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How to cook the perfect stir fry

Chicken, beef, prawn, tofu, veggie – the humble stir fry is all about versatility, and most importantly, ease. It’s the perfect midweek dinner as you can plan everything in advance or chuck in all your leftover vegetables, and it all cooks really quickly. We’ve rounded up our top tips on how to cook stir fry, plus a handy guide for building your perfect dish. Just follow a few simple rules for the perfect meal every time.

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Top tips for the perfect stir fry

Use the right oil

Stir frying cooks the food quickly at a high temperature, so use an oil with a high burn point. Sunflower, rapeseed and peanut oil are all good options. Peanut oil lends a nutty flavour, while rapeseed oil has a milder taste.

Use the right pan

You want to stir fry your vegetables and protein in a wok – it gets nice and hot and has a large surface area, but a deep-edged frying pan can work too.

Make sure your pan is hot

This makes sure your ingredients will sauté (sweat) instead of fry.

Cut your vegetables small and thin

What vegetables go in a stir fry, you ask? Almost all of them. So to make sure they all cook quickly and thoroughly, cut your chosen veg into small pieces, especially if you’ve got a big mix in the same wok. Cutting them at an angle will maximise the area that comes into contact with the heat.

Slice meat quite thinly

You should do the same with your protein. It doesn’t take long to stir fry chicken, beef or pork, so be careful not to overcook it. Your meat needs just a few minutes until it’s opaque but not overdone. Prawns and salmon also work well and will cook very quickly. It’s a good idea to cook your meat and then set aside and add to the pan again briefly before serving.

Check the cooking instructions

There are some exceptions to the fast-cooking rule: nuts, finely chopped ginger, garlic, spices and spring onions. You might want to cook them first at a medium heat, set aside and add later. Just check their cooking instructions before you get started.

Cook your meat first

If you’re wondering whether to cook your meat or veggies for your stir fry first, this one’s really simple. Start with your meat and you’ll get loads of lovely juices left in the pan while frying your veg. 

Add your vegetables in stages 

Veggies like mushrooms, carrots, peppers and thick broccoli stalks will take longer to cook, so add them first. Leafy vegetables like spinach and pak choi as well as bean sprouts can go in towards the end.

Keep things moving. 

Don’t let your ingredients sit at the bottom of the pan and always move the food from the centre of the wok to the sides.

Guide to cooking times

Mushrooms: 5-7 minutes, depending on type and thickness

Asparagus, peppers, broccoli, carrots, green beans: 4-6 minutes

Cabbage, spinach, other greens: 3-5 minutes

Mange tout, sugar snap peas, butternut squash, courgette: 2-3 minutes

Bean sprouts: less than 1 minute

Winning ingredient combinations

A ‘chuck it in’ mentality works well with stir fries and whatever’s left in your fridge can often provide the best inspiration. Here are a few ideas of ways to team up your protein and veg. When it’s almost cooked, make a well in the middle, add your chosen sauce, let it bubble and stir it in.


• Butternut squash, green beans, kale, garlic, red chilli.

• Aubergine, green pepper, ginger, garlic, green chilli.


• Green cabbage, shiitake mushrooms, ginger, garlic, coriander.

• Pak choi, spring onion, garlic, red chilli.


• Aubergine, green beans, red chilli.

• Brussels sprouts, carrots, spring onions, ginger, garlic, red chilli.

Fish and seafood

• Salmon, spring greens, asparagus, white onion, garlic, red chilli.

• King prawns, red and green pepper, celery, ginger, garlic, red chilli.


• Tenderstem broccoli, spring greens, garlic, red chilli. 

• Chestnut mushrooms, sugar snap peas, pak choi, ginger, garlic, red chilli. 

Stir fry recipes to try

Korean-Inspired Beef Stir-Fry

Blacken your chillies and drizzle your kebabs in honey for a delicious grilled dinner.

Get the recipe >

Chilli bean king prawn noodles

Juicy king prawns smothered in a classic Chinese fermented chilli bean paste and served with chewy noodles and crunchy beansprouts.

Get the recipe >

Crispy yaki soba noodles with root vegetables

For this dish you can use all kinds of different vegetables, so feel free to throw in whatever you find in your fridge for an easy and low-waste mid-week treat!

Get the recipe >

Fridge clear-out egg fried rice

Turn leftover chicken and whatever odds and ends of vegetables you already have into this comforting, filling dish.

Get the recipe >

Fancy some more weeknight dinner inspiration? Check out these easy and delicious recipes that only take 30 mins or less!

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