If you are interested to cook great Asian meals at home and you also want to cook healthier, then a wok is just the tool you need for your kitchen. Having a wok will allow you to make plenty of great tasting food that is at the same time surprisingly healthy and exciting.
The wok is the basic pan used in most of Central and Eastern Asia. In Southern Asia they use a similarly shaped pan. Because of its unique shape and style, the wok needs special cooking techniques to draw out the signature flavor of wok cooking.
So, let’s take a look at some important tips when cooking with a wok:
- Use the right wok size - When it comes to stir-frying, you shouldn’t use a wok much bigger than 16 inches, as it will be quite hard to lift it and move the food around. For other cooking methods, a larger pan can be used, however try to never overfill the wok, or the food will not cook fast enough. There should always be few inches of free space at the top of the pan.
- The wok needs to be seasoned – In order to create that specific wok-cooked taste, you’ll have to use a well-seasoned wok. Only woks made out of iron and steel can be seasoned, therefore a stainless steel or aluminum wok won’t be able to replicate the signature wok flavor. Also, make sure you re-season your wok whenever the finish starts to erode.
- Prepare ingredients thoroughly - Try preparing all of your food ingredients before you begin cooking. This is because the wok cooks very fast using high heat levels, so you need to be beside the wok at all times to supervise. You cannot spare a second to go chop some more vegetables or get the meat out of the refrigerator.
- Heat the wok before adding oil - Before you add oil to the wok, just preheat it dry until it begins to smoke. This will open the pores of the metal and seasoning, releasing the flavor stored in the wok before you add the oil. Once the oil is added, the pores will start to close.
- Choose oil with care - When it comes to wok cooking, the best option is to use oils with a high smoke point and low polyunsaturated fat content like grape seed oil, peanut oil, soybean oil and semi-refined sesame oil – however be sure never to use unrefined sesame oil, or it could burn.
- High heating - The secret to cooking with a wok is to expose the bottom of the pan to controlled, high heat levels. The heat must be high enough to flash-cook the food. Generally the burner needs at least 10,000 BTU to reach the right temperature of around or above 400° F. If the heat is high enough, you can stir fry meat and vegetables very quickly to produce a crisp, fresh flavor that can only be achieved by cooking with a wok.
- Opt to cook on a gas burner - Gas burners use open flames to heat the pan, instead of an element. Elements retain heat, therefore making it difficult to quickly increase or decrease the temperature level. Also, with a gas burner, the flame can be adapted and the effect is prompt, giving you better control over your high-power wok cooking so that food doesn’t burn.
- Use a curved-end utensil - Use a wok spatula or a long, wooden spoon for stir frying, a wok ladle for simmering or braising and a round, slotted basting spoon or a perforated wok ladle for deep frying.
- Move the wok - Stir frying has gotten its name from the specific moving of the wok to "stir" the food inside. Whenever you are cooking things at high temperatures in your wok, it is essential to repeatedly tilt the pan so the food wouldn’t burn or stick.
So, if you ever get the chance to cook with a wok, make sure that you are using it to the best advantage. A good wok cooking will provide a unique flavor to your food, a flavor that cannot be reproduced with any other pan.
Hope these tips will come in handy when cooking with your wok to create those delicious Asian meals everyone just loves.
Have you ever cooked with a wok? What’s your experience? Share with us in the comments below.