How to Stir-fry Without a Wok

Categories: Cooking tips

Few people do not like stir-fry, and yet only a fraction of enthusiasts try to attempt such a dish at home. The drawback is making room for and cleaning a wok. With these tips, you can stir-fry without a wok, and no one else will know.

Step 1

Estimate how many ounces of vegetables and/or meat you will be stir-frying. It is best to cook no more than 8 to 10 oz. of food at a time in a regular-sized pan, or the food will steam and overcook. You should instead stir-fry in batches or use two pans when a wok is not available.
Step 2

Use a large nonstick pan with sloped edges or a cast-iron skillet with deep sides. The heavier pans provide more even cooking. A well-seasoned cast-iron skillet is essential to prevent sticking.
Step 3

Cut your vegetables into relatively equal widths, between 1/2 to 3/4 inch in thickness. Higher-density foods such as carrots may be sliced thinner, while vegetables with a higher water content should be relatively thick-sliced. This uniformity is essential whether you stir-fry without a wok or cook with one.
Step 4

Slice meat thinly against the grain, and maintain an even thickness of about 1/2 inch or less. Season the meat if desired and set aside.
Step 5

Add between 1 and 2 tbs. oil to the pan, considering dietary preference and taste. Oriental oil or olive oil works best. Sesame oil and peanut oil are popular choices. Vegetable oil may be used, though less is usually needed. Preheat the pan on medium-high heat. Tip the pan to coat it well.
Step 6

Add meat to the hot pan and stir it very quickly. Use a wooden spoon or spatula until it is lightly coated with oil and very lightly browned. If needed, turn down the heat a bit to prevent burning. Either continue stirring until the meat is cooked or lower the heat and proceed to the vegetables.
Step 7

Stir-fry your vegetables in the same pan as the meat or separately. Each has its advantages, but when stir-frying without a wok, a separate pan may work best for crisp vegetables. Otherwise, add about 6 to 8 oz. vegetables to the meat and stir until the desired texture is obtained.
Step 8

Stir-fry the vegetables in a separate pan by repeating the preparations above and preheating the pan to a medium-high heat. Vegetables can be stir-fried from 1 to 3 minutes, but cut the process short so that their texture is just shy of the desired tenderness. Add the vegetables to the meat to properly blend the flavors and finish cooking for several seconds to 1 minute.