How To Chose Wok & Pan Guide

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Choosing Pots and Pans to Improve Your Cooking? Rather than having a rack filled with pots and pans of all shapes and sizes, owning a few pieces will give you the flexibility to cook whatever you want and the performance you need to cook it better.

How To Chose Wok & Pan Guide

Woks

If I had to choose one all-inclusive cooking tool, I would choose a wok. A wok is a traditional Asian pan used for cooking quickly at high temperatures. Typically, it gets used for stir-frying, boiling, braising, deep-frying and steaming. You can also do most of this with a regular pan or skillet, however a wok is thin and large, making it very heat efficient and easier to use when cooking Asian foods. 

An Asian chef will often say that when the bottom of the wok begins to glow, it’s ready to use for cooking. Unfortunately, most home-style stoves cannot deliver this kind of heat needed for stir frying. If you like cooking with a traditional wok, you could consider removing the burner covers on your hob to provide closer contact with the flame. 

Stir-Fry Pans

In most western style kitchens, you will have to use a stir-fry pan or skillet for Asian cookery. Stir-Fry pans and newer westernised woks are typically smaller than traditional woks and have flat bases. This makes them suitable to use on gas and electric stoves. Although they may not get hot enough to achieve the heat of a traditional wok, they are still great pans for a number of applications. The best stir-fry pans are still made from carbon steel, but a number of other materials also perform well. 

Materials

Traditional woks or steel pans are made from carbon steel or cast iron. The best ones are often hammered by hand to from multiple layers of carbon steel. However, the worst ones are simply stamped from a single sheet of rolled steel. Because carbon steel and iron will corrode over time, a traditional wok or steel pan must be seasoned and well maintained.

Aluminium woks and pans are strong, lightweight, and heat conductive, but are also chemically reactive. Solid aluminium woks will alter the taste of foods that are acidic, basic, or contain eggs. Anodised aluminium (an electrochemically treated aluminium) is an excellent material for woks and pans. It is extremely hard, heats fast and evenly, is nonreactive and relatively non-stick.

Woks or pans can be constructed with layered aluminium cores and clad entirely in stainless steel, which also work well. They are strong, heat responsive and their nonreactive surfaces promote the browning of foods. As a bonus, they will also work with induction ranges, the cooktops that function with electromagnetic fields instead of heat.

Non-Stick Surfaces

Non-stick wok or pan surfaces have their advantages and their disadvantages. On the plus side, they are easy to clean and require less oil than traditional pans to prevent sticking. On the downside the surfaces can be delicate, and they do not generally promote browning as well as metal surfaces.

Although innovations have made Teflon coatings more durable than ever, Teflon will release highly toxic vapours if heated above 350C. Because wok cooking and stir-frying requires high heat, Teflon coated woks should be avoided if possible.

Anodised aluminium woks or pans are nontoxic and scratch resistant. They tend to stick more than coated pans, but they do a better job of searing and browning and are hard enough to be used with metal utensils. Some manufacturers use an anodized aluminium that has been electrochemically "infused" with non-stick polymers or utilise revolutionary ceramics to create more efficient non-stick surfaces. We recommend any of these as they are durable and effective.

The Handle

A good handle must be strong, sturdy, and remain cool to the touch. Wooden handles provide the best grip but are not oven safe, and therefore limit their versatility. Plastic handles can withstand oven temperatures up to 250°C, but can melt under a broiler. Stainless steel is a poor conductor, so long handles made from stainless steel are oven safe and will remain cool for a good amount of time. We typically recommend stainless steel handles for their versatility, but we don't think they offer an advantage here as you will probably never use your wok or pan in an oven.

Handles that have been riveted to the side of a pan are strong and durable, but the rivets may be difficult to clean around and can loosen in time with heavy use. Handles that have been permanently bonded to or forged from the same piece of metal as the cookware are ideal as they will never fail. We suggest avoiding handles that have been spot welded or attached to the cookware by means of a screw system as they will loosen easily and may break entirely.

Traditional woks have a round base with stick or side handles. Side handles are traditional to southern China while a long stick handles are more common in Northern China (and consequently referred to as a Peking Pan). Flat base woks have been designed to be used directly on your gas, electric or induction cooktop.

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