Wonders of the Wok


I left my wok in Argentina. And I feel nearly as strong about that as Tony Bennett leaving his heart in San Francisco.

Fine, maybe not that much, but I will miss it.

When my dad came to visit me in Buenos Aires, he was surprised to learn I had bought the wok only two months before. “It looks really well seasoned already,” he said.

Yes, I had put the wok to a lot of use. It was perfect for cooking for one. It cooks things quickly, it’s easy to clean, and it’s shaped so you can make your food do fun flips. For the first month I had it, I didn’t use the oven at all, making everything in the wok instead. Asian-style stir-frys and fried rice, of course, but also my version of Chipotle’s burrito bowl and other one-dish creations like a meal of sausage, potatoes and zapallitos redondos (round squash). Plus, a wok gets really hot quickly, and since I didn’t have a microwave, I used it to reheat pasta or other leftovers.

From what I’ve read, the most important thing to look for in buying a wok is carbon steel. Don’t go for non-stick. Carbon steel conducts more heat and gets that great seasoned effect from food sticking to it. Plus it’s cheap, especially if you can get to a Chinatown. (Mine was U.S. $11.)

Before you use a wok the first time, there’s a bit of a process to go through. I used this and this as a guide. Then you can make all sorts of dishes in it as long as you use an oil with a high smoke point (peanut oil, grapeseed oil or refined oils). It gets more seasoned with each use. (Don’t ever use metal utensils in it or you’ll end up with scratches like I did.)

Part of me wished I could have fit the wok in my luggage, but I guess I’ll have to get a new one and start over.

3 Replies to “Wonders of the Wok”

  1. I have had my hand hammered steel wok since graduate school, many moons ago. I ordered it from one of those infomercials on tv. I would not trade it. (They have similar ones in Columbia, MO at that Asian grocery store by Patricia’s.) I use it and a cast iron skillet for most of my cooking. I have taken it camping as well. It is awesome!

    I have always used metal utensils in the wok with no problems. I have a metal Asian spatula that came with the wok. It is also steel and hand made. It does a much better job of keeping rice from sticking than wood or bamboo utensils.

    One time, I left the wok out after an evening of cooking when my mother in law was in town. I intended to clean it when I got home. She cleaned it with an SOS pad. Argghh! She was so proud that she got all that black coating out of the bottom. Argghh again!

    I am thinking of purchasing a very large one to go on one of those outside turkey fryer burners. Stir fry for everyone!

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