The best way to stir-fry is in a wok. The sloping sides and rounded bottom are specially designed so food can be quickly browned in the "belly" of the pan and then moved up to the sides, where it finishes cooking more slowly. Traditionally, Chinese woks are cast iron and take a while to heat up. Most woks today are made of carbon steel, which heats up and cools down more quickly. The wok is placed on a metal ring which sits over the burner. When it's very hot, oil is added, followed by the food.
Best candidates: Broccoli, cabbage, eggplant, bell peppers, mushrooms, pork, chicken, shrimp, scallops and tofu.
Equipment: Wok or a large heavy-gauge skillet (from $20-$200, depending on brand). Calphalon's flat-bottomed wok (model C155) features a hard anodized exterior, cool handles, a nonstick finish and a lifetime warranty ($100).
- Be prepared: Vegetables should be properly diced or chopped; meats should be trimmed of fat and sliced. Spices should be laid out on a plate and ready to go.
- If cooking a meat and vegetable dish, brown meat first, then push it to the sides of the wok before adding veggies.
- Use extra-virgin olive oil from a spray pump to coat your wok.
Try this: Heat a nonstick wok over high heat; spray with oil. Add 1/2 cup chopped onions, 1 minced garlic clove and a dash of red pepper flakes; stir-fry for about 30 seconds. Add 1/2 cup chicken broth and 1/2 cup white wine; simmer for about 2 minutes. Add 1/2 pound of medium-size shrimp; cover and cook for 5 minutes.
3. BROILINGOne of the simplest of all cooking methods, broiling cooks by exposing food to direct heat in an electric or gas stove, usually in the bottom drawer of the oven. It renders the same results as grilling, but in grilling the heat comes from below, while in broiling it comes from above. Because the heat is constant, all you really need to do is move the food closer to or farther from the flame depending on how you like your food cooked. That means the thinner the cut of food, the closer the heat source should be so it quickly sears the surface of the food, leaving the interior less done. Because broiling is a dry-heat method of cooking (which means no additional oil), lean cuts of beef and chicken work best when marinated first or basted during cooking.
Chef Will Elliott, executive chef at the Regent Grand Spa, The Resort at Summerlin in Las Vegas, relies on broiling to create dishes that satisfy the palates of his health-conscious guests. "Some of the best foods to broil are beef and salmon," Elliott says. "Salmon is an oilier fish and won't dry out as easily as others." Here are the broiling basics.
Best candidates: Salmon, chicken, Cornish game hen, bell pepper, summer squash, zucchini and onion.
Equipment: Gas or electric stove.
- Always preheat the broiler for 30 minutes with the rack in place so foods can be seared quickly.
- For a 1/2-inch-thick piece of meat, allow 6 minutes of cooking time for rare, 9 minutes for medium and 12 minutes for well-done.
- For bone-in chicken, allow about 15 minutes per pound.
- Turn all foods halfway through cooking time.
- To sear food, place it 1 inch below a preheated broiler for 1-2 minutes per side.
- For easy clean-up, line your broiler pan with foil.
Try this: For extra flavor and to keep food from drying out, marinate lean cuts (and even vegetables) an hour beforehand. Try this on chicken breasts: Combine three cloves minced garlic, 1 tablespoon olive oil, juice and zest of one lemon, 1/4 cup chopped fresh basil, 1 cup white wine, salt and pepper to taste.