How to Make a Stir-Fry Without a Wok
After a long day at work or school, the last thing that most people want to do is spend a lot of time cooking a meal, much less worrying about how to cook a healthy one. It's easier to come home, flop onto the couch, grab your cell phone or laptop, and order takeout. For those of us who can muster up the energy to cook on a weeknight, the odds are good that our dinner is quick-cooking, easy to prepare, and less than healthy; we want instant gratification for a hard day's work. Before you give up on a healthy, home-cooked weeknight meal, consider this: a stir-fry is a nutritious alternative that's easy to make — even if you don't have a wok.
The great thing about making stir-fries is that the possibilities for variations are nearly endless. If you have onions, peppers, and chicken on hand one evening and mushrooms, ginger, and pork chops on another, you can produce equally simple and delicious meals on both nights. The key is simply knowing how to prepare and cook your individual ingredients.
Once you choose your ingredients and cut everything to roughly equal size, you'll have to select your pan. If you have a wok, use it, but don’t let the lack of a wok discourage you from making a stir-fry at home. You can achieve the same results with a pan that is wide and flat, as long as it will give your ingredients lots of contact with the heat. A sauté pan (which most of us already have at home) makes a good substitute for a wok; just heat a few tablespoons of vegetable oil in the pan and stir-fry as usual. You’ll lose a little bit of side height when you replace a wok with a sauté pan (the sides of a wok heat up and provide additional cooking surface), and if your recipe was written for a wok you may have a difficult time cooking all of the ingredients at once, but you can easily address both of these issues by dividing your recipe into two sauté pans.
Ready to try making a stir-fry at home? We've got step-by-step instructions for this quick and healthy meal.
Start Cooking Rice or Noodles
Stir-fry is a quick-cooking method, so if you're planning to serve your meal over rice or noodles you'll need to start cooking your starch right away. Put your rice or noodles on to cook before you start chopping your other ingredients and everything should be finished around the same time.
Chop the Vegetables
The key to stir-frying is to have all of your ingredients ready before you start cooking. Gather the vegetables that you’re planning to use and cut them into more or less equally sized pieces so that they’ll cook evenly. Keep each type of vegetable separate because, when it’s time to cook, delicate ingredients like tomatoes will go in the pan at the end of the cooking process while hardier ingredients like carrots or peppers will be added at the beginning.
Kristie Collado is The Daily Meal's Cook Editor. Follow her on Twitter @KColladoCook.