Stirfry HELP!!

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Joined Feb 6, 2002
Okay. Im trying really hard to find out what the cooks are doing wrong. Im not really familiar with stirfry but one of the dishes at our diner is chicken teriyaki. And the chicken for it is always as tough as a baseball when they serve it. Im the newbie at the restaurant so Ill tell you what they do.

Saute the cubed chicken breast in oil, add raw vegetables, vinegar (I think) and then add the teriyaki sauce.

Ive been wondering if they should blanch the veggies and either precook or marinate the chicken in pieces before finishing. Any thoughts or advice???

And how do you tell some guy whos been at the place for 15 years that hes cooking wrong?
 
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Hello thank you for your help on souther cooking; So you need help on stirfry. Well from my experiance in oriental cooking you should always marinate your meats before cooking. usually in chinese restaurants this is done with corn starch-eggs-white pepper- and a touch of baking powder. I'ts not felt long in the marinate to prevent the chicken or steaks from becoming too soft.


YES YOU ARE CORRECT ABOUT THE BLANCHING OF YOUR VEGGIES, BUT IT ALSO DEPENDES ON WHAT KIND OF VEGGIES YOU ARE USING TO DO YOUR STIRFRY. FOR EXAMPLE BROCCOLI WILL BE BLANCH FIRST BEFORE STIRFRING I HOPE I WAS OF SOME HELP.
 
1,006
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Joined Feb 6, 2002
Yeah they use broccoli, carrots and onions for the stirfry. Darn things are always crunchy. I hate having to serve that dish to anyone.

Thanks again
 
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Joined Dec 4, 2001
I don't do much Chinese cooking at all. But my wife is chinese and she doesn't do much Chinese cooking either! :D But my mother-in-law does.
Stir frying is sometimes done in stages depending on how fast some foods cook. The meat, having been marinated as described by Pozopik, is cooked first on a very high heat. If it cut thin enough, it will cook almost immediately. It is then set aside while the veggies (blanched or not) are cooked. At the last minute all the ingredients are put in the wok to warm them up for a few seconds.

Telling the old timer he is doing it wrong? Tough call. I'd think twice about that.

Jock
 
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Good stir fry can be much trickier to make than most recipes indicate. There was a very good article about stir-fry in Cook's Illustrated about 2 years ago. Do a search on their website to find it.
Basically, several tricks to a successful stir-fry include: 1) only using a few ingredients, 2) cutting ingredients to uniform size, 3) maintaining a very hot wok or pan, 4) "silking" your meats and 5) not stirring too much.

Most people tend to throw every vegetable available into their stir-fry; this results in a dish that is impossible to cook uniformly and a confusing flavor profile. A good basic formula to follow is three basic ingredients plus seasoning; for instance, a meat, a pungent vegetable, a textural vegetable and a sauce. You might choose chicken for the meat, onions or scallions for pungence, broccoli for texture and teriyaki sauce for flavor.

Cutting meats and vegetables to a uniform size may appear simple but can be maddeningly complex. You can't just use 2" pieces of any vegetable. You must consider its water content and density. A 2" piece of onion will cook faster than a 2" slice of carrot because it has a higher water content and lower density of fiber. Thus, you must cut the carrot smaller or in such a way as to expose more of its surface area to heat (example: a 2" julienne instead of a slice.) Broccoli can be tricky, too, because the flowers allow a lot of heat to circulate around them while the stems (density again) cook more slowly.

You must start with and maintain a very hot wok or pan!!!!! The larger the wok, the better; you get a larger heated surface area plus a larger area for evaporation of water. Flat pans with short straight or curved sides tend to retain liquid within and have slower evaporation. They also have a slower heat return than a wok. However, if you are not cooking with gas, use a wide saute pan. Woks don't work effectively on electric burners, period. The other thing to remember here is everytime you add an ingredient, your cooking surface cools down. Therefore, reducing the number of additions will contribute to success. I suggest adding oil, meat and a flavor agent (garlic or the like) first, cook 1-2 minutes tossing once or twice. Add all your vegetables next, cook 1-2 minutes, tossing once. Then add your sauce, toss to coat everything; let it come to a boil, then serve. This should take no more than 5-7 minutes, tops.

"Silking" meats is a simple, but effective way of assuring tenderness. Combine 2 teaspoons of oil (sesame is nice for asian), 2 teaspoons of cornstarch and 1 pound cut up meat. You can also add flavorings to the mix, but it isn't necessary. When exposed to high heat the oil and cornstarch form a thin barrier around the surface of the meat allowing heat to cook it, but keeping the moisture inside.

One last thing, don't stir a stir-fry too much. Once or twice is enough for even cooking if you're using a large enough cooking vessel. A lot of the flavor in a stir-fry develops from sugar caramelization of the ingredients. Constant stirring prevents this from happening and allows faster moisture release and soggy results.

I know this was long, but hopefully, helpful.
Check out the article from Cook's I. It goes into more detail and has great recipes.
 
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Joined Nov 20, 2000
Telling an experienced (not necessarily good) cook in a Diner no less, how to cook a dish, especially if you are new? Good luck! Don't expect he'll listen, unless he is different. Unlikely but possible.
I might suggest you bring these thoughts to the owner who will be more receptive and let him/her take it to the cook. That's their job, not your job, is it? Make them aware that a lot of people think the meat was tough. Offer the possibility of:

A) using chicken thighs as a way to save cost as well.

B)Slice rather than cube the meat.

C) Cook the meat quickly set it to the side, add the veggies and cook briefly, add the sauce, readd the meat. Boom heat and eat!

proper cooking methods while nice, will not always fly and when in rome....
 
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Well I found a way to show him how to cook it differently. I just went into the kitchen on a slow day and made the dish for myself. He hung around the kitchen pretending he wasnt looking over my shoulder. Now he cooks it differently and thinks it was all his idea.

Sneaky ..aren't I.

The boss never does anything and Im not gonna tell her how to run the biz considering she is my mother-in-law. Shudder. Can you imagine trying to explain sanitation and food costs to someone who sees you as the new little daughter.:rolleyes:
 
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Joined May 26, 2001
Sounds as though you CAN have some influence, and seem to be approaching it gently. Good for you, and for the place, too.

When I came into a new place as the Kitchen Manager, I was faced with people who had been there for years, doing things very dangerously (sanitation-wise). After I realized that they didn't want to listen, but could not help seeing, I just did things the "right" way every time I had to do them. Eventually, they saw how much better stuff came out, and picked up on it. You've got the right idea. Not sneaky, so much as just determined and diplomatic.:)
 

isa

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Joined Apr 4, 2000
Traditionnaly chicken teriyaki is done with chicken legs thigh and drumstick, boned and no vegetables. Here's the recipe from Japanese Cooking : A Simple Art.

Pierce skin of chicken with a fork to allow sauce to penetrate freely and to avoid shrinkage during frying.

Over a high flame, heat a scant amount of oil in a large skillet. Lay chicken skin side down in the skillet.

Fry over medium heat, till the skin is well browned, Move thechicken in the pan to keep it from sticking to the skillet. When browned, turn and fry, covered for about 10 minutes.

Remove chicken temporarily from the pan. Over medium heat, into the juices left in the skillet, pour the teriyaki sauce. Bring liquid to a boil, stirring. After a minute or so the liquid will thicken slightly and take on a luster. Return the chicken to the skillet. Continue cooking, over high heat, turning chocken several times so that it is well coated in teriyaki sauce. Remove from heat when sauce is almost completly reduced, a few minutes at the most.

To assemble and serve: Place chicken skin side up on a cuttng board and cut crosswise into 1/2 inch (1 1/2 cm) slices. Place about 8 slices on each individual plate. Sprinkle on a little sansho pepper.


I do have a recipe for teriyaki sauce. If interested let me know.
 

nicko

Founder of Cheftalk.com
Staff member
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It looks like all the bases have been covered, but Shawty Cat do you have a full size wok and burner or just using a stove top work? If so that is part of the problem.

A hot wok is this most important item. As the others said, marinate the chicken and slice not cube. Sear it quickly in the work and then remove. After take care of the vegetables (blanch the brocolli if you want, typcially I slice the stems and use small florets). Add the chicken at the end.

One thing that might be possible for you to do is find a good Chinese restaurant and see if you can come in one day a week to help out. Great way to learn another cuisine and style of cooking.

Hope that helps.
 
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Joined Dec 4, 2001
Getting enough heat in the wok to keep the temperature up is a challange on the average home gas range. The burners just don't have it in them. When I got my range I had the dealer drill out the gas port on one of the front burners a tiny bit bigger. This increased the BTU output significantly. It still doesn't match a commercial stove, but it's close.

Jock
 
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Joined Feb 6, 2002
I have a stovetop Wok at home but Ill be darned if Im gonna take it to the diner. I took a chopping board there and my baking supplies and some of my stuff disappeared. Nothing of mine is going there again. Ill wait till the owner gives in and buys one.
 
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Joined Apr 19, 2001
Chicken teriyaki isn't a 'wok' dish; any saute pan will work. Isa's post is the correct way to 'teriyaki' a chicken; the stir fried veggies are a side. In trying to do chicken/veg together, you're fusing Chinese cooking with Japanese. Remember, teriyaki sauce is basically a Japanese 'bbq' sauce and has sugar in it; if you marinate the chicken in it, it will burn when you cook it.
 

isa

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Joined Apr 4, 2000
Does that mean you want the asuce recipe?


You'll have to forgive me I'm a bit slow today.
 
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