A wok can be used for so much more than just frying, and not only will these expert tips help you get more out of your wok but also on how to care for your wok.
A wok is one of the most versatile cooking tools a cook can have in their arsenal and, contrary to popular belief, this nifty pan can be used for more than just frying.
According to The School of Wok, a cooking school in London, the history of the wok can be traced back 2000 years to China during the Han Dynasty. Directly translated from Cantonese to English, the word “wok” means “cooking pot” and refers to its multiple uses to create a range of different dishes.
We reached out to Warren Ying and Lindi Pow Chong, the owners of Ying Son Asian grocer in Kenilworth, Cape Town, for some key insights on all things wok-related.
Here are some key tips on how to use a wok, from preparing the cooking tool to how to store it.
RECIPE: Chinese-style wok omelette
Preparing a new wok for use
Unlike other Western cooking pots that can be used straight away, woks must be prepared before use.
“The wok needs to be seasoned, which means removing the factory coating and creating a non-stick film,” explain Warren and Lindi.
The owners of Ying Son Asian Foods have detailed a two-step seasoning guide:
Step 1: Wash the wok with warm soapy water to remove any impurities.
Step 2: Coat the inside of the wok with a thin film of oil and place it over a high heat until its colour changes from silver to black. This may take about 20 minutes, depending on the heat. Coat with another thin layer of oil and repeat.
Uses and benefits of a wok
A wok can be used for more than just frying. It can be used for stir-frying, steaming, boiling, searing, stewing, deep-frying and even smoking food. When compared to other pans, Warren and Lindi point out that a wok is very durable and can withstand higher cooking temperatures.
“A wok is better than an ordinary frying pan because it can withstand the high heat required to cook Asian food. The sloped sides are ideal for stir-frying and it uses less oil due to its smaller base.”
In addition, a wok has been carefully designed to ensure that the cooking process is quick and thorough, as pointed out by The School of Wok.
“A wok’s rounded base allows heat to be distributed more evenly than in a saucepan, which means food can be cooked in less time. The high walls mean you can toss food easily for example when cooking a stir-fry, which means the ingredients can be mixed and cooked evenly.”
Cooking tips when using a wok
As with all cooking, preparation is key. Here are three tips from Yong Son Asian Foods:
- Always heat the wok before adding oil. This will ensure food doesn’t stick.
- Make sure you have a strong flame when using a wok to ensure the food cooks quickly.
- Have all your ingredients ready as the cooking process will be quick once the wok is hot.
Because the wok being can withstand high cooking temperatures, use cooking oil that works effectively under these cooking conditions.
“It’s best to use a neutral oil with a high smoking point, such as sunflower or peanut oil. Other oils will burn easily,” say Warren and Lindi. The best size wok to purchase for home use is 30–40cm.
How to store a wok properly
To ensure that your wok lasts, you should clean and store it properly.
- Once you have finished cooking with a wok, do not scrub the wok with a metal scourer as it will damage the non-stick coating.
- Gently wash it in warm soapy water and make sure it’s completely dry before storing.