Many people think of woks are only good for preparing Chinese dishes. However, woks are a practical way to make healthy and fresh-tasting stir-fry and vegetables. These tips on how to choose a wok will help you find a great piece of cookware that you’ll use over and over again.
Why Are Woks Better Than Frying Pans?
The traditional wok has a rounded bottom and flared sides that allow food to be pushed up and away from the heat. This allows fast-cooking items to be kept farther from the heat so that nothing is burned or undercooked. Pushing the food up the sides of the wok also allows the cooking oil to drain away. Because your food doesn’t bathe in oil, wok cooking is healthier.
What is the Perfect Wok Made Of?
Like most pieces of cookware, the metal that your wok is made from will have a dramatic effect on both its price and its effectiveness. Some like woks with non-stick aluminum woks because the surface prevents sticking and is easy to clean. However, non-stick pans make it more difficult to keep the food on the sides, and they lose some of the traditional seared flavor. Aluminum also does not hold up well under the high temperatures used for wok cooking.
The traditional wok was made from cast iron, which remains a good choice. Cast iron retains heat well, and will distribute that heat along the sides of the pan. However, cast iron is also very heavy, making it unpopular with some cooks.
Another great choice of wok material is carbon steel. Carbon steel is durable, distributes heat well, and is lighter than cast iron.
Are Round-Bottomed or Flat-Bottomed Woks Better?
The traditional round-bottomed wok allows a pool of oil to form where food can be quickly seared and then moved to the side. The disadvantage is that the round bottom is unstable on electric burners. Many western woks have flat bottoms to accommodate stoves. In order to get the advantages of a round-bottomed wok on an electric stove, you can also use a wok ring which lifts the pan above the burner and holds it steady as you cook.
Handles for Woks
Traditional woks have two small, round handles on opposite sides of the pan. While this was convenient for lifting a wok from an old-fashioned Chinese wood oven, the small handles are not as convenient when tossing food during cooking. You will need to use a towel or other hand protection if your wok has small handles.
More practical for modern-day cooking is a long, sturdy wok handle with a small “helper” handle opposite.
Woks are great cookware to own whether you plan on making Chinese meals or just cooking delicious meats and vegetables. By following these tips, you can buy a great wok that will last for many years.