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wok information, care thread

Posts: 125
Location: Westport, CA Zone 8-9; Off grid on 20 acres of redwood forest and floodplain with a seasonal creek.
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Relatively new here. I found the forum after searching around the internet for information about Sepp Holzer. Paul thank you for the work you do. You may not see much from me around here but I do enjoy the forum.

After reading the "using a cast iron skillet ain't so hard!" thread I started thinking about what my absolute favorite pieces of cookware are and immediately the wok and cast iron skillet come to mind.

Interestingly enough the techniques for cooking, care and maintenance of the wok are basically the same as the cast iron skillet. In fact you can get a wok in cast iron although I prefer stainless steel, really just a personal choice there though (although if you really screw up the surface stainless can be lightly sanded without much issue). Woks come in both the traditional curved bottom (useful for gas stoves, ranges, open pit fires, fireplaces etc.) and also as a flat bottom (useful for wood burning stoves, electric ranges and other flat heating sources).

In general I use the cast iron skillet for things that need more of an even distribution of heat across the entire surface or for slower cooking. I use the wok for anything else.

A few benefits of a wok (curved bottom):

1. Much faster cook times (browns meat and cooks chicken like you would not believe)
2. Healthier in general as you use less oils and fats, etc. to cook and more fat is removed during cooking from meat than with traditional methods. Ex. Bacon cooked at wok temps. is so healthy (read devoid of fat) that if you like bacon for the taste I would suggest cooking it another way. You never had bacon so healthy until you have tried it from a wok.
3. You cook at a higher temperature for less time meaning cooked foods do not loose as many beneficials like vitamins and are in general safer as the higher cook temps kill a wider range of bacterias etc.
4. Can save you some money long term by not having to buy more expensive low fat content meats, as most fat can be cooked completely out of the meat.

Tips for using the wok:
1. Be ready!!! The higher cook temps are not very forgiving if you forgot something and need to go get it. Make sure you have something already handy to put the cooked food on/in when done cooking.
2. The traditional wok tools are designed for a wok especially the curved bottom woks. Get at least the metal spatula and the net looking tool.
3. Use only fats and oils with high break down temps. Ex. Animal fats, peanut oil.
4. To begin cooking pour a small amount of oil/fat in the wok and let it heat. When you can detect the barest amount of smoke coming off the wok swirl the oil a few time to help coat the bottom. Be ready!!! Insert food and keep it moving until wok cools slightly. Once cooking decreases slightly you may allow food to sit for longer periods of time without moving.

Remember a wok is just a tool like any other pan; it does not mean you have to become Yan Can Cook and learn to make Chinese food. A few examples of what I make: tacos, fajitas, scrambled eggs, spaghetti, burgers, zucchini and potato patties. It can also be used to fry, deep fat fry and boil. When I first bought it a couple of years ago I mostly used it for Chinese type dishes. Then one day I was going to brown and spice some ground beef for tacos but I was feeling lazy and it sounds like a lot of time wasted. So thinking about the faster cook times I used the wok instead and cut the cook time of tacos in half.

Just remember it is a tool and think about how it can benefit you. I often head for my wok first if I am thinking of cooking something you might want to cook in a non-stick pan, something that requires higher heat (frying), or just in general to cook faster and healthier.


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Excellent post! I used to have an electric freestanding wok and I loved it! nothing is better for cooking vegies in my opinion! I replaced it with a smallish cooktop style nonstick one years ago. it is pathetic. I never use it not just because of the nonstick ickyness but because I just can't seem to get that super hot fast cook with it. 
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I used to have a average sized (cheap), all metal, stove top wok that I used on both an electric & gas stove. Had better luck getting it good & hot on the gas flame, vs. elec. It worked great! Didn't have a phony non-stick surface, & stuff sticking was never a problem. As it was a cheap wok, it rusted easily, unless I made it a point to clean & dry it immediately. (Not my style, I'm a "let it sit in the sink till' tomorrow" kind of person) Anyhoo, it just got too rusty eventually & I got rid of it. Haven't replaced it yet (dh is not big on vegetables...) and that's no excuse. Wok's are wonderful & surely there are better ones out there.
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the ones i bought have horrible nn stick surfaces that start peeling off in week. I like them being so fast. I use it to cook tomatoes for spaghetti mostly. agri rose macaskie.
Posts: 2103
Location: Oakland, CA
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I bet it saves fuel, as well.

My general impression is that they are made of wrought iron, rather than cast iron.  But I agree, the care is the same, regardless.

It might be interesting to build a "rocket wok," where the secondary air intake is also a downdraft fume exhaust system. 
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