Buying a wok

Discussion in 'Whats Cooking? Food, Drink, & Gear' started by karaRobert, Mar 9, 2018.

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  1. May 1, 2018 #121

    Paraffin

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    That's a good point about "chowing" the oil with aromatics, using less oil in a wok than a flat pan. Especially a round-bottom wok if you have the setup for it.

    The other advantage with round-bottom wok is deep-frying, and "passing through oil" which is similar to deep frying. Less oil is needed, because the curved bottom reduces the total volume while maximizing the surface area at the top, for floating food when frying.

    A potential drawback is that less oil = faster drop in temp when food is added, compared to the thermal retention of something like a commercial deep fryer. But if you're on a proper wok burner, you can just goose the gas jet at the same time you add food, to keep the temperature high.
     
  2. May 1, 2018 #122

    LifeByA1000Cuts

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    I do wonder whether a wok for flat-top stoves that just ... had a curved bottom section of 3" or 4" ... milled from a massive, flat bottomed cast iron disk ... could be made?

    ---

    The issue is problematic mostly with protein-less, non-starchy stir fries ... eg simple stir fried bok choy ... protein and starch can drink a lot of flavoured oil and taste even better, but greens, peppers, bamboo shoots etc will just become slippery and sauce proof with excess oil...
     
  3. May 2, 2018 #123

    Paraffin

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    Interesting idea, but it would take much longer to heat up, and would hold heat much longer than a standard thin-wall wok. One of the advantages of wok cooking is how fast you can drop the heat, as well as how fast you can bring the temperature up. It's super-responsive. It also allows quickly cleaning the wok between steps in a recipe, which a lot of Chinese recipes need. BLAM! with the wok, then quick wipe, then BLAM! with the wok again. Quick changes, quick heating.

    A design like that would also be much heavier, so it wouldn't work for the northern China "pow wok" tossing thing.

    It still always comes down to needing a proper heat source, so you can use a round-bottom wok. Woks are designed to work a certain way, and you're not getting the full benefits with a flat bottom, or a round bottom too far above the kind of weak burners in most home kitchen stoves.

    I dabbled in wok cooking for years on standard gas kitchen stoves, using flat bottom woks and round bottom with a "wok ring," but never got very far. The flat bottoms were too much like cooking in a normal pan. The round bottoms never got enough heat, so we ended up with gooey food and sauces.

    Then we did the once-in-a-lifetime kitchen remodel with a 30,000 btu wok burner and a massive exhaust hood above it. Suddenly wok cooking was tremendously useful and fun. BLAM! hit that food with some real heat. Not Chinese restaurant grade heat, but close enough to work in a home kitchen. I'm sure the folks here cooking outside on superhot propane burners designed for things like turkey fryers are finding out the same thing.
     
  4. Jul 18, 2018 #124

    boomchakabowwow

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    D6FB809F-2D0B-4541-BCE2-5A16D85C4515.jpeg I’m using my Wok a lot. 4x a week easy. It’s getting pretty great. Very slick.
     
  5. Jul 19, 2018 #125

    Paraffin

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    That wok is looking good!

    You're using a high-heat outdoor burner, right? That's a good way to keep black carbonized food gunk from building up and sticking to the metal. My indoor wok burner is pretty good at 30k btu, but I still have to make sure there isn't any black gunk buildup, occasionally hitting it with a copper mesh scrubber when I spot it.
     
  6. Jul 19, 2018 #126

    boomchakabowwow

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    Yea. A high heat burner. I don’t have set ripping hot tho. My wok is a 14”, so it gets hot pretty much all over.
     
  7. Sep 7, 2018 #127

    quantumcloud509

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    I was gifted a wok and an outdoor propane turkey fryer looking stand with a cast iron heating element by a nice Japanese gal from my old neighborhood. I destroyed the wok after about a year of use, just couldn’t keep up with the rust ( I think this was a very low end wok, or I couldn’t figure out how to season it probably which isn’t very likely) I now use the heating element for deep frying in my cast iron Dutch oven, and for boiling stuff in the 20qt pot, but after reading this whole thread over three times since last night, I’m getting excited to give the wok thing a shot again. But what I’m even more intrigued by and have never been exposed to is:
    Donabe. Omg, I think this is what’s missing from my life. Seriously. Why haven’t I ever paid attention to WHAT matsutake Gohan is cooked in traditionally!? Of course! And the smoking in one of these seems fantastical.

    Two questions for donabe users: what wood is traditionally used in Japan for smoking in donabe?
    Is there donabe to steer away from, or what maker would y’all recommend for a high quality donabe from experience?
     
  8. Sep 7, 2018 #128

    Grunt173

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  9. Sep 7, 2018 #129

    btbyrd

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    If your primary goal is to cook rice, the Kamado San from Iga Mono is the one to get. It comes in a range of sizes: 1, 2, 3 and 5-cup models. I got the 3-cup model because it seems the most versatile for my needs. The largest, 5-cup model isn't able to cook smaller quantities of rice (1 or 2 cups) but only 3-5 cups at a time. Since we're a smaller household, the 3-cup model lets us make 1, 2, or 3 cups depending on our needs. That said, the 2-cup version of Kamadosan is currently $100 via Amazon Prime -- which is much cheaper than purchasing from Toiro Kitchen (the main US importer and sellers of Iga Mono donabes).

    The donabe smoker is a relative novelty, as I understand it -- something created within the past 20 or 30 years. I'm not sure if you can call it "traditional," but I think that cherry wood is often used. They sell cherry, apple, walnut, and hickory chips. The first three are sourced from Japan; the wood for the hickory chips is from the US. I haven't had great results using mine yet. I've only used it a few times, but the results have been mixed and I haven't yet had anything that's truly delicious. It definitely requires some experimentation, which I have yet to properly engage in.
     
  10. Sep 8, 2018 #130

    Neko

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  11. Sep 8, 2018 #131

    Grunt173

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    Love it.
     
  12. Sep 22, 2018 #132

    DitmasPork

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    I've also looked at Yamada, as well as these hand hammered Chinese ones from a UK site <https://handhammeredwoks.co.uk/collections/all/products/genuine-100-hand-hammered-wok-medium-32cm>.

    Would happily have either, but find the price out of my wok comfort zone. My 30 year old spun steel wok, bought in SF Chinatown is still going strong—think I paid well under $20 for it!
     
  13. Sep 22, 2018 #133

    Paraffin

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    With all the wok talk in this thread earlier, I started to get curious about whether there really was a difference with hammered vs. smooth surface. The one advantage I heard about, was that hammered might be better at holding food pushed up to the side temporarily while cooking other items. For reference, I've been using a 16" double-handle carbon steel wok bought around 15 years ago at the local Bargreen supply. Just a generic cheap steel restaurant wok, but not flimsy. We have a 30,000 btu Viking indoor wok burner, not restaurant-grade heat, but as much as I'd want to use indoors with a big hood. It works well enough to get at least partway into the true wok cooking heat zone.

    So, one month when I had a little extra to spend, I splurged on a Yamada wok to try a hammered finish. Bought from globalkitchenjapan.com, a 14" single handle model in the heavier of two steel thickness options. I think it was this one, in the 36cm size, round bottom, with protective coating:

    https://www.globalkitchenjapan.com/...ttomed-hammered-iron-wok-36cm-1-6mm-thickness

    It was expensive, but half the cost was shipping from Japan to the West Coast USA. Here's what it looked like just after arrival with the protective coating, and then after burning off the coating but before seasoning:

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    Burning off that coating took a while. It would be a pain to do on a burner that wasn't at least this hot.

    In practice, after seasoning and cooking with it for a few months, I don't find any significant difference from my 16" cheap restaurant wok. It's just a little bit lighter when carrying to the sink for washing. I still use the 16" for most wok-based meals, partly because I'm sloppy and tend to toss food out of the smaller 14" Yamada, and partly because I like the wider surface area for deep frying in oil with the larger wok. Here's the 16" in action:

    [​IMG]
     
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  14. Sep 23, 2018 #134

    boomchakabowwow

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    I bet my brother has the exact same 16’ wok. IMHO, that is about the best size ever.

    We used it almost daily while in the woods hunting elk earlier this month and I about fell in love with the size.
     
  15. Sep 23, 2018 #135

    parbaked

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  16. Sep 23, 2018 #136

    Bill13

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    Almost bought a 33cm a couple of days ago, but that shipping cost made me back off. If you ever decide to get rid of it let me know;).
     
  17. Sep 23, 2018 #137

    Paraffin

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    Will do, I'll keep track of this thread and let 'ya know if I decide I'm just not using it enough. :)

    To be honest, I don't think it's worth the money. These things are just not all that high-tech. As long as the steel is thick enough not to bend when you press against both sides, and it's a round bottom, it's a good wok. Spend the money on a high-heat source, and a powerful exhaust hood if you're using it indoors. That's where the money goes.

    We're putting this house up for sale next year, and I'm gonna miss that Viking wok burner and the massive hood over it. But I'm already thinking about what it would take to duplicate those cool water-bath wok burners you see in restaurants. It would be so nice to have a water bath like that, to catch all the stuff that flies out of the wok, and to keep the area clean. "Real" wok cooking, especially if you're cooking with a lot of oil like deep frying, is a messy business.

    I can understand why doing it outdoors with a monster propane burner is popular, both for the high heat and cleanup. I just don't live in a climate where that would allow me to cook as often as I'd like with a wok.
     
  18. Sep 23, 2018 #138

    boomchakabowwow

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    Paraffin. You nailed it. Those water bath burners are awesome. You can simply brush the wok clean and whisk the dirty water out the back and into the drain.

    I cook in my backyard. Cleanup isn’t as easy as you think. I can’t simply push the water into my yard.:(
     
  19. Sep 23, 2018 #139

    aboynamedsuita

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    I have the same yamada wok also from GKJ, got it in 2016 and it’s gone up 2300 jpy since then. Shipping is indeed about half the cost, but when you see them for sale elsewhere that cost is usually factored in. I use it at home on an iwatani 35fw which is far from ideal and doesn’t allow me to get its full potential… next kitchen will have a better setup. It took at least a full cylinder of butane to burn off the coating satisfactorily, I did the handle too and seasoned it heavily inside the hollow.

    Also bought the wok strainer and long handle hoak… got a custom walnut handle made for the hoak of figured walnut with a copper pin.
    IMG_4097.jpg

    Just recently I got an email that the yamada chuan was back in stock, so have that on the way too.
     
  20. Sep 23, 2018 #140

    Noodle Soup

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    I've been using a 33cc Yamada for several years as my primary wok. The flat bottom works better than most on our electric range. And don't bother telling me you can't use a wok on an electric range. You use what you have and not all Asian cooking requires the intense heat of Canonize cuisine
     
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  21. Sep 25, 2018 #141

    aboynamedsuita

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    While I was growing up we had a carbon wok we used on an electric coil range cranked to max… it sat slightly elevated on a wok ring and worked satisfactorily
     
  22. Sep 25, 2018 #142

    Daizone

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    Like most have said basic carbon steel wok is the best by more importantly is the heat source or you are going to need to cook in small batches if the heat source isn’t strong enough.
     
  23. Sep 25, 2018 #143

    Paraffin

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    I wouldn't say you can't use a wok on an electric range, but it does have limitations. I started out using a wok on an electric stovetop years ago, and it worked up to a point. Mostly stir fry, and I remember it being a fairly slow and deliberate process. Waiting for enough heat, working in batches.

    With the (relatively) high-heat gas wok burner I use now, it's a fast dance, a performance. I enjoy that. Most everything else I cook is slow and deliberate, so it's fun to have to work this fast over a hot wok.

    Many of the Chinese dishes I'm working on now use a "passing through oil" technique at some stage. A round bottom wok uses less oil for the same surface area compared to a flat-bottom wok or pan, and with a proper wok burner it's easy to control the fry temp. For example, sliding (carefully!) a whole fish into hot oil will drop the oil temp very quickly, and you need to quickly bring it back up again. A high-btu wok burner really helps here. Dedicated wok burners aren't just hotter, the burner is wider than most stovetop gas burners, so you get a better distribution of heat over a round bottom wok, and it's easier to use larger wok sizes. Can't do the whole fish thing in a small wok.

    I know many home kitchens aren't set up for this. I've lived in apartments and houses where it just wouldn't work. But I'm spoiled now with our current setup. My S.O. and I will do whatever it takes to get another setup like this in our next house, even if we have to skimp on other appliances or bust out walls for the ventilation.
     

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