Any Chinese chef worth their salt knows the importance of owning and cooking with a good quality wok. You might have heard of the wok from reading about stir-frying- after all, the wok is the best tool for getting that perfect stir-fried flavour. Even though stir-frying is the wok’s claim to fame, this unlikely hunk of metal is quite possibly the most versatile of all cooking implements. From stir-frying and braising, to deep frying and even baking, the wok can do it all.
Choosing the Right Wok
Once you’ve come to the decision to add a wok to your kitchen arsenal, you’ll want to shop around to find the right one for you. Woks come in all shapes and sizes but traditionally, woks were heavy giants- round-bottomed and made of iron to be used with traditional Chinese wood stoves. Today woks are made from iron, carbon steel, aluminium, copper, stainless steel, each with their own advantages and disadvantages, but find one that works best in your kitchen.
Besides type of metal, there have been several other innovative changes that made the wok more compatible with modern ranges. The traditional round-bottomed wok works great with a gas stove! However, for usage with electric and conduction range, you would need a wok ring or run the risk of damaging your range.
Although wok rings allow even balance over the heat source, using a round-bottomed wok with a wok ring on electric or conduction stovetops has the disadvantage of no direct contact with the heat source. Your best option if your kitchen has an electric or conduction range is a flat-bottomed wok.
What can I cook in a wok?
Regardless of heat source, everything from meat to veggies cooks tremendously quickly with minimal oil – all while the curved sides and large surface area keep the food moving and prevent burning. Woks are also especially great for flash frying meat before braising- another commonly used Chinese technique. This bowl-shaped apparatus can also be used to deep-fry wontons or spring rolls. Not to mention braising ducks or spare ribs. If it comes with a lid, woks can also be used to steam whole fish or dumplings. Woks with handles that are heat-resistant can even be used for baking cakes! The possibilities with the wok are endless.
What cuisines can I cook in a wok?
Of course, while Chinese cooking is the most associated with wok cooking, the other most notable cuisine that uses woks is Thai cuisine. However, when it comes down to it, because of it’s sheer versatility, you can cook most cuisines in a wok, even Western. The possibilities are endless!