5 Smart Tips for Making a Better Stir-Fry

(Image credit: Christine Han)

The ingredients may vary between veggies, noodles, tofu, and meat, but week in and week out, stir-fries make a regular appearance in my meal plan. It’s a quick and simple dinner that’s reliable and delicious.

While recipes are always handy, this is one of those cooking methods that’s more about the technique. So before you pull out your wok (because yes, you should be using a wok), make sure you’ve got these secrets for stir-fry success down pat.

1. Use a flat-bottom carbon steel wok with a wooden handle.

When it comes to stir-frying, not all cookware is created equal. Your best bet is a 14-inch carbon steel wok. It heats food quickly and evenly, and its high sides double as a cooking surface and prevent ingredients from spilling out. And for easier handling, choose one that has a long wooden handle.

2. Your wok should always be singing.

And by singing, I mean sizzling. You should hear the sound of your wok sizzling from the moment you add the aromatics until the time you pull it off the stove. Not too loud, and not too quiet — this is your indicator that the heat is just right and the wok isn’t too crowded.

3. Cut noodles before adding them to a stir-fry.

After the noodles are cooked and drained, use kitchen shears to cut them before adding to the wok. This prevents them from clumping into a giant ball, and makes it easier to mix them with the other stir-fry ingredients.

4. When stir-frying tofu, stick with extra-firm.

Dry ingredients are important for a successful stir-fry, and this is also true with tofu. The more firm the tofu, the less liquid it holds. Go with extra-firm tofu, and also be sure to press it before cooking it.

5. Keep wet vegetables away from your wok.

When adding any type of veggies, from leafy greens to firm carrots, always make sure they’re thoroughly dried first. A quick whirl through the salad spinner should do the trick. Otherwise, the ingredients will steam and braise instead of stir-fry.