Looking for a wok? This way
Let's take a walk through the steps of choosing and seasoning a new wok.
Fried rices can certainly be cooked in a traditional sauté pan, but the wok, with its round-bottomed shape will always be a winner.
Ingredients can easily be combined in a wok, and tossed around with less spillage due to the wok's curves. But without properly seasoning a new wok, that fried rice can easily turn into a burnt, sticky mess.
Many woks can be purchased pre-seasoned, meaning they've already been coated in oil and heated to produce a nonstick, dark- colored surface. Other woks already come with nonstick coatings, but Suleka Lindley of Thai Basil recommends being careful with Teflon woks.
"They're not good with high heat," said Lindley. "That will peel off the coating. But if you're using an electric stove, Teflon is a good option."
Traditional woks are made of cast iron, stainless steel and carbon steel. Stainless steel tends to cook food especially quickly, so if you choose this kind of wok, it's important to keep a close eye on temperature control.
Also consider the weight of a wok when shopping for a new one.
"Look for a wok with a beautiful round shape and comfortable weight," said Lindley. "You want to be able to hold the wok with one hand. I also recommend a wok with a single handle. You'll have better control. Woks with (two) handles can get awkward to hold."
Now, let's start seasoning that wok. You'll need two things: oil and plenty of heat. Vegetable oil will work fine for seasoning a wok, though Lindley prefers peanut oil, given its high smoke point. Seasoning with pork fat and chives is also a time-honored Chinese method.
Lindley uses a stovetop method to season her woks:
Start by coating the inside of the wok evenly with oil.
Crank up the heat and watch the wok smoke. Make sure the fan above your range is running.
The wok's color will start to turn.
"You want it to be dark like a cast iron pan," said Lindley.
Repeat the steps as necessary to produce a uniformly dark color.
After the wok is seasoned, some opt to stir-fry and char a mix of pungent vegetables garlic, onions and ginger to remove lingering metallic taste in the wok.
With proper care, your wok can last for many years. Keep the wok dry to prevent rusting, and if you know it won't be used for an extended period of time, coating the wok with a little oil will help preserve it.
Watch for dents in the wok and signs that a hole might be forming. Then it'll be time to shop for a new wok.
"There's so many options for woks, so find one you like," said Lindley. "A good wok can be passed on for generations."