The wok is a versatile cooking tool that has been used for centuries in Asian cuisine. It's perfect for stir-frying, deep-frying, steaming, and boiling. But did you know that the wok can also be used for roasting coffee beans, baking bread, smoking meat, and making popcorn? That's right: the wok is more than just a one-trick pony.
Let's start with the basics. Why should you cook in a wok? Well, for starters, woks require less oil than traditional frying pans, making them a healthier option for cooking. Plus, the shape of the wok allows for quick cooking times, which means that your food will retain more nutrients. And let's not forget about even heat distribution. The unique shape of the wok means that your food will cook evenly. And last but not least, woks are easy to clean and maintain. Many types can be washed with soap and water and dried with a towel.
There are several types available on the market to choose from:
Carbon steel woks are the most popular type of wok. They are durable and lightweight, making them easy to handle. Once seasoned, they are practically non-stick.
Cast iron woks are seriously heavy-duty and durable. They retain heat well and are usually suitable for cooking larger quantities, but of course, you won’t nonchalantly grab and lift one of those to toss the food.
Stainless steel woks are durable and easy to clean, don’t require seasoning but they can be pricier.
Non-stick woks are perfect for beginners but won’t get as hot as the other types.
Some unusual ways to use a wok:
Did you know that you can use a wok to roast coffee beans at home? Simply heat the wok over medium-high heat and add the coffee beans. Stir the beans constantly until they turn brown.
Baking bread: Who needs an oven when you have a wok? You can use a wok as a makeshift oven to bake bread at home. Simply place the dough in a greased wok and cover it with a lid. WARNING: I have not tested that!
You don't need a fancy smoker to smoke meat or fish at home. You can use a wok instead! Simply line the bottom of the wok with foil and add wood chips on top of it.
Forget about microwave popcorn! You can use a wok to make popcorn at home. Simply heat some oil in the wok over medium-high heat and add popcorn kernels.
But of course, apart from those wackier uses, you mainly want to cook stir fries in a wok, like crispy ginger beef noodles, five spice duck or scallops and asparagus.
But it’s also great for steaming the whole fish or deep frying, what with good heat distribution, constant temperature and the washing up not worse than after stir frying. Sometimes it literally doesn’t make any difference: when cooking chicken General Tso it’s deep fry – pour oil out – wipe wok – stir fry. When cooking pot stickers it’s fry - steam - fry.
And I also use it for pasta: it’s the perfect utensil to prepare the sauce and then to toss the pasta in. It’s much better for the purpose than a frying pan, the Italians simply didn’t get round to adopting woks for their purposes! Try it for pasta with asparagus and lemon, with red pepper sauce or pasta alla pizza.
And if you have some other, unusual uses for your woks, let me know in the comments below. Happy woking!