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wok this way wok cooking 101
by Yee-Fan Sun |
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continued from page 1

Traditional woks come with a machine oil coating to keep them from getting rusty while they sit around biding their time in the store. You'll need to remove this coating first, by giving your wok a very thorough scrubbing using a scouring pad and hot soapy water. Dry it well.

Now, make sure your stove is properly ventilated -- turn on the hood if you have one, otherwise, open up doors and windows as necessary. Sit your wok on a burner, pour in a smidge of cooking oil (no more than a tablespoon), and turn up the heat to high. Before the oil gets too burning hot, use a paper towel to gently spread it around all over the inside of the wok. Let the oil "burn" in by cooking until you begin to see smoke and the metal starts to change color. Carefully rotate the wok around to ensure that it heats up evenly; when you start to see browning, turn off the heat. Let the wok cool slightly for a few minutes, then sop up extra grease with a paper towel; cool the wok all the way to room temp. Repeat the seasoning process several more times, until the wok has a more-or-less darkened, oily-looking surface. You're now ready to cook, although if you want your wok to get properly blackened, you'll need to repeat this burning process each time after you use it, until the wok gets really well-coated.

cooking with your wok
The secret to proper wokking is pretty simple: get that wok good and hot before you add anything to it. Yes, that means heating it up before you add the oil. When you start to see a little smoke rising from your seasoned wok's surface, it's ready to go (with nonstick woks, you'll just have to use your own judgment… a couple of minutes over medium-high heat should do it). Let the oil heat up for another minute or so before you add whatever you're cooking. Generally, garlic and ginger are the first things to go in, to flavor the oil and help impart all that yummy goodness to whatever other ingredients will be tossed in later. As soon as your ingredients go in, start tossing so they don't burn.

As with the seasoning step, you'll want to make sure you have proper ventilation whenever you stir-fry, unless you want your smoke detectors to start wailing half-way through making your dinner. Also, the proper utensil to use with a traditional wok is a metal spatula featuring slightly raised sides (although wood can work as well); the edges allow you to easily scoop up the ingredients when you're tossing them around, and make it easy to transfer a finished stir-fry to a serving dish as well. Avoid plastic, as it has a pesky potential to melt when used with the kind of oil-sizzling hot cooking one generally does with a wok (and yes, sadly, I speak from experience).

cleaning your wok
After you've gone through all the effort to season your wok, you don't want to destroy all your hard labor. The best way to clean your wok is to soak it in warm water until whatever food that might be stuck on is loose enough to wipe off. You can lightly scrub the wok with no problem, and use a little soapy water if you like, but heavy scouring will only serve to undo the seasoning, leaving you with another long round of burning and cooling to do. Dry your wok well after washing, and give it a light swipe of oil before you put it away. Treat your wok well and it'll provide you with many years of happy stir-frying.

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the chinese pantry | dumplings for dummies


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