Season 17, Episode 17 Recap: How to Make Sensational Beef Stir-Fry

Plus, Jack challenges Bridget to a tasting of soy sauce, and Keith teaches Julia how to make scallion pancakes.

Published May 1, 2017.

This episode of America’s Test Kitchen opens with hosts Bridget Lancaster and Julia Collin Davison discussing the common pitfalls of beef stir-fry. So, Julia sets out to make a better version. Next, Jack Bishop challenges Bridget to a tasting of soy sauce, and then Keith Dresser shows Julia how to make scallion pancakes at home.

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America's Test Kitchen TV

"Chinese Takeout, Revised"

On this episode of America’s Test Kitchen TV, hosts Julia Collin Davison and Bridget Lancaster explain how to make delicious beef stir-fry at home. Later, Jack Bishop challenges Bridget to a tasting of soy sauce, and Keith Dresser makes scallion pancakes.   
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Five Takeaways from the Episode

1. For Beef Stir-Fry, Choose the Right Cut: We like flank steak for our recipe. It’s inexpensive, it has a deep beefy flavor, and it’s easy to cut into bite-size pieces.

2. To Get Chinese Restaurant Results, Try Velveting Your Beef: When you go to a Chinese restaurant and order beef stir-fry, the beef is always tender and supple. That’s because it’s likely been subjected to a technique called velveting. To velvet beef, you place it in a mixture of cornstarch, egg whites, and seasoning, and let it rest for about half an hour. It’s a great technique, but it’s a bit messy and difficult to pull off in the home kitchen. We found another way that closely mimics the results of velveting: toss the beef in a solution of baking soda and water. The baking soda tenderizes the beef by raising its pH. A rise in pH alters the electrical charges on the beef’s proteins. Like charges repel one another, and as we increase the pH of the meat, we create more negative charges. This forces the proteins apart. As the proteins become farther apart, they become easier to bit through. Science!

3. Soy Sauce Is Full of Glutamates: And glutamates build big flavor. We use a lot of soy sauce in the test kitchen, and not just when we’re cooking Asian cuisine. Soy sauce isn’t all saltiness and meatiness, though—some exhibit notes of honeysuckle, melon, pineapple, strawberry, or smoke. Steer clear of metallic, musty, or sour soy sauces, and look for soy sauce with complexity. [Buy Our Favorite on Amazon]

4. Leave Those Greasy, Limp Scallion Pancakes at the Take-Out Counter: Scallion pancakes are a hallmark of Chinese food, but they’re often not very good. Luckily, the dough is pretty easy to make at home, and requires just four ingredients: flour, water, oil, and scallions. You already have all of those; go make some crispy (yet tender and chewy) scallion pancakes!

5. When Making Dough for Scallion Pancakes, Use Boiling Water: Flour is made up of starch and proteins. When we add boiling water directly to the flour, two things happen: starch granules absorb water and swell, leaving less water to make the protein sticky, and the hot water straightens out some of the coils in the gluten structure, thus reducing the dough’s tendency to snap back when you roll it out.

Quote of the Week: “I love everything about this, except for the bowl is too small.” —Bridget Lancaster, in reference to her serving of beef stir-fry

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