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What to Look for When Buying a Wok

by kenzie on July 22, 2014

Stir frying is a good cooking method. It keeps the vegetables crisp, with its nutrients still intact while ensuring that meat is succulent and tasty, with a slight smoky flavor. Stir fries are easy to prepare and make. All you need to do is slice the raw ingredients, put the pan in high heat and presto, after 5 minutes (or even less), you’re done!

The secret to a good stir fry and Chinese-style cooking is a good wok. Woks are versatile pieces of cookware since you can also use them for braising, deep-frying and steaming.

Here are some things that can help you choose:

-          Bottom. Woks usually have rounded bottoms since they are shaped like a deep bowl. This is so that only the ingredients in the bottom are exposed to high heat and the ingredients can be easily flipped. The problem with the wok’s rounded bottom is that you need to stabilize the cookware when you use it on a gas cooktop or electric burner. It is also not advisable to choose a wok that has a bottom that is too flat – it won’t be a wok anymore. A compromise is to choose a wok with a bowl-like shape but that has a flattened bottom (maximum area would be four to five inches, just enough to let the wok sit securely on the cooktop.

-          Handle. There are basically two types of woks. The Northern-style wok features a long handle on one side and a small handle on the other side. This facilitates flipping and allows you to move the wok across the cooktop. Meanwhile, the Cantonese-style wok features two small handles placed at opposite sides. This enables you to lift the cookware easily.

-          Material. Woks are made from a wide variety of materials, for all woks of life (we tried, but couldn’t resist making this pun). You can choose from among stainless steel woks, carbon steel woks, cast iron woks or aluminum woks. Woks need to be good heat conductors so choose a material that has this quality. Cast iron or carbon steel are two of  the best conductors of heat. These are highly responsive to changes in burner temperature and durable. However, cast iron is heavier when they are thick but can easily break when the iron is too thin.

-          How it is made. Woks can either be spun or stamped. Spun woks are manufactured on a lathe which produces concentric circles on its surface. The circles make it easier for the cook to maneuver the ingredients and keep them on the side rather than on the bottom of the wok. Spun woks usually feature heavy gauges. Meanwhile, stamped woks can used by pressing the metal into a mold, which produces a smooth surface. This means that the ingredients simply side down, making it harder to stir fry.

-          Size. The size of your selected wok will depend on the kind of stove you have, the volume of cooking you are planning to do as well as your personal preferences.

-          Non-stick or not? Woks will be used to cook in high heat. Most non-stick coatings are not designed to withstand high heat so having this kind of non-stick coating will simply defeat its purpose. You should opt only for non-stick coated version if the wok is made of heavy and thick metal. At best, try to go for a carbon steel wok that you have seasoned thoroughly.

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Perhaps you have already equipped your home kitchen with all the necessities. Now, the next step is to add kitchenware that can help cut down preparation time, save oven space and help you whip up dishes that have unique preparation requirements. Of course, you also have to bear in mind that you have limited space. Choose wisely – get only the equipment you know you can use and look for kitchen equipment that is versatile so that it can do a number of tasks.

Here are some of the kitchen equipment you can consider adding to your cooking arsenal:

-          Simmer mat. This is a flat piece of metal that you can put over a stovetop and allows you to gently simmer or slow cook meats or sauces. The mat distributes the heat evenly onto a pot so that hot water remains hot without boiling over and delicate sauces are cooked without burning them. The simmer mat prevents burnt meat and sauce to stick onto the bottom of the pan. This also transforms simple pots into a slow cooker, rice cooker or double boiler.

-          Grease separator. Cook healthy sauces and gravies by getting rid of the unwanted fat – all without messing up your kitchen. This not only strains the grease, it also rids sauces of other food particles.

-          Fondue pot. Serve awesome cheese and chocolate fondues to your family and guests. A fondue pot can also be used to make dips and latkes. The pot can also be used to make Shabu-Shabu, the Japanese take on fondue, which is to drop raw meat, vegetables and other quick-cooking ingredients into broth and wait for it to cook.

-          Baster. For perfect roasts with juicy meat and crispy skin, use a baster set that enables you to draw the meats juices that have collected into the baking pan and generously baste this liquid on top of the roasted meat. Choose a dripless version that prevents spills and one that is break-resistant (remember, the liquids you are drawing out are hot and may cause glass types to shatter).

-          Carving set. Once you take the perfect roast out of the oven, it’s time to carve the meat. You need a good carving set that is sharp enough for you to set the slices at the desired thickness. Choose a good carving knife that you can easily grip and hold, as well as a fork that has long tines for gripping the meat or poultry securely while slicing.

-          Trivet. Protect your kitchen countertops and tabletops with trivets. This can be made with silicone, wood or metal and is where you can place hot pans, dishes or a Dutch oven and still protect the surface of your table or countertop. A non-slip silicone version can also be used to secure small kitchen appliances, mixing bowls or cutting boards while you use them. There are trivets that are decorative as they are functional and can fit your elegant dining table setting.

-          Fermentation crock. This sealable pot is perfect for making cured or fermented meats and vegetables. This Polish kitchenware is used for making pickled cucumbers or beets, sauerkraut, salami, cure ham and even kimchi. Making food using this fermentation method is healthy, as it preserves not just the flavor but the vitamins as well.

-          Cut-resistant gloves. Slice and dice quickly and without fear of nicking your fingers with your sharp knife. These gloves are made of intertwined steel and fiber to provide dexterity and comfort, even while keeping your fingers safe.

-          Pizza peel. Prepare and serve large pizzas straight from your oven. You can easily lift the pizza from the grill or baking stone using a pizza peel that keeps dough intact while you are peeling it from the cooking surface.

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