Is stir fry healthy? It probably depends on whether you are doing it correctly. For the most part, stir frying doesn’t need the things that may make other cooking methods either unhealthy or plain and boring. Unhealthy cooking often resorts to oils or greases that help the food cook evenly and keep the heat inside the food. Fried food consumption is linked to heart disease and weight related conditions like obesity or diabetes. But it is also true that frying in and on itself isn’t the human body destroying devil it is often thought to be.
According to Harvard Medical School research, consumption of fried food once or twice a month didn’t have any major health consequence in the organisms of the subjects researched in a cross-study analysis. This means that some Harvard doctors sat down and read a lot of previous studies on nutrition and fried food. They found that, if done rarely, and if accompanied by an otherwise healthy diet, eating fried meals isn’t dangerous.
That is where stir fry comes in. Meals cooked with this method obey some of the recommendations Harvard medical research dons about cooking with oil. It steers away from deep frying by using only a little oil per meal, its main goal isn’t a “crunchy” exterior or a “golden” finish, it is just meant to cook a full meal with full flavor. And, finally, it is just another tool in the shed of an everyday cook, it doesn’t have to be the only technique they go to when trapped in a Wednesday night and no dinner tight spot.
What Is Stir Fry Exactly?
Stir fry is an east Asian cooking technique that uses a wok or skillet to cook multiple ingredients in batches in order to end up with a full meal. The logic behind the ingredient distribution is that different food takes different amounts of time to cook and, by adding them in order, the final result should be a fully flavored meal. Stir frying uses high heat and little oil, the foods internal juices do most of the work that keep it from drying out.
As for difficulty, it is a fairly straight up method, you just put the food in the right order. It doesn’t require a lot of preparation, only dicing the food, and it doesn’t need a full on kitchen clean up since you cook everything in a single wok or skillet that you can eat out of if you don’t feel like doing any more dishes.
Its oriental origins are not linked to the method only, preferred ingredients for stir frying are also staples of oriental cuisine.
What Is Normally Cooked With This Method?
The stir fry dish par excellence is chicken. It’s easy to dice, it cooks fast and it is versatile to whatever flavors you mix it with. But, the real stars of the show are vegetables. Stir frying is a great way to bundle a bunch of greens, reds and yellows with round flavored results. Some of the popular veggies to put in a wok are onions and garlic, of course, carrots, peppers, corn, courgettes, carrots, peas and beans.
That is probably the main fact behind declaring this a healthy cooking method. Stir fry demands vegetables. A 2017 study published by the Asia Pacific journal found that stir fry health advantages were not actually linked to the method itself but to the ingredient choice in recipes. It is a common place statement that people don’t eat enough plants, either fruits or vegetables. Part of the problem is the apparent incapability to include them in a day to day diet. Normal mindset thinks “salad” the moment someone mentions veggies. Thinking about salads equals thinking about an extra meal, and no one has time to cook extras.
Stir fry recipes throw that mindset down the drain. When cooking a colorful wok dish, everything you need goes in and ties the flavors together. It stops being something else you need to worry about and becomes an integral part of your dinner. So, yes, it is healthy because it avoids some of the vices related to other types of frying, but it is mostly about all the good nutrient filled veggies they put in.
How Can You Get Into Stir Frying?
It isn’t hard. Most recipes on the internet tell you to do the same, put in ingredients in order, stir and wait, but here are some tips to obtain stir fry mastery.
Prep all your ingredients before you turn on the heat
This one is vital since the whole cooking part of stir frying takes about three minutes, five, tops. Prepping means cutting them into pieces that are kind of the same size. If you choose to cook with meat, any meat, it has to go in measuring about the same as the veggies.
Do not crowd the pan
Remember that an important part of the method is, well, stirring. You should have enough space to move the food around and help it cook evenly. Each element of your meal has to have the opportunity to come in contact with the hot surface of the pan.
Try a skillet instead of a wok
Woks look cool, but they have the disadvantage of little high heat surface, which is something essential in stir frying. Skillets have flat bottoms instead and allow the food to cook better. And be careful when stirring with either, you don’t want half of your meal to fall of the pan.
As stated before, this is a very fast technique, you have to add things constantly and move them around as you do so. This takes out all the waiting time you may be used to when you cook things that have to be “left to simmer for 10 minutes” or when you bake and idle on your phone until the oven bell rings.
Rice and noodles are great add ins for these dishes.