How to use a wok: the secrets of the Chinese saucepan and 5 recipes to try

Today we explain how to best use this saucepan so loved in the East, the types of cooking that you can experiment and some unmissable simple recipes.

By Cookist

Increasingly the protagonist of our preparations, the wok is a saucepan of oriental origin that thanks to its particular oval shape allows a quick and uniform cooking of the ingredients: steamed, fried or simply sauteed, with the wok we can cook any type of dish, from the meat to fish and also vegetables. Easy to find on the market and very simple to use, with one or two handles, the wok is very useful even if you want to cook in a healthy way and with the addition of few fats: in fact foods, if cooked for the shortest possible time, retain much of their nutritional properties. Today we explain how to best use this saucepan so loved in the East, the types of cooking that you can experiment and some unmissable simple recipes.

What is and how to use the wok

The wok is an oval cast iron saucepan of the Chinese tradition, now famous and used all over the world. On the market you can find woks of different sizes, from 30 cm to 20 cm, and more and more recipes require its use. The wok is very good for quick recipes: its shape in fact allows the heat to distribute evenly so as to speed up cooking, whether it is meat, shellfishes or vegetables. For example, everybody knows the famous Chinese noodles. Equipped with one or two handles to best stir-fry the ingredients, the wok was born in ancient China where, to speed up or remedy the problem of lack of fuel, they were forced to cook the ingredients all together in a single saucepan.


How to cook food with the wok

With the wok you can cook practically everything: white meats, red meats, fishes, shellfishes and vegetables. But the real greatness of this saucepan is in the versatility of the cookings that can be experimented, such as:

To stir-fry. The most common and perhaps the simplest type of cooking: to stir-fry the ingredients in the wok you need very little seasoning (it is an incredibly non-stick saucepan) and very little time (the oval structure allows not only uniform but also very fast cooking). Cut all the ingredients into small pieces and pour them according to the cooking time they need (soybeans, for example, should be added only at the last moment), always stir-fry and mix with a wooden or plastic spatula, so as to avoid spoiling the non-stick base of your wok.

To fry. With the wok you can prepare crispy fried fish or vegetables (perhaps with a delicate batter made from rice flour); to do it right you need less oil than a common saucepan: despite its large size, in fact, the wok can be used to cook less ingredients at a time and therefore in less oil, which can reach a temperature that varies between 160° degrees and 180° degrees.

Steam cooking. The characteristic shape of the wok allows this saucepan to be used also for steam cooking. On the market you can easily find a grill to be placed on the wok that you will have to half fill with water: once the water reaches the boil, place the food you want to cook on the grill and cover everything with a lid. If you use a multi-layered grill, be careful to place in the lower layer the foods that need more heat intensity such as vegetables and starchy foods, and in the higher layer the foods such as meat or fish.

Stew cooking. The stew cooking is actually a double cooking, a first phase of stir-frying followed by a slower cooking in a liquid that can be water or broth; with this type of cooking you can prepare excellent meat stews in the wok.


Tips and suggestions

To cook quickly and uniformly, it is preferable to use gas stoves, on which you can adjust the intensity of the flame, it is better to avoid induction cookers.

If you use the wok for stir-frying recipes, be careful to heat the oil first and only after pour your ingredients, or you will lose the crunchiness.

To mix the ingredients always use a wooden or silicone ladle, in this way you will not ruin the surface of the saucepan which makes it non-stick.

To clean the wok in the best way, fill it with hot water immediately after use and let it rest for 20 minutes, then rinse with a sponge using the soft side of it. Except in some cases, with hot water only the wok will be cleaned easily and you will not need to use dish soap. If you can, put a few drops of oil on a piece of kitchen paper and spread the oil inside the wok: in this way the non-stick covering will be protected.

5 recipes to make with the wok

There are so many recipes to make with the wok: we suggest you 5 simple recipes to make, ideal also for those who have never used the wok, but with a very particular taste. Here's how to best use the wok in the kitchen by making tasty and light dishes at the same time.

1. Curry shrimp with coconut milk


A traditional Indian dish where shrimps meet the strong taste of curry, all perfectly balanced by the sweetness of coconut milk. Preparing curry shrimps is very simple and they are ready in a few minutes, just long enough to obtain a fragrant and spicy creamy sauce.

2. Noodles


The now famous Chinese noodles made from flour, water and eggs: the real noodles are always first slightly blanched and then stir-fried in the wok together with vegetables, meat or fish, of course with spices and soy sauce in abundance. Excellent both hot and cold, if you don't care about calories, you can also fry them.

3. Pad Thai


Pad Thai is the Thai street food par excellence, the one you can easily find in every more or less improvised kiosk. Shrimps, noodles, fish, soy sauce and much more: the recipe is simpler than you think and the result is a dish full of flavors and aromas, ideal for an oriental-flavored dinner.

4. Cantonese rice


Directly from the cuisine of Canton, one of the largest Chinese cities, Cantonese rice is also called fried or sauteed rice. Prepared mainly with basmati rice or jasmine rice topped with eggs, peas and ham, all strictly cooked in the wok.

5. Chicken in sweet and sour sauce


A second creamy and spicy dish thanks to the presence of fresh ginger, chicken in sweet and sour sauce is a traditional Chinese recipe in which the meat is embellished with crunchy almonds. Just the balance of flavors and the speed with which it is made make this dish an excellent idea for an alternative and last minute dinner.

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