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- Buying Guide: The Best Woks and Stir Fry Pans For You
Buying Guide: The Best Woks and Stir Fry Pans For YouBuying Guide: The Best Woks and Stir Fry Pans For You
Shapes, Metals and Handles: Know the Nuances of Woks
Wok frying pans and stir fry pans are the kind of cookware you need to make saucy stir fry, crispy general chicken and even flawless egg rolls Whether you love to make Asian-inspired meals or you simply adore crisp-yet-tender stir-fried vegetables with your favorite entrees, learning how to choose a wok or stir fry pan will help you get the most out of your meals.
While woks and stir fry pans serve essentially the same function, they are two very different pieces of cookware. Knowing the differences between the types of cookware and the materials used to make them will make it easier for you to learn how to choose a wok and stir fry pan.
Wok and Stir Fry Pan Styles
Stir fry pans are the American answer to the traditional Chinese wok frying pan. Stir fry pans have flat bottoms, while woks have a rounded bottom. The key reason for this difference is that stir fry pans sit flat on a cooktop, while traditional woks have to be used with a ring or frame to keep them on the stove. Woks may or may not be compatible with induction stoves and sometimes they don't get hot enough on electric cooktops, so if you cook on either of these, you may want to look at electric woks or check reader reviews before you buy one for your stovetop. Many modern woks feature flat bottoms, so you won't need an additional accessory just to make beef and brocolli.
Another key difference between woks and stir fry pans is the arrangement of the handles. Cantonese woks have two small, looped handles on either side, while a Mandarin wok comes with a single long handle. Stir fry pans tend to mimic Mandarin woks and you can find stir fry pans that have a long handle on one side, and a small looped handle on the other, giving you the benefits of both wok handle styles.
The art of stir frying foods relies on the use of high temperatures and frequent movement of the food in the pan. Your wok or stir fry pan needs to be constructed from a durable metal that can withstand exposure to these high temperatures, even with regular use. Many are made from carbon steel or cast iron. Remember to check whether or not your pan is pre-seasoned, or if you'll need to season the pan before you begin to cook delicious dishes in your new wok. A stainless steel stir fry pan still stands up to these high temperatures, and often comes with a nonstick surface for easier food release.
Stir fry pans and wok cooking pans aren't just for Asian dishes. They can be used for a host of different cooking tasks, from steaming broccoli and carrots to braising short ribs. You can use your stir fry pan or your wok to create spicy fajitas or Italian sausage and peppers. The rounded shape of the pan is ideal for flipping foods as they cook, so you can create any number of one-pot dishes all in your wok or stir fry pan. Of course, if you crave the traditional Asian flavors, you can use one to make Pad Thai, orange chicken, beef and broccoli or shrimp fried rice, all from the comfort of your kitchen. Wok frying pans can also be used to make egg rolls, dumplings and crab rangoons for tasty appetizers that are sure to please. You may even find that your wok will replace your saucepans and roasting pans for some dishes, as you can use the wok to braise meats and steam veggies.
Additional Features to Consider
There are other features to consider when you're determining how to choose a wok and stir fry pan. Woks tend to be larger than stir fry pans, giving you more cooking capacity. Woks are usually around 13 to 14 inches, while stir fry pans are often 10 inches. Larger pans make it easier to cook large batches of food without crowding the pan.
In addition to sizes, you'll want to take a closer look at the handles and whether or not you want a pan with a lid. If you plan to use it to fry, look for a style that comes with a rack and be sure to pick up a skimmer. Stir fry pans and Mandarin woks are easier to control on the stove thanks to their long handles. Look for a pan with stay-cool handles, so you won't have to use an oven mitt or pot holder as you cook. If you plan to steam vegetables, a stir fry pan with lid may be your best option. A tempered glass lid lets you see your foods as they cook, but you can also find woks and stir fry pans with cast iron or carbon steel lids. Make sure you consider all the available features when you shop for woks, just as you would with any other skillets and fry pans.
How to Care for Your Wok and Stir Fry Pan
When you get your cookware home, you'll most likely find that carbon steel and caast iron pieces are coated in a layer of oil. This prevents the pan from tarnishing and rusting. You'll probably want to remove this "preseasoning" and season it yourself before using the pan. Use hot water and soap to remove the oil, but be sure not to scrub the surface of the pan too harshly, as this can damage the cooking surface. Dry it, spread a thin layer of oil across the surface and put it on the stovetop or in a heated oven. Heat it until the oil soaks into the metal, and repeat a few times. After that, you won't need to wash it with soap and water to clean it up after meals--just scrub it under hot water until it's clean and re-season.
Hand washing of wok frying pans and stir fry pans is recommended, although some nonstick aluminum stir fry pans are dishwasher safe. Be sure to refer to the manufacturer's care instructions to keep your pan looking great and working beautifully for years to come.
Learning how to choose a wok and stir fry pan is the first step to creating delicious meals that your whole family will enjoy. This addition to your existing cookware set lets you cook a variety of dishes quickly and easily. Take some time to compare the features of these versatile pans so you find the ideal piece of specialty cookware for your kitchen. Pretty soon, you may find that your wok frying pan is used more often than your everyday pans.
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