Like sautéing, stir-frying is a quick-cooking method using an open pan and a small amount of fat. There are some differences, however. Sautéing, a classic French technique, involves large pieces of meat, such as boneless chicken breasts, cooked in a straight-sided sauté pan or a skillet. Stir-frying, an Asian method, requires all the ingredients to be in small, uniform pieces; these are tossed until done in a hot pan with deep, flared sides called a wok.
If you have ever seen a stir-fry chef in action in a restaurant, you know how fast-paced this technique can be. There isn’t time to stop between steps to slice a mushroom or mix a marinade. Preparing ahead makes it all go smoothly, from adding oil to blending the sauce. Before you begin cooking, measure, mix, cut up, and slice all the ingredients and arrange them in bowls near the stove so they are within easy reach.
Woks and other specialty equipment for stir-frying are available from well-stocked kitchenware stores, by mail order from catalogs, or at Asian markets.
Cutting Chicken Cubes or Strips
Depending on what the recipe calls for, cut boneless chicken breasts or thighs into square pieces or thin strips of approximately the same size.
Cutting Peppers into Strips
With a medium knife, cut the pepper in half and remove the stem, ribs, and seeds. Cut each half into uniform lengthwise strips, then cut the strips in half crosswise to make them bite-sized.
Adding Oil to the Wok
Starting at the top of the pan, swirl 1 tablespoon of oil around the sides of the wok. This allows the oil to flow down the pan sides to coat them completely.
With a spatula or long-handled wooden spoon, use a folding motion to gently lift and turn the pieces of food so that each is exposed to the hot, oil-coated cooking surface.