The stir-frying process requires high heat and the tossing and stirring of ingredients in a large pan to ensure quick and even cooking. A wok is the traditional type of pan to use for stir-frying because it has deep tapered sides which allows food to be stirred and tossed easily. If a wok is not available, a deep heavy skillet works very well for stir-frying and nonstick pans are also easy to use. Wood or metal utensils should be used to stir the food. Plastic utensils should be avoided because they can melt.
All of the ingredients must be prepared and within reach before the stir-fry process can begin. All vegetables should be chopped and ready to go. Precut vegetables can be purchased in most food stores, but they are more expensive. Herbs and spices and any liquid ingredients should be measured before beginning. It is helpful to place the ingredients in small bowls so that everything is organized.
The beef for stir-fry recipes should be cut into small strips and should have very little fat. The small strips will ensure that the meat will cook thoroughly, even when it is only cooked for a short time. Use sirloin strips, top loin, tri-tip, and rib-eye for stir-fry recipes. Tougher cuts can also be used and are especially good if they are marinated first in order to tenderize them. Cutting the meat into small strips also makes a tougher cut seem a bit more tender. It is important to slice the beef across the grain so that the meat fibers are short, which will make the meat less chewy.
Make sure to add the proper quantity of oil to the pan. Only 1 or 2 tablespoons of oil per pound of ingredients is required. An oil with a high smoke point should be used so that it will not burn at high temperatures.
It is important to add different ingredients to the pan at the appropriate times to ensure that all the ingredients are cooked properly. Some of the vegetables may require a longer cooking time than the beef strips so they should be added to the pan first. If everything is placed in the pan at the same time, the results will be unsatisfactory. The ingredients should be cooked until tender, but they should never be overcooked or the beef will toughen and the remaining ingredients will become limp and soggy.