How to Cook Very Thin Meat Slices for Chinese Food

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Chinese cooking has about 25 techniques specific to its cuisine, although some have crossed over into other cooking styles. The two most-common techniques for cooking thinly sliced meat -- flash-frying, or "bao," and stir-frying, or "chao" -- are variants of sauteing, or cooking quickly over high heat in a little oil. Cooking the outside without overcooking the center is the main obstacle when cooking thinly sliced meat, and the Chinese know how to overcome it. The main difference between flash-frying and stir-frying is the amount of oil used, but both techniques produce meat with the rare combination of thinness and tenderness.

Things You'll Need

  • Kitchen knife
  • Seasoning
  • Corn starch (optional)
  • Wok or 12-inch skillet
  • High-heat oil
  • Paper towels
  • Spatula
  • Sieve (optional)
  • Cheesecloth (optional)
  • Sealable food-storage container

Fry Meat in a Flash

  • Cut the meat into slices that about 1/4-inch thick with a sharp kitchen knife. You want the slices thin enough to cook within 1 to 2 minutes. Cut the pieces as uniformly as possible so they all cook at the same rate.

  • Season the meat to taste on both sides and dredge it lightly in corn starch, if desired. Corn starch helps a crust form on the outside of the meat. Set the meat aside on a plate while the oil heats.

  • Fill a wok or 12-inch skillet with 1.5 to 2 inches of high-heat oil and place it on the stove. You need the oil to maintain a temperature of around 400 F without burning, so high-heat oils such as peanut, avocado and grapeseed oil work best.

  • Set the heat to the "6" setting on the stove, or the first line past the medium-high line. Let the oil heat for about 5 minutes.

  • Pat the meat dry with paper towels. Moisture causes splattering.

  • Place enough meat in the pan to cover the bottom and spread it in an even layer with a spatula. If you add too much meat at once, the temperature drops too far below 400 F to flash-fry.

  • Fry the meat for 45 seconds to 1 minute undisturbed, and turn it over with a spatula or tongs. Continue frying the meat until it turns golden brown and remove it with a slotted spoon, after approximately 45 seconds. Place the meat on a plate lined with paper towels. If you have more meat to fry, wait about 30 seconds for the oil to return to 400 F before adding it.

  • Turn off the stove when you're finished frying and let the meat cool to room temperature in the pan. Pour the oil through a sieve lined with a couple of layers of cheesecloth and into a sealable food-storage container. You can reuse oil for up to 30 days if you strain it and keep it covered.

Less Oil Means Less Toil

  • Place a wok or a 12-inch skillet on the stove. Set the heat to the "6" setting, or the first line past the medium-high line. Let the pan heat for about 5 minutes.

  • Pat the meat dry with paper towels. Moisture causes splattering.

  • Add just enough high-heat oil, such as grapeseed, peanut or avocado, to coat the bottom of the pan.

  • Place enough meat in the pan to cover the bottom and spread it in an even layer with a spatula. If you add too much meat at once, the pan temperature drops too far below 400 F to fry properly.

  • Fry the meat for 45 seconds to 1 minute undisturbed, and turn it over with a spatula or tongs. Continue frying the meat until it turns golden brown and remove it with a slotted spoon, after approximately 45 seconds. Place the meat on a plate lined with paper towels. If you have more meat to fry, add more oil and wait about 30 seconds for it to reach 400 F before cooking it.

Tips & Warnings

  • A sharp kitchen knife with a straight-edged blade is a necessary tool when cutting meat into thin slices.
  • You can place the meat in a freezer for about 20 minutes before cutting it to make it easier to slice thinly.
  • Don't overlook safety when flash-frying, and always use common sense. Don't wear long sleeves, sleeves with loose, hanging threads, and never pour water on a grease fire.

References

  • Photo Credit Brand X Pictures/Brand X Pictures/Getty Images
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