1. Wok Types
At the Wok Store we use Chinese-made cast-iron Woks. We find the Chinese-made thin cast iron the best for home cooking. Two types of cast-iron woks can be found in the market. Chinese-made cast-iron woks are very thin (3 mm (0.12 in)), weighing only a little more than a carbon-steel wok of similar size, while cast-iron woks typically produced in the West tend to be much thicker (9 mm (0.35 in)), and very heavy. Because of the thickness of the cast-iron, Western-style woks take much longer to bring up to cooking temperature, while making stir frying and bao techniques difficult.
Cast-iron woks form a more stable carbonized layer of seasoning which makes them less prone to food sticking on the pan. Cast-iron woks are superior to carbon-steel woks in heat retention and uniform heat distribution. Because of this, we recommend that food cooked in a cast-iron wok must be promptly removed from the wok as soon as it is done to prevent overcooking. Please note: Chinese-style cast-iron woks, although relatively light, are fragile and are prone to shattering if dropped or mishandled.
A carbon-steel wok is the way to go if you’re cooking in a restaurant or using the wok every day. Like cast iron, carbon steel needs to be seasoned before using and then given special care to maintain its coating. This pan will become naturally non-stick over time and will last a lifetime. Avoid non-stick woks. Most if not all non-stick coatings are not supposed to be heated to a very high temperature, but all stir-fry cooking happens at a high temperature.
Currently, carbon steel is the most widely used material, being relatively light in weight, providing quick heat conduction, and having good durability. The light weight makes them easier to lift and quicker to heat. However, carbon-steel woks tend to be more difficult to season than those made of cast iron (‘seasoning’, or carbonizing the cooking surface of a wok, is required to prevent foods from sticking, as well as removing metallic tastes and odors).
Steel woks coated with non-stick coatings such as PFA and Teflon, a development originated in Western countries, are now popular in Asia as well. These woks cannot be used with metal utensils, and foods cooked in non-stick woks tend to retain juices instead of browning in the pan. As they necessarily lack the carbonizing or seasoning of the classic steel or iron wok, non-stick woks do not impart the distinctive taste or sensation of “wok hei”. The newest non-stick coatings will withstand temperatures of up to 260 °C (500 °F), sufficient for stir frying. Woks are also now being introduced with clad or five-layer construction, which sandwich a thick layer of aluminum or copper between two sheets of stainless steel. Clad woks can cost five to ten times the price of a traditional carbon-steel or cast-iron wok, yet cook no better. For this reason they are not used in most professional restaurant kitchens. Clad woks are also slower to heat than traditional woks and not nearly as efficient for stir frying.
Woks can also be made from aluminium. Although an excellent conductor of heat, it has a somewhat inferior thermal capacity to cast iron or carbon steel. It loses heat to convection much faster than carbon steel, and it may be constructed much thinner than cast iron. Although anodized aluminium alloys can stand up to constant use, plain aluminium woks are too soft and damage easily. Aluminium is mostly used for wok lids.
2. Choosing the right wok
• Round or Flat-Bottomed? Round-bottomed woks are traditional to Chinese cooking, but for electric ranges, a flat-bottomed wok is the most practical choice. This keeps the pan stable as you cook and brings the pan into direct contact with the heat source.
• What Size? A 14-inch wok is the best choice for most home cooks. A larger wok becomes unwieldy in a home kitchen and a smaller one doesn’t always hold all the ingredients, causing in crowding the pan and making it hard to cook food evenly.
3. How do I clean my wok
Clean only with hot water, never use detergent. Your wok with arrive to you with no chemical residue to remove. Metal scourers will not damage the surface of your wok. After washing and drying, it is recommended that a small amount of oil is applied to the surface of wok .
4. Looking after your seasoned wok
• Fat: New woks love fat, meaning that it will soak up any fat you give it. This also helps develop the seasoning on the new wok.
• Things to Avoid: Avoid steaming, boiling, or poaching in your new wok. Also avoid cooking with any acid such as tomatoes, vinegar or lemons. These things are fine once you’ve been using your wok for a while, but can damage the delicate seasoning on the newly-seasoned wok.
• Getting better with age: Woks go through an adolescent stage before they develop the deep patina and non-stick coating of a well-used wok. During this stage (and throughout the life of a wok), the seasoning can look splotchy, feel gummy, or develop rust spots (especially if you live somewhere humid or go a few weeks between uses). Our seasoning process should prevent this. If this does happen: Fold three layers of paper towels into a pad. Heat the wok as described above. Off the heat, swirl in 1 1/2 teaspoons oil and 1 tablespoon salt. Scrub all over with the pad of paper towels until the gumminess and rust spots are gone. Repeat as needed. Throughout your wok’s life, you can rejuvenate it with this wok facial.