Why This Recipe Works
- Cooking over high heat ensures the meat and vegetables get a strong sear on the outside without overcooking in the middle.
- A brief marinade seasons the beef ahead of cooking.
There's an old dirty joke about beef with broccoli that is neither particularly appropriate for this nor particularly funny, so I'll spare you from having to listen to it. The only reason I bring it up at all is to demonstrate that beef and broccoli is so ingrained in American culture that we can actually refer to it in a joke and everyone immediately knows what you're talking about.
The beef and broccoli of my youth, I must say, was pretty special. I grew up in New York and Boston, both of which have seriously good Chinatowns and many restaurants specializing in the Chinese-American, Cantonese-derived dishes popular in food courts across the country. Beef and broccoli is one of the most popular, and with good reason. Who could say no to tender strips of marinated beef seared to a smoky crispness in a hot wok, tossed with charred florets of crisp, bright green broccoli, all tossed in a savory-sweet, garlic, and ginger-scented oyster sauce? I sure as heck loved me the hell out of some beef and broccoli as a kid.
It wasn't until when I went off to college and had the first of many mess-hall, steam-tray style beef and broc-trocities that I realized what many people's impression of the dish must be: steamed, grey beef in a watery sauce that tastes mostly of thinned out soy sauce and flour, along with drab gray lumps of mushy broccoli that stand limp and wet like weeping willows after a storm. Yuck.
That's what happens when you try to cook without enough heat input. As with any wok-cooked stir-fry, the key to really great beef and broccoli is to use the highest possible heat, minimizing cook time so that you can get a great sear on the meat and vegetables before they begin to overcook in the center.
For this version, I used flap meat marinated in soy and rice wine (you can feel free to use flank, hanger, or skirt if you prefer), sliced thin, then rapidly stir-fried in a wok that I heated directly over the coals in my Weber kettle grill. The coals get the wok hot enough so that I could sear the beef, push it up the sides, sear the broccoli, add the aromatics, then toss everything in the sauce right there in one go without having to move things back and forth. It's the ideal quick meal, ready in under five minutes once you've got your coals nice and hot.
When I make a version indoors at home, I make sure to cook in small batches in a wok set over a gas burner, letting the pan preheat as much as possible between batches of meat and veg before finally stirring it all back together with the sauce in the wok at the end.
Chinese-American Beef and Broccoli With Oyster Sauce Recipe
The key to great flavor is extremely high heat.
1 pound flank steak, skirt steak, hanger steak, or flap meat, cut into 1/4-inch thick strips
1/4 cup soy sauce (divided)
1/4 cup Shaoxing wine or dry sherry (divided)
2 teaspoons corn starch
1/3 cup low-sodium homemade or store-bought chicken stock
1/4 cup oyster sauce
1 tablespoon sugar
1 teaspoon sesame seed oil
2 medium cloves garlic, finely minced (about 2 teaspoons)
2 teaspoons finely minced fresh ginger
3 scallions, whites finely sliced, greens cut into 1/2-inch segments, reserved separately
4 tablespoons vegetable, peanut, or canola oil
1 pound broccoli florets (about 1 1/2 quarts)
In a bowl, combine beef, 1 tablespoon soy sauce, and 1 tablespoon Shaoxing wine and toss to coat. Place in refrigerator and let marinate for at least 20 minutes and up to 3 hours.
Meanwhile, combine remaining soy sauce with cornstarch and stir with a fork to form a slurry. Add remaining Shaoxing wine, chicken stock, oyster sauce, sugar, and sesame oil. Set aside. Combine garlic, ginger, and scallion whites in a bowl and set aside.
To Grill With a Wok Insert: Light one chimney full of charcoal. When all the charcoal is lit and covered with gray ash, pour out and arrange the coals in a pile on center of cooking grate. Place Weber 8835 Gourmet BBQ System Hinged Cooking Grate on grill and set wok in center. Add oil and heat until smoking. Add beef and cook, stirring and tossing until beef is lightly charred but still pink in spots, about 1 minute. Push beef to sides of wok to clear space in center. Add broccoli and cook, stirring in center until lightly charred, about 30 seconds. Toss with beef and push up sides of wok. Add garlic/ginger/scallion mixture to center of wok and immediately push all ingredients into center, tossing and stirring until beef is cooked through and broccoli is just barely tender but still crunchy, about 30 seconds longer. Stir sauce and pour into wok (it should immediately start to boil). Add scallion greens. Toss all ingredients to coat in sauce and cook until lightly thickened, about 30 seconds. Carefully transfer to a serving platter and serve.
To Cook On A Burner: When ready to cook, heat 1 tablespoon oil in a wok over high heat until smoking. Add half of beef and cook without moving until well seared, about 1 minute. Continue cooking while stirring and tossing until lightly cooked but still pink in spots, about 1 minute. Transfer to a large bowl. Repeat with 1 more tablespoon of oil and remaining beef, adding beef to same bowl. Wipe out wok.
Add 1 more tablespoon oil to wok and heat over high heat until smoking. Add half of broccoli and cook until crisp-tender and lightly charred, about 1 minute. Transfer to bowl with beef. Repeat with remaining oil and remaining broccoli. Return wok to high heat until smoking. Return beef and broccoli to wok and add garlic/ginger/scallion mixture. Cook, tossing and stirring until fragrant, about 30 seconds. Add sauce and scallion greens and cook, tossing and stirring constantly until lightly thickened, about 45 seconds longer. Carefully transfer to a serving platter and serve.
This recipe is the third in a four-part series about how to stir-fry on an outdoor grill.
|Nutrition Facts (per serving)|
|Amount per serving|
|% Daily Value*|
|Total Fat 25g||32%|
|Saturated Fat 5g||26%|
|Total Carbohydrate 18g||6%|
|Dietary Fiber 4g||16%|
|Total Sugars 5g|
|Vitamin C 78mg||389%|
|*The % Daily Value (DV) tells you how much a nutrient in a food serving contributes to a daily diet. 2,000 calories a day is used for general nutrition advice.|