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how to prepare frozen veggies to stir-fry?

_Stir-Frying to the Sky's Edge_ emphasizes that vegetables must be "dry" before adding to the wok.

The book does not recommend using packaged pre-mixed frozen "stir-fry vegetables," but as a practical matter, those are most of what I cook - from Trader Joe's, specifically. And they end up soggy in the wok, probably because the vegetables are not dry out of the package.

How best to quickly dry frozen/thawing vegetables?

Thanks.

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  1. What vegetables are you using specifically?

    I routinely use frozen peas and carrots when making fried rice, without first thawing, and have never had a problem.

    I wouldn't want to stir fry frozen veggies like spinach, but I would imagine the best way to thaw and use frozen veggies would be thaw them, and if they are still damp, use a salad spinner?

    10 Replies
    1. re: ipsedixit

      A typical mix includes sugar snap peas, broccoli, baby corn, green beans, water chestnuts, bell peppers, carrots and mushrooms.

      1. re: fadista

        Well, try thawing and giving them a swirl in your salad spinner, or if you don't have one leave them on a paper towel for a bit.

        Also, keep in mind, soggy veggies can be the result of your wok/skillet not being hot enough or overcooking, or both.

        Good luck.

        (As an aside, I would never try stir frying frozen mushrooms.)

        1. re: fadista

          I think that if you just heat the hell out of your wok and use the vegetables "as is", it might work, enough to thaw them and make them tender-crisp without giving up too much water. At the very least, it would be no worse than letting them thaw and then trying to dry and work with them.

          1. re: mamachef

            That will absolutely not work. If you insist on using frozen vegetables they must be thoroughly thawed and dry. Keep changing paper towels until they no longer pick up any moisture and the vegetables are close to room temp. Most frozen vegetables have been blanched so are already partially-cooked and will not need as much time in the wok as fresh ones. Nor will the taste or texture be as good. I am not biased against frozen vegetables - I use them all the time. Because they are frozen shortly after harvesting, they retain their nutrition better than fresh vegetables that are picked many days before cooking. But they are not suitable for some uses, and IMO stir-frying is one of them.

            1. re: greygarious

              good to know - i use frozens too, but not for stir-frying, so I was hazarding a guess, and I guess I was wrong! : )

              1. re: greygarious

                greygarious,

                As I noted above, you CAN use frozen vegetables straight from the deep freeze if it's peas and carrots, and sometimes corn nibblets. I do it all the time for fried rice. Works like a charm. Other veggies, I agree, got to thaw and dry.

                1. re: ipsedixit

                  For fried rice, the vegetables don't need the caramelization they do for stir-fried wherein the main volume of the dish is vegetables with or without a protein. In fact, as with paella, frozen peas don't even need cooking, much less thawing. The mass of hot rice takes care of that. I do as you do with fried rice, but really don't consider that dish a proper stir-fry. Tiny bits like diced carrots, peas, and corn are smaller pieces than you generally see in Asian restaurant stir-fries.

                  Another problem with using mixed frozen vegetables for stir-frying is the different cooking times. If one didn't know better, and bought a bag of frozen vegetables that is labeled as being for stir-frying, one would have a combo that includes broccoli, snow peas, chopped onion, carrot coins, etc. Those need different cooking times, not that one would know it from the bag.

                  1. re: greygarious

                    "For fried rice, the vegetables don't need the caramelization they do for stir-fried wherein the main volume of the dish is vegetables with or without a protein"
                    __________________________________

                    Uh, no.

                    I rarely try to caramelize my vegetables when I stir fry. In fact, I'll often add a bit of water to my wok towards the end, cover, and allow the vegetables to steam a bit before plating.

                2. re: greygarious

                  Thanks for all these great insights. Can't wait for my carbon-steel wok to show up Monday.

              2. re: fadista

                Thaw them completely before cooking. You can use a salad spinner as ipsedixit suggests, or thaw them wrapped in paper toweling.
                Frozen vegetables like these cook very quickly, so you should add them in the last minutes of cooking to maintain their crispness.

            2. I have found the quickest way to add frozen veggies to a stir-fry is to steam them separately first (evaporates the moisture) until just tender; then add to wok toward end of stir-frying. Turns out quite nicely and hard to tell the difference between frozen and fresh.