Woks and helmets

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Woks and helmets

Postby Kody » Mon Mar 18, 2013 8:56 pm

Woks and Helmets
The Chinese Wok (Woc, Wock, Rok or whatever) is my absolute favorite implement for cooking anything and almost everything. I have yet to cook a sponge cake in a wok, however, that’s a minor detail. An upside down wok placed over your head is the perfect cover in a rain storm or hail storm. Just don’t go out in a thunderstorm wearing it or your wok could very easily become the target of a lightning strike. This would not be good as your wok will definitely get a huge hole blown into it and render it useless.
If you are thinking of buying one (Oh, please - please do), there are lots of different sizes to choose from. The very best ones are made of steel and are hemispherical in shape. This means they are completely rounded in shape and have no flat bottom. They have two handles at the top edge to lift it and shove it around and there are some with a handle similar to a frying pan. Get a decent size from the beginning. If you buy a small one, you will soon wish you had a much bigger one. A really good size is 18 inches in diameter but don’t go less than 16 inches. Yes it can be a pain to store away but you can chuck out lots of other stuff to fit it in if you have to and you won’t miss the tossed stuff.

A few things you need to know about Woks.
They are made of steel, they rust, they need to be “seasoned” and they must be looked after with not a small amount of TLC. To stop the rusting you might be able to buy a stainless steel wok but I much prefer the standard steel type. All my “cooking” friends tell me not to buy a stainless steel wok as they don’t work (cook) as good as the common steel type. The stainless steel woks I have seen and used had a frying pan style handle and were flat on the bottom. This style leaves a lot to be desired because these are not woks, they are deep frying pans. If you decide to get a beautiful authentic wok then you also need to buy a gas stove to cook with it. The gas stove is just a small point but it is an essential. Woks do not work on an electric stove. When you buy one, it must have a circular ring support that is also tapered. This ring is the support that the wok sits in. The ring has a large diameter on one side and a smaller diameter on the other. Don’t leave the shop without the circular ring.

How to season your new wok

Parts that are needed.
A new steel wok
Some edible flax seed cooking oil
An oven, electric is preferred and the safest.
Soapy water in sink and a towel
A solid step ladder set up inside.
A few fingers to spread the oil with.

How to put the parts together.

Heat the oven to maximum temperature. While it’s heating, wash the wok with warm soapy water, rinse well and dry thoroughly, this is important. Pour some oil into the wok and spread all over the inside using your fingers. You can also spread it on the outside which helps to stop it rusting.
When the oil has completely covered the surface with no pooling in the bottom, place it in the oven. It will take about fifteen to twenty minutes. After ten minutes, you will find that you now need the ladder. Place it at the required spot, climb up and bash that stupid smoke detector to death. See? now you know why the ladder was needed.
Check on the wok, it should be starting to turn deep brown as the oil burns and hardens into a film like hard enamel. Take it out after the twenty minutes have gone and the smoke has cleared, let it cool enough for you to handle. If the coating looks a bit thin, spread more oil on the wok and stick it back in the oven for another fifteen or twenty minutes. Open all the windows and let your neighbours know that there is absolutely no fire and that you are not making anything illegal.
When the wok is cooked, and cooled, it is ready to be your humble and faithful servant.

To increase the life of the seasoned surface, try not to use a metal scraper-lifter thing when cooking. Use a good heat resistant plastic one (hard to find at times) or use a wooden lifter- stirrer to turn the tucker. The hard coating of oil will last quite a long time but go easy when you wash and clean it. If the worst comes to the worst, you can always cook and bake the wok once more. Always dry it thoroughly as any “raw” steel spots that may have formed, will begin to oxidize. Ok, that means it will rust. This is why a stainless steel wok is so super convenient (and expensive) but not as good to cook with.
So now get a new smoke detector, install the noisy thing and get rid of that ladder.
You can now enjoy an experience of a lifetime, cooking with your new Wok.

Woc, defined as something you frow at wabbits!

Kody
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Re: Woks and helmets

Postby Roo Dog » Fri Mar 22, 2013 7:49 pm

Kody,

Good one ! :D

RD
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Re: Woks and helmets

Postby Shadow Catcher » Sat Mar 23, 2013 7:43 am

We love a Woc, unfortunately we have an electric stove so out of luck. One question, watching professional cook with them they are using a very LARGE flame. Part of the advantage is, from my limited knowledge/observation, very high heat and quick searing? I would think you could achieve this will a propane gas burner of some sort i.e a burner used in a turkey fryer. Since we have a gas point on the trailer I am interested in exploring this.
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Re: Woks and helmets

Postby Corwin C » Tue Mar 26, 2013 12:07 am

I had a Japanese friend in college who did a little cooking for us from time to time. He used a wok for EVERYTHING. He claimed that he hammered his wok out himself out of a 20" circle of 3/16" sheet steel on a sandbag with a big ball peen hammer. I can't verify that, but it was obviously hand made. His was shaped more like a flat cone with a semi hemispherical bottom about 8" in diameter. If it set upside down on a flat surface, I don't think anything bigger than maybe a tennis ball would fit underneath it without lifting an edge.

He'd fill a charcoal starter chimney almost full, give it a few minutes to get a roaring "vertical jet engine" and would set the wok right on top of the charcoal chimney. He said that in Japan he did the same thing over a rocket stove.
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Re: Woks and helmets

Postby pmowers » Sun Jul 28, 2013 6:58 pm

Shadow Catcher wrote:We love a Woc, unfortunately we have an electric stove so out of luck. One question, watching professional cook with them they are using a very LARGE flame. Part of the advantage is, from my limited knowledge/observation, very high heat and quick searing? I would think you could achieve this will a propane gas burner of some sort i.e a burner used in a turkey fryer. Since we have a gas point on the trailer I am interested in exploring this.


The wok has been virtually unchanged for thousands of years, it is that versatile and perfect at what it does.

I keep a wok in the trailer at all times, I even carried a 10 incher in my ruck. Stir-fried fresh rainbow trout and vegetables with tiger sauce. Yumm! A Coleman stove running full bore is enough heat to stir fry with, a turkey or fish fryer will definitely have the btus to cook. I have successfully used a MSR whisperlite back packing stove. The woks used commercially typically last about 2 weeks, from the tremendous amount of heat they absorb.

One advantage of the wok is that there is a gradation of heat. and lots of surface area. If foods are getting overcooked, just move them away from the center, need more heat, move toward the center. The major trick to successful use is to have everything ready before the heat hits the pan. Once you start, you don't have time to pause. A second tip is to have everything properly sliced before you start. dense foods like carrots will take longer, so they need to be sliced thinner and/or put in earlier. I have made everything from eggs to fried chicken in a wok. If you have a lid to fit, you can use it as a steamer. I am thinking about trying to bake in it, I know it can be done.

As Kody said, make sure you get the wok ring. I have found it works better if you put it on the burner grid with the small side down, as this brings the bottom closer to the heat.

Bobhenry, there are even cast-iron woks available. 8)
I find that I have the best luck when I buy my woks from the local oriental food store. Chances are, the owner uses one as well.
Growing old is mandatory, growing up is optional.

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Re: Woks and helmets

Postby mike_c » Thu Aug 29, 2013 7:59 pm

I own three woks-- two regular and one stainless steel with a small flat and copper cladding on the bottom. Maybe it's the shape, and maybe it's the copper-- maybe both-- but that stainless wok is awesome. It heats fast, and of course clean up is easy. My ex left it behind years ago and I left it under the counter for years, disdaining it because of all the terrible things I've heard about stainless woks. I was amazed at how well it actually works-- it's a little smaller than my big woks so now I tend to use it often when just cooking for Kathy and I. And it works really well on a Coleman stove.
If it isn't broke, perhaps a more expensive tool is required to break it....
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