Blogging About Woks

This blog is all about woks - what they are, how they work and where to get them. I am an absolute fanatic about cooking with a wok for many reasons which I'll get into below. It simply is difficult to reproduce the flavorful, nutricious and aromatic quality you get by cooking your food in a wok by other method.

carbon steel wok
A CARBON STEEL WOK WITH HANDLES

Best prices on cooking woks

What is a Wok?
A wok is a cooking pan which is shaped like a shallow bowl with handles and thin walls, extensively used in Chinese-style cooking. The wok was designed so as to be able to conserve limited fuel. A wok comes in different sizes ranging from 25 – 80cm in diameter, however, the diameter of household woks usually range from 30 – 36cm.

The basic idea of a wok is fast cooking at a high heat. This not only saves cooking fuel, but helps preserve the flavor and nutrients of the food being cooked. Food cooked in a wok, especially stir fry, is simpply delicious.

Wok Tools and Accessories:
A good spatula designed for wok use is very handy to have. Zebra makes a good one and you can get it (HERE) from Amazon with free shipping to boot. If you want the popular bamboo tools for wok use, you can get a great set of 7 (HERE) for under $20.00.


TRADITIONAL BAMBOO WOK TOOLS SET

One more item I love is a bamboo wok cleaning tool. It is a little whisk broom sort of affair that makes wok cleaning a snap. I find it real handy. You can get one (HERE) for under $5.00

History of Woks:
Woks have been in existence for over 3000 years in China and they have been used for diverse cooking styles such as stewing, stir-frying and boiling. The wok is converted into a steamer with the inclusion of a rack and cover. Initially designed to be used on charcoal or wood burning Chinese stoves, woks have been modified for western stovetop use with either a flat spot on the bottom, or the inclusion of a metal ring. This metal ring is put on an electric or gas stove to help hold the wok in place and keep it from tipping. Most woks manufactured today have the flat spot on the bottom so they can be used on western stoves.

Why Do You Need a Wok?
A round bottom wok concentrates heat, hence, food is cooked rapidly with rather little oil. Also while cooking, cooked food can be moved to the wok’s slanted side so as to keep it warm and further cooking, while the other part of the food keeps cooking at the bottom.

A great advantage of carbon steel woks is that, they heat rapidly and uniformly. When stir-frying, it sears chicken and meat flawlessly, sealing in flavor and fragrance. Although, the wok’s high sides are very suitable for stir frying vegetables and meat without dumping ingredients over the side or overcrowding the pan, a wok has several more uses other than just to stir fry. You can also deep-fry, poach, pan-fry, boil, steam, smoke and braise with it. Also, woks made of carbon steel become non-stick naturally as you continue to use them, thus, making cooking require less oil.

How to Choose the Best Wok?
If you enjoy the simplicity and the taste of a great stir fry, using a wok will help expedite the rapid frying action required, as well as capturing the pleasing flavors which emanate from it.

Round or Flat Bottomed?
Although round-bottomed woks are customary to Chinese cooking, they do not work really well on flat western stovetops. So, a flat-bottomed wok is the best choice when using either gas or electric stoves. This holds the pan in place as you cook and also keeps the pan in direct contact with the source of heat. This is not the ideal wok configuration but is a good enough workaround.

When you can, go for the round-bottomed version with the steel ring designed to make them workable on a flat stovetop.

What Size Wok to Choose?
The best option for most home cooks is the 14-inch wok. A smaller wok does not usually hold all the ingredients needed for a family meal, thereby causing a crowded pan and making it difficult to cook food uniformly. A larger size can become too bulky in a home kitchen.

What Material is Best?
A carbon-steel wok is definitely the answer. The carbon-steel wok has to be seasoned before being used and then specially taken care of to maintain its coating. Avoid non-stick woks because every stir-fry cooking occurs at a high temperature and non-stick coatings should not be heated to such high temperature. Besides, the carbon-steel will become non-stick over time and will last for a long time.

Wok Handles:
Woks with a small coiled metal or wooden handle on one side and a long, heat-resistant wooden handle on the other side are recommended. This makes it easier to handle stir-frying and also carrying the wok from the stove after cooking.

So, the question is, which wok should you purchase?
Well, go for the traditional round-bottom variety whenever possible. You'll get the best results with a "real" wok. As an option, go for a 14 inch carbon-steel wok that has a slightly flat bottom and a long handle with a small coiled metal or wooden one at the opposite side.

To be honest, any well made carbon steel wok with two handles is going to work well for you. Remember the term "carbon steel" as this material is important for the high heat cooking you'll be doing with a wok. Stainless steel is okay, as is cast iron, but stay away from aluminium no matter what. Also, never buy a wok with non-stick coating. This will NOT work for high heat cooking. The carbon steel wok is really what you want.

Amazon has a large selection of woks and they are mostly pretty good quality items at very reasonable prices. You can look over their selection HERE .

A couple of good brand names I would recommend in a heartbeat are: Joyce Chen and Mauviel. Joyce Chen Woks are noted for quality at a reasonable price. I use one of these myself and love it. The Mauviel brand is made in France and is a high end wok with a long handle. Both are lifetime purchases.

Where Should I Purchase My Wok?
You can get high quality woks of different sizes and shapes for very reasonable prices at Amazon.com. Amazon delivers to almost every part of the world, and are renowned for fast shipping and solid guarantees.

Wok Care:
A carbon steel wok must be seasoned to ensure the best nonstick surface for searing and frying, and to protect against rust. Once it has had its initial seasoning, the naturally nonstick surface requires regular proper care. To clean, avoid using soap or detergent, it is best to soak the wok in hot water for a minutes to loosen any food redidue. Then wash with hot water and a soft sponge, or wok wisk, on the inside to protect the interior non-stick finish. To clean the exterior, hot water and a soft kitchen scrubber or sponge is usually sufficient.

The cooking surface of your wok will eventually end up stained black. When that happens, it will indicate that it is in a good non-stick condition. Oil your wok lightly before storing. When you use it, heat it up very hot before adding oil and the food to be cooked. In a few days of use, you should have a great non-stick wok.

Get a wok today. You'll be glad you did! Makes food extra yummy!

Have a Great Day!
Phil Mason, Editor

If you have any input or comments to add email me at:
pmason2765@gmail.com

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