Sunday, September 11, 2005

Wok Shopping

Last week I went shopping for a wok, to replace one I've had for 15 years. (I improperly seasoned it the first time out, by coating it with oil and baking it in the oven; I won't make that mistake again.)

I've pretty much followed the recommendations of all the experts and gone with a carbon steel wok. Cast iron's heavy and I don't trust any that come with directions saying not to heat too high; stir-fries require high heat.

Oddly enough, I couldn't find what I wanted in out local Chinatown. Woks can be arranged in two different ways: with a long stick handle like a pan, or with two wire handles like a pot. The latter design is actually more "authentic" in that it's what most Chinese restaurants use; but I like the idea of a wooden handle that's less likely to burn the hand. I wound up finding it at a cookware discount store in Billings Bridge Mall, for less than $15 CDN.

This time I've seasoned it properly, scrubbing out the protective coating and using oil on a portable gas stove top. (Note: trying to season a wok on an electric heat element doesn't work very well.) Seasoning a wok does 2 things: it's supposed to prevent rusting, and it adds a non-sticky surface.

So far it's worked out well--I've made fried rice and the seasoning seems to be holding. Just to be sure though, I plan to use only my portable gas burner when stir-frying (on an electric ceramic element, the wok tends to take too long to reach optimum temperature).

I fully expect to get 15 years' worth of performance out of this one.