Tuesday, February 5, 2008
I’ve been getting many wok-related questions lately so here’s a post to (hopefully) answer all your questions.
The first question is always what kind of wok I use. I use a simple carbon-steel wok I got from Chinatown for just about $15. It’s a simple, hand hammered wok with hollow metal handle. The metal is very thin. It transfers heat well, but doesn’t hold it very long. This is fine if you know how to work with it. I actually prefer using it over Western style pan with thicker metal that retains heat better, but only for stir-frying of course. That steel wok has been serving me just fine for a couple years now.
My best advice is to pop down to a Chinatown near you and find a carbon-steel wok that looks and feels good in your hand – make sure it’s at least 13-14 inch wide, and light enough that you could pick up and shake it with relative ease. That pretty much rules out those absurdly expensive cast iron woks – the purpose of which so far eludes me.
If there’s no good Chinatown nearby, I found two that you can order online. Amazon has one that comes with a lid, though the price is a bit steep at $31 – but the lid is handy to have and with Amazon Prime you could get it with free shipping. If not, I found one cheaper on a site selling Thai
ingredients, only $15, but with round rather than flat bottom. No idea what their shipping fees are, however. Check with them before you have it shipped to Alaska or don’t come crying to me later.
A wok like these ones work best on a gas stove, especially if it has high BTUs. If you’re not so confident with the power of your stove, or you have electric stove, a wok is not going to work very well. I once had to endure such a disadvantage, not for long mind you, but I suffered just the same. Anyway, let’s not go into my past misery, let me tell you instead about how I worked around the problem.