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Traditional woks were made from cast iron because it was a readily available resource and these woks were virtually indestructible. Many are now made of carbon steel which conducts heat perfectly for stir-frying. These woks must also be properly “seasoned.” One benefit, though, is that the clean up of a properly seasoned wok requires just a wipe-down of the pan. There are many choices in woks for every budget. Here's a primer on what to look for when selecting the perfect wok for you:
• SIZE: If your cooking for a family, choose a wok that is 12 to 14 inches in diameter. You can find some that cook up meals for one or two, like the All-Clad small wok.
• COOKWARE MATERIAL: A kitchen wok can be made of stainless steel, copper, aluminum, carbon steel or even cast-iron. Some of the newest woks are virtually non-stick, like the newest wok from Calphalon One hard-anodized aluminum cookware. It's infused with an advanced release polymer so food doesn't stick.
• SHAPE: Some woks have a round collar to sit on like the hand-hammered black steel wok created by Asian chef Joyce Chen. This style mimics the woks used in china. Some say the collar helps with heat convection from the stove. It works by heating up the wok more evenly than if it was just placed directly on the heat source, as in a flat-bottomed wok.
• HANDLES: Most woks seated in a collar have two looped handles for two hand carrying. Some of the newer woks feature one long wooden or metal handle that can be useful in flipping around the food in the wok. Some woks feature one looped handle and one long handle, like many of the stir-fry pans offered by All-Clad Stainless.
• ACCESSORIES: Some woks will come in an Asian cookware set with a frying strainer or wire-mesh basket plus a steaming trivet with a domed tight-fitting lid. To use a wok, you'll need a special set of utensils designed for tossing the food about the pan. Be sure to select utensils for the material of your wok. Silicone utensils are perfect for nonstick surfaces to prevent scratches.