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Five most common stir-fry mistakes

Ken Hom / 05 February 2019

Celebrity chef Ken Hom reveals the most common mistakes we make when cooking up a stir fry – and how to do it properly.


1. Your wok or sauté pan isn’t hot enough

Your wok should be heated dry, on the highest heat and for at least six minutes – we get it, you’re home from work late and waiting for your pan to heat properly feels like an eternity, but giving it adequate time to reach its highest temperature will make all the difference to your stir fry’s texture and depth of flavour, the very essence of the stir fry is quick cooking on a very high heat. The oil should be added next and heated for a minute, and avoid sesame oil as it has a low smoke point so you will lose the fragrant, nutty flavour, instead drizzle it on afterwards – use groundnut or vegetable oil.

2. You’re cooking the meat and vegetables together

For those that prefer a meat option it’s tempting to throw everything in together or cook the meat for a bit first then add the vegetables. However, by doing either of these you are committing a Chinese cooking faux-pas. Overloading your wok with meat cools the wok and simmers the meat in its juices rather than frying it, leaving you with overcooked and chewy meat. The recommended way is to place the meat into the pan with the heated oil, allow it to brown on one side then stir it around the pan until the rest of it has browned and nearly cooked. Then remove the meat from the pan and place on a side plate, with the oil re-heated then cook your vegetables and re-add the meat to the pan at the very end.

3. You’re overcrowding

Meat should always be laid out flat in the pan. If you have a lot of meat to cook, try doing it in two goes rather than bundling the meat up on top of each other in one go, this can lead to both undercooking and overcooking.

4. The ingredients are uneven sizes

Usually when the ingredients have cooked unevenly this is because they haven’t been cut to an equal size (both meat and vegetables), meaning some of the ingredients will cook quicker than others, which can cause some to burn, adding a bitter flavour to your final dish.

5. You’re not using the right sauce

For the best results marinate your meat ahead for 15-20 mins – you can use oyster sauce, black bean garlic sauce or simply just light soy sauce. When using soy sauce remember that light soy sauce is used for flavour and dark soy sauce adds colour.

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The opinions expressed are those of the author and are not held by Saga unless specifically stated. The material is for general information only and does not constitute investment, tax, legal, medical or other form of advice. You should not rely on this information to make (or refrain from making) any decisions. Always obtain independent, professional advice for your own particular situation.

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