Three Things to Consider Before Buying a Wok

A traditional wok is a great tool for preparing Asian and other culinary dishes in your home kitchen.

Food cooking in a wok
The deep bowl of a wok makes it easier to cook large quantities of food at one time.Unsplash/Clem Onojeghuo

As a home chef, the best way to expand your skill set is to experiment with the cuisine of other cultures. From Mexican to Mediterranean, there is no end to the challenges and rewards that cooking your way around the world can bring. One of the easiest ways to spice up any menu is with Asian food, and for that you will need a specialized pan, or wok, for the most common preparations, such as stir frying. The beauty of a wok, however, is that it will also handle just about any stove-top meal, whether that’s burgers or breakfast. Here are a few traits to consider when buying your first wok.

Craft Wok Traditional Hand Hammered Carbon Steel Pow Wok with Wooden and Steel Helper Handle

Material

A wok made with seasoned, carbon steel will serve you better than one coated with Teflon.Craft Wok

A traditional Chinese wok is made of hammered carbon steel, which is a great material for even heat distribution. And unlike woks with a Teflon or other non-stick coating, you do not have to worry about scratching the finish on a steel wok. A carbon-steel wok does have to be seasoned before use, but that is a simple process typically outlined by the manufacturer.

OXO Good Grips 12'' Wok, Black

Bowl Shape

A deep bowl shape makes it easier to keep food contained in a wok as you cook.OXO

The most unique attribute of a wok is its deeply dished shape. This allows the chef to focus heat on the center of the pan while other ingredients coast to a finish against the high walls of the wok. Pay particular attention to the shape of the bottom. A traditional wok with a continuous curve will not be stable on a flat-top or electric induction stove, whereas modern pans with a flat bottom will work on almost any cooking surface. Some curved-bottom woks are sold with a separate “collar” that allows them to rest securely atop an electric stove.

Cuisinart Chef's Classic Stainless 14-Inch Stir-Fry Pan with Helper Handle and Glass Cover

Accessories

A bamboo lid helps a wok retain heat and thoroughly cook food.Cuisinart

The most important utensil for wok cookery is the specialized spatula. It can be made of anything from plastic to bamboo or even metal (depending on the material of the wok itself), as long as it has a widely fanned shape that precisely fits the contours of the pan. Another accessory worth looking for is a lid, which allows for steaming as well as frying.

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