For those who don’t already know, woks are round-bottomed, deep, Asian cooking pans which are great for everything – from steaming vegetables to stir frying shrimps, woks can be used for creating a variety of dishes. Similar to any other kitchen implement, you will find inexpensive, economical and pricey woks in the market.
However, it’s worth mentioning that the best brands tend to be costly. Woks have been used in China for many years and are in fact the only cooking pan used by many Chinese families. This handy guide will teach you everything you need to know about selecting the right wok.
Wok Varieties You Need To Know About
Woks are typically available in two different types: electric and cooker tops. Depending on the model and brand, you can find both cooker top and electric woks in round-bottomed and flat-bottomed varieties.
Choosing between a traditional wok versus and electric one can be challenging. Not to mention, there are several factors you should keep in mind. Electric woks generate heat which is needed for cooking and offer additional functions not found in other woks.
Some electric models include legs that elevate the heated bottom of the wok, preventing it from making contact with the worktop or tabletop. Some electric models also feature a heating element, these accessories are undoubtedly more expensive than the basic types available in the market.
Why Should I Purchase An Electric Wok?
Simply plug in this wok to an electric socket and you will be able to use it for a variety of different situations. This is also makes it great for tabletop cooking, allowing your family to cook and enjoy a delicious meal outdoors.
Cooker Top Woks
In contrast to electric models, cooker top woks aren’t as versatile and do not feature an built in heating system. However, they are much easier to clean since you don’t have to worry about damaging electrical components in the sink.
Choosing between an electrical and a traditional model depends entirely on your personal preference. Both types can be used for a variety of cooking applications, such as steaming, poaching, searing, steaming, braising and boiling. However, woks are primarily used for stir-frying meat and vegetables.
Why Should I Purchase A Cooker Top Wok?
If you want to experience traditional Chinese cooking then a cooker top wok is the best option for you.
Traditional woks are not only used in China but all around the world, including East Asia and South East Asia.
While western style pots and pans are available in an endless array of materials but in contrast, woks and other Asian oriented cooking pots and pans are made using only a few metals. The two most popular types are carbon steel and cast iron. You will also find aluminum woks in the market but they are not as commonly used as the other two materials. Here’s everything you need to know about the different types of woks:
Carbon Steel Woks
Carbon steel is perhaps the most widely used material when it comes to manufacturing woks. This is primarily because the material is inexpensive, lightweight and durable. Thanks to its rapid heat conduction, you can use carbon steel woks to sear meats and other foot items, which is essential for proper stir-frying techniques.
Despite its popularity, the material does have a few downsides which cannot be undermined. For instance, carbon steel woks must be seasoned with oil to create a non-stick surface that will also resist rust.
Additionally, the seasoning process is more complicated to accomplish when working with a carbon steel wok. Seasoning is the process of carbonizing the interior surface of the wok so that the metallic odor and taste does not seep into the cooked foods. Here are a few types of stamped carbon steel:
Stamped Carbon Steel
This is the most inexpensive type of wok made using carbon steel. These cooking vessels are manufactured using a stamping process in which a thin sheet of carbon steel is stamped to form the shape of a wok using physical pressure.
However, this type of wok is relatively low quality and cannot withstand high heat. Additionally, stamped carbon steel woks tends to distribute heat unevenly, affecting the way you cook. This can affect the taste and quality of your meals, causing portions of them to form “hot spots.”
Alternatives To Stamping
Years ago, woks were hammered into desired shape using manual labor. However, today, this process is done with the help of a machine that hammers heavy gauge steel. The metal steel has a thickness of at least 14 gauge which is relatively much stronger compared to traditionally hammering the wok.
This type of cooking vessel resists deformation better than its other counterparts. Alternatively, you can also consider spinning steel into shape to produce a better quality wok.
However, many people prefer investing in woks that have been manufactured using traditional methods. Opt for carbon steel woks which have been manually hammered multiple times. Traditionally, these layers are forged by hand, resulting in a better quality product.
Cast Iron Woks
Cast iron woks are the second most popular metal used for manufacturing modern woks. The most important types of cast iron woks include:
Chinese Cast Iron Woks
Chinese woks are made using thin cast iron walls. This material heats up quickly, allowing you to save money on fuel. In fact, this type of wok was manufactured to help people cope with the shortage of burnable fuels over large regions of the country.
However, these cast iron woks are thinner and tend to be quite lightweight. These woks also tend to be relatively inexpensive as fewer materials are used for manufacturing it. The only downside is that they are prone to damage.
Western Cast Iron Woks
Western cast iron woks are approximately three times thicker when compared to their Chinese counterparts. This makes these woks much tougher and sturdier, not to mention, they are resistant to breakage. However, due to the added thickness, it takes a considerably longer time for these woks to reach the desired temperature.
One of the most notable advantages of cast iron is that it forms a much more stable and permanent layer of carbonization when it is seasoned with oil. Additionally, cast iron also distributes heat better and more evenly as compared to carbon steel.
However, you may have to make several cooking adjustments when using cast iron woks. For example, expert chefs know that cooked food must be immediately removed from the wok to stop the cooking process and prevent the food from burning.
Thanks to advancements in technology, like other cooking utensils, woks now also offer non-stick surfaces made using PFA, teflon and other high tech coating options. However, this type of wok should be used with utensils that are made of wood, silicone and plastic rather than metal to prevent the surface from becoming scratched.
However, you are likely to experience a difference in taste when preparing food in non-stick woks as compared to those prepared in a traditional wok. However, true chefs may shy away from this wok as it inhibits true browning. Additionally, the low carbon content also affects the overall flavor profile of the final dish.
How To Season A Carbon Steel Wok
So, you have just purchased a brand new carbon steel wok and can’t wait to sauté vegetables and prepare a hot pot of Chinese goodness? Well, before you get started, you need to season the wok to perfection. Rest assured, in this section, we will provide you a step-by-step guide on how to season a wok and care for it so that remains as good as new! Here’s everything you will need:
Follow these simple step by step directions:
How To Clean An Uncoated Wok
A well-seasoned and well-cared for wok can be one of the most versatile tools in your kitchen. If properly cared for, stainless steel and carbon steel woks will last for generations to come. If you have recently purchased a wok, follow the above-mentioned steps to season it properly.
Once you have started using the wok regularly, it is time you learn how to clean it properly. Adopt a habit to immediately clean and dry the wok after each use. Proper maintenance will preserve and help retain the natural protective coating that covers the vessel. Here are a few important tips you should keep in mind:
Wash The Vessel After Every Use
This may sound obvious but you need to be diligent. In fact, thoroughly wash the wok before using it for the first time. Some soapy water and a good scrub will do the trick. Rinse the wok using hot water and wipe it clean using a soft cloth. Place the wok on the stove and turn on the heat until it starts producing smoke. Be careful not to burn yourself in the process.
Soak a paper cloth in oil and hold it by using a pair of tongs. Use it to rub the oil over the wok. Some uncoated carbon steel woks in the market have a light coat oil that protects it from rusting and tarnishing. Use a sponge to scrub of the coating before you are ready to use it.
Soak The Wok In Hot Water
Soak the wok in a sink of hot water after you have let it cool for a while. Allow the wok to soak for a couple of minutes to loosen any food debris. This will make it easier for you to scrub off the residue. Avoiding using extreme heat when cleaning the wok as it may result in damage. For instance, don’t place a hot wok directly in a sink of cold water. Allow it to cool down for a couple minutes.
Scrub The Wok Using A Sponge
Use a kitchen scrub or a special wok-cleaning brush to wipe away the remaining remnants and food debris. We suggest you only use hot water but you can use a small amount of dish soap too.
Avoid using an abrasive sponge that could damage the preventive layers of coating on the wok.
Rinse The Wok Using Hot Water
Once you are done scrubbing, it is time to completely rinse the wok using hot water. This will help you remove any food particles you have missed. At this point, you may have to rinse the wok twice if necessary.
Allow The Wok To Dry
Before you store the wok back in the cupboard again, you must ensure it has been dried properly. Wipe it clean to remove all moisture or else it could cause the wok to rust. Put the wok back on the stove over low or medium heat to speed up the process. Don’t forget to allow the wok to cool before you handle it again.
For better results, consider lightly coating the wok using vegetable oil before storing it back. This will prevent rusting. However, if the wok does end up rusting, you will have to re-season it again.
Amazing Wok Recipes You Need To Try
So, what are you waiting for, it’s time you start cooking. Use your new kitchen utensil to prepare delicious, healthy meals that your family will enjoy. Whether you are craving for some fried rice or some healthy veggies, a wok will help you prepare it all.
Here’s a healthy yet easy broccoli and chicken stir-fry recipe you should try.
Broccoli And Chicken Stir-Fry
Hopefully, this helpful guide has provided you all the information you need regarding purchasing and taking care of a wok. This versatile kitchen utensil can be found in almost all Asian homes and will allow you to cook more flavorful meals.