Sunday, May 18, 2008

Talk the Talk, Wok the Wok (Part 2)

Ok, so by now you’ve probably decided, “Yes, I want a wok,” and are asking, “What do I do now? How do I know which wok to buy?” Well, today I will be focusing on just that. In this post, I will explain what type of wok works the best and what types are not quite up to par.

Carbon steel woks ARE THE BEST out there. There, I said it. “But what about stainless steel or non-stick woks?” you may ask. Those are garbage. Don’t buy them – ever.

Stainless steel and Non-stick = Major No Nos
Why? Well, firstly, stainless steel woks do a horrible job in conducting heat. Don’t be fooled by its sleek exterior. They simply do not get hot enough – fast enough. And non-stick woks are garbage because they eventually do become STICK WOKS. No matter how careful you are, some curious rugrat or sleepwalking husband (seriously, it will happen!) will use metal whatever and ruin your non-stick wok (I can’t begin to tell you how many ruined non-stick pans I have at home). Plus, stainless and non-stick woks carry a heavy price tag. Who would ever want to buy an overpriced piece of garbage?

Carbon Steel = The Best
Carbon steel woks are the best because they are everything that non-stick and stainless are not. They conduct heat extremely well, are way cheaper (most are under $20!), and last a lifetime (if seasoned well – don’t worry, I will explain in part 3). They really are the Asian chef’s dream pan.

One Handle vs. Two Handles
When you go to buy your wok, you can either buy one with one long handle, or two side handles (that sort of makes them look like ears). Each type has its benefits. A one handled wok is fantastic for stir-frying because you can simply hold the wok while being at a safe, far distance from the hot oil. A two handled wok is great for carrying the wok when you’re deep-frying, boiling, or do anything with a large volume of liquid. What’s my preference? Buy a wok with one long handle and a small “helper” handle on the opposite side.

Flat vs Round Bottomed
Ok ok, one last thing (I promise!). There are two different types of bottoms for a wok. There are flat bottomed ones and round bottomed ones. The Chinese do not cook on a completely flat stove - us Americans, however, do. That's why the flat bottomed wok was invented. Though it is a great feature, it still doesn't measure up to the traditional rounded wok. Flat bottomed woks do not heat evenly enough, they make tossing and flipping food a struggle, and they get scratched more easily. "So if flat bottomed woks are that bad, then what the heck am I suppose to do?" you may ask (give or take a few words). Easy, buy a wok ring. They are these metal rings that you simply place on the stove, and they act as a stabilizer for you rounded wok.

Wow, that was a mindful of info wasn't it? Sorry about that! Just remember this: you want to buy a carbon steel, rounded (with a wok ring), one handled (with a helper hander), about 14 inch in diameter wok.

Hopefully I have answered most of your questions about which wok to buy. Stay tuned for part 3, which will be about seasoning and cleaning your wok (trust me, it is very very important!).


Anonymous said...

Thanks for posting this! I recently have been looking to buy a wok, but just didn't know which on to buy. This has really cleared things up! Thanks and keep up the good posts!

S said...

Wow..that was a really informative article. keep up the great work!

Anonymous said...

you need a gas stove for a round bottom wok... absolute must

the main reason people use a flat bottom wok is for an electric range... it's the only choice then