1Stir frying is a rapid cooking method invented by the Chinese. It is the brisk cooking of small pieces of ingredients in hot oil over intense heat for a short time, usually just for a few minutes. During cooking, the ingredients must be kept in constant motion by stirring or vigorous tossing. Once cooking is completed, the food should be removed immediately from the heat. In addition to saving time, the quick cooking preserves the nutrients, flavors, textures and colors of the food.
When stir frying, all ingredients must be well organized and prepared before the cooking is started. They should be measured or weighed, cleaned, chopped, sliced and combined. Like ingredients should be cut into pieces of approximately the same size for even cooking. Otherwise, ingredients such as vegetables may be undercooked. The stir frying is accomplished so quickly that there is usually not enough time to complete any preparation steps once cooking has begun.
Stir frying should be divided into two steps---preparing the ingredients and cooking the ingredients.
2One very useful utensil for stir frying is a wok. Traditionally, a wok was made from thin tempered iron and had a rounded bottom for fast, even conduction of heat. However, in addition to iron, woks are now manufactured with aluminum, stainless steel, and carbon steel. Woks with flat bottoms are made for use on electric ranges and on smooth top cooking surfaces. There are also electric woks with nonstick finishes and automatic thermostatic controls. On some woks, the customary thin metal handles positioned on two sides have been replaced with a single long handle. This handle eliminates the necessity of keeping pot holders handy to pick up or steady the wok.
Woks range from 12 to 24 inches in diameter. The 14-inch wok is a good choice because it can handle most cooking techniques without interfering with other burners.
3Before a new iron or carbon steel wok is used, it should be washed and seasoned. Wash it in hot soapy water (the first time only). Rinse the wok with water and dry it completely. Rub 1 tablespoon of vegetable oil completely over the interior of the wok. Place it over low heat until hot throughout, 3 to 5 minutes; remove from the heat and let it cool. After each use, the wok should be soaked in hot water and cleaned with a bamboo brush or sponge. Do not clean the wok with soap or soap treated scouring pads. Rinse the wok with water, dry it and place over low heat until all the water evaporates. Rub 1 teaspoon vegetable oil over the inside to prevent rusting. Follow manufacture's instructions for care of other types of woks, such as nonstick or electric woks. If you do not have a wok, a large, deep skillet can be used.
The kind of oil used is also crucial for successful stir frying. A vegetable oil that may be heated to a high temperature without smoking is essential. Peanut, corn, canola and soybean oils all work well.
Due to variables such as types of foods and cooking equipment used, cooking times given in this cookbook should be used as guidelines—not as absolutes.