How to Saute and Stir-Fry Pork
Stir-Fry is a Chinese cooking technique in which food is prepared rapidly in a wok. In this method, food cooks from the conduction of a hot, oiled pan with temperatures between 350°F and 400°F. The high heat and oil create a Maillard reaction providing browning and flavor development.
Woks – traditional round-bottom pans – serve as a one-pot wonder for Asian cooking. Stir-fries, soups, and braises can all be done using a wok. The wok’s unique shape ensures that heat is distributed evenly, allowing for faster cooking times. In addition, the wok’s deep, sloping sides make spills less likely when tossing the food rapidly.
- The chao technique is similar to sauteing, using direct conduction of heat energy from a wok or pan. Typically, a thin layer of oil or fat is added to the pan to prevent sticking, supply flavor and provide consistent contact with the heat source by filling in gaps between the pork and pan.
- Using the chao technique, preheat the wok to a high temperature. Pour cooking oil down the side just prior to cooking, because the high heat can damage the oil, making it unpalatable. Follow the oil with dry seasonings like ginger and garlic.
- When the seasonings become aromatic, add the pork and sear, then add vegetables and liquid ingredients. The wok may be covered for a moment so the water in the liquid can heat the new ingredients as it steams. To keep the pork juicy, take the seared meat out before vegetables are added and put it back before vegetables are done. In some dishes, different components may be stir-fried separately before being combined in the final dish.
- Stir the food and toss it quickly using wooden or metal cooking utensils. Some chefs add a dash of wine or spirit and flambé the alcohol to give the food extra flavor. The chao technique allows many dishes to be cooked extremely quickly.
- Dishes that require more time are cooked by adding a few dashes of water after stirring and covering the wok with a lid. The dish is ready when steam starts coming out from under the lid. In this case, the food is stir-fried on high heat for flavor and steamed to ensure it is fully cooked.
- For the bao technique, heat the wok to a dull red glow, then add oil, seasonings and pork in with no pause in between. Continually toss the food, stopping only to add other ingredients such as seasonings, broths or vegetables.
- When the food is fully cooked, pour or ladle it out of the wok, then quickly rinse the wok to prevent food residue from charring and burning to the bottom due to residual heat.
- The main ingredients are usually cut into smaller pieces to speed up cooking time. Bao also uses a larger amount of cooking fat with a high smoke point, such as lard and/or peanut oil.
- Thin slices or strips perform well in stir-fry whether it’s a tougher cut from the shoulder or belly, or leaner cuts from the loin or leg. Cuts from the shoulder or fresh leg can be broken down into single muscles and prepared for the type of stir-fry dish you’re creating. Using small pieces of pork or thin strips prevents the dry and high-heat cooking method from overcooking the outside of the food before the inside is fully cooked.
- Prior to cooking the pork, make sure it is room temperature so that the cold meat does not drastically reduce the heat in the pan.
- The food should also be constantly stirred around in the pan to provide consistent cooking, hence the technique’s namesake.
- You may choose to coat the pork in another material that will protect the inside while providing flavor to the dish. This can be anything from flour, breading or batters, which when fried act as an insulator to protect the inside from direct contact with the heat.
Sauteing and stir-frying are great cooking methods for small pork cuts like pork chops, pork cutlets and strips. There are two key considerations when choosing pork cuts for stir-fry. First, cook pork to medium-rare – around 145°F – no matter the type of cut. Second, cut tougher meat into smaller pieces and thicknesses that will cook to 145°F quickly. Cast iron or carbon steel woks are excellent choices for sauteing and stir-frying – they are very good conductors of heat, and distribute the heat evenly.