Virtually every home now has a Wok. They are incredibly versatile, useful pans and you can certainly cook an amazing variety of dishes in one. The classic stir fry, deep fried, boiled and with a bamboo basket steamed dishes, are all staples of Wok cookery. There are two main differences between a western Wok and the authentic Chinese item.
First the flat bottom, the principle of the Wok and its concave construction is to concentrate and evenly distribute the heat allowing quick cooking, extremely valuable in fuel poor environments. The flat-bottomed Wok is a modification to simply allow the Wok to sit on modern hobs, a concave Wok is best. The second innovation is Teflon or similar non-stick coatings. A correctly prepared Wok itself is non-stick and you can save money on buying a traditional cast iron or lighter carbon steel Wok rather than a non-stick version. When purchased a cast iron Wok is porous, seasoning seals the surface before any cooking.
Seasoning your new Wok
It will be best to season your Wok in a well-ventilated kitchen with the window open as the process can get a little smoky. Be careful of smoke alarms. You will need some cooking oil, plenty of paper kitchen toweling and a pair of tongues. Wash any of the manufacturers shipping oil from the pan, this is the only time you should wash your wok in soapy water. Place your wok over a high heat and watch as the metal heats up. It will shimmer and change through a rainbow of colours silver, red, purple and brown. The Wok will become very hot and start smoking. Drizzle some oil onto a very thick wad of kitchen paper. BE VERY CAREFUL AND DO NOT POUR ANY OIL INTO THE PAN AS IT CAN CATCH FIRE.
Using the tongs wipe the Wok with the oiled paper. Turn the heat down to the lowest setting and replace the Wok on the heat. ‘ Cook ‘ the Wok for fifteen minutes, at first as some of the oil burns off this will create some smoke. This process allows the oil to soak into the steel. After fifteen minutes the surface should be a burnished black colour. Turn off the heat and allow to cool. Wipe off any excess oil.
When you have used your Wok just rinse in warm water and clean with a non-metal scourer. Dry and wipe with a little clean oil. If you use soap or an abrasive scourer you will need to repeat the seasoning process. The seasoning technique can also be used for cast iron sauté pans.