Wok Tips For Novices
A wok is a large, metal all-purpose pan with a curved base and a long wooden handle traditionally used in many Asian kitchens. This versatile pan can be used for stir-frying, steaming, braising or deep-frying. If you're new to wok cooking, the tips in this article will help you select a wok to buy and show you how to make a great stir-fry meal.
Heat Your Wok First
Wok cooking is always done at high temperatures. Cooking food in a wok that is not hot enough will result in an overcooked, mushy, colorless meal. When you cook vegetables rapidly over high heat, they retain their original bright color along with some crunch; meats cooked this way also keep their natural flavor. Before you start cooking, heat your wok until it starts to smoke. This is the key to proper stir-frying.
So, how hot should your wok be before you begin? If the wok is smoking, it's ready. Stir-frying, when done properly, will probably smoke up your kitchen, but it's certainly worth it in the end.
Types of Woks
A number of different wok varieties are available on the market. Although some cooks are perfectly happy using non-stick, electric woks, these are unnecessarily expensive. Round-bottom woks are the best option to use with flame burners or gas stoves. Traditional carbon-steel woks are very efficient (they maintain high temperatures well and are long lasting) and reasonably priced. Iron woks are also a good choice, but they do cost considerably more.
If you have trouble balancing a round-bottom wok on your stove top, purchase a 'wok ring'. This gadget fits around your burner (after you remove the grate), making the wok more stable and bringing it closer to the source of heat as well.
Wok Cooking Tips
Before you are ready to get your wok hot, you will want to prepare the ingredients. You can use a variety of vegetables, proteins, sauces, and aromatics. Your veggies can be the highlight of your dish or the proteins can be. It's all up to you. Peppers, onions, corn, squash, green beans, peas all add a great splash of flavor and color. Chicken, pork, beef, shrimp, crab and other small bits of protein cook quickly and thoroughly, so be careful not to overcook the proteins too much. You will end up with a rubbery texture.
Once the wok is smoking hot, add enough oil to cover its surface and wait until it is hot. Next, put the meat pieces in the wok and cook for a few minutes. Remove the meat just before it is done. Re-heat the wok, bringing it back to the original high temperature and add the vegetables. Cook for a few minutes, stirring only to prevent burning then return the meat to the wok and cook with the vegetables for two more minutes or so. Season with your favorite sauce, and serve.
Serving A Stir-Fry Meal
Most stir-fry is served over rice, so make sure your rice is prepared beforehand. If you will add rice to the wok, it's best to use day old rice. It won't turn out so sticky. If you are simply putting your stir-fry over the rice, consider a rice cooker. It's a lifesaver for those that have problems creating a perfect plate of rice. You'll soon find that your wok has become one of your favorite tools in the kitchen!
Woks, of course, originated in Asia where they are widely used in many countries. You may enjoy creating an appropriate table setting when serving your stir-fry dishes. Try to emulate a Korean table setting to give your meal an authentic Asian touch.