You can bake delicious french fries at home in a large wok, but that’s just the beginning. Professionals know that pans are also suitable for many cooking techniques, from steaming dumplings and frying bacon and steaks to making scrambled eggs and even popcorn. The bottom line is that a good wok is inexpensive and you will use it often if you buy a wok with the right features that make it comfortable and durable. Ultimately, the material, size and shape determine its characteristics.
Looking to add this pan to your cookware arsenal? We spoke to Grace Young, a Chinese-American food historian and author of numerous cookbooks, including Wok Breath and Saute to Finish, to explain what to look for when writing quality copy.
You don’t need to invest a lot of money to buy a quality wok. In fact, the skillet Young recommends to most American home cooks is only $35. You can find it at KK Discount either in their store in Chinatown, NY or on their website.
So what makes this iteration the best for the home cook? It has all the necessary characteristics. It is made from thick raw carbon steel and measures 14″W x 4″H with a flat bottom. Here we explain why these qualities are important.
Quality woks are made from carbon steel or cast iron. Carbon steel is best – it is flexible and light, heats up and cools down faster than cast iron.
Forged carbon steel is more expensive, but stronger and more durable. Some say the hammer also helps the ingredients adhere better to the sides of the pot, which is helpful when stir-frying, Yang said. Today, forged woks are usually machine-made in factories, but some manufacturers, such as Eric Newquist of Newquist Forge, continue to make custom woks from hand-forged carbon steel the old fashioned way.
Wok pans are traditionally made from cast iron, which develops a beautiful patina over time, but cast iron wok pans are only suitable for those who have used them on high-temperature semi-professional gas stoves like Wolf or Viking stoves, Yang said. . Cast iron woks cool more slowly than carbon steel iterations; this means you should put the food on your plates as soon as it’s finished cooking to make sure it doesn’t overcook.
If you want to go the cast iron route, Yang recommends using Chinese-made cast iron—American-made cast iron is too heavy for stir-frying. Cast iron pans made in China are lighter, but also more brittle and prone to cracking if mishandled. However, “he got an incredible burn,” Young says. For a traditional Chinese round-bottomed cast-iron wok, check out this wok at the Wok Shop in San Francisco’s Chinatown, Yang adds.
What to avoid? Don’t buy a non-stick wok. Stir frying requires very high temperatures, which can destroy these coatings, including some ceramic coatings. A stainless steel wok is also not the best choice, it is only suitable for steaming, poaching or poaching (not stewing).
Don’t bother buying a pre-seasoned wok – it’s not necessary. “Seasoning your own is easy, and food in a carbon steel skillet with natural seasonings tastes much better,” Yang says. “You get the best brand.”
It’s that simple: the ideal wok for home use is 14 inches in diameter. Anything larger will not be hot enough and will be too heavy, while anything smaller will fill up the food and it won’t cook properly. “It turns the roast into a soggy stew,” Young says. In terms of height, most woks have a standard height of 4 inches.
Most home cooks should choose a saute pan, specifically a carbon steel saute pan with a long handle and a short side handle (both made from wood). This is the type of wok Young uses at home; she always skips using the wok burner on her stove (she says that no matter what wok you have, it just won’t produce enough heat).
These pots (also needed for induction cookers) are best suited for most people’s kitchen stoves, both electric and gas. If you have an electric or induction hob, be aware that a perfectly flat wok bottom may warp slightly when first heated. “If it wobbles, you might have to hold the handle at an angle to get a good grip, or even expose it to heat,” Young said.
To avoid this, choose a wok with a flat bottom made of cast iron. Some have an enamel bottom for more even heat distribution, like this one from The Wok Shop. But remember: any cast iron wok is bulky and awkward to use and is best left to experienced cooks.
If you have a semi-professional gas stove, you might consider a round-bottomed wok, but you’ll need high-fire cooking experience. Your burners may produce enough heat (15,000 to 18,000 BTUs), but you probably won’t use them at full blast very often. This is why Young only recommends round-bottomed woks for more experienced cooks. (If you’re one of them, be sure to wrap the wooden handles in aluminum foil so you don’t burn them.)
Young says that when buying a wok, buy a lid. It should fit snugly on top, so you want it to be smaller in diameter (about 1 inch smaller). You may need to try several wok lids before you find the one that works best for you. Young recommends using a domed lid over the pan because the former won’t drip as much condensation onto the food, which is an important consideration if you’re using the pan for steaming – the pot lid can make steamed dumplings soggy.
“I haven’t been able to find good Chinese spatulas for years,” Yang said. “I have 10 plus!” She thinks an old-fashioned metal pancake or fish spatula works best; the thin metal edge allows you to slide it along the sides and bottom of the wok and effectively turn the food.
Post time: Jun-07-2023