In an age of Instant Pots, Keurigs, and more, the kitchen is becoming more and more hi tech. -However, there is one staple of Chinese kitchens that remains foundational for many culinary needs: the wok. From steaming vegetables to creating stir fry, this wide, shallow pot is an essential ppliance. It heats up quickly and can be used to steam, boil, or just to raise the temperature of a dish.
While the wok is central for many Chinese kitchens, there’s a lot more to it than just stir fry and steaming. There is a lot to learn about woks and here is everything you didn’t know!
It’s Been Around for a While
The wok is believed to have been invented around 2,000 years ago. Pottery models from the Han Dynasty tombs have shown the wok in the early days, retaining its shallow, domed shape. Since then, it has retained its popularity and usage by being versatile and living up to that reputation. It originated in China but has found its way to East Asia, Southeast Asia, and international kitchens alike. The word, “wok” translates to “cooking pot” in Cantonese.
It Comes in a Few Forms
While the shape remains consistent, the wok is typically made from carbon steel or cast iron. Typically, cast iron is favored ,but recently,both materials have experienced a surge in popularity. These days, woks can also be found in non stick forms or even aluminum. Carbon steel is lightweight and easy to manufacture, making it an inexpensive option.
There is also a variety of cooker top woks that are great for an abundance of cooking needs –including poaching, braising, and searing. Electric woks also have hit the market with different features. Some electric woks have heating elements attached and other accessories to increase the ease of use.
Carbon Steel Must Be Seasoned
Carbon steel is the lightweight durable option but does have some special considerations. These types of woks must be seasoned with oil before use in order to prevent rust and create a non-stick surface for food. The type of carbon steel also determines the seasoning process. Seasoning has to be done in a way to prevent a metallic taste from seeping into the food.
There Are Features to Add
While the wok pot is quite capable of standing alone, there are optional add-ons to take the cooking to another level. Some of these are basic like a wok pot lid to lock in flavor and steam. Other add-ons include wok rings that allow your pot to sit above the burner to help the wok stay steady. Since woks are domed shape, they typically don’t have a flat surface to rest on and require some extra help. A metal wok spatula and hoak are traditional Chinese cooking tools that you can get if you really want your cooking to be authentic.
It Can Take the Heat
A hallmark of woks is that they can be subjected to searing heat. Some of the common dishes, like stir-fry, require high heat to be successful. In Chinese restaurants or kitchens, experts can toss and flip food over roaring flames with no fear. Woks are able to conduct high heat quite well. Don’t be afraid to turn up the heat when using a wok–you are supposed to!
It Is Practically Indestructible
Woks sear, boil, fry, and more, so it makes sense that they have to be able to handle a lot. When caring for your wok, keep this in mind. Don’t be afraid to really scrub and clean the wok because it’ll be fine. Woks must be seasoned every time they are used, so clean thoroughly after each use. This is also essential when avoiding or cleaning rust.
Got it? Ready to use your wok to its full ability? Well, get to it!