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How to Cook with a Wok

Cooking with a wok is an excellent way of providing you and yours with a quick and healthy one pot meal. A wok is designed so that the food within heats up very quickly, allowing the food to sear and crisp lightly on the outside, remaining hot until it is eaten. It is not difficult to cook regularly with a wok if you follow some general tips. 

Flash-cook, don’t burn

The idea is that your meat, fish and vegetables are seared on the outside and cooked through, not charred. Don’t be tempted to pile your ingredients in and then wander off while you do something else — if you do your food could end up burned and there is a high risk that the hot oil could cause a serious accident. Instead, stay close by and regularly tilt the wok so that the ingredients move around and are evenly cooked. Use a utensil with a curved-edge, rather than a spatula, so that it will reach into the bottom of the wok.

Ensure meat is properly cooked

It is particularly important that meat is cooked through properly. To do so, cut it up into bite-size pieces or strips so that the heat from the wok can sear the meat. Ideally, cook the meat first, perhaps along with onions for added flavor, so that you can ensure it is cooked. You can then put it aside and add back in when your other ingredients are ready, or you can add the vegetables while the meat continues to cook. If you aren’t sure whether it has cooked through or not, cut a piece in half to check.

Season your wok

A well-made wok made from iron or steel can last for years, particularly if you season it. To do so, coat the inside of the wok with a fat — lard is traditionally used — and then place it in the oven at 350-450 degrees Fahrenheit for around half an hour. Allow it to cool, remove excess grease, and repeat until the surface is covered with a black or brown ash-free coating. This will stop your wok from rusting and will help to add flavor to whatever you choose to cook in it. Woks made from stainless steel or aluminium cannot be seasoned in the same way and are therefore less desirable. Re-season if the finish appears to be wearing away or there are signs of rust. 

Caring for your wok

Once your wok is properly seasoned, there is no need to scrub at it to clean it. Ideally, you should avoid using anything but warm water and a cloth to get it clean, because detergents will eat away at the seasoning. Using harsh scrubbing tools to clean the wok is also a bad idea, because they will scratch away at the seasoning. You should kill any bacteria by heating water in the wok and then ensuring it is properly dry before storing. If you must use soap to clean your wok, perhaps for hygiene purposes, be gentle.

Experiment with flavors and oils

You shouldn’t feel that you are limited to ready-made stir-fry sauces available in supermarkets. You shouldn’t even feel that you are only limited to stir-fries. Try different ways of cooking and flavoring your food in a wok by experimenting with different recipes and Asian ingredients that may not have been familiar to you previously.

Cook with different oils too — you will be amazed at how different oils can flavor your food. Peanut oil and semi-refined sesame oil are commonly used and have a high smoke point, which is ideal for wok cooking, but you may prefer the flavors of other oils.

If you haven’t cooked with a wok before, you could soon find yourself becoming a huge fan. Take care of your wok and you should be able to enjoy it for a lifetime.