Crispy Orange Beef {Chinese Takeout at Home}

Crispy Chinese Orange Beef

I love Chinese food. Many of us do.

But you know what the problem is?

Many Chinese restaurants charge rock bottom prices and use low quality ingredients. Few things gross me out more than taking a bite of meat and finding that the majority of it is a big hunk of rubbery fat (gag!) and gristle.

The solution of course, is to make Chinese food at home. And today I’ll be showing you how to make one of my favorites…crispy orange beef!

Orange Beef Sauce

I saw this recipe for Crispy Orange Beef in the last issue of Cook’s Illustrated and had one of those “I have to make this NOW” moments.

This dish is one of the few instances where it seems appropriate to cook red meat with something fragrant and fruity like an orange, and I love the pairing of the two.

Crispy Orange Beef

The original Cooks Illustrated recipe says to include the white bitter pithy part to better mimic the dried tangerine peel normally used in this dish, but I found it to be too bitter. I say just get that fragrant colored orange part and julienne that, like this:

Orange Zest Crispy Orange Beef

Part of the secret to the crispiness is to coat the orange beef in cornstarch and pop the strips into the freezer for a little while.

This is a trick that works for all sorts of meat and seafood. The freezer is very dry and helps dry out the moisture that may be on the surface of the meat. Moisture is the enemy of crispiness, so the freezer is our friend!

Extra Crispy Orange Beef

When you’re ready to get everything cooked to serve, first sauté the orange strips with some jalapeño:

Orange Jalapeño Crispy Beef

Add some other fun flavors, namely garlic, freshly grated ginger, and some red pepper flakes, and deglaze the pan with a mixture of soy sauce, molasses, rice vinegar, sesame oil, and brandy.

Chinese Takeout Crispy Orange Beef

Fry the beef in batches and toss to coat in the sauce. Served with rice, it’s totally scrumptious!

Yes, I just said scrumptious. I mean look at it, don’t you agree?

Chinese Food Crispy Orange Beef

Oh, and for those people who are turned off by the deep frying, the Cooks Illustrated folks measured the amount of oil before and after frying, and the beef only absorbed 2 tbsp of oil. Not bad if you ask me. If your oil is at the proper high temperature and the beef has been properly dried, deep frying doesn’t have to be out of control oily.

Crispy Orange Beef

Ingredients:

  • 1.5 lbs sirloin steak
  • 3 tbsp soy sauce
  • 6 tbsp cornstarch
  • 1 softball sized navel orange
  • 3 tbsp molasses
  • 2 tbsp brandy or red wine
  • 1 tbsp rice vinegar
  • 1.5 tsp sesame oil
  • 1 jalapeño, inner seeds and ribs removed, thinly sliced
  • 3 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 tsp freshly grated ginger
  • 1/2 tsp red pepper flakes
  • 2 scallions, chopped (for garnish)
  • vegetable oil, for frying
  • recommended side dish: rice

Directions:

  1. Cut the beef into thin slices, about 1/4 inch thick. Toss the beef with 1 tbsp of soy sauce. Next, sprinkle the beef evenly with the cornstarch and mix well. Evenly spread the beef out on a wire rack set atop a sheet pan, and place the beef in the freezer for 45 minutes. This will help our beef get crispy later on, because the freezer dries the surface moisture on the meat.
  2. Use a vegetable peeler to peel off about 10 zest strips from the orange, taking care not to get any of the bitter white pithy part. Only peel off the orange colored part. Thinly slice the orange peels into long strips. Cut the orange in half and juice it, measuring out 1/4 cup of juice and placing it in a bowl. Add the other 2 tbsp of soy sauce, molasses, brandy or red wine, rice vinegar, and sesame oil to the orange juice, and whisk to combine. Set the liquid aside.
  3. Heat up a deep fryer to 375 degrees F and set up a sheet pan lined with paper towels. Once the fryer has reached the proper temperature, fry about 1/4 to 1/3 of the beef at a time, for about 3 minutes, making sure to stir gently so the beef doesn’t stick together. After 3 minutes the beef will be golden brown and crispy, and you can remove it to the paper towels to drain. Cook the remainder of the beef.
  4. Heat up a large skillet over medium heat, and add 1 tbsp of vegetable oil. Add the orange strips and jalapeño and sauté for 2 minutes. Add the garlic, ginger, and red pepper flakes, and stir for 30 seconds (no longer, or the garlic will burn). Add the soy sauce mixture to the pan, then add all of the beef. Stir to coat in the sauce. Garnish with the chopped scallions and serve with rice or desired side dish. Enjoy!

Recipe adapted from the January/February issue of Cooks Illustrated magazine.