If you want to prepare quick meals, adding a wok to your kitchen cookware is a smart move! In Asia, all main recipes are prepared in one and these cuisines are becoming more and more popular around the world. Besides the popularity of Asian food people have less time which makes the wok an essential piece of time saving cookware.
We do make time to prepare meals, but we often use this tool to make ‘one pot’ recipes, as well as steamed and stir-fried dishes. If you’re not yet familiar with wok skills, you are in the right place to learn how to choose and use a wok.
How to choose a wok
A good wok will last for years and many are very affordable. There are however a variety of woks for home cooking depending on the stove you have at home.
Woks come with different kinds of handles. The easiest and safest to use come with 2 handles. For us it is best to have one long handle if you want to toss the ingredients around. This is how most woks are made in Thailand. In China they usually have 2 short handles/grips. Out of the 2 models, the second handle creates more stability and adds to safety when boiling or deep-frying.
Carbon steel woks
If you have a gas flame, this traditional round-bottomed wok is the best choice. It’s lightweight, the heat conducts quickly and evenly, and after seasoning and use, it forms a natural non-stick surface. When you first purchase a carbon steel wok it will be shiny and silver. After use, the wok will develop a black sheen. This is the natural process that will ensure your wok stays non-stick.
The traditional woks won’t work for an electric cooker or induction cookers. You will need the kind of wok that has a flat area at the base but still with angled sides to be able to toss the ingredients around. The flat-bottomed woks are made of different materials just like all other cookware for home use.
Additional tools when using a wok
Cooking with a wok is not only quick, but there is also little washing up after preparing the meal. Only a few additional tools are needed to make your wok toolset complete.
A wok spatula
This inexpensive tool needs a long handle and is perfect to move ingredients around if you don’t dare to toss the ingredients. The spatula is also good to scoop the ingredients from the base of the wok when stir-frying.
A Chinese ladle
The bowl is at a different angle than the western soup ladle. It’s perfect to scoop water, stock and sauces.
A splatter screen
It is not essential, but some don’t like it when ingredients spatter. This screen is useful to keep your cooktop clean.
How to season a wok
The traditional carbon steel woks need to be prepared before use. This prep is called seasoning and will make the wok ready for its first use as well as make it non-stick.
- Start by washing and scrubbing it with steel wool, hot water and dish soap to remove the factory coating.
- Dry the wok thoroughly.
- Rub cooking oil all over the wok and place on a high heat burner. It is possible this procedure will produce smoke.
- Allow to cool completely, wipe clean and remove residue if there is any.
- Wash again if needed, dry over the heat and remember to always keep the wok dry and lightly oiled between uses.
- If your wok gets a bit rusty, rub it away with wire wool and repeat the seasoning step by step.
Best practices with a wok
Stir-frying is the most common way to use a wok and it’s quick, easy and economical because of this.
You will need less oil than in a regular saucepan and the oil will heat more quickly.
Especially in Asia they use bamboo steamers for the dumplings. Add some water in the wok and place the steamer over it to catch all the warm air.
We sometimes use a wok to boil or make stews because the heat spreads so quickly.
Find some wok recipes on our recipe page.
Best oils to use for wok cooking
Because woks are used over a high heat it is essential to use oils that can handle this temperature, otherwise they will burn, and this will spoil your food. Oils with a high smoke point are perfect and here is an overview of oils you can use in your wok.
- Sunflower is the most common oil used to wok, especially in China, we are always stunned at the amount of oil that is consumed here.
- Soybean oil is a vegetable oil extracted from the seeds of the soybean. It is one of the most widely consumed cooking oils and the second most consumed vegetable oil.
- Corn of canola oil is also a good choice because it is not only inexpensive but it has a neutral flavour.
- Grapeseed and avocado oil are for more fancy cooks who are not on a budget. They both have a particular flavour but they can also stand the heat.