Here at The Woks of Life, we have a ton of beef recipes in our archives, so we wanted to demonstrate to everyone how to cook beef for stir-fry, including the step-by-step procedure for velveting beef for Chinese cuisine.
We’ll advise you to use our favorite beef cuts, and we’ll demonstrate how to cut and marinate beef the way Chinese restaurants do.
The preparation and cooking instructions are always important details in all of our recipes, but I thought it was time to write a post specifically about how to properly prepare beef for the wok!
Boneless skinless chicken breast
Chicken breast is a nutritious and low-fat choice for meat in a stir-fry. According to the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, a 3-ounce boneless, skinless chicken breast yields 140 calories, 3 grams of fat, and 1 gram of saturated fat. Chicken breast may have a reputation as a demanding cut (we all know the displeasures of overly dry chicken), but Readers Digest suggests you can negate this with velveting or other tenderizing techniques.
Chicken breast is a juicy and flavorful addition to your meal when prepared properly. One cooking tip we advocate is to always begin by pounding your chicken flat until it reaches the desired level of thickness. This ensures that the chicken cooks evenly and protects it from drying out or overcooking. Your favorite chicken stir-fry has the perfect-sized bite because the chicken has been pounded and softened. Chicken meat, like beef, also has a grain. By cutting against the grain, you’ll produce chicken that is juicy and simple to chew. Chicken breasts can also be cut into strips or chunks. For either type of cut, just make sure they’re no wider than one inch and that all the pieces are the same size.
Boneless skinless chicken thighs
We couldnt list chicken breasts without listing the chickens delicious dark meat section. Chicken thighs are slightly less nutritious when compared to their white meat counterparts, but only because they contain more fat. According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, a 70-gram boneless, skinless chicken thigh has 135 calories and 7.5 grams of fat. Thighs are also more cost-effective than chicken breasts (and many other types of meat on this list, for that matter). They can be more flavorful, too, as long as you avoid the common mistakes everyone makes when cooking chicken thigh. Like breasts, be sure to cut your chicken thighs into uniform strips or chunks to ensure even cooking.
Boneless, skinless chicken breasts lack the richness that chicken thighs’ decadent fat brings to your favorite stir-fry recipe. Although we believe that thighs have more natural umami to them, both chicken thighs and breasts pair well with citrus. For our orange chicken stir-fry recipe or to add leaner meat to an already hearty winter vegetable stir-fry recipe, we love using either cut.
There are many cuts of pork that shouldn’t be overlooked, even though beef and chicken are two of the most popular meats for a stir-fry. Take pork loin, for example. A thick piece of meat that is butchered from the pig’s ribs and back fat is known as pork loin. It is important to remember that there are two types of pork loin, the second of which is a cut known as pork tenderloin. Although extra luxurious, we believe that tenderloin is a little too pricey for stir-fries. Typically, pork loin has a cap of fat along its top, which contributes to its opulent, moist flavor. Pork loin roasts are typically sold boneless, which is what you want for stir-fries. Additionally, we advise purchasing pre-cut pork chops made from pork loin from the grocery store. This will save you time and money in your stir-fry.
To prepare, cut the chops into uniformly sized strips or cubes for quick, even cooking. Because of its location and use on the pig, pork loin is a tender and juicy cut that gives stir-fries a special and distinctive flavor. It is richer than chicken’s bland flavor and blends with additional ingredients more than beef’s robust boldness. The loin in particular absorbs marinades and is enhanced by ginger, garlic, chilies, and any other ingredients that will help you create excitingly spicy stir-fried pork recipes.
The name “pork butt” is slightly confusing. It doesnt come from a pigs rump at all. Instead, it comes from its shoulder. Though, it should not be confused with pork shoulder. As Cooks Illustrated describes, pork butt is a cut from higher on the pigs foreleg, while pork shoulder is cut farther down. Pork butt contains more fat than pork shoulder and is a more supple cut of meat. The pork shoulder is leaner and has more muscle, making it a slightly tougher cut. Its also worth noting that any part of the pork shoulder, which includes pork butt, is going to have a more intense porcine flavor than lean cuts like pork chops. Pork butt is often cooked using low-and-slow techniques, such as pulled pork or Mexican carnitas, but is also delicious in a stir-fry.
The velveting technique should be used in this case to tenderize the pork butt because it can be a little bit tougher than some other cuts of pork or beef. Although you don’t need to be as careful when cutting it with or against the grain as you would with beef, it does work better if you briefly freeze it first. Pork belly can also be cut into strips or chunks for stir-frying.
A decadent option for stir-fry, pork belly comes from the pigs underside. If you get it unsliced, the belly is a long cut of meat weighing up to 12 pounds (via Detroit Free Press). By curing, smoking, and slicing pork belly, you get bacon. But when it is left uncured and unsmoked, it is perfect for a saucy stir-fry. Rather than thin strips that are too reminiscent of bacon, you can cut the pork belly into thicker, half-inch chunks. The result is a stir-fry with salty bits of fat throughout, which will slightly render when exposed to the high heat methods needed to cook this dish.
Unlike the majority of the other meats on our list, pork belly requires a little bit more time to cook and requires thin slices. Cook the pork belly in your stir-fry for closer to six minutes as opposed to just two. Given how rich and fatty the meat is, it goes well with crunchy, fresh vegetables and a mildly sweet sauce. We suggest marinating pork belly in soy sauce using teriyaki or even a Kalua marinade, both of which add a delicately sweet note to the umami-rich notes of the meat.
Lamb is another protein option for stir-fry, though an uncommon one. It is not often discussed, but it can add a unique twist to your stir-fry. Compared to beef, lamb can be even easier to chew though its a bit firmer in texture. Much like pork loin, lamb loin adds great robustness to stir-fry. With lamb, you will have a slightly gamey flavor that will make your dish taste rustic. Lamb loin comes from the center of the lamb, close to the spine, and extends towards the rear quarter (via Fine Cooking). This cut is a soft and flavorful part of the animal, though some pieces of the same cut will have a different flavor, as a young lamb can develop almost a sweet accent.
You need to be careful not to make any of these mistakes when cooking lambs, including knowing which cuts are best for slow cooking and which ones, like lamb loin, are ideal for searing or other high-heat, quick cooking techniques. To improve the flavor and moistness of the lamb, be sure to trim the excess fat. For the best mouthfeel, you should also slice the lamb loin into strips against the grain. A Mongolian stir-fry recipe is the perfect way to prepare lamb because it pairs well with a mixture of sweet and salty flavors. You can easily substitute lamb for beef in a recipe if it calls for it and still get the same fantastic flavor.
If youve ever wondered, “which is better for me, lamb or beef?” this next cut is for you. Lamb is a great option if you want to dine on stir-fry with a healthy conscious. When compared among protein choices, lamb has a more nutritional profile in terms of omega-3 fatty acids. It is also loaded with minerals and vitamins that many types of commercial meat lack (via Healthline). After lamb loin, the topside may be your best bet for stir-frying.
Meat and Livestock Australia describes lamb topside as great for stir-fry because of its intense flavor and supple qualities. As it is a leaner cut of meat, there is minimal fat content, but its still juicy when cooked properly. To prepare lamb topside for stir-fry, cut it against the grain into strips and marinate it before cooking. The grassy, woodsy flavor of lamb goes hand in hand with cumin-focused stir-fry. Create a spice mix of cumin and crushed Szechuan or black peppercorns, then stir-fry the marinated lamb along with sliced peppers, onion, fresh ginger, garlic, and the spice mixture. Stir in a dressing of soy sauce, rice vinegar, and corn starch, and this flavorful lamb dish will be ready to go on a bed of rice topped with cilantro.
How to Cook Perfect Beef Stir Fry Every Time
What make beef tender for stir-fry?
Sprinkle 3/4 tsp baking soda (bi-carbonate soda) on 250g/8 oz sliced economical beef cuts to tenderize beef quickly and easily. Toss with fingers, leave for 30 minutes. Rinse, pat off excess water. Proceed with stir fry recipe. It can be cooked plain or marinated with wet or dry seasonings.
What are the best cheap beef cuts for stir-fry?
Sirloin tip steak is a superstar in the world of “low-cost cooking” because it is boneless and lean. The Sirloin Tip Roast is excellent for cubed steak, kabobs, stew meat, and stir-fry strips.
How do you stir-fry beef without making it tough?
Avoid Overcooking Thickly sliced beef only needs a few minutes to brown and cook through after being briefly seared on a hot pan. The beef can be removed from the pan once it has browned on all sides. Don’t overcook the beef, or it will become tough.
Is sirloin good for stir-fry?
Our preferred cut of beef for stir-frying is top sirloin because it is reasonably priced and yields juicy results. The best beef cuts for stir-fries are typically the following: top sirloin steak (or standard).