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Tips on how to Cook with a Wok

Tips on how to Cook with a Wok

by Arlene Wright-Correll
Home Farm Herbery

One of the easiest ways to cook, at least for me, is with a wok. There is no mystery about it. It is fast, easy and has a bit a showmanship when doing a wok dinner for company.
My wok is cast iron from China even though it has an aluminum top. Prices usually start at $19.95. If you are using bamboo steamers, keep separate steamers for veggies and/or grains, and others for meats, fish, and other foods that can impart a flavor to the wood.
My wok sits on a reversible wok ring which sits on top of my gas stove and keeps the wok from wobbling around. In a Chinese restaurant the wok usually sits down into the gas stove. .

The earliest woks weren't woks at all, but cast-iron pans with sloping sides great for tossing and stirring a lot of food easily. These were developed as a result of the frugal use of fuel. Some historians also think that there's a connection between the helmets and shields of the invading Mongols and woks.

I like woks because they are very versatile. They can be used for almost any type of cooking: stir frying, deep frying; steaming, stewing, and even though I have never done it, it can be used for baking a cake. However, I do use mine occasionally for making beignets.

Some of the tools you will need are a tempura rack. This is indispensable when making tempura. At least one large bamboo wire skimmer is a must for anyone who wants to cook with a wok... Another important tool is the stainless steel skimmer.

Although Woks are available in many different types of materials, the traditional wok made from uncoated carbon steel is the most popular one and it the one I like the best. A wide variety of different materials, sizes and shapes are available nowadays. If you have an oriental store near you, chances are you will be able to find a vast assortment of oriental cookware. When selecting a wok, one must consider the type of stove you have. If you have a gas stove, you may use either a round-bottomed or flat-bottomed wok and you will need a wok ring.

If you have an electric range, the flat-bottomed style is the best choice, because it sits directly on the element. By selecting your wok appropriately, you will eliminate the need of a ring stand. Most Woks range in sizes from 10" to 16", the 14" is the most preferable size which is adequate for the preparation of most dishes in the cookbook. This material conducts heat well and is the most economical to purchase.

For the first time wok cooker, it is recommended that to purchase a wok set with lid, ring, wok turner, ladle, and strainer. A wok made of low carbon steel is preferred, as this type of metal is a better conductor of heat and it seems food will stick to the sides better than other materials. If one is concerned with appearance, a stainless steel wok is recommended. It can be scoured with steel wool and restored to newness after each use. Because stainless steel is a relatively poor conductor of heat and tends to reflect the heat back to the stove, it is recommended that a stainless wok be chosen with a slightly flattened bottom, to provide greater contact with the heating element of an electric stove.

I am not crazy about the stainless steel woks or even the electric woks for that matter. However, it is just matter of personal preference. I find electric woks to be an inefficient and expensive alternative that, with few exceptions, is best avoided, but to each its own as the saying goes.

When cooking with a wok stir fry your meat or shell fish first and then remove and set aside.

Then stir fry your chopped up vegetables to an al dente stage which means hot, firm and crispy or crunchy. Now toss your meat or shellfish back in continually stirring and then add your seasonings, starch to thicken your sauce or gravy.

Then you can serve over chinese noodles or rice and everyone can sit down and Wok and Roll!

May the Creative Force be with you

Arlene Wright-Correll

Home Farm Herbery

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