How To Stir-Fry Beef Tender
Every wonder why the meat in Chinese restaurants is so tender? In this blog post, I’m revealing all the secrets for how to make beef stir-fry tender, plus simple velveting beef techniques so you can make flavorful and healthy beef stir-fry every single time!
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Best Beef For Stir-Fry
If you are wondering how to make beef stir-fry, it starts with the type of cuts that are most suitable for stir-fries. Personally, I prefer beef loin flap sirloin tips, followed by skirt steak, flank steak, then sirloin.
To trim or not to trim the beef fat is up to your personal preference. From an ancestral and Paleo perspective, we encourage people to purchase organic and grass fed beef. The fat content from these animals are better for us. If use conventional cut, I recommend trimming some extra fat and try to keep the meat on the leaner side.
Best Beef Stir-Fry Marinade
A good cut of steak doesn’t need much seasoning. Most of the time coarse sea salt and pepper will be more than enough. To add more flavor to beef stir-fry marinade, my recommend using my I Heart Umami go-to beef marinade – Coconut aminos (soy-sauce substitute), Red Boat fish sauce, toasted sesame oil, and ground black pepper. You can swap sesame oil for olive oil if you can’t have seed oil. You can also skip black pepper if you are on AIP.
How Long To Marinade and Velvet Stir-Fry Beef
If you use my go-to beef marinade, 15 minutes in the fridge or up to 24 hours will be a great time frame to marinade the beef for stir-fry.
Best Pan For Stir-Frying
I particularly mention home cooks because most household stove tops are never going to reach the heat intensity level as restaurants’. The best pan for stir-fry, in my opinion, is stainless steel skillet. Ideally, a 12-inch skillet will give you more room for stir-frying. A 10-inch skillet will be more suitable for cooking for one or two people. The next ideal pan for stir-fry is cast iron. Both skillets conduct and maintain heat well. Stainless steel is slightly better than cast iron for stir-fry because stainless is much lighter and easier to lift and toss. You can read more about the top 7 stir-fry mistakes to avoid here.
The temperature of the skillet
The temperature of your skillet plays an important part in Chinese stir-fry. Watch my Youtube video on how to properly preheat your skillet for stir-fry two ways and be sure to subscribe to I Heart Umami Youtube channel!
How To Know When Pan Is Hot Enough
Method 1 – Water Drop Test
Pre-heat a skillet over medium-low heat. Test the temperature of the skillet with ½ tsp water. When the skillet is at the perfect temperature, one or two beads will form immediately and the pan is ready.
Method 2 –
Pre-heat a skillet over medium-low heat. Carefully place your hand 2.5-3 inches away from the surface to test the temperature. When it feels too hot to place your hand nearby, the skillet is ready.
This is the method I use more often. It’s easier than the water drop test but requires more intuition. The timing will depend on the type and thickness of your skillet, a thinner skillet will take less time to get hot than a thicker material skillet.
If you are a blogger or chef and have found success in your beef stir-fry after reading this blog post, please send me your blog or recipe post and link back to this original article. I’m happy to review and add your success story to my website!
How To Velvet Beef for Tender Beef Stir-Fry
- Thin slice the beef against the grain (a little thicker than ⅛ inch thin at 45-degree angle)
- Add I Heart Umami beef stir-fry marinade – coconut aminos, fish sauce, toasted sesame oil or olive oil.
- Add arrowroot starch to replace corn starch and little baking soda to tenderize and velvet the beef.
- Mix well and set aside in the fridge for 15-20 minutes or up to 24 hrs.
To make a great Chinese beef stir-fry, follow these principles –
- Select the right cut of beef
- Thin slice against the grain at 45 degree angle and marinade for at least 15 minutes.
- Use a stainless skillet and preheat the skillet well.
- Sear the beef in one layer without disturbing for about 2 minutes and the flip side about 30 seconds.
- Pair it with vegetables and serve hot or in room temperature.
Recipes you can try
My Paleo beef and broccoli, Mongolian Beef, sesame beef, Thai basil beef, Cantonese beef stir-fry with crispy noodles, and Chinese pepper steak.
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How to make beef stir-fry tender
I Heart Umami Beef stir-fry marinade:
- 1 lb. beef flap sirloin tips, , skirt steak, or sirloin
- 1.5 to 2 tbsp coconut aminos
- ½ to 1 tbsp Red Boat fish sauce
- 1 tsp toasted sesame oil
- ⅛ tsp ground black pepper
- 1 tsp arrowroot starch
- ¼ to ½ tsp baking soda
- 1.5 to 2 tbsp avocado oil
- Chopped scallions
- Toasted sesame seeds
- Dry red chili flakes
- Thin slice the beef against the grain at 45 degree angle. Each slice should be a little thicker than ⅛ inch but thinner than ¼ inch in thickness.
- Add I Heart Umami beef stir-fry marinade from coconut aminos to baking soda. Baking soda will tenderize the meat. Arrowroot will help create a golden brown sear. Gently mix well and set aside in the fridge for 10-15 minutes or up to 24 hours.
- Preheat a 10-12 inch stainless steel skillet over medium heat. Test the temperature of the skillet with ½ tsp water. When the skillet is at the perfect temperature, one or two beads will form immediately and the pan is ready. OR Carefully place your hand 2.5-3 inches away from the skillet surface to test the temperature. When it feels too hot to place your hand nearby, the skillet is ready. If your skillet is overheated (i.e. smoking), simply set it aside for a few minutes to cool down a bit.
- Add oil. Pan fry the beef in one even layer without disturbing for about 2 minutes or until the beef is in golden brown color. Some beef slices might overlap with one another and that’s totally okay.
- Use a spatula with a firm tip to cook the flip side for about 30 seconds. Please don’t over cook the beef or they will turn watery and less tasty. Set the beef along with the pan juice aside in one bowl. If you have pairing ingredients (i.e. vegetables), cover the bowl and keep it warm while you work on other ingredients.
- Garnish with scallions, sesame seeds, and dry chili flakes, if using.
Want to learn more about my Asian-inspired paleo pantry? Check out my Whole30 Pantry guide here!
This recipe was easy and the results are awesome. Nice tender tasty beef.
Used this recipe on a whim, this beef stir fry tender was soo good. I made it with beef hearts sliced thin. I’m so impressed. Before cooking I slice some onion and I cooked up so frozen broccoli and carrot in olive oil, then removed that and scrabbled some eggs and mixed the veddies with the egg and covered, also had some rice cooked in beef broth on the side. Then I proceeded to cook as reciepe but used bvn olive oil and coconut oil as that is all I had. The whole family enjoyed it, I will probably add this to my list of frequent recipes. Omg yummy. Thanks so much.
That sounds great! Thanks for sharing, Holly!
Going to make for dinner tonight!!
For those who are interested, it is possible to build an outdoor wok burner for less than $50, and buy a basic unit for not much more.
The frame and burner for a turkey fryer is a good place to start, and really all.you need is a sturdy ring to support the wok.
On that note, also look at picking up a carbon steel traditional wok. As this setup involves direct contact with a central flame, using a round bottom wok is the best option.
While it’s not going to be as good as a commercial stove, having a 60,000+ BTU burner makes all the difference.
Word of caution, you will quickly learn why many chefs seem to never stop tossing and stirring while cooking. This setup produces temps far higher than are normally seen, and food can burn as a result.