Pre-Seasoned, Lightweight, Cast Iron Wok is part of WOK STAR KIT
(Please note: This cast iron wok, lid and spatula are part of my Wok Star Kit which I’ve put together to help you be successful at your first attempt.
Here’s why you’ll love this wok!
If you don’t have experience with wok cooking, then there are three things you’ll want to know about this wok.
If you’re new to wok cooking (and are confused by all the choices), the place to begin is by giving some thought to the following considerations when choosing a wok…
- Regarding shape, your choice is between round or flat bottom. The traditional Chinese wok is round but there are functional considerations for choosing the round bottom wok that go beyond “tradition”.
- The round bottom is a natural shape. The curve allows a smooth, continuous stroke with no hard edges to break the free flowing stir fry movement. The round bottom just “feels” right.
- Flat bottom woks were designed to be used on electric stoves (useless for stir frying.) They have more flat surface area (they use more oil), and does not make for a natural stir fry motion. The vertical sides get scratched and food starts sticking making wash up a chore. Many people complain about this.
“Adjustable Size” pan. The continuous curve of the round bottom effectively makes the round bottom wok an “adjustable size” pan.
- When my husband makes omelets, he swirls the wok to spread the eggs to the desired size. The wok is an “all-in-one” small, medium and large omelet pan.
- Once he was reheating some turkey leg soup and started with a small saucepan, but the leg was sticking up and he couldn’t put the lid on. So he changed to a bigger pot but it was so wide the liquid didn’t cover the leg. Finally, he thought “why not the wok?”, since he uses it for everything else– the sloping sides were the perfect solution and the wide lid covered the whole leg.
Correct balance with two handles. Some people are attracted to the big handles on designer woks or the stout wooden handles on carbon steel woks. With a heavy wok you HAVE to have a large handle to be able to lift it (leverage). A big handle on a round bottom wok makes it unbalanced and “tippy”. I personally think these large handles get in the way. My wok doesn’t have a big handle because it wouldn’t be consistent with the design strategy of keeping everything LIGHT. Because of it’s lightness, you can handle mine with one hand even when it’s full. To assist you in gripping the wok, I designed a small wok mitt with a magnet which keeps the mitt attached to the wok when you take your hand off the handle. See wok mitt for more details.
Ideal Size. The 15” diameter (37 cm) is perfectly matched to use with the 12,000 btu Stir Fry Stove. It’s the ideal size whether you’re cooking for yourself or a family of 4-6 people. Woks smaller than 15” are difficult to use because there’s not enough room to flip your food and are impractical.
The wide opening and deep sides of the round bottom wok keeps the frying action in the center. This prevents food falling out of your wok and dirtying your stovetop.
There are only two types of material: CAST IRON… and all the rest. Let’s look first at “all the rest”– carbon steel, stainless steel, and the most popular, non-stick.
Carbon Steel. I find carbon steel “cold and steely”. Food stir fried in a carbon steel wok lacks flavor, texture and color, the three most important elements to tasty food. One advantage of carbon steel is that it can withstand being bashed around and this is one reason it’s popular in many Chinese restaurants. Cast iron is a brittle material and casting it thin to achieve lightness makes it susceptible to breaking if you drop it. My experience is that carbon steel doesn’t build a patina as nicely as cast iron (therefore the food sticks). All the photos I’ve seen online look like they are a dirty rusty color instead of the nice black patina of a cast iron wok. I’ve also been told by many who had a carbon steel wok, if you don’t use it regularly, it gets rusty.
Non Stick. Plastic non-stick (teflon) woks CANNOT be used above medium heat but no one ever reads the warning that comes with the pans or woks! There are many culinary experts who endorse using non-stick woks and numerous “celebrity chefs” who promote their own brands of non-stick woks. This amazes me because non-stick is the worst material for stir frying!
Dupont, the manufacturer of teflon put out Cookware Safety Guidelines, here are some highlights:
• high heat causes non-stick coating to release toxic gases. DuPont suggests ventilating your kitchen to clear away any fumes which may kill little birds!
• Non-stick cookware only lasts 3-5 years even with moderate use.
• Chipping or scraping the pan causes the release of toxic compounds. That’s why you have to use wood spatulas.
• You cannot broil or sear meats in a non-stick pan because those techniques require temperatures above what it can handle. (Without high heat, water from your veggies will not steam off, so they become soupy).
Students are amazed when they taste my shrimp, with a succulent inside and crispy outside, as well as my crunchy veggies stir fried in my cast iron wok. If you’re getting soupy stir frys and you’re using a non-stick pan, it’s not YOU, it’s the pan.
With the cast iron wok, the patina builds up the more you use it, making the surface better and better. It’s a NATURAL, non-stick surface and it’s eco-friendly!
Here are more independent studies/investigations about the hazards of using non stick cookware:
Good Housekeeping Research Institute Nov.2007 on Nonstick Cookware Safety Tips
Care2 GreenLiving on Non-Stick Cookware: Easy Greening
New York Times on How Not to Wreck a Nonstick Pan
CAST IRON. This is the best choice because of the following benefits:
Pre-seasoned – I’ve seasoned this wok for you which means it’s ready to use right out of the box. It is the most important procedure to set your wok up! You only need an onion virgin fry in a some grapeseed oil to get rid of any discoloration and steel taste. Then you’re ready to be a Wok Star!
Seasoning a wok is a tedious, smelly job that requires time, ventilation and patience. Many people have confessed to me they have unseasoned woks stashed away at the bottom of their cupboards because they never got around to doing the onerous task. Many online forums mention woks seasoned incorrectly resulting in food sticking and other horror stories.
I’ve eliminated this obstacle for you, to guarantee you’ll have success the very first time you attempt stir frying.
Flavors the food – The number one reason to use cast iron is that it gives your food flavor. You all remember the cast iron skillets your mother or grandmothers used and the wonderful meals that came from them. A food writer who hosts a radio show I was invited on described the taste as “a smokey, barbeque taste”.
Lightweight – My wok weighs only 3 pounds so it’s easy to handle (I can lift it with one hand). Some Cast iron skillets and/or woks can weigh over 10 pounds.
Conducts heat evenly – As a cooking material, cast iron is unsurpassed because there are no hot spots and it cooks evenly. Cookware does for heat what a lampshade does to light, it softens and smoothes it out.
Natural non-stick surface – Cast iron builds up a natural non-stick surface that improves with use. This patina is a TOUGH surface and is able to handle my metal spatula without scraping off. People are always amazed when I use “metal on metal”, as they’re familiar with wooden utensils for their non-stick pans. (Read more in “Spatula” below.)
Easy Clean-up – When I’ve finished my stir fry, I just add a little hot water to the bottom of the wok to soak while we’re eating dinner. It’s usually only a 15 second swish with a light pad or brush to wash out, then wipe it dry with a paper towel, no soap required. I do use mild soap when there’s been caramelized or acidic foods, just rinse with hot water. Your wok may look a little dry but once you starting stir frying in it, your patina will build up immediately.
Never use steel wool because it ruins the patina you’re building up! I don’t put oil on my wok because it makes it sticky and can go rancid.
Personality – Each one of my woks is unique. They are cast in a mold but each one is finished by hand in the final stage. One student even gave his wok a pet name! My wok isn’t “fancy”, it’s not as finished (no chrome handles) as many of the designer woks. But it possesses a beauty captured by the Japanese expression, “Wabi Sabi”: a rustic simplicity and understated elegance with a beauty and serenity that comes with age. (See discussion “Designer Woks” box at right) Architects and designers who appreciate good form and function, love my wok. It’s attractive displayed on your stovetop. If you don’t pack it away you’re more apt to use it. I’m confident you’ll find yourself using it for everything. It will become your number one favorite pan.
This special stainless steel spatula with a curved edge matches the curve of your round bottom wok so stir frying is a natural motion. It can cut meat and veggies in the wok by applying a slight rocking motion with pressure and the raised sides of the spatula allow you to scoop liquid so you only need ONE tool.
Quick note: wood, plastic or silicon spatulas are USELESS for stir frying in a cast iron wok because their edges are too thick. They were designed to be used for non-stick pans so they wouldn’t scratch off the non-stick coating. You are just pushing food around, more like stirring and cannot scoop under your food or flip over easily.
Magnetic Wok Mitt Set
I developed this UNIQUE MAGNETIZED WOK MITT SET (patent pending), to make the wok easier to handle.
Bulky oven gloves are awkward and fall off if you take your hands out. Silicone mitts can be slippery and may cause you to lose your grip because you can’t feel the wok.
This design works really well because my philosophy is to keep the wok LIGHT. Everyone who has this mitt set, love them! In my class, students like to hear the ‘ping’ when the mitt hits the wok, little things please people.
I chose a stainless steel lid: it’s light, doesn’t rust and it’s easy to clean. I listened to my customers who had concerns about aluminium lids.
As a Wok Star, your wok is your guitar. It needs to “feel right” and PERFORM (your wok gives your food flavor). If it gives you good results, you’ll enjoy it and use it everyday.
Until I started teaching wok cooking, I didn’t realize all the misconceptions people have about woks and stir frying. The difficulty in finding this particular wok in America is what motivated me to develop my Wok Star Kit. I didn’t want to get into the hardware business, but there were so many obstacles for people wanting to learn wok cooking…
• buying the right wok
• seasoning it correctly
• running around to 4-5 different shops to shop for tools and utensils
• finding good brands of Asian seasonings
• learning the right stir fry techniques
• adequate heat, the biggest obstacle, (especially on an electric glass flat cooktop).
The heat problem has been solved with the portable butane Stir Fry Stove.
My mission is to help you be successful and with the right tools, right heat, right techniques, good brands of seasonings, you’ll achieve success on your first attempt at being a Wok Star!
Ready to be a Wok Star? Buy my Wok Star Kit here.