This Double Pepper Beef Stir-Fry Puts Some Pep in Your Step!
If I ask anyone in my family what they want for dinner, nine times out of ten they’ll answer, “I don’t know, stir-fry?” This weeknight stir-fry recipe features black pepper beef and two kinds of bell pepper for a flavorful and colorful dish.
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If I had to guess, there are a couple of reasons for their answer. Number one, it’s always good. Flavorful protein, crisp-tender veggies, and lots of rice to soak up the delicious sauce. Second, I’m pretty likely to agree and fire up the wok. (Probably not the case if they ask for homemade pizza an hour before dinner on a weeknight.) Stir-fry is such a great way to use up whatever you’ve got on hand. The prep time is quick and the dish cooks up in a flash. And cheaper than takeout! A true “kid-tested, parent-approved” meal.
Stir-fry recipes are one of my favorites to play around with. I end up with something that’s familiar, but with a twist I maybe wouldn’t have tried on my own.
This recipe for Black Pepper Beef and Peppers Stir-Fry is the perfect example. Black pepper is delicious with beef, but I was a little worried it may be too spicy for my very spice-sensitive daughter. But she loves beef stir-fry, so I figured I’d give it a try. We were all in for a treat. The black pepper contributes a deep, savory flavor to the beef rather than just spiciness. The sweetness of the peppers and onions are a perfect complement. Using both green and red bell peppers is beautiful, but also delicious. The grassiness of the green peppers plays nicely with the riper flavor of the red peppers. This easy beef stir-fry recipe has found a permanent place in our dinner rotation.
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Do I need a wok to make stir-fry?
A large saute pan is all you need to make stir-fry at home. A saute pan often works better than a wok for many home cooks. The round bottom and sloped sides of a wok are designed specifically for ultra high-heat professional gas burners. While a wok will still work on a home cooktop, you won’t be taking full advantage of its specific shape and design on a flat-top burner.
A large skillet on a flat burner gives you maximum contact with the heat, which is what you’re looking for when making stir-fry. Just be sure to use the largest saute pan you have. Lots of space means that you’ll have plenty of room for the ingredients to move around. Keeping the heat high is key.
To best mimic restaurant-style results with the equipment you have at home, cook the ingredients in stages. This ensures the pan stays super hot and the ingredients all get cooked evenly. The ingredients will just steam and stew together if all added at once — not what you’re looking for with a stir-fry. Start by cooking the beef, then the vegetables, then return them all to the pan together with the sauce to marry together.
What is black pepper beef sauce made of?
This easy recipe for black pepper beef uses fairly standard stir-fry sauce ingredients. Oyster sauce, soy sauce, dry sherry, and sesame oil are added to a base of chicken broth. Four cloves of garlic are stirred in for bold flavor. Cornstarch ensures a thick, luscious sauce that clings to the rice.
If you’re wondering where the black pepper is, it’s actually added to the marinade for the beef, not in the sauce. Why? The ground pepper clings to the beef and toasts in the hot pan when it’s cooked. That extra bit of toasty, nutty flavor provides a real depth of flavor that wouldn’t have time to develop during a quick simmer in the sauce.
What cut of beef is best for stir-fry?
Tough meat is never particularly appetizing, but especially frustrating when it comes to stir-fry. Stir-fry should be easy-to-eat, bite-sized pieces that don’t require a knife. Choosing the right cut of beef for a beef stir-fry recipe is key.
This recipe for black pepper beef calls for flank steak. Flank steak is a wide, flat cut of meat. It’s about an inch thick, easy to cut into small pieces. No fancy knife skills needed. It is naturally tender, has a great beefy flavor, and a loose, open grain. It cooks quickly in a hot pan without needing long simmering times to produce succulent results. The marinade works its way into that open grain of the meat. It provides great flavor, as well as helps to tenderize it even with a short marinating time.
How to make black pepper beef stir-fry
The key to a successful stir-fry is to have all of your ingredients ready before you heat up your pan. Once things get going, it all comes together very quickly.
Start by marinating your beef. This is where the black pepper comes into play, the key flavor of this dish. Coarsely crush whole black peppercorns to get two teaspoons. Stir the crushed peppercorns together with cornstarch, soy sauce, sesame oil, and rice vinegar in a medium bowl. Cut a pound of flank steak into bite-sized chunks. Place in the bowl with the marinade and toss to coat. Set aside.
Marinating the beef; photograph by Meleyna Nomura
While the beef marinates, prepare the rest of the ingredients. Stir together chicken broth, oyster sauce, soy sauce, dry sherry, cornstarch, sesame oil, and fresh garlic for the sauce in a small bowl. Cut an onion, one red bell pepper, and one green bell pepper into 1-inch chunks. Thinly slice two scallions.
When the ingredients are all ready to cook, heat a tablespoon of vegetable oil in a large saute pan or wok over high heat. Add the beef in a single layer and let cook. If it doesn’t fit in one layer, cook the beef in two batches. When both sides have cooked briefly, remove to a plate. Return the pan to the burner and reduce to medium-high heat. Cook the onions and peppers until tender-crisp. Return the beef to the pan and add the sauce. Cook, stirring to combine the ingredients, an additional two minutes until the sauce is thickened. Serve with the green onions over steamed rice.
Browning the beef; photograph by Meleyna Nomura
Get the recipe: Black Pepper Beef and Peppers Stir-Fry
More Asian-inspired meals coming right up
There’s a delicious world beyond stir-fry when you’re craving Asian flavors. Explore the related Yummly articles below for ideas.