The 10 Commandments of Cooking with a Wok

If you’re the kind of person who loves stir fries and foods cooked in a wok, then it’s important to make sure that you’re getting the most value out of your favourite cooking utensil. There are plenty of homeowners who have a Wok of their own in their kitchen cupboard, but when the time comes to using this tool, they’re often left at a loss. Here are your 10 commandments for wok cooking to ensure that you get excellent results every time.

1.     Thou Shalt Choose the Right Oil

Speaking of seasoning your wok, the last thing you want is to ruin your recipe with a low-quality oil. Remember that woks work best with a high smoking point, which means that ground nut oils are generally very good for this kind of cooking. Stick to something like canola oil for an excellent outcome every time.

2.     Thou Shalt Always Season

Whenever you’re cooking with a wok, it’s important to season the surface. You don’t want food to stick to the bottom of the pan and damage your investment, or your meal, after all. Splashing a little oil on the bottom of your pan is all it takes to protect your wok and your recipes. Swirl the oil around and allow it to get smoking hot, then pour it off into a heatproof container to make sure that there’s no excess oil left over.

3.     Thou Shalt Find the Right Wok

Just like any other kitchen accessory, there are many different kinds of wok to choose from, and not all of them will be right for your needs. With that in mind, it’s essential to make sure that you’re choosing a wok that suits your kind of stove and cooking strategy. If you have a gas flame, you’ll be able to use a more traditional round-bottomed wok. On the other hand, electric cookers require a flatter surface at the base. You may also need to consider the kind of handle that’s right for you. Some have a long handle, which is great if you like tossing your food in the air, and others have two ear handles on either side.

4.     Thou Shalt Get the Right Accessories

You’ll need more than just the right wok to ensure that you’re getting the best food out of your investment. Make sure that you have a brush for scrubbing your kit, a slotted spoon, a scoop, and a label. A wok spatula that comes with a long handle will be particularly useful when stir-frying. Additionally, a Chinese ladle is great for when you need to scoop up oil, water and stock when you’re creating a delicious recipe. A bamboo brush will allow you to clean your kit in between meals when the surface is still hot.

5.     Thou Shalt Experiment with New Recipes

The stir fry is a staple of wok cooking, but it’s far from the only meal that you can make with this kind of pan. You can use your wok for virtually anything, including steaming and boiling foods. If you decide to deep fry in a wok, you can even reduce the amount of oil that you need to use. The options are potentially endless as long as you’re willing to experiment with new ideas and flavours. One great option is to use your wok as a smoker. Simply cover the base with layers of foil, then add some tea leaves, flour, and sugar into the mix. Heat everything until the sugar burns, then place the food on a rack to start smoking it.

6.     Thou Shalt Crank up the Heat

You can’t be afraid of turning up the heat if you’re cooking with a wok. There are many traditional recipes in Cantonese culture that talk about the fragrance that a wok gives off when the food is searing. This means that when you’re cooking, you can afford to have a bit of drama and smoke in the kitchen. Just make sure that you keep a window open to avoid any alarms going off. Make sure that you season the surface of your pan, as mentioned above, and get things hot before you start cooking.

7.     Thou Shalt Learn How to Toss

There are plenty of great skills that you can learn to improve your cooking habits when you’re working with a wok. One of the most impressive options of all is to learn how to toss your food. To do this, you simply need to push the wok away from you as you lift it, flipping the food towards you as you go. This is the easiest way to move food around when you want to cook as rapidly as possible and distribute plenty of flavour. Just keep in mind that you might end up with a little mess while you’re still practicing. Try getting the movement right with some salad first so you can avoid burning yourself with sauces and oils.

8.     Thou Shalt Not Cook Too Much too Fast

Usually, if you want to make more food than the recipe you’re using allows for, you’d generally just increase the number of ingredients. However, it’s rarely a good idea to double up when you’re using a wok. For instance, if you stir fry too much food at once, you won’t be able to apply the same searing heat to all of the ingredients, which means that you don’t get the right results. Consider combining two separate meals if you need to, rather than trying to make too much in the same pan.

9.     Thou Shalt Tweak Your Timing

If you’re working with ingredients that cook at different rates, then you might need to cook some of them separately in a wok and incorporate everything when you’re ready to bring the meal together. The last thing you want is to end up with some parts of your meal that are overdone, and other parts that are too crunchy or raw.

Ideally, it’s usually best to start by stir-frying slivers of chicken, pork, or other meats that you’re using before you start experimenting with vegetables. This ensures that your meats are well-cooked and succulent.

10. Thou Shalt Relax About Maintenance

Finally, when it comes to wok maintenance, you shouldn’t panic too much about constantly protecting your wok. You can easily give this piece of kit a good scrub without having to worry about it breaking or suffering from any additional issues. Woks are very sturdy pieces of equipment, so you can simply clean and re-season it to get cooking again as quickly as possible.

A lot of people worry that they can’t scrub their woks – particularly when they’ve invested in an expensive model, but the truth is that your wok will continue to perform through thick and thin!  

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