Published January 1, 2013. From Cook's Illustrated.
Most versions of this Chinese restaurant standard are better dubbed “Soggy Orange Beef.” We wanted genuinely crispy results—and without heating up a full pot of oil.
Crispy orange beef requires copious amounts of oil and often lack crispiness and any kind of orange flavor.
We wanted to successfully bring this traditionally Sichuan, vibrantly flavored dish into our own kitchen without all that oily mess.
To prevent flap meat from folding over onto itself while frying, we sliced it into matchsticks. These pieces also had lots of surface area and pointy edges and crags, which increased crispiness. We spread out the pieces on a rack set in a rimmed baking sheet and placed the sheet in the freezer before dredging and frying. The very cold, very dry air of the freezer removed moisture from the surface of the meat, boosting crispiness and preventing the cornstarch-dredged pieces from sticking to each other in the oil.
Recipes call for anywhere from 8 cups to just a few tablespoons of oil. We decided to strike a compromise and use 3 cups of oil—an amount that was manageable for the home kitchen and was still enough volume to produce truly crispy beef when fried in batches.
As for the traditional tangerine-flavored sauce, we found that we could get the same flavor from oranges, which we peeled (leaving some of the bitter pith attached), sliced into slivers, and browned in a sauté pan. This introduced deeper, caramelized notes that came closer to the complex flavors of dried tangerine peel.list of recipes