A Chinese wok is a versatile pan. If you do not already have a wok, it will quickly become your favorite kitchen utensil.
The Chinese wok has a bowl shape that helps distribute heat evenly. You can use less oil when deep frying food. And, it makes it easier to toss your ingredients without spilling anything out onto your stovetop.
Learn how to start cooking with a Chinese wok, along with how to find the best wok for your kitchen.
- 1 Choosing the Best Chinese Wok
- 2 Using Your Chinese Wok for the First Time
- 3 Final Tips for Using a Chinese Wok
Choosing the Best Chinese Wok
When shopping for a Chinese wok, you have several features that you should pay attention to. This includes the following:
• Flat or round-bottom
As with any pot or pan, you can purchase a Chinese wok made from various materials. You can choose an aluminum, stainless steel, copper, or carbon steel wok. Unlike other pots and pans, there is really only one suitable choice for the material – carbon steel.
If you ask any expert cook, they will tell you that a carbon steel wok is far superior to a wok made from a different material. The carbon steel distributes heat better than the other materials. This lets you heat up your food quickly and evenly.
You can also find a carbon steel wok with a non-stick coating. However, the non-stick coating is not really necessary. If you properly season a wok, your food should not stick to it. Also, non-stick coatings are not really suitable for carbon steel.
Flat or Round-Bottom
For most kitchens, you will want a flat-bottom wok. The round bottom wok can reflect heat back onto the cooking surface, which may result in damage to your stovetop. For a typical western electric range, you should choose a flat-bottom Chinese wok.
Traditionally, the Chinese wok would have two metal handles along the sides. In recent years, this has been replaced with a long wooden handle, similar to a skillet. This makes it easier to tilt and toss your food when cooking stir-fry.
In case you want to cook something in your oven, your wok will likely have a small handle opposite the long handle. This allows you to still remove the wok from your oven without much difficulty.
Another feature to consider is the size of the wok. You can find this cooking utensil available in a wide range of sizes. In Chinese restaurants, it is not uncommon to have a wok that is a couple of feet across. Though, for your home kitchen, you will likely want a smaller wok.
Consider the types of foods you are going to be cooking and the number of servings. The average size is 14-inches. Though, you can also find plenty of 12 and 16-inch varieties.
Think about these features when choosing your wok. You will likely want a carbon steel, flat-bottom wok with a long handle and a small helper handle. The average size is 14-inches and it should not have a non-stick surface. Though, the choice is yours to make.
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Using Your Chinese Wok for the First Time
The first time that you use your wok, you are going to need to season it. This removes any oil that was placed on the wok during the manufacturing process to prevent rust. You are essentially going to replace this oil with a light coating of cooking oil.
If you properly care for your carbon steel wok, it should be able to last a lifetime. Use the following steps to season your wok before use:
• Step 1 – Wash the wok
• Step 2 – Heat the wok over high heat
• Step 3 – Oil the wok
• Step 4 – Heat the wok over medium-low heat
• Step 5 – Wipe the wok with a paper towel
Step 1 – Wash the Wok
First, you should wash the Chinese wok in hot water. Use a small amount of dish soap and a scrubby pad. Do not use any abrasive cleaners inside the wok. After washing the wok, thoroughly rinse it and then allow it to dry.
Step 2 – Heat the Wok Over High Heat
Place the wok on your stove top over high heat. As the wok heats, you should turn it and tilt it until the metal begins to turn a blueish-yellowish hue. Once this occurs, remove the wok from the heat. Turn the stovetop down to medium-low heat.
Step 3 – Oil the Wok
Place about 1 ½-teaspoons of oil in the wok. Tilt the wok until the entire inside surface is coated in oil. You may need help spreading the oil. One option is to use a paper towel. Gently rub the oil across the interior surface of the wok. You could also use a basting brush to brush the oil onto the surface.
Step 4 – Heat the Wok Over Medium-Low Heat
Place the Chinese wok on the stovetop set to medium-low heat. Heat for about 10 minutes and then remove from the heat.
Step 5 – Wipe the Wok with a Paper Towel
Use a paper towel to wipe the oil from the Chinese wok. You should see a black residue on the paper towel.
You will then repeat steps 3 through 5 again. Repeat these steps of adding oil, heating the wok, and wiping with a paper towel. Each time, you should see less of the black residue on your paper towel. After about 3 times, you should stop seeing the black residue. Your wok is now ready for cooking.
Final Tips for Using a Chinese Wok
If you decide to purchase a non-stick wok, you should make sure that you properly season and clean your wok to protect the non-stick coating. For a carbon steel Chinese wok, you should season before use to remove the protective oil and then use the recommended cleaning instructions.
A Chinese wok can be used for more than just cooking stir-fry. You can prepare many of your favorite dishes in your wok, including egg meals, bacon, sausage, and other meats. You can sear vegetables and heat up your side dishes. The Chinese wok really is a versatile cooking utensil.