A wok is a kitchen applicant that traces its origin in China. They are primarily round-bottomed with a high wall. Nowadays, the flat bottomed ones are increasingly gaining popularity due to their wide standard varieties—the other most prominent feature the handles, which are usually two.
Woks are efficient to use because of their materials that enable the distribution of heat and their unique design the concave shape, which enables tossing foods during stir-frying simple. In addition, a wok ensures that everything in the pan is well cooked.
You can use a wok for boiling food. This is because of the concave shape and also for deep-frying foods and can further be used in smoking food such as meat and cheese when paired with wooden chips and rack.
Suppose you want a great tool that will make your weeknight meals flavorable and fast use a wok. The best thing about it is that you only need to learn a few things to get on board.
So here is a guide for you regarding anything you need to know about a wok and how to cook with it and make it your kitchen best buddy.
The ten directives to cooking with a wok
Here are the vital components of cooking with a wok and also what you need to consider for your wok while purchasing it. Stay tuned
1. Get the best wok for you
When you are cooking using a wok, you also have to consider the kind of cooker or stove you are using.
For instance, if you are using the gas-flamed cookers, You should use the traditional round-bottomed wok, and if you are using an electric cooker, you can use the one that is flat at the base.
You can have woks with different materials like the Chinese ones that can quickly heat up and relaxed.
The handles also come in different forms like those short and the long ones, which is easy to toss around the food, while other woks come with two handles.
2. Use the right oil
While using a wok, it is also essential to consider the oil that you use. If you crave something with a high smoke point, you can endeavor to use the groundnuts. You can also use rapeseed is also good.
3. Practice the toss
Once the food is ready, put the wok aside and take the handle and toss the food towards you. This enables you to cook food faster.
For beginners, you can choose to use salads. You can do it either off or on heat. Also, make sure not to use too much food or oil when you feel the need to toss
4. Worry not about wok care
A wok is said to be reliable in terms of care whichever way you choose to care for it may be in terms of how best to clean it, give it a good scrub, then heat the wok, making sure it is hot, then use a paper towel to rub it and spread some oil on it and heat it again then leaves it to cool.
When you see it getting rusty, wipe away the rust with a wire and add some oil.
5. Take note of the cooking rates.
You want to avoid a situation whereby you have two different ingredients, and one is either undercooked or overcooked.
The best way to go about ingredients that cook in different timings is to cook them separately, and then toward the end, you can mix them. An example of your two ingredients could be vegetables and pork.
For a start-up, stir fry the pork until they are ready, then cook the vegetables. Once they are ready, you can incorporate them.
6. Avoid doubling the quantity.
While stir-frying your food, it is better not to double the recipe because you won’t get the proper searing heat. Further, the food will contain too much liquid, in that case interfering with the quality of the food.
If possible, stir-fry the food twice in less amount or do different dishes. This makes it less tedious if you prepare dinner for a friend. Don’t make all your ingredients stir-fry, and you can prepare cold dishes, stew, and rice.
7. Must have a scoop brush: ladle, and a slotted spoon.
In any Chinese home, you must find a spatula wok with a very long handle, usually an essential tool for scooping the base of the wok while stir-frying.
You will also find a Chinese spoon in Chinese homes that can be used for mixing sauces before you incorporate it into the wok or for scooping water oil or stock.
A scoop with holes is best for removing food in oil, and a brush comes in handy while cleaning the pan, especially while it’s still scorching.
8. Accentuate the heat
To avoid extra drama, extra heat, or smoke, get the wok ready by making it hot and ensuring the season. Needless to say that I like a little bit of everything, which all makes cooking adventurous.
Do not expose the oil to too much heat before adding aromatics. After your wok is heated, you can now add oil and all the three aromatics like garlic and chilies. This way, you can get all the flavors without burning them.
9. Use other techniques of heating other than stir-frying.
You can use the wok similarly in everything, not only in stir-frying. Deep-frying in wok essentially uses less oil than in stir-frying.
You can also use a bamboo steamer where you put little water at the base of the wok and steam, or you can use a metal trivet where you put a dish on the trivet and cover using a wok lid.
Finally, use it as a smoker where you cover the base of the wok with layers of foil, then add sugar, flour, and tea leaves. Heat it until the sugar is burning and everything seems hot, put the food on a rack and lid on, and walah, you do the smoking.
10. Season before you cook
Any time you have to stir fry your food, remembers to add some oil to the pan. It is essential to make sure that your chicken does not remain stuck to the pan, and also, the food might not burn in this case, hence not interfering with the quality of the food being prepared.
Oil makes it easy for you to swirl the food around and makes the cooking surface of the wok get enough heat to make the food smoking hot. You can transfer the ingredients to a heat-resistant container and place fresh oil for cooking.
Different techniques to use while cooking with a wok
A wok is predominantly used for stir-frying; however, it can accommodate a lot more other techniques due to its artificial design.
For instance, it is deep; hence, it can be used in boiling water, and if it comes with a lid, it can be used for particular steam food like vegetables and seafood. It can also be used during deep frying.
Stir-frying using a wok
We all understand how a wok is a kitchen applicant who must mostly find its place in the kitchen. Of Corse, when you mention a wok, the first thing that comes to mind is the stir-frying as the two seem inseparable a presume they are like twins. Because of its physical appearance, a wok makes it very easy to flop and flip food quickly because of the sloped sides.
The materials used in making the wok (carbon steel) make it perfect for retaining the heat of the food even during tossing and thus gives it an additional charred flavor. In addition, the vaporized oil generate during heat will burn as it is tossed to heat. This creates tenderness to meat and crispy vegetables and generally smoky flavor.
During stir-frying, there are several things you need to consider
- Cut the food you are going to cook in uniform pieces that means whatever it is that you will be stir-frying typically needs to be cut into pieces it could be carrots, potatoes, and onions. You might also have to omit cutting long beans and string beans.
- When it comes to protein, you may want to be extra cautious not to overcook proteins.
- To ensure that every ingredient that is being stir-fried has been evenly cooked, you have to cook them in batches and use low heat. This is to avoid reducing the temperature of the pan if the food is all placed at once. In addition, it further reduces the chances of food steaming.
- During stir-frying use, a metal wok since a wooden wok won’t get under the ingredients properly.
- You will know The wok is inflamed when the oil smokes are vigorous when it hits the pan.
steaming is simply placing food on already boiled water, and then you cover it with a lid. As the water evaporates, it creates steam which then transfers heat to the food. Steaming due to its density, it looks far better and gentle.
Steaming can go concurrently with stir-frying, as you can use steaming when you don’t need to stir-fry. The best steamer for this could be a bamboo steamer. You can also use a metal steamer insert. You can also use the aluminum used when packaging your takeout and use it to handle the food above the water.
However, I highly recommend the bamboo skewer as it has a couple of advantages that you might find helpful, including
- The steamer trays are made to easily stack multiple foods that you wish to steam simultaneously over the same wok.
- The bamboo skewer comes with its original lid, which is technically easier to clean than the large lid that comes with the wok.
- The traditional Chinese steamers created from bamboo are essentially efficient, cheap, and perfectly designed to do the job.
- For safety and easy transfer, I recommend using the retriever tongs so that while adding and removing the food, you may not get burnt in the process by the hot steam.
How to steam your food?
- Take a small amount of water and add to the wok. Preferably put the water up to the bottom where the steamer reaches. Depending on the sizes, for a small 6 inch, you require a cup of water, but for a 12inch you will require three or more cups
- you fast use a lot of heat just so that the water can boil, then reduce the heat to allow time for the food to simmer.
- You find vegetables are super easy to steam. You only need to set them in a thin layer, cover them and place them in the wok and steam.
- Proteins can equally be streamed directly. You only need to arrange the food in a single layer then give the proteins space between the pieces to enable steam circulation.
If you are fun of deep-fried foods, then using a wok should not be a huddle for you. a wok perfectly excels at deep frying. When you have to compare deep frying in a wok and deep-frying in a cast iron pot, you find that using a wok is far much efficient and easy to work with.
The only downside of a wok is that of the slope sides that might need you to use more oil. But I still would recommend any time.
But then the sides of the slopes make it easier for you to handle the tools like chopsticks in different positions that enhance frying food.
Also, when you are pouring out the oil or disposing of it off, it is more convenient to use a wok because it does not spill, and there is a likelihood that the oil might not boil over during frying.
In essence, you can decide to use stir-frying or steaming, but the best part of using a wok during deep frying is that you reduce too much mess. In addition, deep-frying using a wok generally makes cooking items like chicken appealing.
- When deep-frying, you should never fill the wok more than half with the oil.
- Temperatures have to be favorable and well monitored; hence use a deep-fry thermometer to check the oil temperature constantly.
- Make sure you have thoroughly dried the food to be fried as any moisture will make the oil splatter
- Place the food items you have one at a time to not stick to each other and cause food to fry unevenly.
Smoke food using a wok
Smoking is known to be the most exciting and native way when It comes to ok cooking techniques. Smoking using a wok is an easy to do cooking with any lightly smoked foods like chicken or fish fillets. All you need is enough aluminum foil to line your wok with this to make sure that the food being burnt dies not to interfere with the pan’s seasoning.
Turn on the flame and let the food at the bottom of the wok begin to smoke. Next, take a new sheet of paper and seal up the whole food. Give it 30 minutes; that should be enough to generate some amount of smoky flavor.
- Thoroughly clean your wok before you cook on it to avoid leftover food that may stick on the wok and, of course, the food you are preparing to stick and eventually burn.
- Do not smoke the food for too long, if anything. You have to time it; otherwise, too much smoke might interfere with the flavors, making it bitter.
Variety of oils to use when cooking using a wok
It is essential to use the correct type of oil while using a wok. Here is a guide to inform you on what type of oil to use while using a wok.
- Select the type of oil that has a high smoking point
- Select oil that can withstand high temperatures, i.e., 400 degrees, initially before they start smoking
Using oil with a low smoking point intentionally makes you risk burning the oil and tarnishing the flavor and the whole dish.
Here is some oil you can use
- Avocado oil
Avocado has a fresh and mild flavor and also has lots of monounsaturated fats that are perfect for handling high temperatures of up to 500 degrees. It is suitable for foods that need stir-frying.
- Peanut oil.
It is said to have the perfect flavor for wok ingredients since it has a nutty and delicate peanut flavor. this is especially great with ingredients that are of Chinese origin. Its smoking point is 450 degrees. Peanut oil is best used in bits as it expires quickly. Hence you have to buy in small amounts, but if you are preparing Chinese or Thai Food within a month, then you can buy in large quantities.
- Vegetable /Cannoli oil
Vegetable oil is most reasonably priced hence convenient for use. And the avocados are all rounded oils that can work with a wok. They can smoke to a temperature of 400 degrees, and they can last longer in your pantry without spoiling. Vegetable oil can be used in baking and a lot of other cooking that requires high heat.
- Grapeseed oil
It has a fresh neutral, and clean flavor; it can also hold up temperatures of up to 400 degrees. It is an all-purpose cooking oil as you can use it in almost anything that you are preparing.
Advantages of using a wok
A wok also has advantages of using it here is how.
- It is healthy
Generally, the curved wok shape impact how the food being cooked will turn out. Hence the curved nature requires you to use a little oil, making it quite the healthier option. Food can be pushed aside to drain all the oil before serving. The sides also give room to cook many foods without soaking the food in the oil.
- Cooking evenly
The curved nature of the wok enables it to be a piece of ideal kitchen equipment for cooking food as the heat is uniformly dispersed to the food. It is a feature that enables food such as vegetables and meat to be cooked evenly. In addition, you can decide to place the things that take longer to cook on the lower side of the wok until it is halfway done, then place all the others.
- Provide for a variety of uses
Compared to a traditional frying pan, a wok has so many uses due to its curvy shape. For example, you can use water for boiling food and also add oil to do deep frying. Use wok also in smoking meat or cheese.
Recipes that you can cook in the wok
Kung pao cauliflower – when cooking cauliflower in a wok, you will know it’s ready when it is tender and has soaked up all the rich sauce.
Thai chicken peanut noodles- if you are interested in a dinner that can be on the table in the next 20minutes, stick to this saucy Thai chicken noodles. made with ramen noodles and coated with peanut sauce for a glamourous diner
Honey garlic chicken fried ice – make honey garlic chicken fried rice at home and enjoy the vast flavor that comes with it. I am sure you would not want to eat the takeouts again once you prepare this recipe.
Others include the sesame, garlic, ramen stir fry, and the Korean chicken lettuce wraps.
What to inform your choice of a wok
When going to purchase a good wok, there are several things you have to consider before you buy one. Here is a list of what to check out for.
1. Flat bottomed
Choose a wok with a flat bottom and curved sides, and this is the best to use at home simply because the flat bottom allows you to maximize the ingredients that can fit on the hottest part of the wok. Most restaurants will tend to use a rounded wok. This applies to the street food as well that is because they get sufficient heat that can reach the food and cook them in large numbers.
2. Carbon steel
It is the best material for home use as it is light in weight. It also conducts heat uniformly and further after seasoning and using it creates a natural non-stick surface which is essential in preventing your food from being burnt.
3. 12-14 inches
This is arguably the best size of the wok to be used for any kitchen at home. A 12 or 14-inch wok is the perfect size to accommodate a meal meant for four people. The other notable and best thing about a wok is that the 12 or 14-inch wok does not hinder how you handle it since it is flexible.
4. Two handles
Any work that you endeavor to buy must have two handles. The handles could be the same in size, or in other instances, one handle is short while the other is long. This is the most prominently used wok at home. The short is meant to ease picking it up, while the long one makes it flexible to move around instead turn food around during cooking while keeping your hands at a safe distance.
How to prepare wok for cooking?
Once you have purchased a wok, you have to prepare it for cooking. The most significant steps are to clean it, dry it then season it. Below are the steps you need to take to ensure that the wok is ready for any recipe.
- Washing the wok is the initial step after purchasing it. This is important so that you can remove the factory coating. It would be best to have hot water and dish soap together with a textured sponge or a ball of steel wool during washing. Since the wok is not seasoned, it is mainly coated with oil in the factories until it is sold hence the need to wash it out.
- Dry the wok. You can use a clean and dry kitchen towel to wipe out the water before you start using it or put it on a dish rack to dry if you are not in a hurry.
- Take a paper towel or a dishtowel and use it to spread cooking oil over the entire inner surface of the wok.
- Turn on a burner and place the wok over the burner to expose it to heat. Take time to heat the wok slowly while rotating it to make sure the entire surface is exposed to heat.
- Please turn off the burner and set the wok aside to allow it to cool.
- After it is completely cool, wipe the wok to remove any residue
- Take a spoon of vegetable oil, drizzle it on the inside part of the wok, and spread it so that it reaches the edges and corners. You can then store it.
How to season a wok?
The more you use a wok, the better it becomes in terms of seasoning and also forming non-stick. To maintain seasoning, you need to keep the inside part of the wok after constantly washing dry with a paper towel or a dishtowel and equally part it with some oil before the following recipe is set.
You will notice that the carbon steel changes its shiny color to lightly brown then to a beautiful black color when you do this frequently. When a dark surface is achieved, that means the seasoning of the wok is complete.
Some prefer not to wash the wok with soap and to minimize the rate of water exposure. I prefer to wash my wok with soap and scrub it with a sponge and rinse it with water as frequently as I use it, and the good thing is it does not interfere with the wok. It works great and makes the wok have a non-stick surface. It is imperative to dry the pan immediately after washing with a towel and drizzle some oil.
Steps to take in cooking ingredients using a wok
In professional kitchens, you might see the chefs inserting all the ingredients at once on the wok and cook within a short period, then serve the dish because they use stoves and woks with high heating capacity. Unfortunately, such kinds of stoves and woks cannot be found at home.
you can achieve cooking a variety of ingredients while at home by using the wok by following this simple steps
1. Heat the oil
Please turn on the burner and place your wok on the burner and let it heat in medium heat to high once the wok is ready hot drizzle the amount of oil that you need one tablespoon and rotate the oil, so it touches every corner of the wok.
2. Add the proteins
Take The proteins (could be chicken, beef, pork, shrimp, and tofu) and add them to the oil. Also, make sure that you have dried the proteins before inserting them into the wok to enhance their searing ability. Give the protein a few minutes before flipping on the other side using a spatula. Once it’s ready, stir the protein until it is nearly cooked, then season it with salt and transfer to a plate.
3. Cook the aromatics
Add a tablespoon of cooking oil in a medium to high heat in the wok, then add your aromatics, which should be any spice ranging from garlic, chilies, ginger, and shallots. Stir the spices for 1 minute, making sure they have completely blended with the oil.
4. Cook vegetables
Vegetables are cooked last because they take the shortest time to be ready. So add the vegetables to the aromatics and stir them frequently as they cook. You can shake the wok or toss the vegetables into the air. If you notice that the wok starts to burn while cooking or the vegetables become dry, you can add one tablespoon of water.
5. Add the protein rice and sauce.
Once the vegetables are fully cooked, take the proteins first and add them to the vegetables, then take the sauce and add to the vegetables from the sides. This increases the rate of heating before reaching down. Then add fried rice or another grain. Toss everything until it is cooked or at least the food is glazed in the sauce.