What Is The Best Type Of Meat For A Sizzling Stir-Fry?

A sizzling meat and vegetable stir-fry should be in everyone's cooking repertoire for at least two reasons. First, it's a quick and easy midweek dinner that only takes about 15 to 20 minutes to cook on high heat. Secondly, all the ingredients are cooked in the same wok which makes it an underrated one-pot meal. Depending on the dish, the vegetables, marinade, and dressing can vary, and there are no hard and fast rules.

While any meat can be chucked into a stir-fry, beef tends to be a popular choice across cuisines, from a Thai beef stir-fry with basil leaves to Korean-style japchae. As for the cut of beef to use, it is best to choose one that is flavorful and can be thinly sliced and flash-cooked at high heat. A tough cut of meat like brisket, for example, doesn't work well as it has a lot of connective tissue and fat that needs to be slow-cooked until it is tender. When it comes to a stir-fry, a lean cut of beef like sirloin is best suited for the purpose, as well as being both tender and economical.

Slice sirloin against the grain

The sirloin cut comes from the lower back of the cow, above the tenderloin, and between the short loin and round. This cut offers an excellent balance of fat and flavor. Some butchers or grocery stores might already have a plate of pre-packed strips of beef that are helpfully labeled, "stir-fry beef." However, there is no way to tell what cut is used unless specified. 

For this reason, you are better off buying a hunk of sirloin steak and slicing it yourself. Just remember to slice it thinly against the grain to shorten the muscle fibers and make the beef softer and more tender. Without this step, the beef is likely to become chewy which will be an unpleasant contrast with the fresh and crunchy vegetables.

Another important step is to bring the beef to room temperature before cooking it. If you take the beef straight out of the fridge and toss it into a wok, it may not cook evenly because of the drastic temperature difference.

Cook stir-fries in batches or layers

Despite its connotation as a one-pan meal, a stir-fry is not a dish you can just set and forget. In fact, stir-fry dishes work best when they are cooked in batches or layers. Start by frying the meat in a hot wok until it is brown, cooking it in batches if necessary to avoid overcrowding the wok, or else it will steam rather than fry. Next, remove the meat from the wok and cook the aromatics (for example, ginger and garlic) and vegetables, starting with those that take more time. Onions, bell peppers, and julienned carrots can go in first, followed by snow peas and bean sprouts which are best when they still have a bit of bite.

Finally, add the beef back to the wok and pour in the sauces (e.g. soy sauce, oyster sauce, black bean sauce) with a bit of cornstarch to thicken. Serve the dish with steamed rice and garnishes (e.g. spring onions, sliced chilies), for a perfect trio of carbs, protein, and vegetables.