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HardyG

Woks: construction, usage and care

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I am a big fan of woks for their versatility, however, there are a lot of fake woks out there that are a waste of money. For example, my go-to woks are 14-inch hand-hammered carbon steel from the Wok Shop in San Francisco. They need a meticulous seasoning process and regular use to develop the nonstick patina but dang, they get the job done. An imposter in my collection is a 14-inch Cuisinart Stainless "Wok"....it looks like a wok, is shaped like a work, but it's not a wok. It has a thick metal disc on the bottom but paper-thin steel sides that burn to a crisp on any type of high heat. I use this pan to assemble multiple ingredients into one dish such as chili. A surprising underdog is a Calphalon 13-inch aluminum wok. It heats evenly, does not scorch on the sides and is easy to handle. The downside is that it will warp over serious high heat. I purchased an outdoor wok cart with a 130K BTU burner and the thing is just nuts.....it gets so hot that you don't need oil....food just levitates off the surface. It's a great addition to the grill collection especially in the summer when indoor cooking is a PITA. Too bad that Gas stoves in the US have limited BTU burners due to fire code.

 

Any wok brands, tips, techniques you've found useful? 

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Posted (edited)

       

4 hours ago, HardyG said:

 

Any wok brands, tips, techniques you've found useful? 

+1 on The Wok Shop in San Francisco.  Excellent quality and very reasonably priced. We have a few woks from that shop.  My first Thai cooking instructor took the class on a morning trip to Chinatown in San Francisco and this shop was the last stop - lots of great cooking utensils in there too!!!!

 

I went with the carbon steel (not hand-hammered) woks just because my instructor at the time used those and she recommended them. Also they had the wooden handles which don't get hot so they are easily grabbed to flip food if need be.  The street vendors in Bangkok also use carbon steel woks.  I would think that the hand hammered wok would be easier to keep food up on the sides when needed and would retain a good seasoning with all the hammer markings.  How do you like yours?

 

14" and 12" are our go-to woks for most things.  The helper handles are a good option to get as they do come in handy a lot of the time.

 

I've tried cast iron woks and they hold the heat very well but are heavy.  In many of our stir fry dishes we like the responsiveness of the steel wok when turning the temperature down (if we need to) for  the next added ingredient.

 

Proper seasoning on the wok makes all the difference.  I know what you mean when you said that  "food  just levitates off the surface". Using a steel wok which is properly seasoned and having a powerful heat source makes the wok the most versatile cooking vessel we have in our kitchen - we use it for steaming (vegetables, dumplings, whole fish),  deep frying,  braising (Thai curries),  poaching, and stir frying....

 

How did you season your wok?

 

What are some of your favorite wok dishes that you make?

   

Edited by MattituckMike

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5 hours ago, HardyG said:

 my go-to woks are 14-inch hand-hammered carbon steel from the Wok Shop in San Francisco. I purchased an outdoor wok cart with a 130K BTU burner and the thing is just nuts.....

This combination must make some awesome chow-fun...................

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Posted (edited)

Woks work on the same principle as cast iron cookware. They both develop a carbon coating by seasoning on which you cook. That being said the carbon steel ones work fine. As with cast iron they should not have this carbon destroyed by using a metal sponge or any other metal abrasive pad to clean them. Just wipe them out with a paper towel or cloth after use. Absolutely NO dish washer.

I bought my carbon steel Wok from a Chinese grocery store in the 1000 block of Race St here in Philadelphia.

Edited by george6308

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Ive had my hand hammer wok bought from a chinese grocer in chinatown ny when I was 20. Im now 51 and the wok is still cooking great foods...The older it gets. The flavor just gets better

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I season the wok every time I use it.  Heat it, small amount of oil, wipe it around and then wipe clean.  Let it cool some and then start cooking.  

 

Its also a cheap carbon wok from a Chinese grocery but works great

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On 10/9/2017 at 6:50 PM, MattituckMike said:

       

+1 on The Wok Shop in San Francisco.  Excellent quality and very reasonably priced. We have a few woks from that shop.  My first Thai cooking instructor took the class on a morning trip to Chinatown in San Francisco and this shop was the last stop - lots of great cooking utensils in there too!!!!

 

I went with the carbon steel (not hand-hammered) woks just because my instructor at the time used those and she recommended them. Also they had the wooden handles which don't get hot so they are easily grabbed to flip food if need be.  The street vendors in Bangkok also use carbon steel woks.  I would think that the hand hammered wok would be easier to keep food up on the sides when needed and would retain a good seasoning with all the hammer markings.  How do you like yours?

 

14" and 12" are our go-to woks for most things.  The helper handles are a good option to get as they do come in handy a lot of the time.

 

I've tried cast iron woks and they hold the heat very well but are heavy.  In many of our stir fry dishes we like the responsiveness of the steel wok when turning the temperature down (if we need to) for  the next added ingredient.

 

Proper seasoning on the wok makes all the difference.  I know what you mean when you said that  "food  just levitates off the surface". Using a steel wok which is properly seasoned and having a powerful heat source makes the wok the most versatile cooking vessel we have in our kitchen - we use it for steaming (vegetables, dumplings, whole fish),  deep frying,  braising (Thai curries),  poaching, and stir frying....

 

How did you season your wok?

 

What are some of your favorite wok dishes that you make?

   

Interesting....that place literally has a global reputation! Yes, cast iron woks are a different animal. I bought a Lodge cast iron wok based on glowing reviews and it turned out to be a flop. It did retain heat throughout the cook which was helpful, however, you can't toss the food because the dang thing weighs 14lbs. My woks were seasoned on the outdoor burner which gets scary hot. It took quite a few cycles of heating, glazing peanut oil etc etc etc to get it seasoned. Some deep-frying also helped. Lesson learned the hard way, orange beef will strip even the toughest patina off a wok. As to favorite dishes, there are too many to count. I do a lot of authentic Chinese which is very different from American Chinese.....while General Tsao's chicken is delicious, it is as Chinese as baseball. Fuschia Dunlop has a great book on authentic recipes. Sechuan peppercorn, hot chili oil, oh dang this is making me hungry!

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