Have you ever had a traditional Chinese dish that tasted so good that you wondered how and what they used to make it? One of the items that were used was probably a wok pan. A wok is a very deep and wide pan used to cook dishes such as Orange Chicken and Sweet and Sour Chicken. If you’re considering purchasing one, or recently have acquired one, here’s everything you need to know about a woks and maintaining them.
What Is a Wok, Technically?
Think of a wok as a mix between a skillet and a large bowl. It prevents spillage from the side and allows you to move your dish around more while cooking it. You can find woks with a flat-bottom or a round-bottom. Just as it suggests, the flat-bottomed woks are going to have a flat surface on the bottom while the round-bottomed woks are going to be more similar to large bowl-shaped cooking ware.
Types of Woks
There are two main types of woks: electric and traditional woks. Traditional woks work just like your typical skillet: you set it on your stove, and the bottom will heat up. An electric wok is more modern. All you have to do is plug it into an electrical power source. It is more convenient for traveling when your hotel may not have a full kitchen, and it’s also great for outdoor cooking. However, it also comes with a higher price tag and is more difficult to clean due to the electrical parts involved.
Cast iron skillets are the more expensive type of wok and are the second most popular material. They come in two different styles, Western Woks, and Chinese Woks.
Chinese cast iron skillets are a bit more budget friendly and heat up at a quicker pace. The reason they heat up fast is due to their thin, lightweight material. Because of this material, the wear-and-tear on them is more severe than other woks.
Western woks are almost three times thicker than the Chinese wok. Since the pan is so much thicker, the Western wok takes a lot longer to heat up and the amount of heat it retains is limited. While the thickness of the pan may have its downsides, it also allows the pan to withstand a lot of use without becoming damaged.
Carbon steel is the most popular material for cooking woks. It’s durable and affordable for any budget. Carbon steel woks work well with meats and other foods since it heats up quickly.
Although it certainly does the job and it’s budget-friendly, it does have its downfalls. Since the pan is made of steel, it is particularly sticky to rice, raw meats, and noodles. To counteract this, carbon steel woks must be seasoned with oil throughout the process of cooking the meal.
Woks are extremely useful and versatile. Even if you aren’t cooking traditional Chinese dishes, they are great for cooking large meals that need a larger or deeper skillet. They’re also perfect for family-sized, one-pan meals. Before you purchase your wok, make sure to read the Beginner’s Guide to Purchasing and Cleaning Woks. This guide will help choose the best wok material and type for your cooking style and budget needs. You will also learn how to properly clean each type of wok to ensure they last as long as possible and you are able to prevent any possible damage. Most importantly the guide gives tip on how to best season your wok dishes based on the material, as well as a list of recipes to try in your new wok.