Meat Preparation

Meats such as pork, beef, lamb, and chicken are very important ingredients in Chinese cooking. For many dishes, the meat preparation is one of the most important steps in cooking. In general a high quality cut of meat will yield a better dish. The problem is with today’s economy not everyone can afford to make a beef with broccoli with fillet migon (certainly I cannot).

Fortunately, there are ways you can turn your ordinary cuts of meat into a juicy tender stir-fried meat. The magic is to cut meat properly and have the right marinade. Just follow the below steps and see yourself preparing the perfect meat for your general stir-fried dishes.

1. How to Slice a Piece of Meat (demo on beef)

The way you cut your meat will directly affect the tenderness your of beef. To achieve the tenderness you will always want to cut the meat against the grain. What this does is to breakdown the grain which is what makes the meat tough. By disconnecting the grain you essential make the meat loose and it becomes a lot easier to chew.

The illustration above shows the direction of the grain and the direction of the slicing should be made.

Depending on the thickness of your meat, cutting the meat diagonally will create better result if your meat is relatively thin.

The thickness of your slices ranges from 2 inch chunks used in the stew to paper thin slice seen in Chinese hotpot. if you want to cut your meat evenly, just keep the meat in your freezer for 2 to 3 hours before you slice it. It helps you to create the consistency you always find in a restaurant.

2. How to Mrinade The Meat

Properly sliced meat sets up a good foundation for the dish you want to make. However the final result will also depend on your marinade.

The lists below shows some commonly used condiments. List 1 is mainly used to build up a basic flavor or sometimes used to mask some unwanted natural flavor from the meat. The on other hand, the purpose of list 2 is mainly to shape the texture of the meat. In our case, we want to make it tender and juicy.

List 1 Condiments for Flavor: Cooking Wine, Ground Ginger, Ground Garlic, Lemon Juice, Oyster Sauce, Salt, Pepper, Soy Sauce, Sugar, Vinegar, Water

List 2 Condiments for texture: Corn Starch, Egg, Potato Starch, Water

It’s important to follow the right order when you marinade.
i) First, in a salad bowl mix the meat with the condiments used for flavoring (list 1).
ii) Keep on swirling the meat using a spoon or pair of chopsticks or your hand. Use your spare hand to slowly pour some water (about 1 teaspoon each time) to the mixing. The idea is to let the meat absorb the water and other condiments. Repeat this step 2 to 3 times until the meat is well moisturized.
iii) Add your selected condiments from list 2 to to the meat and mix well. The use of starch will create a shielding to the meat surface to keep your meat juicy when cooking
iv) Let it the meat sit for 30 minutes before you cook it. You can also marinade your meat a day in advance just keep it chilled in your refrigerator.

3. Want to Cook Shredded Meat
If you prefer the julienned meat rather than the sliced piece you can follow the below additional step.
You will still need to slice the meat first following the instructions above.

Stack up the sliced pieces and make additional cuts over the slices. Make sure these cuts are also against the grain.

Marinade the shredded meat using the same way described above and you are ready to make some delicious tender stir-fried meat.


  1. 8

    After marinating the meat,what is the best way to cook it

  2. 7

    Hi there! This is a silly question but when you marinate using the condiments from list 1, do you only use 1 condiment or a few combined together? Are there any combinations that you prefer combine together from list 1 that you recommend?

    • 7.1

      hi Linda, sorry for coming back to you late. The condiment list 1 is a list of common ingredients you can use depending on the dish you are making. For simple dishes, I normally marinate the meat with salt, soy sauce, cooking wine, sugar. Black/white pepper is also often used. Hope this makes sense to you.

  3. 6

    Quick question for anybody that could tell me if i was sliceing beef for hot pot but in large amounts would anybody know what joint from the animal . . Could it be chuck beef , flank, brisket . If anyone could tell ot would be fantastic . Thanks

    • 6.1

      Hi Aaron, sorry for not getting back to you sooner. If you are referring to the thinly sliced beef used in hot pot, then my favorite cut is chuck roast. If you prefer something leaner you can try sirloin or London boil. Hope this helps.

  4. 5

    Quick question for anybody that could tell me if i was sliceing beef for hot pot but in large amounts would anybody know what joint from the animal . . Could it be chuck beef , flank, brisket . If anyone could tell ot would be fantastic . Thanks

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  7. 4

    I read that Chinese cuisine don’t use a lot of meat (contributing to low cancer rates in mainland) but reading recipes online and in books, they sure do A LOT.

    I’m trying to reduce my meat consumption to China-like rates but I’m not sure how much meat to eat.

    • 4.1

      Hello Rene, one of the reasons that Chinese food appears to have less meat is that a lot of the dishes combine both meat and vegetables. Personally I always try to balance out my meals with both meat and vegetables. My day hardly goes by without a small to moderate amount of protein and a good amount of vegetables.

      If you cook at home you can always adjust the amount of meat you like according to your liking. You can easily reduce the protein in dishes like this light celery stirfly and this a soupy seafood dish

      Of course, there are many vegetarian dishes available in Chinese food. Check out this bok choy delight or some garlicky cucumbers.

      Please feel free to let me know if you have any other questions.


      • So if I understand, the amount of meat shown in your blog, books and recipes already count as “very little meat”? Or can be, like you say, be personally adjusted even further?

        It’s just that since I read The China Study, I kinda been obsessed with reducing protein animal in my meals.

        You get higher chances of getting all sorts of nasty diseases with high animal protein consumption (according to The China Study) BUT IT TASTES SO GOOOOOOOD! 🙂

        • The portion of meat in the modern recipes is the amount that optimizes the balance among nutrition value, taste, and presentation. Since your goal is to minimize the meat consumption I’d say you can definitely further reduce the amount of the meat (however this might or might not hurt the taste of the dish)

          Please also be aware that in Chinese dining culture food is normally meant to be shared. So each person will get a little bit of each dish on the table. In general a meal is normally consists of some main dish(es) as well as some vegetarian dishes to establish a good balance. So at the end, you don’t necessarily end up eating all the meat available in one dish but variety of different things including other dishes, rice, and noodles.

          I hope this helps.

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