One bonus of getting married (besides everlasting love) is that we’ve gotten a number of gifts for the kitchen. So many in fact that we can’t actually store them all in our very small kitchen. So we’ve kind of temporarily converted our second bedroom into a kitchen gadget store room. Eventually we’re gonna donate a lot of our old stuff and consolidate.
Trust me though. I’m not complaining. I’m like a kid in a candy store. One of the gifts we received that I’ve been dying for is a really nice wok. In the past, when I made stir-fries, I used a normal pan, but now I can use a real deal wok and it’s a lot of fun.
My first meal with my new toy was this simple and delicious beef and broccoli stir-fry.
My main problem with most beef and broccoli stir-fries comes down to two issues that most take-out joints fail at. First, the broccoli is normally WAY overcooked. Soggy broccoli sucks. Second, the whole dish is way over-sauced and goopy. I think this recipe and cooking method gets rid of both of those issues.
1) Slice the steak thinly. Whisk together marinade ingredients and marinade steak for at least 15 minutes.
2) Blanch broccoli florets in salted water for 1.5-2 minutes. Then dunk them in ice water to stop the cooking.
3) Prep all the other stir fry ingredients and whisk together your sauce ingredients. Make sure everything is ready before you start cooking.
4) Get your pan over high heat and let it heat until it's really hot. Then add a drizzle of oil and the steak. Cook it for about 90 seconds, until it's mostly cooked.
5) Next, add the red peppers and cook for another minute. Then add in the ginger and garlic and cook for another 15 seconds.
6) Pour in sauce and stir. Add in blanched broccoli and cook for another minute. Sauce should reduce down immediately.
7) Serve stir fry with rice!
Preparing the Beef
Marinating the beef before cooking for 15 minutes or so gives it a flavor boost and also the corn starch helps it to form a good crust on the outside of the beef as it cooks. Try to slice your beef pretty thin, but not deli style thin.
Prepping other stuff
While the beef is marinating, go ahead and prep all your other ingredients. You want to make sure you have everything ready before you start cooking this meal.
To solve the soggy broccoli problem, blanch the broccoli florets in boiling salted water for about 90 seconds – 2 minutes. They should be bright green. Then transfer them straight to an ice bath (also salted) to stop the cooking process. The florets should be bright green and still have a little crunch to them.
Now you can add them right at the very end of the cooking process and they’ll be perfectly cooked by the time they heat up.
Making the sauce
If you cook stir-fries regularly, you’ll probably have most of these ingredients already. I actually was out of rice wine vinegar so I substituted white wine vinegar without any noticeable difference in flavor. Also, be careful with the oyster sauce. That’s the stuff where if you over-do it you can end up with the dreaded goopy sauce of take-out places.
But used correctly, it’s delicious.
The Pan in Question
The reason I didn’t really recommend a specific wok is because I’m not sure that I know enough about them to feel comfortable doing so. I can tell you that based on my somewhat limited research, it seems like there are only two kinds that are worth getting if you’re in the market: A stainless steel style with an aluminum or copper core or a more traditional carbon steel variety. These are the best styles for even heating and high heat cooking.
The cored stainless steel is easy to clean and maintain and the carbon steel acts like cast iron in that it needs to be treated and seasoned. For the home kitchen, I think both probably wok fine. (So punny)
I ended up getting the stainless steel version and I’m very happy with it after the first use. Maybe someday if I have enough room in my kitchen, I’ll pick up a carbon steel variety just for comparison (they are a lot cheaper also).
Cooking the Stir-Fry
Regardless of what pan you are using, put it over high heat and get it hot. A drop of water should sizzle and evaporate instantly on it. Then add your oil to the pan and it should glisten immediately. Throw in your beef next and arrange the pieces around the pan. They should cook after just 30 seconds or maybe a bit longer.
Next add your red pepper and give everything a toss. If the dish looks really dry at any point, add a bit more oil.
So literally, you’ve been cooking for maybe a minute or 90 seconds at this point and it’s time to add the ginger and garlic. I made a little well right in the middle and tossed those in. Adding them that close to the end ensures that they won’t burn.
After 10-15 seconds of cooking the garlic and ginger, add the sauce to the pan. It should sizzle like crazy and start thickening right away. After another 15 seconds or so, add your broccoli to the pan.
Another 20-30 seconds and your sauce should be thick, but not goopy and everything should be perfectly cooked. Pour it out on a big platter and let people help themselves to some rice and stir-fry!
As you can imagine, there are a ton of variations on this dish, but this is a really good start.
Has anyone used or owned a carbon steel wok? This dish turned out great for me in the aluminum core stainless steel, but I’m naturally curious.