Outdoor Wok

The Wonders of Woks

by

Tamara
April 4, 2022
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If you’re looking for a versatile and affordable kitchen tool, you should definitely consider getting a wok! People have been using woks for over 3,000 years to cook food in all sorts of ways. Woks originated in China and have been a staple of Chinese cooking ever since, but today woks are used all over the world in different cuisines, and they can be used for a variety of purposes. In this blog post, we will discuss the wonders of woks and why you should consider getting one for your home kitchen. We’ll also give you some tips on how to use a wok properly so that you can create delicious meals with ease!

What is a Wok?

A wok is a deep, round-bottomed cooking vessel that has been used for millennia in Asia. Woks are made of a single piece of metal and forged in the shape of a shallow bowl. A wok can refer to any size cooking pan in the traditional shape, woks designed for home use are usually 12″ – 14″, but chefs can use commercial woks in professional kitchens that can be as large as 32″!

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Key Characteristics of Woks

Here are the key things that make a wok a wok:

  • Thin Metal Construction – Thin metal construction was a necessity in ancient societies that used the wok. Due to the scarcity of fuel for sustaining fires is was essential to have a tool that could heat food quickly. Woks are designed to fit this need as heat will evenly disperse throughout the entire pan very quickly which was useful when cooking with limited fuel. Today, the benefit is that woks are very receptive to changes in heat input, meaning you can control how quickly everything cooks much more easily than you can with other materials like cast iron.
  • Convex Shallow Bowl Shape – The shape of a wok is pretty simple, this again goes back to its ancient origins. Woks were supposed to be effective and cheap, and the simple design provided a cost-effective yet elegant solution for everyday life.

What can you use a Wok For?

Woks are perfect for stir-frying, as the shape of the wok allows food to cook quickly and evenly. The gently sloped sides also allow the chef to control how quickly the various items in the wok cook; items kept near the bottom will capture the majority of the heat and continue to cook while items that have finished cooking can be moved up the sides to keep them warm.

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Wok cooking can refer to steaming, braising, and deep-frying, although you need a few attachments to make these work, they are definitely worth your time!

How to Use a Wok

Stir-Frying with a Wok

This is after all, why you bought a wok in the first place. Stir-frying is one of the most popular ways to cook with a wok. It’s a pretty simple 5-step process no matter what’s in your stir fry!

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  1. Heat the wok and add a little cold cooking oil to prevent the food from sticking.
  2. Add spices and aromatics to the hot wok, garlic and ginger are some of my favorites and they taste excellently stir-fried.
  3. Add long-cooking ingredients, like proteins or thick vegetables.
  4. Add short-cooking ingredients, like leafy greens, peas, etc.
  5. Add sauce and garnishes!

Deep Frying with a Wok

Deep frying in a wok is much easier than using a regular pot because the convex shape of the wok provides an extra catch for the oil that inevitably bubbles out. This will keep your stovetop and counters much cleaner! You’ll also need less oil than a conventional pot due to the shallow bottom, which means less cleanup and cheaper cooking.

You’ll need a spider strainer but other than that it’s pretty simple. Just add the oil and heat to the recipe instructions! Remember your safety basics when cooking with oil though.

  • Never walk away from a pan with oil.
  • Always keep a lid nearby.

Steaming with a Wok

Woks’ wide openings make them perfect as the bottom vessel for steaming – if you can fit it in the top of the wok then you can steam it! Bamboo steamers are popular all over, but regular steaming baskets that you probably already have in your kitchen work just as well.

The main trick with steaming is getting the water level and heat just right, but woks make this as easy as possible because they react quickly to changes in temperature, either giving up the heat or absorbing it as you adjust your stove’s level so you can regulate the steam cooking to your preferences.

Brasing with a Wok

Traditional braises require slow cooking over a long time, but with a wok, you can get the advantages of easily searing your meat over high heat and if you choose to cook the braise without a lid, you can reduce the total liquid amount in the final dish.

Optionally you can pre-cook some of your ingredients, but after that, it all comes down to picking your aromatics and base and leaving it to simmer over low heat long enough to be perfectly tender.

What are Woks Made Out Of? Which is the Best Type?

Like many pieces of cookware, woks can be produced in a variety of materials. However, there are four commonly used construction methods that each have their tradeoffs. We’ll examine each below;

Cast Iron

Cast iron woks are either thin and frail due to the material properties of cast iron, or they are excessively thick which makes the cast iron version of a wok unsuitable for cooking for the majority of people.

Aluminum & Non-Stick

These have become more popular lately, but aluminum and non-stick pans will not add the browning effect on the food as well as other types. Aluminum is a good material for lids, but not for the pan.

vegetables, vegetable pan, carrots

Carbon Steel

You may want to read my post all about carbon steel. As long as you don’t cook acidic ingredients, like tomato sauce, in your wok carbon steel woks are the best choice. Carbon steel is strong and lightweight, which makes it perfect for a single-piece pan since it won’t be damaged if you accidentally drop it and almost everyone can easily use it to cook stir fry and stir around the ingredients in the classic wok style!

My Favorite Wok

Yosukata Carbon Steel Wok

Looking for a lightweight carbon steel wok that is pre-seasoned and ready to use? Look no further than the Yosukata Carbon Steel Wok! This wok has a flat bottom shape so it can be used on any surface – no stand required! The beechwood handle makes it easy to cook with, and because it’s pre-seasoned it will be almost non-stick right out of the box! This basic carbon steel wok is everything you need and nothing you don’t.

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How to Season a Wok

Seasoning a carbon steel wok or cast iron wok will be the same as a regular cast iron pot or carbon steel skillet. I’ve covered this in my post on carbon steel but the simple answer is to heat the wok over medium heat and then cover it with a thin coat of canola oil, or another high smoke point cooking oil, and place it inside the oven at 400 degrees for about an hour. It’s super simple so don’t be intimidated. The entire process takes about 15 minutes of work to get an amazing non-stick surface with careful maintenance that any home cook can do.

Essential Wok Accessories

To get the most out of your wok, you might need a few kitchen gadgets, but you likely already have some of them around in your kitchen drawers somewhere or you might be able to improvise.

Wok Ring

A wok ring will only be worth it if you have a round-bottomed wok. If you have a flat bottom wok then you don’t need one, because the wok will stay upright by itself!

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Steam Basket

You’ll need a Steam Basket to hold vegetables for steaming safely above the boiling water. I like this one because of the silicone pads on the stand which prevent scratching the bottoms of my pots.

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Spider Strainers

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Spider strainers are a great replacement for regular colanders because they are huge space savers, well actually they’re pretty small. You can use a spider strainer in place of your colander for straining pasta, but you can also use it for boling or to deep fry vegetables in your wok (although I recommend air frying).

Wrap Up

I hope you enjoyed learning about wok cooking techniques and the few tricks I’ve learned to get the most out of your wok. Let me know if you have any questions or comments below, and please share because discovering the magic of cooking techniques that you can do much more easily with a wok than with a frying pan has been a huge time saver for me and I’m sure I’m not the only one!

Sources

Tamara

Tamara is an avid foodie and successful restaurateur. She has dedicated a large chunk of her life to researching healthy food recipes and diet plans, and also teaching people how to improve their eating habits. Using Eatomology, Tamara shares the very best diet plans, cookbooks, and more. Also, for those on a quest to improve their kitchen, Tamara shares some awesome and high-quality kitchen equipment recommendations as well as buying guides on her website.