The Secret Behind Beef Stir-Fry

I confess that I have not been able to contribute to this blog as much as I could given the fact that I have been cramming like crazy to keep up my GPA and finish my masters degree in the next few weeks and God willing, graduate with the rest of my friends in April. It’s a lousy excuse, but I want to keep my doors open for a Ph.D. at some point in life, if my wife allows it… =)

All joking aside, I’ve been meaning to write more regarding recipes and cooking and I thought why not write about what I cooked for this evening’s dinner?

Stir-Fry is one of those “Anything Goes” type of cuisines in Asian culinary arts that really can be done with anything that you have on hand[1], granted you need the following as a base: vegetable oil, garlic, onions, ginger, rice wine, and some light soy sauce. This base for your stir-fry will be able to get you started on any type of combination of stir-fry that you can think of. The beauty of stir-fry is that it is contextual – it really is “anything goes”! I often like to look in my fridge or freezer to see what I have as a protein and a vegetable and go from there. You can layer on as much or as little veggies as you want, and typically you will have at least either chicken, pork, or beef as your main protein in your stir-fry.

At this point, you may ask:

Where’s the photo of this beef stir-fry?

And my answer:

It’s 11:30 PM… I am too lazy to go take a photo of the darn thing!

I’m not really going to elaborate much on stir-fry cooking per se in this blog, I’ll leave that for another day.
What I will pontificate is the secret behind how you getting a succulent slice of beef with your stir-fry when typically stir-fry is a quick and very hot cooking method.

If you know anything about proteins, and particularly beef, you will know that certain cuts of meat will react differently when heat is introduced to it. A slow heat on protein that is marbled with fat will result in the disintegration of the connective tissue, making the cut of protein softer and more pliable – this is what gives it the tender and its succulent texture. Too much heat in too short a period can often leave the protein dry and tough because the connective tissue instead has pulled itself together, thus causing the tough texture of meat. (This sure sounds like an episode of Alton Brown’sGood Eats! doesn’t it? I love Alton Brown…)

Anyways, so regardless of what cut of meat you have, this trick seems to have worked thus far so I want to share it with you. Regardless of whatever marinade your beef stir-fry recipe suggests, add a bit of baking powder to your beef marinade and mix it well (about 1 1/2 tablespoons for every pound of beef). For whatever reason, the baking powder helps to soften your protein without introducing a noticeable flavor to your marinade (acids such as pineapple juice or wines will change the flavor of your marinade).

I’ve tried this on every single one of my beef stir-fries since Christmas and it has done wonders for the quality of the tenderness of the meat for my stir-fry. It’s best to let the beef marinade for about 30-45 minutes with the baking powder.

I hope you’ll try it and let me know your results!

Until next time, eat well!

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