Kitchen Tips

How to stir-fry like a pro

Stir-frying is a fantastic way to quickly cook a variety of ingredients. Simply grab your frying pan or wok and follow our no-fail guide.

By Sophie Gray
A quick stir-fry is one of the fastest, easiest, tastiest ways to make a last-minute collection of ingredients to suit any meal. Combinations are endless - you can go the traditional route with pairings like prawn and noodles and beef and ginger or mix it up and experiment with fusions like pork and lemongrass or curried coconut and prawn.

Stir-frying basics:

1. Don't crowd the pan. For a classic vegetable stir-fry to serve four, you will need around 10 cups of leafy greens such as bok choy, Chinese cabbage or spinach. For firm vegetables such as broccoli or asparagus, 4 cups is sufficient (plus an increased cooking time).
2. Choose your oil well. Not all cooking oil is suitable for cooking at a very high heat: sesame, avocado and rice bran oils are good choices as they have a high smoke point and low viscosity so a little goes a long way and the food doesn't have a greasy mouthfeel.
3. Heat the wok or pan on high before you begin and give it time to heat up properly. Flick a few drops of water into the pan; the wok is hot enough when a bead of water evaporates within 1-2 seconds.
4. Remove pan from the heat before adding the oil. Swirl the pan to coat the bottom and sides. It shouldn't be smoking hot – if it is, leave pan to cool a little, discard the scorched oil, wipe out the pan and start again.
5. Cook seasonings such as garlic, ginger and chilli first, for around 10 seconds until fragrant, then push them up the sides of the wok or pan and add the chopped vegetables. Season with salt and pepper if desired and stir-fry for 1 minute or until the vegetables begin to wilt.
6. Dry the vegetables. If they aren't dry they will steam and stew in the pan and lose their crisp texture. Pat thoroughly with paper towels or use a salad spinner for greens if you have one.
7. Prepare sauces or dressings before you cook and arrange them within easy reach of the stove, along with a small dish of water.
8. Pour sauce or dressing around and down the sides of the pan instead of directly into the centre, then stir-fry or toss to coat the vegetables with the dressing.
9. Frozen stir-fry blends can add a burst of colour and flavour when you are hanging out for not-yet-in-season ingredients such as capsicum and corn, but they will add moisture to the pan, changing the cooking environment. Not wrong, just different.