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Wondering about Woks
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  • Wondering about Woks

    Post #1 - June 7th, 2005, 3:28 pm
    Post #1 - June 7th, 2005, 3:28 pm Post #1 - June 7th, 2005, 3:28 pm
    So I find myself moving away to Las Vegas, where I've learned that in residential areas there is no gas service, ie., everyone has an electric range.

    I was going to bring a wok with me (place of purchase still TBD). Is it even worth it if I don't have a gas range? Should I just get a flat-bottomed wok and hope for the best? I suppose it wouldn't do much good to get a round bottom with one of those rings that go under them.

    Help!
  • Post #2 - June 7th, 2005, 3:44 pm
    Post #2 - June 7th, 2005, 3:44 pm Post #2 - June 7th, 2005, 3:44 pm
    I say, don't use a wok on any conventional stovetop, gas or electric. There not capable of putting out the heat that a wok was designed for.

    I'm channeling the somewhat-controversial Cook's Illustrated article "Throw Away Your Wok".

    They contend, and I agree, that a conventional gas range cannot sufficiently heat the intended cooking interior of a wok. Their recommendation for stove-top stir-fry is a non-stick skillet.

    Here's one of their articles regarding flat-bottomed woks, free reg required:
    http://www.americastestkitchen.com/test ... &iSeason=4

    My own testing and results completely agree with their assessments. My stir fry cookery has vastly improved after getting rid of my flat-bottomed wok.

    Also, my condolences for having to cook on electric, in general.

    Best,
    Michael / EC
  • Post #3 - June 7th, 2005, 4:06 pm
    Post #3 - June 7th, 2005, 4:06 pm Post #3 - June 7th, 2005, 4:06 pm
    Cheap electricity that near to Hoover Dam, probably beats the costs of piping gas to homes :?: :idea: :?:

    Anywho, what will be your situation with outdoor dining? I assume folks out there have gas grills, and bottle gas is available.

    I just happened to see a ring burner, looks to be suitable for wok, crawfish boil, turkey fryer, etc. at Chicago Food Corp. on Kimbal. I believe it was about $35 and was more of a table mount item (it did not have the stand like a turkey fryer combo you see sold all over the place. I wouldn't use it indoors without commercial ventilation like a restaurant, but it might work well on an outdoor BBQ station.

    pd
    Unchain your lunch money!
  • Post #4 - June 7th, 2005, 4:07 pm
    Post #4 - June 7th, 2005, 4:07 pm Post #4 - June 7th, 2005, 4:07 pm
    gmonkey wrote:So I find myself moving away to Las Vegas, where I've learned that in residential areas there is no gas service, ie., everyone has an electric range.

    I was going to bring a wok with me (place of purchase still TBD). Is it even worth it if I don't have a gas range? Should I just get a flat-bottomed wok and hope for the best? I suppose it wouldn't do much good to get a round bottom with one of those rings that go under them.

    Help!


    An idea not a solution.

    Something to consider might be to get a turkey frying setup. They consist of a burner and a steel frame to hold the pot for oil. A wok could easily be substituted. These operate off propane but put out high BTU and would work. You would have to use it outside.

    I was listening to The Splendid Table recently and you might find these links helpful.

    Wok Recommendation

    The May 7th show had some information Audio Link This is to the page of the show. Not a link to download.

    The Wok Shop owner was the guest on the show.
    Bruce
    Plenipotentiary
    bruce@bdbbq.com

    Raw meat should NOT have an ingredients list!!
  • Post #5 - June 7th, 2005, 4:14 pm
    Post #5 - June 7th, 2005, 4:14 pm Post #5 - June 7th, 2005, 4:14 pm
    eatchicago wrote:My own testing and results completely agree with their assessments. My stir fry cookery has vastly improved after getting rid of my flat-bottomed wok.

    Also, my condolences for having to cook on electric, in general.


    I concur with EC on the electric cooking; electric woks (which are also flat bottomed) are doubly useless. (or triply, since it takes up valuable space that my other junk could use).

    But I think the main problem is the material - most woks available are made of aluminum or other thin material that does not retain heat, thereby requiring a high heat source. I was able to obtain a small 'kadai' - Indian wok equivalent - that is made of iron. It's like a skillet -but even better since it is beaten which makes it smoother and more nonstick with seasoning and use. It retains heat and works great even on our 3.2 btu apartment issue stovetop. It is small; a bigger one wouldn't work so well on the low heat output stove.

    You could get a turkey-fryer and uses that gas burner (outdoors) to fire up the wok - a la Alton Brown (Squid Vicious episode I was informed)
  • Post #6 - June 7th, 2005, 4:21 pm
    Post #6 - June 7th, 2005, 4:21 pm Post #6 - June 7th, 2005, 4:21 pm
    Hi,

    Electric woks don't work well because you cannot quickly adjust temperature. At least with a pan/dutch oven (which I have used instead of a wok), you always have the option of moving the pot to another burner to instantly reduce the temperature.

    Regards,
    Cathy2

    "You'll be remembered long after you're dead if you make good gravy, mashed potatoes and biscuits." -- Nathalie Dupree
    Facebook, Twitter, Greater Midwest Foodways, Road Food 2012: Podcast
  • Post #7 - June 7th, 2005, 4:52 pm
    Post #7 - June 7th, 2005, 4:52 pm Post #7 - June 7th, 2005, 4:52 pm
    Bruce wrote:Something to consider might be to get a turkey frying setup. They consist of a burner and a steel frame to hold the pot for oil. A wok could easily be substituted. These operate off propane but put out high BTU and would work. You would have to use it outside.


    Alton Brown demonstrated this method very effectively in the Good Eats episode "Squid Pro Quo", one of my favorites.

    Excellent suggestion, Bruce. If I had an electric range, I'd do all my cooking outdoors.
  • Post #8 - June 7th, 2005, 4:54 pm
    Post #8 - June 7th, 2005, 4:54 pm Post #8 - June 7th, 2005, 4:54 pm
    A Missive Casually Lobbed In The Direction Of Those Who Would Speak Ill Of Standard Gas Ranges:

    I have an old restaurant-style carbon steel wok with a rounded bottom and a standard gas range. I also have the ability to fry the crap out of anything that I choose.

    I couldn't care less about what others might say. The fact of the matter is that those same folks don't know how to drive a wok.

    Hot wok. Cold oil. Small Volume.

    Crank the stove up and let the wok go to smoke* before adding your oil. And, as long as you can keep the amount of food in your wok in check, you are fine.

    If you are looking for an online (re)source, try The Wok Shop.

    E.M.

    EDIT: It took me a long time to figure out how to cook with a wok. I spent years telling myself (and others) that it couldn't be done, and all that time I should have gotten busy trying to burn holes in my ceiling.



    * A point exactly two degrees beyond the one at which rookie wok jockeys pull the rip cord.
    Last edited by Erik M. on June 7th, 2005, 9:12 pm, edited 1 time in total.
  • Post #9 - June 7th, 2005, 5:34 pm
    Post #9 - June 7th, 2005, 5:34 pm Post #9 - June 7th, 2005, 5:34 pm
    This outdoor wok burner is the very best I have ever used:

    http://www.exploreproducts.com/eastmanoutdoorbigkahuna.htm

    It gets the bottom of my $8 18" round-bottom carbon-steel wok glowing red (too hot). My stir-firing has improved an order of magnitude since I got this burner. High-heat, so hot the steam and smoke rising from the wok prevent you from seeing exactly what is going on, makes all the difference in the world. Previously, I used a 100KBTU burner, but it wasn't as effective as this one which focuses all of the heat right at the very bottom of the wok.

    Bill/SFNM
  • Post #10 - June 7th, 2005, 7:00 pm
    Post #10 - June 7th, 2005, 7:00 pm Post #10 - June 7th, 2005, 7:00 pm
    This is a wok built on a propane burner a friend of mine made. In the picture we are rendering lard and making cracklings. The "wok" component is the end of 30" diameter propane tank the was cut off and about 24" off the ground. BTW, it takes at least 2 reasonably strong guys to move it around. At least 3 to carry it. Works like a charm. :)

    Image
    Bruce
    Plenipotentiary
    bruce@bdbbq.com

    Raw meat should NOT have an ingredients list!!
  • Post #11 - June 7th, 2005, 8:05 pm
    Post #11 - June 7th, 2005, 8:05 pm Post #11 - June 7th, 2005, 8:05 pm
    sazerac wrote:
    But I think the main problem is the material - most woks available are made of aluminum or other thin material that does not retain heat, thereby requiring a high heat source. I was able to obtain a small 'kadai' - Indian wok equivalent - that is made of iron. It's like a skillet -but even better since it is beaten which makes it smoother and more nonstick with seasoning and use. It retains heat and works great even on our 3.2 btu apartment issue stovetop. It is small; a bigger one wouldn't work so well on the low heat output stove.



    I agree about the materials. I have a cast-iron wok made by Lodge. It's big and heavy and if you drop it on your foot you are going to the hospital (and if you miss your foot you need new tile) so it takes a while to get up to heat. Once heated, though, it does a much better job of retaining heat when food is added. But - for someone that's going to be forced to use electric it's just as useless as any other wok would be.

    I admit I can't remember the last time I used my iron wok. I bought it while picking up some other cast iron pieces at Waccamaw Pottery in Schaumburg a looong time ago (and they've been closed for a looong time). It just called out to me . . . cast iron wok? big, heavy, ridiculously oversized? Got to have it!

    The good news is that these days my impulse buying is under much better control. The bad news is that when it lapses it's for things that cost way more than a wok. :)
    Objects in mirror appear to be losing.
  • Post #12 - June 7th, 2005, 9:46 pm
    Post #12 - June 7th, 2005, 9:46 pm Post #12 - June 7th, 2005, 9:46 pm
    Bruce wrote:This is a wok built on a propane burner a friend of mine made.



    Here's another perspective on the wok in Bruce's picture. These are built by a Florida BBQ Pit maker, and one of the nicest guys in the world, Big Jim.

    Big Jim
    Image

    Picture was taken at Bob in Ga's farm.

    Enjoy,
    Gary
    Hold my beer . . .

    Low & Slow
  • Post #13 - June 7th, 2005, 10:10 pm
    Post #13 - June 7th, 2005, 10:10 pm Post #13 - June 7th, 2005, 10:10 pm
    Erik M. wrote:If you are looking for an online (re)source, try The Wok Shop.

    Erik,

    The Wok Shop is one of my favorite shops in San Francisco's Chinatown.

    Image

    Physically small, incredible density of interesting merchandise.
    Image

    Image

    Image

    The The Wok Shop , as you know, was where a small part of the research for The Breath of a Wok was done.

    I had intended on buying the book, so it was nice to purchase an autographed copy at The Wok Shop.

    Image

    Enjoy,
    Gary

    The Wok Shop
    718 Grant Avenue
    San Francisco CA 94108
    415-989-3797
    Hold my beer . . .

    Low & Slow
  • Post #14 - June 7th, 2005, 10:15 pm
    Post #14 - June 7th, 2005, 10:15 pm Post #14 - June 7th, 2005, 10:15 pm
    G Wiv wrote:Erik,

    The Wok Shop is one of my favorite shops in San Francisco's Chinatown.


    Those are great pictures, Wiv. I always liked that place.

    Give my regards to your lovely wife.

    E.M.
  • Post #15 - June 7th, 2005, 10:27 pm
    Post #15 - June 7th, 2005, 10:27 pm Post #15 - June 7th, 2005, 10:27 pm
    Erik M. wrote:Those are great pictures, Wiv.

    Erik,

    Thank you, very nice of you to say.

    Erik M. wrote:Give my regards to your lovely wife.

    Most assuredly.

    Enjoy,
    Gary
    Hold my beer . . .

    Low & Slow
  • Post #16 - June 8th, 2005, 7:27 am
    Post #16 - June 8th, 2005, 7:27 am Post #16 - June 8th, 2005, 7:27 am
    Cathy,

    I don't know where the thread is, but the store in question is perhaps:

    Woks 'n' Things Inc
    2234 South Wentworth Avenue
    Chicago, IL 60616
    312-842-0701
  • Post #17 - June 8th, 2005, 7:38 am
    Post #17 - June 8th, 2005, 7:38 am Post #17 - June 8th, 2005, 7:38 am
    I'm sorta confused about the assertions of not being able to use a wok in home settings, like Erik I think it takes a little bit of practice, but not that much. after all most cooks using a wok at home in china or a karhai in india, are not I assume getting the flamethrower temperatures typical of restaurant kitchens here, yet still, I would imagine, turn out something palatable.

    btw,

    there's some nice excerpts, containing wok tips from "breath of a wok" on Grace Young's web site
  • Post #18 - June 9th, 2005, 5:51 pm
    Post #18 - June 9th, 2005, 5:51 pm Post #18 - June 9th, 2005, 5:51 pm
    I had a chance to get some front-line wok experience in China. Wuhan University is a sister school of my place (UMKC), and I did a tour there (c. 6 months) in '86 and '88. Foreign faculty live in a big dorm/apt complex, complete with a 'canteen' as the French guys called it. Think school lunch room for a school with c. 80 'students.' The cook was wonderfully congenial, but not very good. As the word got around that I was pretty good with a wok (our kitchens had specially shaped burners, but were fed with low-grade propane), the cook started pestering me to come cook with him. Which I eventually did. His wok was about the size of that outdoor wonder Big Jim is driving in the pix. But it was mounted on this sort of dias, made out of tile, with a open hole, a pit, in it. All around the pit bottom were piles of coal lumps. Coming in one side was an opening for a bellows, which was pumped by the ass't. cook. MAN! you could pump the bellows, make the coal go like a blast furnace, and do some COOKING! Talk about turning the wok cherry red!

    I've often recalled that set up, and lusted mightily for it.

    Now there's one possibility: in a couple of really well-equipped Chinese grocery-cum-hardware stores, I've seen 19-burner (?or so), cone-shaped assemblies that are obviously the industrial set-up for wok burners. I never bought one--they cost c. $150 (and are jetted for propane, if memory serves) after all.

    BUT: with only the simplest of heat isolation stuff--firebricks? tiles? a body could build something out of these puppies for one's kitchen. And that, dear friends, would be the end of the story: they'd *never* get you out of that kitchen!

    I'm seriously thinking about Big Jim's apparatus. Any way to get holt of him? or, equally, one of his infernal devices??

    Geo
    Sooo, you like wine and are looking for something good to read? Maybe *this* will do the trick! :)
  • Post #19 - June 10th, 2005, 6:23 am
    Post #19 - June 10th, 2005, 6:23 am Post #19 - June 10th, 2005, 6:23 am
    Just head over to Amazon and type in "Big Kahuna" - the result is a stand mounted 60,000 BtU (!) wok burner for $50. Free shipping, too. Seriously solid construction and stable. Not quite the same as a Hong Kong restaurant's compressed natural gas burner (circa 150,000 BtU, more than most home furnaces), but it will turn a wok cherry red and bring a lobstr pot to boil in no time flat...

    Marc
  • Post #20 - June 10th, 2005, 6:49 am
    Post #20 - June 10th, 2005, 6:49 am Post #20 - June 10th, 2005, 6:49 am
    Geo wrote:I'm seriously thinking about Big Jim's apparatus. Any way to get holt of him? or, equally, one of his infernal devices??

    Geo,

    Big Jim's wok is awesome, which is a word I don't use lightly. Huge, heavy, retains heat like a freight train, perfect for frying hush-puppies or catfish for a crowd. I don't, however, think it would be ideal for everyday use as a Chinese style wok.

    The main problem, as I see it, is that the wok is fixed/welded to the burner frame and, minor comparative to the previous, the sides are too steep.

    For perspective on size, Big Jim, show with wok, is about 6'2" and goes an easy 350-lbs.

    Big Jim's web site is http://www.lazyq.com

    Enjoy,
    Gary
    Hold my beer . . .

    Low & Slow
  • Post #21 - June 10th, 2005, 11:33 am
    Post #21 - June 10th, 2005, 11:33 am Post #21 - June 10th, 2005, 11:33 am
    Gary,
    Your comments are much appreciated. Bruce in fact knows of a used device up in WI, and we were talking about that. But after your description and my wife's "Wait a minnit! It's not like you still own the winery and are serving hundreds of meals every weekend!", I slowly swam back to Reality-As-We-Know-It.

    Lust yes, own, no.

    But Bruce and I are still talking about his coming down here to KC and so's we might go tour a few of the local smoked dead animal flesh emporiums. Yummm.

    Invite's open for the rest of yinz, too, natch.

    Geo
    Back in KC for a while
    Sooo, you like wine and are looking for something good to read? Maybe *this* will do the trick! :)
  • Post #22 - June 10th, 2005, 11:53 am
    Post #22 - June 10th, 2005, 11:53 am Post #22 - June 10th, 2005, 11:53 am
    Geo wrote:Your comments are much appreciated. Bruce in fact knows of a used device up in WI, and we were talking about that. But after your description and my wife's "Wait a minnit!

    Geo,

    Uh oh, Buzz, the fellow Bruce was talking about from Wisconsin, is a friend, or should I say former friend, is going to be ticked when he hears I talked you out of buying his Big Jim wok. :)

    I changed my mind, the Big Jim wok is really perfect for the casual Tuesday night stir-fry for two. :) :roll:

    Either way, it was nice of Bruce to offer to put you in touch with Buzz.

    Enjoy,
    Gary
    Hold my beer . . .

    Low & Slow
  • Post #23 - June 10th, 2005, 12:12 pm
    Post #23 - June 10th, 2005, 12:12 pm Post #23 - June 10th, 2005, 12:12 pm
    Gary,

    Blame it on my wife, in her SWMBO role!

    And yeah, I figger I owe Bruce the first round of fries at LC's, no matter the deal didn't go through!

    Geo
    Sooo, you like wine and are looking for something good to read? Maybe *this* will do the trick! :)
  • Post #24 - June 10th, 2005, 12:59 pm
    Post #24 - June 10th, 2005, 12:59 pm Post #24 - June 10th, 2005, 12:59 pm
    Geo wrote:Gary,

    Blame it on my wife, in her SWMBO role!

    And yeah, I figger I owe Bruce the first round of fries at LC's, no matter the deal didn't go through!

    Geo


    Sounds good. This piece of equipment would be better used fish fries, etc. Using as a wok could be done but not like you described in China. Its easy for testosterone to override judgement especially when size matters. :wink:
    Bruce
    Plenipotentiary
    bruce@bdbbq.com

    Raw meat should NOT have an ingredients list!!
  • Post #25 - August 4th, 2008, 6:52 pm
    Post #25 - August 4th, 2008, 6:52 pm Post #25 - August 4th, 2008, 6:52 pm
    I just took a thai cooking class in Chiang Mai, so now I'm on the hunt for a good wok to replicate some of what I learned. I noticed that the instructors used a flat copper wok where we students were given metal woks. Is the copper wok superior to the metal wok?

    Also does anyone have a good rec for a rock mortar and pestle? Could I find this in Chinatown?

    Thanks for your help!!
  • Post #26 - August 6th, 2008, 7:03 am
    Post #26 - August 6th, 2008, 7:03 am Post #26 - August 6th, 2008, 7:03 am
    I got an answer to my own question and thought I'd share. The chef in Chiang Mai emailed me to say that a copper wok conducts heat faster, and it is also a status symbol as rich people and the royal family use copper woks. Metal woks work just fine and can achieve the same taste. Ultimately he said to just find a wok that I like and is easy to clean and work with.
  • Post #27 - August 6th, 2008, 4:03 pm
    Post #27 - August 6th, 2008, 4:03 pm Post #27 - August 6th, 2008, 4:03 pm
    Until I wound up with an electric stove, I used a rolled carbon steel wok that I was very happy with. It heated up just fine on a gas stove, and it was great for both stir-frying and deep frying.

    Now that I have an electric stove, I stir-fry in a saute pan.
  • Post #28 - March 10th, 2021, 10:22 am
    Post #28 - March 10th, 2021, 10:22 am Post #28 - March 10th, 2021, 10:22 am
    Hi,

    Josh Kaplan, who has a restaurant in Highwood, posted today about a hack inspired by Kenji Lopez Alt. "Remove the diffuser ring so the flames shoot straight up. Then when you are using your wok the flames spread almost all around your wok."

    The picture on his facebook post was quite impressive.

    Regards,
    Cathy2
    Cathy2

    "You'll be remembered long after you're dead if you make good gravy, mashed potatoes and biscuits." -- Nathalie Dupree
    Facebook, Twitter, Greater Midwest Foodways, Road Food 2012: Podcast
  • Post #29 - March 11th, 2021, 8:24 am
    Post #29 - March 11th, 2021, 8:24 am Post #29 - March 11th, 2021, 8:24 am
    Have you seen anything that shows what the temperature difference in the wok is as a result of doing this? No more gas is being burned as a result of this hack, so I think the energy being released is the same. The flame is more concentrated when it hits the wok, but then, as stated, diffuses around the wok. Just curious how much this changes things. I would guess a more concentrated heat in the center of the wok?
    "I live on good soup, not on fine words." -Moliere
  • Post #30 - March 11th, 2021, 8:28 am
    Post #30 - March 11th, 2021, 8:28 am Post #30 - March 11th, 2021, 8:28 am
    I haven't been to Chinatown more than a year, but there were several stores which stocked woks in a variety of sizes and materials (carbon, stainless). A few years ago I bought a wok for my son that had to be at least 3 feet across, I felt like I was carrying Captain America's shield on the El. I don't know that he's ever used it, he says it's too big, but he asked for a big wok.
    What is patriotism, but the love of good things we ate in our childhood?
    -- Lin Yutang

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