Beef For Stir Fry

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This is a recipe for Beef For Stir Fry. It’s really fast to make if you have cubes of roasted beef from the store, but it’s easy to make from scratch as well. If you have leftover roast beef or are in a hurry and need to buy some meat for this recipe, either would work nicely. I like the cubes which I made myself but I often just use what I can find at the store. Either choice will be delicious and so quick to prepare.

Quick Beef Stir-Fry

Quick and easy beef stir-fry. I make this on my busiest weeknights.

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Quick Beef Stir-Fry

In this video, we’ll show you how to put a delicious, colorful dinner on your table in under 30 minutes. The secret is to have all your ingredients prepped and ready to go. The combination of beef and vegetables in this stir-fry makes it a healthy, filling, and colorful dish.

Read the full recipe after the video.

Recipe Summary

Prep:

15 mins

Cook:

10 mins

Total:

25 mins

Servings:

4

Yield:

4 servings

a close up, overhead view of a single serving of beef stir fry served over white rice

Need to use up some of your leftover vegetables and other pantry staple ingredients? Look no further than a classic beef stir-fry. This beef and broccoli stir-fry comes together in just 25 minutes and only requires ingredients that you probably already have. And if you don’t? You can just skip them! 

This dish is packed with veggies, beef, and saucy flavors for a weeknight dinner warrior that checks all the boxes. Served with rice or lo mein noodles, this will be the best beef stir-fry you’ve ever made.

How to Make Beef Stir-Fry

The most time-consuming part of making stir-fry is all the chopping. Slicing your meat and veggies into smaller bite-sized pieces can take a little bit of time and effort, but it’s worth it for the end result.

After you’ve chopped all your ingredients, you’ll cook the beef on one side of the wok, or another large frying pan, and the veggies on the other side of the wok. Once they’re all cooked, you can mix the two sides together and add the soy sauce and sesame seeds. 

Some stir-fry recipes use a specific stir-fry sauce, which can be as basic as broth, soy sauce, sugar, and rice wine vinegar. This quick stir-fry calls for only soy sauce. But you can feel free to add a stir-fry sauce or marinate your beef in one if you prefer.

What Cut of Beef Is Best For Beef Stir-Fry?

Flank steaks are the most popular choice for making a stir-fry. However, you can also use sirloin steak, skirt steak, Denver steak, or even beef chuck. 

Beef chuck steak is the most economical choice, but it does require some extra trimming. You’ll want to remove the tough tissue from the steaks before frying.

How to Cook Beef Stir-Fry

If possible, you should use a wok to make beef stir-fry. Woks are large and have sloping sides that let you cook the entire stir-fry in one pan, so you can easily stir and flip the food without fear of it flying out. They also are designed to cook foods quicker than skillets and with less oil. 

If you can’t use a wok (or another carbon steel pan) then any skillet will work. You may just need to cook the meat and veggies in separate batches. 

When cooking, make sure you heat the pan and oil up first before adding your ingredients — they should sizzle as soon as they hit the heat. And always use an oil with a high smoke point, like canola or peanut oil, for the best stir-fry results. 

Ingredients

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Original recipe yields 4 servingsIngredient Checklist

  • 2 tablespoons vegetable oil
  • 1 pound beef sirloin, cut into 2-inch strips
  • 1 ½ cups fresh broccoli florets
  • 1 red bell pepper, cut into matchsticks
  • 2 carrots, thinly sliced
  • 1 green onion, chopped
  • 1 teaspoon minced garlic
  • 2 tablespoons soy sauce
  • 2 tablespoons sesame seeds, toasted

Directions

Instructions Checklist

  • Step 1Heat vegetable oil in a large wok or skillet over medium-high heat; cook and stir beef until browned, 3 to 4 minutes. Move beef to the side of the wok and add broccoli, bell pepper, carrots, green onion, and garlic to the center of the wok. Cook and stir vegetables for 2 minutes.
  • Step 2Stir beef into vegetables and season with soy sauce and sesame seeds. Continue to cook and stir until vegetables are tender, about 2 more minutes.

HOW TO PREPARE BEEF FOR STIR-FRY

Velveted beef for stir-frying

We have a lot of beef recipes in our archives here at The Woks of Life, so we wanted to show everyone how to prepare beef for stir-fry including the step-by-step process for velveting beef for Chinese cooking. We’ll recommend our favorite cuts of beef to use and show you how to properly cut and marinate beef just like it’s done in Chinese restaurants.

We always give important details in all of our recipes, including preparation and cooking, but I thought it was time to write a post focused on preparing beef properly for the wok!

WHAT CUT OF BEEF IS BEST FOR STIR-FRY?

Flank steak is by far the most popular cut of meat used by Chinese restaurants in all of their stir-fry dishes. It also happens to be the most recommended cut of beef we use in our stir-fry recipes.

Flank steak is flavorful, reasonably priced, and readily available. With its intense beefy flavor, all you need to do is make sure you slice and marinate it properly to make a great stir-fry. For $6.99 to $8.99 a pound, it won’t break the bank either.

beef flank steak on a cutting board by thewoksoflife.com

Boneless beef chuck steak is a more economical choice for beef stir fries. We like using beef chuck steak for stewing and braising because of the extra fat that comes with this cut of meat, but it can also work nicely for stir-fries.

At $4.99 to $5.99 per pound, chuck steak is also more economical than flank steak. You can buy a large piece, slice it, divide it into portions for several stir-fries, and freeze it!

whole beef chuck steak for stir fry by thewoksoflife.com

A little more trimming and care is required to prepare the beef chuck steak for stir fry. Cut along the fat lines and remove the thick membrane to get some neat chunks of beef for slicing. Use a good chef’s knife and as always, be careful when working with sharp knives!

beef chuck steak pieces on a cutting board by thewoksoflife.com

HOW TO CUT BEEF FOR STIR-FRY

If using flank steak, trim off any white muscle membranes, and cut your flank steak along the grain lengthwise into 2 to 2 1/2 inch strips.

cutting flank steak strips by thewoksoflife.com

It’s easy to identify the long grains of muscle fiber in flank steak. When slicing the flank steak into small pieces, slice against the grain (perpendicular to the long lines of muscle).

beef flank steak on a cutting board by thewoksoflife.com

Make each slice 1/4″ thick––each piece will be tender and bite-sized.

slicing beef flank steak on a cutting board by thewoksoflife.com

Now your beef is ready for marinating!

beef flank steak slices on cutting board by thewoksoflife.com

If using boneless beef chuck, check out our instructions for how to slice it below. If not, skip down to the next section.

CUTTING BONELESS BEEF CHUCK FOR STIR-FRY

Cutting meat against the grain is very important to yield nice tender pieces in your stir-fry dishes.

Again, the “grain” refers to the long strands of muscle running through the beef parallel to each other. Cutting against the grain means cutting across those strands, so the long strands of muscle can be made shorter to create small, tender pieces.

It’s much harder to identify how the grain runs in beef chuck than for flank steak. In this photo, you can see the pattern of meat and fat where the grain runs vertically.

beef chuck steak on a cutting board by thewoksoflife.com

Since we have to cut cross-wise to the grain, for this piece, we need to cut the long strip into 2-inch wide chunks first.

cutting beef chuck steak by thewoksoflife.com

And then position each piece to cut them so the long fibers are cut short.

beef chuck steak pieces on a cutting board by thewoksoflife.com

See how the knife is positioned where it will cut the beef against the grain?

beef chuck steak on a cutting board by thewoksoflife.com

Now, cut your beef into 1/4″ thick slices

slicing beef chuck steak for stir-fry by thewoksoflife.com

You can see the grain and the slice a bit clearer in this photo, but you can imagine that the soft beef can be difficult to handle and slice.

A chef’s secret to slicing beef quickly is to freeze the meat partially for 30 to 60 minutes until it is firm. This makes slicing much easier and faster, as the firm beef does not slide under your knife and around the cutting board. Partially frozen meat also allows you to be more precise in cutting to your desired thickness.

slices of beef for stir-fry, thewoksoflife.com

HOW TO CUT BEEF FOR LO MEIN & OTHER NOODLE DISHES

If using beef for noodle dishes or dishes like Beef and Pepper Stir Fry, an extra step to slice beef into thin strips (julienne) is required.

Beef and Pepper Stir-fry, by thewoksoflife.com

In Chinese stir-fry cooking, the way ingredients are cut should be consistent with each other. Rectangular slices of beef are used for stir-fries with vegetables like beef and broccoli or beef and tofu. Long strands of noodles like you have in Beef Lo Mein require beef to be cut into similar long thin strips.

Beef fried rice requires small chunks of meat to go with the small grains of rice. Make sense?

Classic Beef Fried Rice, by thewoksoflife.com

HOW CHINESE RESTAURANTS TENDERIZE BEEF

It’s time to share some Chinese restaurant secrets on how to tenderize beef. Tenderizing your beef is the first step of the traditional process of velveting beef practiced by virtually all Chinese chefs.

Chinese restaurant chefs take some extra steps in preparing beef for their stir-fry dishes.

The first step is to add a good amount of baking soda to the beef––about 1 rounded teaspoon per pound of beef.

How to prepare beef for stir-fry by thewoksoflife.com

Next, add 1/4  cup water (per pound of beef) or until the beef is just covered, and massage the beef so the baking soda and water is uniformly distributed. Set aside for 1-2 hours. This step tenderizes (baking soda) and hydrates (water) the beef.

Next, the beef must be rinsed thoroughly under running water to rid it of any excess baking soda, or you will taste it in the dish.

How to prepare beef for stir fry by thewoksoflife.com
rinsing beef for restaurant style marinade by thewoksoflife.com

Use your hands to stir up the beef during the rinsing process.

rinsing beef for restaurant style marinade by thewoksoflife.com

Once the water runs clear, drain the beef thoroughly in a colander and transfer it to a bowl for the marinating process (details in next section).

rinsed beef for restaurant style marinade by thewoksoflife.com

SHORTCUT TO TENDERIZE BEEF AT HOME

If the process used by Chinese restaurants to tenderize beef described above sounds a bit involved and a hassle, you can still tenderize beef using an at-home shortcut. Baking soda is a powerful ingredient for tenderizing beef, but if too much is added, it can add an off-taste to the beef which is why beef is rinsed off after adding larger amounts of baking soda to the beef.

The solution is to add a smaller amount of baking and increase the marinating time. Adding 1/8 teaspoon to 1/4 teaspoon (for tougher cuts) of baking soda  and 1 to 2 tablespoons of water to the beef and mixing and working it into the beef before marinating will also do a fine job tenderizing! Increase the marinating time for your beef at least 15 minutes. I will also say that adding water to the beef is a personal choice. I feel there are merits to having a moist hydrated beef or a drier beef for stir fry dishes.

HOW TO MARINATE BEEF FOR STIR-FRY

Marinating beef for your stir-fry is an important 2nd step of velveting that should never be skipped. The marinade isn’t as much about soaking the beef in a lot of liquid or adding a bunch of different flavorings like you may be used to.

It’s about giving the beef an extra juicy texture. Have you ever tried to make a stir-fry at home, but the meat comes out dry and not at all like what you’ve been served in Asian restaurants? Master this marinating technique, and you’ll successfully prepare Chinese stir-fry dishes at home.

After the beef has been tenderized:

1. Add oyster sauce and/or soy sauce to give your beef an extra flavor boost. Add about 2 teaspoons of each per pound of beef.

adding oyster sauce marinade to beef by thewoksoflife.com

2. Add cornstarch and oil to give the meat a velvety texture. Add about 2 teaspoons of each per pound of beef. The cornstarch and oil gives the beef its velvety smooth texture sealing in juices and protecting the meat during the searing or cooking. Adding Shaoxing wine (2 teaspoons per pound) also adds flavor but is totally optional for those of you who are strict about alcohol consumption.

adding corn starch and baking soda marinade to beef by thewoksoflife.com

3. Mix everything together and set it aside to marinate for 15-30 minutes while you’re preparing your other ingredients.

velveting beef by thewoksoflife.com

WHAT IS CHINESE VELVETING?

Velveting is a process used in traditional Chinese cooking to prepare meats for stir-frying. Chinese velveting techniques vary, depending upon the cut and type of meat used for the dish, and also involve tenderizing, marinating  and different cooking methods.

Through the process of velveting, meats retain their moisture and take on a soft and velvety texture that is a signature quality of Chinese cuisine. The velveting of beef is probably most common, since beef benefits more than other meats from this cooking technique.

HOW TO VELVET BEEF FOR STIR FRY

Velveting beef begins with the steps we have explained above (involving tenderizing the beef and then marinating it with seasonings, oil and cornstarch).

The tenderizing step makes any beef soft and moist, while marinating the beef gives it more umami flavor and that velvety coating you experience when eating at Chinese restaurants. Pictured below is the marinated beef before cooking.

Velveted beef ready for stir fry by thewoksoflife.com

The last step of velveting is cooking, which really depends upon the dish you are cooking and the outcome you’re looking for.

The traditional method for velveting beef is to pass the meat through hot oil (essentially deep frying) which is literally referred to as zǒu yóu (走油) in Mandarin or “jau yau” in Cantonese.

In most cases, we prefer to sear the meat in a hot wok, since having a wok full of oil at home is simply not practical. That said, we think searing beef imparts more flavor than the jau yau deep frying method.

Some recipes, including soups, will only require cooking the beef in water as the final step.

WHAT BEEF TO USE FOR STIR FRY

A good stir fry is a quick and delicious meal for every day of the week, plus if you cook a generous serve it will act as excellent leftovers for the next day. With the combinations seemingly endless this versatile dish will have you coming back for seconds, if you get it right.

The biggest complaints when it comes to beef stir fry is the meat being dry, chewy, or tough. While you can pack your stir fry full of veggies to compensate for the lacklustre meat, we instead suggest an even simpler solution – just select the right meat. Use the right beef when whipping up a stir fry and the results will give you melt in your mouth texture and flavour.

As a super flexible and versatile meal the type of beef you use can easily vary for a similar result. The most popular choices include flank steak, sirloin steak, rump steak and skirt steak.

Flank steak

Flank steak is arguably the most popular when it comes to choosing a cut for your stir fry. This long and thin cut comes from the belly muscles of the cow and is full of intense beef flavour. It is best when sliced thin and takes to marinade well. A great all-rounder.

Skirt steak

Skirt steak is very similar to flank steak and is another long and thin cut, but rather than coming from the belly muscles, it is from the diaphragm muscles of the animal. This cut has a robust flavour and is best if marinated. You’ll want to cook it at a high heat for a short period of time to keep it tender. Best served rare or medium rare.

Sirloin steak

Sirloin is also known as porterhouse and is a great choice as it is tasty and flavoursome, while still being inexpensive. It is from the large part of the t-bone area and you’ll want to use either the sirloin tip side steak or the tip centre side steak for optimal results. This cut works best when marinated over a couple of hours before cooking, and be careful not to overcook as it can become tough.

Rump steak

Rump is from the hip section of the animal and is the most flavoursome and tender of all cuts from the round. It is a lean cut that is full of flavour and performs best when thinly sliced. It also won’t break the bank. Keep in mind it does best when seared over high heat and then further cooked over a lower temperature.

Preparing the beef

While a lot of this dish relies on the beef you select, the game changer is the way you actually cut the meat. So don’t buy pre-cut stir fry packs from your local supermarket – select and cut the beef yourself.

When prepping your meat, if you have time leave it in the freezer for 20 to 30 minutes as it will allow the meat to partially freeze, making it much easier to slice.

Focus on thin and uniform pieces, and it’s crucial you slice the beef against the grain. This trick will break down and shorten the muscle fibres leaving the end product tender and easier to chew.

Cooking the beef

When it comes to cooking the beef, start with a hot pan and a short cooking time. It should only take a couple of minutes for the beef to brown.

You want to avoid a crowded pan as this will reduce the overall heat and minimise the desired effect. Cook your meat in batches in a single layer across the bottom of the pan.

Cook the beef first and place it to the side, cook the vegetables and then add the beef back in to coat in the sauce right before you serve.

Making these simple changes will elevate your stir fry and have you coming back time and time again to this beloved meal.

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