One of the most common complaints about chinese takeaway/restaurants are the amount of grease in the dish that you get. This gives the general public the perception that chinese cooking is really unhealthy. This is all down to the wok. It simply comes down to cost cutting – a cheap commercial grade wok is a robust long lasting bit of bent carbon steel with a wooden handle. They take a battering from the metal ladles used and are pretty thick. There are 2 main types of commercial wok – one for making fried rice which is really thick and very heavy (so it can take a serious beating) and another thinner one for everything else (still a lot thicker than one you would get at home). When they are first purchased they are lined with oil and placed under high heat for up to 5 hours until the oil burns off. The silver wok turns black and is a lot more non stick than it was before.
When a chinese takeaway/restaurant is busy, if only a little oil is used some of your food gets stuck onto the wok because over time, the non stick coat begins breaking in places because of use of metal utensils and metal scourers (for cleaning).
When the food gets stuck on the wok it takes longer to clean with the scourer. It’s as simple as that – more oil equals less cleaning which equals more greasy food.
The same will apply in your home. I’m only talking about the type that can go on all hobs – the ones with flat bottoms. Don’t buy a round bottom wok unless you have a really high flame on your gas hob and a cradle to hold it.
If you buy a cheap wok that does not come with a non stick coating you will have to season the wok with oil and even using wooden or plastic utensils will not stop it becoming sticky quickly. If you buy a cheap non stick wok then you can’t season it and the non stick coating is usually completely useless after about 5 uses.
Luckily there are high quality woks on the market which are non stick and are guaranteed to stand the test of time. Le Creuset, Circulon and even Asda direct do an anodised aluminium material wok. Anodised Aluminium is seriously non stick but I would still recommend only using wooden utensils (pref beechwood or olive wood).
Even with the best wok your food will turn out poorly if you are not brave enough to heat up your oil to the max! It may sizzle and spit but that’s what will give you the special carbon taste and familiar asian flavour.
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