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.

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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.

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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.  

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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.

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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.

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  • 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.