Along my journey of cooking, one of the questions I have asked myself was: Do I really need a WOK to cook Chinese food?
Let’s hear what the expert said:
According to Rhonda Parkinson @about.com, we don’t absolutely need a WOK to create satisfying Chinese meals. However, the WOK has several advantages – it spreads heat evenly, uses less oil for deep-frying than a traditional deep-fat fryer, and ensures that food tossed during stir-frying lands back in the pan and not on the stove. A good WOK will make it easier to cook Chinese food.
So I decided to add a WOK to my kitchen equipments and I want to shop around to choose the best model. But before I shop around, I checked it out first by browsing the internet.
And that was how I started my “WALK to WOK”.
1st step: What Type Should I Buy?
Remember that old adage “You get what you pay for?” This is one of those rare cases where it doesn’t apply. There is no substitute for a good carbon steel WOK. Not only is it relatively inexpensive, but it conducts heat evenly.. While there many other types of WOKs on the market today – aluminum, stainless steel, even copper – every article on WOK I’ve read so far still consider carbon steel as the best choice, and I have to agree.
I read in Wikipedia that WOK is most often used for stir frying, but can also be used many other ways, such as in steaming, deep frying, braising, stewing, smoking or making soup. It is commonly, almost exclusively, cooked with a long handled chahn (spatula) or hoak (ladle). The long extension of these utensils allows the cook to work with the food without burning the hand.
Traditionally, the WOK came with two metal handles, making it easy to lift in and out of the stove. However, I prefer the modern WOKs that have one long wooden handle, like a skillet. As Barbara Tropp points out in The Modern Art of Chinese Cooking, the long handle “eliminates the need to work with a potholder or mitt, and gives you wonderful leverage for tilting the pot.
2nd Step: Flat or Round Bottom?
If you are cooking with a western electric range your best option is to use a flat bottom WOK. Round bottom WOKs can reflect heat back on the element, damaging it. A flat bottomed WOK can also be used on gas stoves.
- Wash the WOK in hot water with a small amount of liquid detergent and a scrubber (such as a stainless steel sponge or pad).
- If needed, scrub the exterior of the WOK with the scrubber and an abrasive cleanser.
- Do not use the abrasive cleanser on the inside of the WOK.
- Rinse the WOK and dry thoroughly.
- Place the WOK on high heat. Move the WOK, turning it and tilting it up to the rim and back, until the metal turns a blueish-yellowish color.
- Remove the WOK from the stove element.
- Turn the heat down to medium-low.
- Add a thin film of oil (about 1 ½ teaspoons) over the entire inside surface of the WOK.
- There are several ways to do this. One is to use a paper towel to rub the oil over the surface. You may want to use tongs to hold the paper towels. Another way is to use a basting brush for barbecues or any other heat-proof brush to brush on the oil.
- Heat the WOK on medium-low heat for about 10 minutes. Wipe off the oil with another paper towel. There will be black residue on the towel.
- Repeat steps 7 through 9 until no black residue comes up on the paper (about 3 times).
- The WOK is now ready to use.
- Flat bottomed WOKs are better for electric ranges. Round bottomed WOKs can reflect heat back on the heating element, damaging it.
- It is important to thoroughly clean the WOK to remove the manufacturer’s protective coating.
- It is better not to purchase a non-stick carbon steel WOK, as the high heats required for Chinese cooking may damage the non-stick coating. If you do purchase a non-stick WOK, follow the seasoning and cleaning instructions carefully, or you may damage the coating.
7th Step: Cooking with a WOK
Cooking in a WOK is a healthy way of cooking. Usually, only a small amount of oil (1 to 3 spoons) is enough. We should heat the WOK before adding the oil under full burner heat. Pre-heating before adding oil will prevent food from sticking. It will also ensure that the oil does not burn and smoke up our kitchen before the upper surface of the WOK is heated. Most recipes require fresh chopped ginger and garlic to flavor the oil. We should add them once the oil is hot and we might scoop them out before they turn brown or burn So, remember:
- Heat the WOK
- Add the oil
- When oil is hot add the flavorings (garlic/ginger/chilies)
- Start cooking your meal.