This is take-out menu beef and broccoli stir-fry — but so much better. No sad broccoli. No chewy, dry pieces of beef. No gloppy sauce. Replace all those with crisp-tender broccoli and savory bites of beef tossed with a simple three-ingredient stir-fry sauce. Chinese “take-out” night will never be the same.
Which Beef to Buy
For this quick stir-fried dish, flank steak or skirt steak are your best choices. As Grace Young, author of Stir-Frying to the Sky’s Edge, explained to me, “Flank steak and skirt steak are both really tender cuts, which makes them good for quick, high-heat cooking. They both also have great flavor.”
Also, stick to 12 ounces of meat at the very maximum. It can be tempting to squeeze a little more into the recipe, but as Young explains, the pan will become crowded, the beef won’t sear very well, and it will turn gray and foamy. Not a very appealing dinner situation! If you want to serve more people with this dish, Young advises just cooking two completely separate batches of this recipe.
A Quick Marinade Is All You Need
Briefly marinating the slices of beef before they go into the wok ensures that each bite is fully seasoned — but we’re talking brief. Put the sliced beef in a bowl, measure out the marinade ingredients on top, and stir to coat. A final teaspoon of sesame oil helps keep the slices from sticking, and then into the wok it goes.
Young explains that this brief marinade is really all you need. The small pieces means that the marinade penetrates the meat very quickly, unlike with steaks and other larger cuts. If you marinate for longer, Young cautions that the meat can become overly salty and too-intensely flavored.
Steam the Broccoli First
Broccoli is a surprisingly fussy ingredient when it comes to stir-frying — something that I discovered in this conversation with Young. Those tough stems mean that broccoli needs more time to cook and more oil to keep it from scorching in the wok. There are stir-fry methods that take this approach, but Young highly recommends taking the few extra minutes to steam or blanch your broccoli before it goes in the wok. The trade-off is quicker wok time and less oil. You can also steam your broccoli ahead of time so there’s less prep work right before you want to stir-fry.
Putting the Stir-Fry Together
This recipe might look a little long and complex, but that’s just because I’m breaking it down step-by-step for you. Most of the work is really in the prep — the actual cooking time goes quite quickly.
Once you hit the wok, things go quickly, so it helps to keep the game plan in mind: the garlic goes into the wok first, then the beef, then the broccoli, then the sauce. Read through all the steps below before starting so you know the details; keep that order in mind and you’ll do great.
Also, have a pot of rice ready to go. Time it so that the rice comes off the stove and then you start cooking the stir-fry. By the time the stir-fry is done, all that’s left to do is transfer everything into serving bowls and carry them to the table.
How To Make Stir-Fried Beef and Broccoli
What You Need
12 to 16 ounces broccoli
8 to 12 ounces flank steak or skirt steak
2 tablespoons vegetable or peanut oil, divided
2 large cloves garlic, thinly sliced or minced
1 tablespoon fermented black beans, rinsed (optional; do not substitute black bean sauce or regular black beans)
Beef marinade ingredients:
1 1/2 teaspoons cornstarch
2 teaspoons soy sauce (or 1 teaspoon tamari)
2 teaspoons rice wine
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon sesame oil
Cooked rice, to serve
Stir-fry sauce ingredients:
2 tablespoons chicken, beef, or vegetable broth, or water
2 tablespoons oyster sauce (see Recipe Note)
1 tablespoon soy sauce (or 1/2 tablespoon tamari)
Microwave-safe bowl with a cover, or steamer basket in a saucepan
14-inch flat-bottomed carbon steel wok (not nonstick)
Wok spatula, fish spatula, or another spatula with a thin, metal blade
- Cut the broccoli into florets: Cut the florets away from the stem, then cut the florets into smaller, bite-sized pieces. The stem can be cut into small 1/2-inch-thick pieces.
- Steam the broccoli: Steam the broccoli in either the microwave or on the stovetop until the tops are bright green and the stems are cooked, but still slightly crunchy. Spread out in a single layer on a plate to air-dry until ready to stir-fry. See: How To Cook Broccoli: 5 Ways
- Slice the beef: Trim away any large pieces of fat. Cut the steak down its length, with the grain, into strips 2 to 3 inches wide. Then cut each thin strip across the grain into bite-sized pieces roughly 1/4-inch wide.
- Coat the beef with the marinade: Transfer the beef to a mixing bowl. Measure out the cornstarch, soy sauce, rice wine, and salt over top. Toss to coat the beef with the marinade ingredients. Drizzle the sesame oil over top, and toss again to coat. The marinade will absorb into the beef and the beef will look quite dry — this is normal. Set the bowl of sliced beef and a clean plate to hold the cooked beef within reach near the stove.
- Make the stir-fry sauce: Whisk together the broth, oyster sauce, and soy sauce in a small bowl. Set within reach of the stove.
- Heat the wok: Set your wok over high heat until a drop of water evaporates within a second or two of contact.
- Add 1 tablespoon of oil: Pour 1 tablespoon of oil down the side of the pan. Swirl to coat the bottom and lower sides of the wok evenly.
- Stir-fry the garlic: Stir-fry the garlic just until fragrant, 10 to 20 seconds. If you’re using fermented black beans, add them to the pan along with the garlic and use your spatula to smash them together. Push the garlic (and beans) up the sides of the wok to make space in the middle.
- Cook the beef for 1 minute: Transfer the beef to the hot wok and spread it into layer on the bottom and lower-sides of the wok. Use your spatula to break apart any clumps and move them to unused spaces on the wok. Cook for 1 minute without moving to sear the bottom.
- Stir-fry the beef about 60 seconds: Quickly stir-fry the beef with the garlic, using your thin spatula to get under the seared pieces and moving everything around the pan. Continue until all the sides are beginning to brown and the beef is almost cooked through, but you see just a little pink in the middle, about 60 seconds. Transfer the beef to the clean plate by the stove.
- Stir-fry the broccoli: Swirl another tablespoon of oil into the pan. Add all of the broccoli. Stir-fry another 60 seconds, until the broccoli is warmed through, but is still bright green and crisp-tender. If it looks like it’s starting to wilt or lose its green color, proceed immediately to the next step.
- Return the beef to the wok with the sauce: Add the beef and any juices back to the wok with the broccoli. Pour the sauce down the side of the wok.
- Stir-fry for another 30 to 60 seconds: Stir-fry until the beef and broccoli are coated with sauce and the beef is cooked as well-done as you prefer. Add extra oyster sauce to make a thicker coating, if desired.
- Serve immediately: Transfer the beef and broccoli to a serving dish. Serve while hot, with cooked rice.
- For a spicier dish, add a pinch of red pepper flakes along with the garlic.
- Grace Young prefers the Lee Kum Kee brand of oyster sauce.