before I begin...so basically I ignore all stir fry basic instructions. Yup, that would explain it.

    ReplyDelete
  14. Hey... where's the recipe? That stir fry looks amazing and I want to make it! Thanks for the tips - I am totally intimidated by stir frying.

    ReplyDelete
  15. WOW Chris! That is some awesome photo! I really want to run out and whip this up on our grill.

    ReplyDelete
  16. This is great for me, because I'm exactly looking for a recipe that I can mix on my barbeque later. I'm sure this dish will be fitted on my favorite food. Thanks for sharing your idea!

    Beef Stir Fry

    ReplyDelete