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What Are the Best Tips for Cooking with a Wok?

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  • Written By: Kali Cozyris
  • Edited By: A. Joseph
  • Last Modified Date: 21 November 2016
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Cooking with a wok creates many appetizing meals, with stir-fry being the most notable dish. The unique shape of the wok allows foods to be cooked at a high heat very quickly. Some of the best tips for cooking with a wok are using the proper size wok for the meal, seasoning the wok for optimum food flavor, using the right cooking oil and preparing the ingredients beforehand.

Using the right-sized wok is important for the type of meal that you are preparing and the size of your cooking area. When cooking with a wok to make rice or soup, use a wok that is about 2 feet (61 cm) in diameter so that it accommodates the water needed for those dishes. For stir-fry or other dishes that require high heat, a wok that is 16 inches (40.64 cm) or smaller is the best option. Always allow 2-4 inches (5.1-10.2 cm) of additional space at the top of the wok so that it is easier to mix the ingredients and so the food spends more time in the hot spot of the wok, where it will cook to the perfect freshness and texture.

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A well-seasoned wok is key to creating the distinctive wok flavor, or wok hei. To season a wok, smear the wok’s surface with lard, heat the lard on high, and tilt the wok to distribute it evenly over the surface. Let the wok cool, and wipe up the excess grease. Heat the wok on high again until it produces smoke, and repeat the entire process until the wok becomes shiny and dark and does not leave residual brown or black stains on a paper towel. Reseason the wok as necessary, typically when the finish begins to erode.

When cooking with a wok, it is best to use oils that have a high smoke point and that contain a low amount of polyunsaturated fat. Oils that meet these criteria include peanut oil, soybean oil and grapeseed oil. Preheat the wok before adding these oils to open the pores and release the flavors stored in the wok.

Another tip for cooking with a wok is to prepare all of the ingredients beforehand. Woks cook very quickly and utilize high heat levels, thanks to their unique design. It is important to be near the wok at all times to keep an eye on the process. Having to step away from the cooking area to get something out of a refrigerator or to chop additional vegetables might lead to overcooking or burning the meal.

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