These meals are quick, simple, and brimming with flavour, making them a go-to choice for when you don’t have a lot of time left for cooking at the end of the day. However, if you want to create a genuinely amazing stir fry, then you’re going to need the right tool for the job – which means buying a wok.
There are plenty of different woks available on the market, including traditional woks that require seasoning over time, and more modern woks designed for simplicity and quick performance. To help you make the right decision, we’ve put together this go-to guide for finding the perfect wok.
The History of the Wok
A wok isn’t just a big pan that you can make a lot of different foods in; it’s also one of the most versatile cooking utensils in the modern market. Ideal for stir-frying and use in various delicious recipes, the Wok is a fantastic piece of equipment that started life in China around 2,000 years ago.
Although historians can’t fully agree whether the wok was originally invented in China, it’s safe to say that this fantastic took earned a reputation for its versatility and performance, particularly when cooking Eastern meals. The earliest evidence that most specialists have seen of the wok has come from Chinese tombs that had been equipped for kitchen use in the afterlife!
Since pans of a similar nature have been uncovered around Southeast Asia and India, archeologist shave speculated that the Chinese wok is a concept that was adopted and adjusted from neighbouring regions. Initially, these cooking utensils were used for drying grains and tea leaves. However, today, we’ve discovered that there’s so much more that can be done with the right wok.
For travelers, innovators, and culinary experts across the years, the wok has been a source of incredible reliability and delicious dishes. It’s great for foods that need to be cooked quickly, with very little fuel or cooking oils. No matter what kind of food you love, you can create amazing meals with a wok.
The Meaning of Wok Hei
If you’ve looked into the history and culture behind the wok before, then you might have encountered the term “Wok Hei” this basically translates to Wok thermal radiation, which explains the unique aroma and heat that a wok can take on when certain conditions are met.
Otherwise known as the “breath of the wok,” Wok Hei refers to the rich and immersive selection of smoky tastes that come from a wok when you cook food over a high heat, with just the right amount of oil and seasoning. The quest for Wok Hei is why it’s so crucial for chefs cooking eastern meals to make sure that their Woks are searing hot before they begin to cook.
What Kind of Woks are Available? The Different Materials
Woks have come a long way over the years. Today, these utensils are available in a range of materials, including more traditional models that are constructed using carbon steel. This kind of metal heats very quickly and ensures that heat can be distributed evenly throughout the ingredients in your pan. Additionally, carbon steel comes with a natural non-stick coating.
Another popular option is cast iron, which is excellent at retaining heat. Once again, iron is exceptionally good at creating a unique non-stick surface when it’s maintained using proper seasoning methods. You don’t even need to wash this kind of pan with soap and water, as this will allow the pan to retain its seasoning and build flavour over time.
If you can’t stand the idea of not washing your pans when you’re done with them, you can consider stainless steel instead. You won’t be able to achieve the same Wok Hei results, but your food should be delicious all the same. You can also look into materials like coated cast iron, Teflon pans, and even adonized aluminum. Just make sure that whatever you do, you don’t pick a material that releases toxic chemicals when heated at a high temperature.
It’s worth thinking about the kind of stove you’re going to be using with your wok when you’re making your decision too. For instance, if you have a gas range, then you’ll be able to choose a wok that has a round bottom, which gives you more freedom when it comes to selecting traditional designs. On the other hand, if you’re using an electric or induction stovetop, then a flat-bottomed wok will be better for you, as it can sit directly on the element.
The Shape and Size of your Wok
The shape and size of the wok that you choose will depend on many things, including how many people you want to cook for at once. Most commonly, woks come in sizes of between 10 and 16 inches in diameter. Make sure that your cooktop has a flame big enough to distribute heat evenly in the wok that you choose.
Regardless of the material you choose for your wok, you’ll also need to think carefully about the shape of the pan. The diameter and height of the wok need to be addressed, as a wok that is too deep will be unable to transfer heat to all points of the pan. However, if your wok is too shallow, then you’ll struggle with tossing food when you’re preparing your meals. Look for about a 4-inch depth in a pan of around 14 inches in diameter to get the shape just right.
For optimal wok cooking, consider investing into a stove top with 3 burners, these burners have the optimal space for 2 woks and a rice pot. This one from Goldline is a great example https://www.goldlinecorp.com.au/3-burner-stove-top/
Remember, you can always upgrade your wok with extra accessories and utensils too, such as lids, burner rings, traditional ladles, steamer trays, and metal spatulas.
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