Orange Beef (Crispy Beef Using Cheap Cut)

4.84 from 6 votes
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Orange beef in a cast iron skillet with orange slices garnish

Create crispy, juicy, and tender restaurant-style orange beef using the cheapest cuts, and learn to make a super aromatic sauce that’s tastier and healthier than takeout.

In the past I’ve received many readers’ questions on how to use cheaper cuts of beef to make stir fry. Normally, my go-to cut for making stir fry is flank steak or skirt steak. But I’ve heard that these cuts can be expensive in some parts of the US. Living in Texas, we are spoiled with affordable high quality beef. But this time I decided to select the cheapest cut and try to re-create the restaurant-style orange beef.

Orange beef served in a plate with rice, cauliflowers and broccoli

How to tenderize cheaper cuts of beef

The secret is to marinate the beef with baking soda and some liquid.

According to Cook’s Illustrated, when the baking soda comes in contact with the surface of the beef, it changes its pH value so the proteins will be difficult to bond. It keeps the meat tender and moist in the hot pan.

That’s it! Now you can buy the cheapest cuts of beef, such as round roast or brisket. You simply need to treat the beef for 15 minutes, which is about the time you’d need to marinate the meat for any Chinese stir-fried dish. Then you will get great results – crispy beef with a juicy, tender texture.

You might be asking yourself, will the baking soda impart a chemical taste to the meat? The answer is, it’s not noticeable if you don’t overuse it.

The only thing to note, is to try to slice the beef thinly, as much as you can. Because the baking soda will only work on the surface of the meat. If you slice the beef too thick, it will end up pretty chewy in the middle.

Orange beef cooking process

Where can I get this cool pan?

I normally use my nonstick pan to cook stir fries. But when I want to give the beef a perfect char, I switch to my cast iron pan.

I got this beautiful Finex cast iron pan from Southern Kitchen – a website that shares recipes and stories, plus a shop that curates stylish cookware. I had seen this cool cast iron pan on some blogger’s website and always wondered where I could get one. I was so happy that I found it on Southern Kitchen!

I have been using the pan to sear meat and cook vegetables. I love the fact that it holds heat so well that I can get perfectly browned food on my electric stove. Different from the cheaper cast iron pans I’ve used in the past, this pan has a very smooth, polished bottom. It makes it easy to cook without getting food stuck on the bottom.

Orange beef in a cast iron skillet with green onion and salt on the side

If you’re looking for some quality cookware to upgrade your kitchen or to gift to friends and family, use the code “Spring10” to save $10 off a purchase over $50 on Southern Kitchen.

Lastly, check out the Southern Kitchen Sunday Supper podcast where Mike Jordan, Kate Williams, and Ashley Twist Cole share food-related stories. It’s a perfect podcast to listen to while you’re cooking, to make the process more fun and help you work up an appetite. You can catch it live on Facebook Live on Friday afternoons or listen to past episodes using this link.

More Chinese takeout recipes

Close-up of orange beef in a cast iron skillet

If you give this recipe a try, let us know! Leave a comment, rate it (once you’ve tried it), and take a picture and tag it @omnivorescookbook on Instagram! I’d love to see what you come up with.

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Create crispy, juicy, and tender restaurant-style orange beef using the cheapest cuts, and learn to make a super aromatic sauce that’s tastier and healthier than takeout. #chinese #beef #recipes #glutenfree #takeout

Orange Beef (Crispy Beef Using Cheap Cut)

4.84 from 6 votes
Create crispy, juicy, and tender restaurant-style orange beef using the cheapest cuts, and learn to make a super aromatic sauce that’s tastier and healthier than takeout. To make this dish-gluten free, use dry sherry instead of Shaoxing wine, and use tamari instead of light soy sauce.
Author: Maggie Zhu
Course: Main
Cuisine: Chinese
Keyword: takeout
Prep Time: 20 minutes
Cook Time: 10 minutes
Total Time: 30 minutes
Servings: 4 servings


  • 1. 5 lbs (680 g) beef round roast (or brisket, sliced against the grain as thinly as possible or up to 1/4-inch (5-cm) strips)
  • 2 tablespoons Shaoxing wine (or dry sherry)
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/3 cup cornstarch


  • 1 tablespoon loosely packed orange zest (from 1 orange)
  • 1/2 cup orange juice
  • 3 tablespoons rice vinegar
  • 1 tablespoon light soy sauce (or soy sauce)
  • 2 tablespoons sugar
  • 1 tablespoon cornstarch

Stir fry

  • 1/4 to 1/3 cup peanut oil (or vegetable oil)
  • 1 teaspoon minced ginger
  • 3 cloves garlic , minced


  • Combine sliced beef, Shaoxing wine, salt, and baking soda in a big bowl. Mix thoroughly without your hand so the beef is evenly coated with the ingredients. Let marinate for 15 minutes.
  • Mix all the sauce ingredients. Chop aromatics while marinating the meat.
  • When you’re ready to cook, add the 1/4 cup cornstarch to the marinated beef. Mix again to coat evenly.
  • Heat oil in a large nonstick pan or well-seasoned cast iron pan until hot (*Footnote 1). Cook the beef in two batches. Spread the beef with minimal overlapping. Cook until the bottom side turns golden brown, 45 seconds to 1 minute. Flip and cook the other side for 30 to 45 seconds, until lightly browned. Transfer the beef to a big plate and cook the rest of the beef using the same method.
  • Once done, remove extra oil from the pan using a few layers of kitchen paper towel held in a pair of tongs. Leave just 1 tablespoon of oil in the pan.
  • Add the ginger and garlic. Stir a few times to mix well.
  • Whisk the sauce again to completely dissolve the cornstarch. Pour into the pan and add back the cooked beef. Stir immediately to mix. The sauce will thicken in a few seconds. Once done, transfer everything to a big plate. Garnish with sesame seeds and green onions, if using.
  • Serve hot over steamed rice.


1. Always use a well-seasoned cast iron pan that you’ve been using for a while. Once the patina develops over time (after the surface of the pan turns dark brown), the pan will become a true nonstick pan. If you’re using a new pan, you need to use more oil to fry the beef, because the coating is quite starchy and might stick to the bottom of the pan.


Serving: 4g, Calories: 467kcal, Carbohydrates: 20.3g, Protein: 52.3g, Fat: 17.5g, Saturated Fat: 5.2g, Cholesterol: 152mg, Sodium: 630mg, Potassium: 771mg, Fiber: 0.3g, Sugar: 8.7g, Calcium: 10mg, Iron: 32.6mg
Did You Make This Recipe?Don't forget the last step! Leave a comment below, and tag me @OmnivoresCookbook and #OmnivoresCookbook on Instagram!
Create crispy, juicy, and tender restaurant-style orange beef using the cheapest cuts, and learn to make a super aromatic sauce that’s tastier and healthier than takeout. #chinese #beef #recipes #glutenfree #takeout

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Reader Questions and Reviews

  1. Danielle says:

    Not only does this orange chicken sound amazing, but I am so excited to use the baking soda tip! I guess I should really start reading my Cook’s Illustrated 🙂 I’ve finally got my wok nice and seasoned so it’s pretty darn non stick which I love. Perfect for this recipe!

  2. Alice Kruse says:

    5 stars
    This was awesome! Maggie, your recipes are always winners! I have tried to make Orange Beef before, but it either was very complicated or turned out tough after I tried to get the crispy texture. The marinating step was genius. I used a beef top round steak and the meat turned out very tender and delicious. Yummy and economical!

  3. Linda chandler says:

    5 stars
    I made the orange beef, the hot and soyr soup and the black bean sauce and all were better than 5 stars. Great recipes on this site. My favourite. I used top round steak sliced thin. My husband went crazy when he tasted it. ♥️

  4. Theresa Y says:

    5 stars
    Sensational! A real taste explosion! Thanks Maggie!

  5. Nancy Miller says:

    5 stars
    I LOVE your site, your recipes & your invaluable tutoring!! Thank you for being so generous with your knowledge. I love you special tips & why things work like they do. I wish the notes were included with the recipe – something I ooop-sey & forget your guidance. 🙂
    Thank you for opening my palate!

  6. Abigail Appiah says:

    what type of orange juice did you use? Is it Sunny D or Minutemaid?

    • Maggie says:

      Hi Abigail, Minutemaid is good!

  7. Bernie Fisher says:

    Have read a couple of your recipes and have made a few up. they worked well and tasted really great. M y one BIG whinge about your writings is the seemingly total lack of any publication (or book) which could procure by legal or otherwise so as I may peruse your tips, recipes and methodology.
    Keep it up.
    Bernie Fisher

  8. Kim says:

    Hi Maggie,
    Greetings from Australia. Today I cooked the sweet and sour tofu. Absolutely tasty. I added one home grown to tomato and two home grown green fresh chillies. I am from Msia so like a little spicy taste.

  9. Carolyn says:

    Could this recipe be made using pork?

    • Maggie says:

      Yes you totally can!

  10. Shan says:

    4 stars
    I tried this recipe and loved it! The beef turned out super tender and crispy. The only thing that didn’t turn out as expected was the sauce tasting a little bitter, which I suspect came from the zest, and using fresh orange juice rather than store bought. Would not using the zest impact the overall taste of the dish, or do you have any recommendation on how to overcome the bitterness? Thanks!

    • Maggie Zhu says:

      I think the bitterness might come from the baking soda. Depending on the cut you use, you might not need the baking soda to create a tender result. For example, flank steak is a nice tender cut and will do just well without the baking soda treatment. That bing said, if you’re using a tough cut of meat and used the baking soda to tenderize it, what you can do is to add the baking soda first and mix well. Let sit for 15 minutes then rinse it off with running tap water. Then marinate the beef using the wine and salt etc. That might help eliminating the bitterness.

  11. Steve Bush says:

    Great recipe. Easy to make.

  12. Steve Bush says:

    Another great recipe. I added a touch of Chile paste this time because I like a little spice but the recipe is great without it.

  13. Dolores Kaulbach says:

    5 stars
    You did it again, another terrific recipe from Maggie Zhu. Thank you.

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