An easy homemade for beef and broccoli recipe featuring quick-seared flank steak and easy steamed broccoli. A sweet and savory, quick-fix family dinner idea for Chinese food at home!
So, you know those helicopter moms? The ones hovering over their children on the playground, reminding them of perils around them, and encouraging them to stay under their wing at all times? The kind that won’t let their children go down the street without a chaperone, and eventually drive the kids absolutely insane? Yeah. I know it’s annoying. It’s also pretty much me in a nutshell — I’m that mother…or is it more like s-mother?
So imagine my horror when we found out my youngest had a severe food allergy. Like, severe. Oy. Cashews to be more specific. And that Chinese food takeout we once enjoyed at our doorstep? She gone. I have a hard time bringing myself to order a family dinner from a joint who’s top seller is “Cashew Chicken.” Red flags and alarm bells are a’sounding and that’s a big ol’ whopping no for me, folks. Needless to say, we now make Chinese takeout at home, and the family has zero complaints. S-mother for the win.
On a mission to recreate the family’s favorite Chinese take-out dishes at home, I started with my personal favorite, chicken lo mein…cause ya know, I do the cooking. Up next was my husband’s favorite, beef and broccoli…cause ya know, he pays the bills. We’ll get to my girls’ favorite sometime in the future…cause ya know, they’re four and seven, and they just don’t do a whole heck of a lot.
HOW TO MAKE BEEF AND BROCCOLI AT HOME
Beef and broccoli at home may seem intimidating at first, but once you break it down, it’s really quite easy. The dish consists of four main elements that all come together to create one tasty dish: The sauce, the slurry, the beef, and the broccoli. Let’s go ahead and break this one down even further, shall we?
Give me all the glorious sauce. It’s pretty much the best part of any meal. Beef and broccoli sauce is mostly made up of soy sauce, beef broth, and oyster sauce, which surprisingly, tastes nothing like oysters. Oyster sauce is what gives most beef and broccoli recipes that sweet note. Asian food is all about balance, and oyster sauce plays a large role in that for this otherwise savory recipe.
The sauce is great, but one of the best things about it is that it coats the meat and broccoli so perfectly. A slurry is a simple combination of cornstarch and water, and the slurry is precisely the reason the sauce clings to the beef and broccoli.
FLOUR VS. CORNSTARCH FOR BEEF AND BROCCOLI
Flour and cornstarch are both thickeners, and people, they were not created equal. I’m not saying they’re both not great thickeners, I’m just saying they don’t exactly work the same way. For example, you can’t just sub out 1 tablespoon of flour for 1 tablespoon of cornstarch in a recipe. Not gonna work.
When flour is used as a thickener in a sauce, it typically begins as a roux (I.e. a mixture of oil and flour), before any of the liquid is added. On the other hand, when cornstarch is used to thicken sauces, it begins as a slurry and is added to the liquid. So, in a nutshell, a flour-based sauce typically begins on the stovetop, and a cornstarch-based sauce typically begins in a mixing bowl.
Also, cornstarch is what gives Asian sauces that attractive glossy sheen, and we like attractive things — especially food. So there’s that. Once the slurry is mixed up, it’s added to the sauce, and it’s on to the beef.
For best results when it comes to beef and broccoli, you’ll want to slice the beef as thinly as possible. But first, let’s chat about what kind of meat we’ll be slicing.
WHAT KIND OF MEAT TO USE FOR BEEF AND BROCCOLI
Skirt steak is commonly used for beef and broccoli, and although it’s a tough cut of meat, it can most certainly hold it’s own when it comes to both flavor and quick-cooking. More specifically, we’ll be using the inside skirt steak. Don’t worry. Your local grocery store should have it clearly labeled, and shouldn’t be hard to find at all.
HOW TO CUT BEEF FOR BEEF AND BROCCOLI
Skirt steak is a tough cut of beef and rather chewy, so the thinner you can cut the meat, the easier it will be to chew.
You definitely don’t want to attempt cutting up a frozen piece of beef, but placing a thawed skirt steak in the freezer 20 minutes or so before you cut into it will make your work tremendously easier.
Once your flank steak has firmed up a bit, use a very sharp knife to cut it into sections about 2 1/2″, cutting with the grain (I.e. the direction in which the muscle fibers run).
Next, you’ll cut those sections going against the grain into strips as thin as you can get them. Cutting the strips against the grain will give the final product a more tender bite.
HOW TO COOK ASIAN BEEF…WITHOUT A WOK
I don’t own a wok, and it’s very unlikely I’ll ever purchase one. Because I have a sauté pan. And, that’s really all I need. To make beef and broccoli at home, simply pull out your largest sauté pan and do a little pan-searing.
Add the beef to the pan (nonstick really comes in handy here) and let it sear for 2 minutes. Don’t be tempted to jostle it. It’s super busy right now. Developing flavor. Then, you’ll flip it and sear it for another 2 minutes or so, and that’s all there is to it. The beef is done. Now, on to the broccoli.
If you’ll direct your attention above to the beautiful sauté pan, you’ll notice that it comes equipped with a lid. That is because we will be steaming the broccoli. After the meat goes out, beef broth goes in, followed by the broccoli florets. The lid goes on, and in no time — VOILA! Perfectly cooked broccoli.
BRINGING IT HOME…
Get it? Because we’re making beef and broccoli at home, and because we’re at the end of the cooking process? Man, do I love a good pun. Once the broccoli is fork tender, the sauce is added to the pan and the heat is cranked up just long enough for the sauce to thicken. Then, the beef goes back in, it’s all tossed together, and that’s a wrap.
So while my super irritating, overbearing helicopter mom ways may prohibit us from ordering our once beloved Chinese takeout, I think I’ve more than proved myself in the Chinese Dinner-at-Home department, and surely for this, they’ll keep me around.
You can make excellent Chinese food at home, and this beef and broccoli would certainly rival the best in town…actually, it just may be the best in town. And you’ll have made it with ease in your very own kitchen. In fact, I bet they’ll keep you around too. Please, enjoy.
- 1/4 cup + 1 tablespoon soy sauce
- 1 cup + 2 tablespoons unsalted beef broth, separated
- 2 tablespoons oyster sauce
- 1/4 teaspoon sesame oil (optional)
- 1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
- 1/4 teaspoon black pepper
- 1/4 teaspoon garlic powder
- 1/4 teaspoon + a pinch Kosher salt, separated
- Generous pinch of Cayenne pepper
- 1 1/2 tablespoon corn starch
- 1 1/2 tablespoon water
- 1 - 1 1/2 pound beef inside skirt steak, silver skin and excess fat removed
- 2-3 tablespoons canola oil, separated
- 2 crowns of broccoli, cut into bite-sized florets
- 1 yellow onion, quartered and thinly sliced
Read recipe notes before you begin for best results.
Make Sauce: Add soy sauce, 1/4 cup + 2 tablespoons beef broth, oyster sauce, sesame oil (if using), ground ginger, black pepper, garlic powder, a pinch of Kosher salt, and a pinch of Cayenne pepper to a measuring pitcher and stir to combine.
Separate Sauce: Add a 1/4 cup of the mixture to a large mixing bowl and set the bowl aside.
Make Slurry: Add cornstarch and water to a small bowl. Whisk to combine.
Add to Remaining Marinade: Add the slurry to the measuring pitcher. Set aside until ready to use.
Cut the Beef into Strips: Cutting with the grain, cut the skirt steak into 2 1/2"-wide sections. Then, slice the sections as thin as you can, cutting against the grain. Add the beef to the large mixing bowl and toss until evenly coated in the sauce.
Sauté Beef: Add 2 tablespoons canola oil to a large sauté pan over medium-high heat and allow to come to temperature. Add the beef to the skillet, spreading out the strips as much as possible, and sear for 2 minutes. Turn the strips and sear for 2 minutes more. Remove the strips from the pan, and transfer to a large plate.
Sauté Onion and Deglaze Pan: If needed, add 1 tablespoon of canola oil to the pan. Add the onions and sauté 4-5 minutes, stirring often so they do not burn. Add 3/4 cup beef broth to the pan, and scrape up any browned bits from the bottom.
Steam Broccoli Florets: Reduce the heat to medium-low, and add the broccoli. Cover the pan and cook the broccoli for 6-8 minutes, until just fork-tender.
Add Reserved Sauce: Add the reserved sauce in the measuring pitcher and increase the heat to medium-high. Allow to briskly simmer for 2-3 minutes, or until thickened.
Add the Beef: Stir in the beef. Serve over white rice and enjoy.
You will need a large sauté pan equipped with a fitted lid for this recipe.
To make working with/cutting the beef into thin strips easier, place it in the freezer 20-30 minutes beforehand. This will firm it up slightly, and help with your knifework.
Have your vegetables prepped before you begin cooking your beef. The beef will cook very quickly.
Do NOT use salted beef broth for this recipe. It will be far too salty.