Beef Stir-Fry Strips Are Tough

I'm using Porterhouse which I cut (correctly - was shown how) into strips to use in Beef Noodle Stir-Fry. I use this cut as I don't like to give my young girls fatty meat (I'm sure they eat enough garbage when I'm not looking!) How come the beef - if that's what it is - in Chinese restaurants is always soft? How can I achieve this? Thanks in advance.

Scottolotto
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7 Comments

Scottolotto February 2, 2021
Thank you Lori T. and Nancy. I didn't realize that Porterhouse had a lot of fat - visually it appears to have virtually none which was what attracted me to it in the first place as I don't like having to trim fat, prep. meat before I use it.
I did see some info. on using baking soda (baking powder?) but I wasn't too sure about this, I was worried about turning dinner into a science experiment. I'll give it a go though! Thanks again.
 
Lori T. February 2, 2021
Dinner is already a cooking experiment, you just didn't realize it. Cooking is applied chemistry and biology, with a bit of mathematics thrown in for good measure. (See what I did there- measure? math?) Bad joke, I know. Anyway, it's a tiny bit of baking soda you want there, not baking powder. It sounds weird, but man it works like a charm. And a word about fat, it's not the bad guy. A little fat helps you use some of the vitamins, and helps keep meat from drying out. All the sauce in the world won't help if the meat is bone dry, or tough. You should also see what you can do to enlist the aid of the two girls, to the extent they are able as well. Learning to cook is lots of fun, and kids who help cook are more likely to eat the dinner they make. Even if all they can offer is a laugh and company, families that cook and eat together do better all around for everyone.
 
Scottolotto February 2, 2021
Thanks again for the words of wisdom. I guess I'm from that generation where when you think of Chinese food, MSG is the first associative word. I've been doing the single-parent gig for less than two years now and, as my wife was a brilliant cook, I was pretty-much intimidated from the word go. I'm also no cook, but I try when the girls are home (they go to boarding-school now) as being an ex-boarder I imagine the food isn't great. I'll make a concerted effort this Easter holidays to learn more and do more with them. They both enjoy cooking, especially the older one, so maybe I should encourage them a bit more. Tonight though, it's pizza - my Italian neighbour made the bases and we're doing the rest! Hopefully the night won't end-up with the fire brigade arriving!
 
gandalf February 3, 2021
That is a great idea about cooking with your daughters when they are home; I wish that I had done something like that with my children before they left for college and beyond.

If you are looking to learn more cooking skills, the Big Little Recipes feature on Food52 has recipes with a small number of ingredients, to keep things simple; and if you search that you might be able to find some things that you can try preparing so that when your daughters come home you will have something relatively easy to cook but also tasty. (The same thing goes for the Genius Recipes feature, there are some good and easy recipes there also.)

I don't want to presume anything about the reason that you are a single parent, and please forgive me for mentioning it. However, if your wife had some recipes that were favorites of the family, and you have any of those around, you might consider making a notebook of "family recipes" to give to your daughters down the road, when they are living (and cooking) on their own. My wife and I did this for our oldest, who has now flown the nest -- we both contributed some recipes that we liked to cook (and which our kids liked to eat, of course); my wife even provided a menu of our typical Christmas dinner, complete with recipes for the Christmas dinner items. I got this idea when I was going through our recipe boxes a little while back (since there has been lots of time during the pandemic to sort through stuff); I found some recipes that my late mother had written down on 3x5 cards long ago, and I had a Proustian moment. I then got the idea of collecting favorite recipes of mine for my own children, and that led me and my wife to creating our family recipe notebook. (I don't know that our oldest child is actually using any of the recipes we gave her, but at least the information has been passed on so that she can choose to use the recipes if she wishes.)
 
Scottolotto February 3, 2021
Thanks for the pointers, I'll certainly be checking out the Big Little Recipes - I'n nowhere near ready for complicated and the girls are still a bit young, although the oldest is looking forward to home economics at school this year, hopefully she has her mother's gift for cooking.
The recipe book is a great idea, but I don't know if my wife wrote much down, plus I haven't been able to bring myself to start going through things since her passing. I might leave it until the girls feel that they are ready and we can do it together. Hopefully we'll discover some cooking-related treasures, the girls would be thrilled as they were very close.
 
Lori T. February 2, 2021
Yeah, I'm not so sure strips of Porterhouse steak are the way to go, especially if fat content is your concern. Those come in at about 14gm fat per 3 oz serving, so not great. Most Chinese restaurants certainly don't use prime steak cuts either. The most likely candidate is a flank steak, sliced thinly. You can then treat it by your choice of ways. First, I do about 1/4 teaspoon of baking soda dissolved in 2 tablespoons of water, and massage/sprinkle that on the meat strips. Let it sit for 10-15 minutes, and then cook as you like. This was a method tried and proven by America's Test Kitchen, by the way - and it works. You can also opt to soak a larger cut in a solution using 1 teaspoon of soda and 1/2 cup water for the 15 minutes, and then rinsing it, and slicing. This same method works on other lean cuts as well - sirloin and round, rump, just to name a few leaner and tougher cuts.
 
Nancy February 2, 2021
Agree with Lori about choice of meat. Also, web search will give you many sites and tips about how to make stir fry beef like that one gets from Chinese restaurants. Includes choosing flank steak and lots of pounding.
 
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