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A wok is a versatile Chinese
It is a round-bottomed pan that ranges
from 1 foot to 4 feet in diameter. Almost every Chinese family owns one.
It is most often used for stir-frying,
but can also be used many other ways, such as in steaming
frying or to make soup.
One advantage of woks is that the shape produces a small, hot area at
the bottom while using relatively little fuel.
Woks are also sold in western
countries, where they tend to be given flat bottoms and nonstick
coatings. This makes them more similar to a deep frying
pan than a true wok. However, the flat bottoms mean that they can be
used on an electric range.
Carbon steel woks
need to be seasoned before use. This is somewhat
different from seasoning cast
iron, but it is for the same purpose -- to
provide a nonstick coating and prevent rust from
forming on the cooking surface. The exact
procedure for this is something of an art, but in
- You will need
a gas stove or some source of intense heat. An
electric burner is probably not sufficient,
but you might have some success. Sturdy
leather gloves also might be handy: You will
be dealing with very hot metal.
- Don't do this
to anything other than a carbon steel wok, or
you will likely ruin your wok. If your wok has
not got a black nonstick coating, is somewhat
bluish in color except for some rust spots, is
completely unlabeled, and you got it for a low
price at an Asian market, it's probably a
carbon steel wok.
- You will need
a well ventilated area, as you will be
generating lots of smoke.
- Remove any
protective oil coating from the cooking
surface with steel wool or a scouring pad.
Make sure you have it perfectly clean. Dry it
off, or rust will form almost immediately.
- Wipe the inner
surface of the wok with a cooking oil that
smokes at high temperatures, such as peanut
oil. Keep the surface coated at all times
while seasoning the wok, but do not
allow puddles of oil to form. If you do, you
will end up with a gummy substance and you
will have to clean it off and start over. Keep
a cellulose sponge or folded paper towel handy
to wipe the oil around.
- Starting with
the edges, keep a hot flame beneath one point
of the wok at a time. When the oil starts to
smoke and changes color to a shiny dark
yellow, turn the pan a little and work on a
new spot. You can keep building up layers this
way, but make sure you've coated the whole wok
before you do more layers. It is probably
unnecessary to do more than three.
- You should end
up with an even, shiny, dark yellowish-brown
coating all over the inside of your wok. Let
it cool and rinse it off, and it is ready to
cook on. If you get streaks in the coating,
your oil may have been too thick or you didn't
remove all the original oil coating. Scrub
that area clean with steel wool and season it
Rinse your wok
clean after every use, and put it away dry. Use
soap sparingly to avoid removing the seasoning.
Over time, as you use your wok, you may build up a
black, burned area at the bottom. This is
considered desirable. Supposedly, it adds flavor
to food you cook in the wok.