Wok Basics

The art of wok maintenance.


Enlarge Image You have plenty of options to choose from!

Although the same cooking techniques can be performed in all woks, not all woks are the same. Woks vary in size, in shape, in the materials used to make them, and in the accessories packaged with them.

The classic round-bottom wok: a wok with a ring stand needed to support it, is appropriate for use on a gas range, but is not recommended for an electric range. For use on a gas range, place the ring stand over the largest burner with the narrow side up. This way the wok is elevated over the hottest part of the flame.

The flat-bottom wok: or stir-fry pan, which is well-suited for electric or gas ranges, is a variation of the classic design. The flat bottom allows the pan to sit directly on the heating element; no ring stand is needed. Even though they look the same and are used in the same manner, a flat-bottom wok is usually sold with a lid, while a stir-fry pan is not. You may purchase lids separately in most cookware shops or oriental markets.

The electric wok: and portability go hand in hand. With an electric wok, you can cook at the table, the counter, or almost anywhere you wish. However, because the wok's thermostat cycles on and off, the food may take a little longer to cook.

Enlarge Image Consider the features that will best suit your cooking needs.

1. Consider the type of range you have. If you have a gas range, choose either a round-bottom or flat-bottom wok. If you have an electric range, however, a flat-bottom wok is the most appropriate. When a round-bottom wok with a ring stand is used on an electric range, the heat that is trapped between the electric heating element and the wok becomes so intense that it can cause discoloration of the range surface. Or, if you prefer not to use your range, try a freestanding wok, such as an electric wok.

2. Think about how much time you want to put into the care of your wok. Steel woks, the most popular kind, need special care before the initial use as well as additional seasoning after each use. On the other hand, aluminum or stainless steel woks need little care and minimal seasoning after each use.

3. Evaluate how you want your wok to look after several uses. As a steel wok becomes well seasoned, it darkens in color. Aluminum woks may darken too, but can be shined up with an aluminum cleaner. Stainless steel woks remain looking like new, even after several uses.

Enlarge Image Aluminium and stainless steel woks require minimum care.

Your wok needs special care for its quality to be maintained. The type of care depends on the material of which it is made:

Steel Woks

New steel woks come with a rust-resistant coating that must be removed before using. To remove this coating, thoroughly scrub the wok and lid inside and out with a cleaner or scouring pad and hot soapy water. Then, rinse the wok thoroughly with hot water and dry it with a towel. To make sure the wok is completely dry, heat it on your range for a few minutes. Season the wok before using, and reseason after each use.

Aluminium and Stainless Steel Woks

Woks made of aluminum or stainless steel require minimum care. Clean them in hot soapy water after each use and use an aluminum or stainless steel cleaner after every few uses. The cleaner helps to keep the outside of the wok looking shiny and new. Some aluminum and stainless steel woks have interior nonstick coatings that need seasoning. Because the methods for seasoning and cleaning these woks depend on the type of coating, first check the manufacturer's directions. Most nonstick coatings need a thorough cleaning and drying, then a small amount of cooking oil rubbed over the interior surface. Also, you should never scrub a wok's nonstick coating with any type of abrasive. All woks need to be stored in a well-ventilated place.

Electric Woks

Follow the manufacturer's directions for cleaning an electric wok. If your wok is immersible for washing, be sure to remove any parts not immersible, such as the heat control. Thoroughly dry every part of the wok before you reassemble it or plug it in.

1. To season a new steel wok, after the rust-resistant coating has been removed, add two tablespoons of cooking oil to the wok. Tilt and rotate the wok to evenly coat with oil. Heat the wok over high heat until the wok and oil are very hot. Remove from heat. Allow the wok to cool. Then, using a paper towel, rub in the oil. If the lid also is steel, season it the same way, except remove any nonmetal handles and place the lid directly on a burner of your range.

2. To clean and reseason your steel wok after each use, soak the wok in hot water (no detergent is necessary or recommended), then clean it well with a bamboo brush or loofah sponge. Rinse thoroughly and dry with a towel. Heat the wok on the range to be sure it is totally dry. Then add about one teaspoon of cooking oil to the wok and rub it in with a paper towel. If the lid also is steel, thoroughly clean and dry the lid and rub it with oil.

3. Avoid putting a seasoned wok in the dishwasher. The harsh detergents and hot water will destroy the seasoning and may cause the wok to rust.

4. Store your seasoned wok in a well-ventilated place. Long periods in a warm, airless cupboard can cause the oil used in seasoning to become rancid.

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