Food & Drink

It's easy to go stir-fry crazy

Stir-frying is one of the easiest cooking methods for getting a delicious meal on the table in a hurry. Stir-frying is simply stirring and frying food at the same time.

Professional cooks have differing opinions on whether a wok or a skillet gives the best results. The testers at America's Test Kitchen prefer a skillet, while Lexington cooking instructor Phil Dunn and restaurateur Suda Veerasethakul like to use a wok.

“I think the best pan to use is a wok because, basically, stir-frying and wok cooking are the same,” Dunn said.

“Any pan with sloping sides would work. I always suggest that people work with small amounts of food in the pan at the beginning; sometimes they put way too much in a pan and make a big mess trying to stir it without having the food splattering out. And then there are those who graduate from stir-frying to sautéing, which requires more skill in keeping the ingredients contained in the pan.”

Cooking authority Shirley Corriher classifies sautéing and stir-frying together because “both require rapid movement and turning of the food in a hot pan containing a small amount of fat.”

Because stir-frying is done over very high heat, smoking can occur if you're not careful. If that happens, you have to clean out the pan and start all over.

The best oils to use are ones that can be heated to a high temperature without smoking: canola, peanut or grapeseed. These oils also have neutral flavors that work well with stir-fry sauces and ingredients, according to Bon Appetit.

Veerasethakul, one of the owners of Thai Orchid Café on South Broadway, said it's also good to make sure your veggies are dry before they hit the hot oil.

“If there is a lot of excess moisture, it's going to spatter,” she said. “Ouch!”

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