Why Your Stir-Fry Vegetables Must Be Completely Dry Before They Hit The Wok

When making stir-fry for one, you might be tempted to cut a few corners and still make a perfectly acceptable dish. You may skip out on marinating your meat beforehand, or avoid using any garnishes at the end. While these shortcuts are fine, if there's one step you need to take, it's ensuring your vegetables are dry before they hit the wok.

As the name suggests, the ingredients in a stir-fry should be slightly crispy. If there's any excess moisture on your vegetables, they'll most likely steam rather than fry in the wok. After rinsing and chopping your veggies, pat them dry and make sure every last carrot, snow pea, and piece of broccoli is absent of droplets of water. If you skip this step, your stir-fry will end up soggy rather than having a tender and crisp crunch. 

You may be wondering one thing: If moisture is the enemy of crispness, can you use frozen vegetables, which have a bad rep for being watery? Although fresh vegetables are the ideal choice, frozen ones are easy, accessible, and a fine substitute in a stir-fry. It may make sense to thaw and dry the vegetables beforehand, but you can actually add them straight into the wok. Once the pan gets hot, pour in your oil and toss the vegetables right in. The high heat, as well as constantly stirring the ingredients, will give you crisp results. Just watch for the oil splattering if there's any ice on the veggies.

Follow these tips for the perfect stir-fry

Even if you're not using frozen vegetables, a hot wok is the key to good stir-fry. Typically, stir-fries are cooked quickly, so there's no time to wait for the ingredients to heat up in a cold wok. Add them to the pan when the oil is already sizzling, and move them quickly and constantly. Since you'll be working with high temperatures, you'll need an oil that can take the heat. Opt for a neutral oil with a high smoke point, like avocado or safflower oil.

Having crunchy vegetables is nice, but the final dish is better if your protein also has a nice crisp crust. Whether you use beef, chicken, or tofu, covering your protein in cornstarch is a great prep step to achieve a browned coating. After marinating your protein, add it to a bowl of cornstarch before making your recipe, whether it be a spicy beef stir-fry or velvety soy chicken and broccoli.

Lastly, to ensure that your vegetables, protein, and optional ingredients like noodles don't wind up soggy, make sure they have enough space in the wok to evenly cook. While a deep, wide wok should provide enough space for most recipes, too many ingredients in one pan causes them to steam, turning limp rather than crisp. Overcrowding the wok can ruin your stir-fry, so either fry the ingredients in batches or simply limit the amount of vegetables and protein you add.