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The Ultimate Guide To The World Of Woks

Woks/ By YourCookingPlace.com

When you think back on all the delicious meals you ever ate, there’s a good chance that a wok was used to create many of them. Although this traditionally eastern cooking utensil has its history deeply rooted in the eastern world, they are now used widely by people of all cultures and nationalities, and it’s thanks to its many benefits.

Woks are quite simple in terms of other pieces of cookware but from this base model of what early woks looked like they have managed to grow into something even more versatile. If you had to choose just one piece of cookware to use for the rest of your life without any others, choosing the wok would be a smart decision to make.

In terms of their durability and versatility, you really won’t find anything better. There are now many different types of woks available to suit all kinds of settings, whether you’re cooking for one at home or entertaining large crowds at a backyard part. The trick is finding the right one to suit you, and then letting it take over with the hard work.

 
Yourcookingplacdewok shop
Nowadays, these cooking vessels are capable of doing more than ever, with most people assuming wrongly that they can only stir fry. Modern woks are able to fry, roast, boil, smoke, and more, so investing in just one appliance could be all that your kitchen ever needs. Therefore, the wok has never been more popular and will undoubtedly only continue to grow.


 


In This Article You Will Learn...

What Exactly Is A Wok?

The History of the Wok

The Different Types Of Woks

Various Wok Materials:

Stainless Steel

Cast Iron

Carbon Steel

Copper

Ceramic

Wok Burners

Gas Wok Stoves

Electric Wok Stoves

Induction Wok


What Exactly Is A Wok?

There are many different types of wok available, but at their most basic, a wok refers to a cooking vessel that has a rounded bottom and higher sides. The sides are usually slanting and the pan is quite deep when compared to other styles like frying pans, keeping the ingredients inside and giving it the ability to hold liquids, too.

When cooking a stir fry, the wok is usually the preferred method for doing so, however, they’re much more versatile than that. What makes them so great for the stir fry is the way they evenly distribute the heat around the pan and cook everything to perfection, as well as their high walls that keep everything inside.
The round bottomed wok is the most common and earliest style, but there are now also 
electric ones with a built in heating element and those with a flat bottom used for frying and other cooking methods. Provided they keep the same design with the tall and slanted walls with an even distribution of heat, they can usually be referred to as a wok.

Woks can be heated using a variety of methods, and depending on the material they’re made out of they might even be capable of cooking in an oven. A difference in material can have a huge impact on the function of the wok and what benefits it has for the chef, so it’s one purchase for the kitchen that can take quite a bit of thought.

 


The History of The Wok

Most people know that the wok has a rich history in Asian culture, but aren’t really aware of the exact origins. The popular cooking vessel has quite a complex history with people never really being able to confirm where exactly it was invented and in what year.
 
Yourcookingplacechina wok


Different Types of Woks

There are many different types of woks available, but at their most basic, a wok refers to a cooking vessel that has a rounded bottom and higher sides. The sides are usually slanting and the pan is quite deep when compared to other styles like frying pans, keeping the ingredients inside and giving it the ability to hold liquids, too.

When cooking a stir fry, the wok is usually the preferred method for doing so, however, they’re much more versatile than that. What makes them so great for the stir fry is the way they evenly distribute the heat around the pan and cook everything to perfection, as well as their high walls that keep everything inside.
The round bottomed wok is the most common and earliest style, but there are now also 
electric ones with a built in heating element and those with a flat bottom used for frying and other cooking methods. Provided they keep the same design with the tall and slanted walls with an even distribution of heat, they can usually be referred to as a wok.

Woks can be heated using a variety of methods, and depending on the material they’re made out of they might even be capable of cooking in an oven. A difference in material can have a huge impact on the function of the wok and what benefits it has for the chef, so it’s one purchase for the kitchen that can take quite a bit of thought.

 


Various Wok Materials

Although original woks were believed to have been made from carbon steel, there are now many variations in materials used. Here are some common materials that woks are made from today, and what benefits they have.

Stainless Steel

Although stainless steel has a poorer heat transfer than other types, it’s actually extremely durable. However, you’ll have to buy quality steel in order to get the best benefits from it which can be pricey. People prefer stainless steel for other types of cookware including pots, but for woks, it isn’t as common.

Cast Iron

An extremely popular choice for woks is to use cast iron and again this comes in varying degrees of quality. Cast iron is lightweight which makes it easy to maneuver around the kitchen. Cast iron also has the unique ability to get better with age so it’s great for 
Asian style cuisine, however, it isn’t as strong as some of the other materials.

 
Yourcookingplaceblack wok
Carbon Steel

Considered the gold standard when it comes to woks and the oldest type of material used to make woks. Carbon steel is incredibly strong and is the ideal material for transferring heat which means the entire wok will stay at the perfect temperature. Carbon steel also varies quite a bit in price so there’s no need to spend a lot just to use it.

Copper

Copper has excellent levels of heat conductivity and you’re able to get fairly precise heats over the whole wok. However, because copper is reactive with some foods it’s generally not the best choice for a wok. It’s also expensive and can be quite heavy which means it’s difficult to cook with.

Ceramic

Although not as common, having ceramic even on the inner surface of a wok. The biggest advantage to using ceramic is that it’s naturally non-stick so you don’t have to use any harsh chemicals or non-stick surfaces to help this along. It also cleans quite easily and helps keep the flavors in, however, it’s not usually found anywhere other than some electric woks.

 


Wok Burners

Traditionally, a wok was used to cook over an open flame so many people like to keep this tradition alive. However, there are various other types of woks that work on different types of heats.  There are some that also work on a stove top and can be transferred to the oven, however it isn’t as common.

Gas Wok Stoves

Woks made from cast iron and steel are ideal for a gas stove as it won’t be affected by flame hitting it directly. Usually, a higher quality of material is needed to ensure the even distribution of heat from the one source.

Electric Wok Stoves

This includes both the wok and a heating element that is powered by electricity. By plugging into the wok, the power turns on the heating element and gives it an all over and even distribution of heat. These usually come with a lid, temperature control, and might even feature other accessories.

Induction Wok


These have been designed to work with an induction cooktop so they usually need a flat bottom. This ensures that the heating element comes into contact with the wok’s bottom and allows the heat to distribute evenly.
 
Yourcookingplaceinduction wok


Popular Wok Cooking Methods

When you hear the term wok you usually think of images of stir frying strips of beef and fresh vegetables, but the truth is they’re a lot more versatile than this. When you own a quality wok, there’s really no limit to how you can cook with it, so it’s a seriously worthy investment for any type of kitchen and chefs of all skill levels.

Boiling

Boiling is a method usually reserved for saucepans or other wider cookware, but the wok is actually the perfect size and shape for the job. Due to the slanted edges, you’re able to boil small amounts of rice, pasta, noodles, vegetables, and anything else you need without it bubbling over the top. Use a durable type of wok like cast iron which has the desired thickness.

Deep Frying

Another great way to utilize the high sides of this amazing kitchen vessel is to deep fry inside it. There are plenty of great eastern dishes that use deep frying and plenty of western ones too, and you’ll actually use less oil than you would with other methods. This means a healthier meal and an easy cleanup when you can use just the one item for all of your cooking.

Roasting

While most people assume that you use your wok only on the stovetop there are many styles out there that actually work in the oven as well. Materials like carbon steel are ideal for taking off the stovetop and into the oven, meaning you can roast just about anything you like.
Just be sure your wok features the material all over and doesn’t have plastic or wooden handles that shouldn’t go in the oven.


Pan Frying

To get the crispness that you need for many eastern dishes, you can use your wok to do the perfect pan fry. Some surfaces might work better than others for this and you’ll need to have a good non-stick coating, too. You can pan fry salmon or steak, or just use to crisp up some vegetables for your next meal.

Smoking

Smoking can be easily done with a wok and there’s no need to go outside on the grill or barbecue to do it. You simply line the bottom of the wok with foil, add the smoking ingredients, and then place a rack over the top. The shape of the wok makes it perfect for this method of cooking and it will add more versatility to your cooking repertoire.

 
Yourcookingplacesmoking method
Stewing

Most people make stews in heavy saucepans or in a crockpot without realizing that their wok is the perfect vessel to do so. Thanks to the high sides and round or flat bottom, you can leave a stew cooking for as long as you need. Choose one with a durable material that works on all types of cooktops to ensure it won’t get burned or damaged from hours of cooking.

Stir Frying


By far the most common use for woks in the kitchen is the stir fry, and it’s just what these amazing cooking vessels were made for. Stir frying is made easy with the wok because it has slanted sides, gets an even distribution of heat through it, and keeps the ingredients from sticking.

You’ll never spill food out of the sides even as you vigorously toss it and you’ll help bring out the flavors like no other piece of cookware can.

 


Woks vs Other Cooking Methods

If you’ve never owned a wok before, you might be wondering what exactly makes them so special? Probably the biggest advantage of owning a wok is that it can be used for all kinds of cooking, as displayed earlier, making it a versatile and affordable piece of cookware to purchase.

Buying a quality frying pan means you’ll be able to do a range of things that work on a flat surface like flipping an egg or cooking a steak. However, you can try to make a stir fry on it and find that the ingredients quickly fall out of the sides as you’re tossing it.
The same goes for a saucepan, giving you a place to make stews and cook pasta sauces thanks to its high walls. However, if you try to cook a stir fry on this or try to do any serious cooking you’ll find that only the bottom of it heats up. Therefore, you’ll have uneven ingredients and will likely burn some things while others go cold.
There are plenty of other advantages to owning a wok other than just its versatility, including the affordability, ease of cleaning, and lightweight feel that makes them easy to maneuver.

Even the most amateur chefs will be able to create something delicious and nutritious with a wok which makes it the perfect first kitchen accessory you’d buy for your kitchen, and serious chefs will always find a way to make a challenging meal with it too.

 


The Recent Popularity of Woks

Although woks were first invented thousands of years ago, you might have noticed a spike in popularity in recent years. This largely has to do with people looking to other cultures and cuisines to get inspiration for their foods, with a great appreciation for Asian food in particular.
 
Yourcookingplaceasian cuisine
One thing that seems to be constant in Asian cuisines and other styles of food you make with a wok is their health factor. These dishes use a lot of fresh herbs, spices, vegetables, and lean meats, so they’re extremely nutritious. You have the freedom to mix and match as you choose and you can even use whatever is left in the fridge, usually with delicious results.

Cooking with a wok is especially good for those with limited time, and nowadays it seems that nobody has much of this left. Whether you’re trying to 
make meals for your family in a hurry or just cooking for one, doing so in a wok is easy to do and requires minimal clean up, so it’s got the convenience factor working for it.
As we make a move towards simplicity in our lives and begin to value whole, fresh foods, it seems the wok gains even more attention. If you’re looking for a way to transform your eating habits but still have fun creating food in the kitchen, this is one piece of cookware that will help you change your life for the better.

 


How To Care For & Clean Your Wok

 Just like any good piece of cookware, you need to be committed to putting in the time and effort to keep it clean. Depending on the material used to make your wok, you might even need to season it before use, so check the product description when you do.
This can be done by heating the wok, pouring a little oil into it, allowing it to swirl around and reduce, and then it’s ready to go.
There are some things you can do as a wok owner to ensure it lasts even longer, too. Firstly, you’ll want to avoid using any steel utensils or sharp objects in your wok, so stick to wooden spoons and spatulas.

Secondly, you need to use some with a non-stick surface so that the bottom of the wok stays clean and protected, ensuring it’s able to cook effectively for years to come.

Once the cooking is over, you’ll then need to clean it with care. The best time to start the process is immediately after cooking, giving it a quick rinse under the water. Then, depending on what the instruction manual says and which material it’s made of, you can either hand wash it hot water or place it in the dishwasher.

 


An Eastern Style of Cooking For The Western World

When you start cooking with a wok and quickly realize exactly how much it can bring to your kitchen, you’ll understand why it’s one of the most used cooking vessels around the world. Not only is it capable of making the most amazing and authentic Asian cuisine that tastes like it came fresh from a Chinese restaurant, but it can do just about any other cooking task you wish.
 
Yourcooking placefood in wok
 Just like any good piece of cookware, you need to be committed to putting in the time and effort to keep it clean. Depending on the material used to make your wok, you might even need to season it before use, so check the product description when you do.
This can be done by heating the wok, pouring a little oil into it, allowing it to swirl around and reduce, and then it’s ready to go.
There are some things you can do as a wok owner to ensure it lasts even longer, too. Firstly, you’ll want to avoid using any steel utensils or sharp objects in your wok, so stick to wooden spoons and spatulas.

Secondly, you need to use some with a non-stick surface so that the bottom of the wok stays clean and protected, ensuring it’s able to cook effectively for years to come.

Once the cooking is over, you’ll then need to clean it with care. The best time to start the process is immediately after cooking, giving it a quick rinse under the water. Then, depending on what the instruction manual says and which material it’s made of, you can either hand wash it hot water or place it in the dishwasher.