How To Stir-Fry Beef

Stir-fry Beef with Mung Bean Sprouts
Stir-fry Beef with Mung Bean Sprouts. Chris Radley Photography

Have you ever had this happen to yourself? You’ve been preparing a beef stir-fry for dinner, everything starts out fine but as you turn and move the meat around the wok, the juices from the meat leak out and start foaming. Instead of nicely bronzed strips of beef, you end up with grayish pieces of meat that are more stewed than stir-fried.


The problem is that many home stoves can’t generate the blazing heat found in restaurant kitchens or even Chinese/Eastern house holds standard kitchen stoves.

Many British homeowners for example like to use ceramic or electric gas jobs. While a blazing hob is best, to get the best results when stir-frying meat, you need to adjust your techniques a bit. Here are some simple tips that will show you how to stir-fry beef:


  • Cut the meat across the grain into thin, uniform strips so that all the pieces cook evenly. It’s easiest to do this if the meat is partially frozen. So you can put the beef into freezer for 20-30 minutes and take it out then cut it into strips or pieces. Also I will keep the size of the beef smaller as big chunks of meat or thick strips are not going to be easy to stir-fry properly.
  • I would use a meat tenderizer to tenderize the meat before I cut it into strips or pieces. This way the meat taste better after stir-fry.
  • Marinate the meat. A good marinade helps tenderize the meat and add flavor, while using cornstarch in the marinade seals in the meat juices. Let the the meat sit at room temperature in the marinade for about 15 minutes while you prepare the other ingredients. Remove the meat from the marinade with a slotted spoon. Discard the excess marinade.
  • Add oil to the wok, tipping the pan to swirl the oil around. I normally don’t use a lot of oil to stir-fry because I always use a non-stick wok or skillet when I cook stir-fry dishes. So I don’t really need to use a lot of oil in this kind of dish. I highly recommend you buy a good quality non-stick wok or skillet.
  • Because most Western household’s stoves are not really powerful enough to cook stir-fry dishes, I will usually use a skillet or frying pan to prepare stir-fry beef for this kind of dish. This is because the bottom surface of skillets and frying pans are bigger so the liquid can quickly reduce to nearly dry and the cooking time will reduce as well. So you won’t end up with a stir-fry beef that’s watery and tough and chewy to eat.
  • Never put too much food in a wok, don’t crowd the food. Lay the pieces of meat out flat in the wok, taking care not to over crowd. (Note: a family sized, 14-inch diameter wok can handle ½ pound of beef at a time. Otherwise, cook the beef in batches as needed.)
  • Instead of immediately stir-frying, let the meat sear for about 30-45 seconds, before starting to stir-fry. Then stir-fry the meat for a couple minutes until it changes colour, splashing with a small amound of rice wine or dry sherry if desired. Remove the meat from the pan to keep it from over cooking and drain. Add the beef back into the pan as called for in the recipe. (As in this recipe for Stir-fry Beef with Bamboo Shoots)


    Here are some stir-fry beef recipes for you:


    Stir-fry Beef with Mung Bean Sprouts Recipe

    Stir-fry Beef with Flowering Chive and Bean Curd

    Flavourful Beef with Asparagus Stir-fry Recipe

    Stir-Fried Flak Steak with Bamboo Shoots and Bell Pepper

    Chinese Stir-Fried Beef and Red Onions Recipe

    Savory Stir-Fry Beef with Oyster Sauce


    Edited by Liv Wan