What Can You Cook in a Wok?

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Professional cooks, amateurs, and Hell Kitchen fans cannot resist buying some new kitchen utensils to try new exotic recipes. Following the example of Gordon Ramsey, or having tried a new delicious dish of Asian cuisine in a Michelin restaurant, many culinary enthusiasts start searching for a suitable one. Indeed, there are dozens of wok varieties, as well as materials, shapes, and accessories that may influence your choice. If you are still unsure if it is worth buying this kitchen utensil or not, we recommend you read this comprehensive review and study the recipes you can cook. Let’s begin!

How Do Woks Work?

A wok is the source of an endless variety of vegetable and meat dishes. It is a traditional Chinese frying pan with a unique shape that has been used to prepare food since ancient times.

In Asia, the wok was known 200 years before our era and became widespread throughout the world in the 70s of the last century, especially in the kitchens of European and American restaurants.

A wok is a large, round pan with high walls, a very narrow bottom, and two small handles on the sides, or one long one. This seemingly simple utensil is suitable for preparing various dishes: you can cook not only the main dish but also sauces and even soups.

Due to the peculiar design, the process of cooking food in it has many features. So if you are still in the middle of deciding whether to buy woks by Yosukata now or postpone the purchase, keep reading to get the right answer. Now, let’s move on to the dishes you can and cannot cook in this pan.

Can You Cook Everything in a Wok?

This pan is a fantastic and universal utensil. You can use it for almost any cooking process. From traditional roast beef slices to deep-fried chicken, you get an amazingly crispy dish. Why don’t you try stir-frying green beans? Play in your kitchen and experiment. Master the art of blending Western and Eastern ingredients, flavors, and textures. Basically, a wok pan is used for quick frying, but you can also use it:

  • to stew meat and vegetables under a lid;
  • deep-fry ingredients;
  • use it as a steamer;
  • cook soup;
  • cook delicious pasta recipes.

Obviously, this tool cannot fully replace all the other kitchen utensils, as you cannot bake in it or use it for cooking sweets. Still, it is considered a truly universal kitchen tool that deserves your attention. 

cooking in a wok stir fry

The Best Ways to Cook in a Wok

Stir-fry is one of the most popular methods of cooking in a wok. The basic principles remain the same as during the ancient Chinese time: heat the pan, pour in the oil, add the ingredients, fry over high heat, stirring with quick circular movements, and the dish is ready. Easy? Indeed, you need to keep in mind some rules before continuing:

  • Temperature is the most important parameter here. In a very hot pan, the cooking process is characterized by the Leidenfrost effect: the food does not stick to the metal surface, as it is constantly hovering over it. On the contrary, a poorly heated wok acts like a large steel pan — food sticks to the walls, regardless of the amount of oil added. 
  • The required amount of oil depends on the power of the stove or burner. The less heat the pan receives, the more oil you will have to use and the longer you will have to wait for the pan to heat up;
  • The proper flame — is directed and powerful. A burner should ideally have both a fast and intense fire — it should be directed and not go out from under the dishes;
  • All ingredients should be prepared in advance. Otherwise, you will not have time to add them in time. Meat should be pre-marinated, vegetables finely chopped, spices prepared; 
  • Use an oil that is resistant to high heat. Peanut oil is ideal for this, but soybean, rice, sunflower, and corn oils are also suitable;
  • There is a certain order in which the ingredients are added: dry spices are put first, then protein-rich foods, and then vegetables and liquid spices.

However, there is one thing that we should consider in detail before moving on — what oil should be used for cooking in a wok? Let’s find it out!

What Oil Should You Use, and When Should You Add It?

As a general rule, wok pan techniques require relatively high temperatures, so oils with reasonably high boiling points should certainly be preferred. Depending on the type and temperature you want to reach, peanut butter may or may not be suitable for the task. It can be seen from this table and this list that peanut butter does not have the highest smoke point. And there are significant differences between the smoke points of peanut butter types:

Butter/oil nameSmoke point °C
Unrefined flaxseed oil107 °C
Unrefined sunflower oil107 °C
Extra virgin olive oil160 °C
Unrefined peanut oil160 °C
Hemp seed oil165 °C
Butter177 °C
Coconut oil177 °C
Lard182 °C
Sesame oil210 °C

To cook a tasty and healthy meal, you need to use only high-quality oils and select the right temperature.

Natural vegetable oils and ghee are ideal for cooking in a wok, as they have a neutral flavor and are suitable for preparing meals at high temperatures. All products are first placed in hot oil.

Later, you can move them to the sides of the pan, where the temperature is lower so that they continue to cook there or remain warm until it’s time to mix them with the rest of the ingredients of the dish. Now, let’s move on to the top wok recipes to try.

Top Wok Recipes

Since the range of dishes that can be cooked in a wok is truly wide and varied, we will only consider frying. But remember that stewing and boiling are also possible in this pan. Here are some delicious recipes to try:

Wok Noodles

Any type of noodle is suitable for this dish: glass, buckwheat, wheat, rice, etc.

Fry vegetables (green beans, carrots, onions, bell peppers, zucchini) in a small amount of vegetable oil over high heat, constantly stirring all the ingredients.

Add peanuts and chili sauce, followed by tamarind paste and soy sauce. As the vegetables are ready, add pre-boiled noodles and fry non-stop for one to two minutes.

Fried Rice

This traditional Chinese dish has many variations with different ingredients. For example, you can cook fried rice with eggs.

Cut the carrots into thin strips, shiitake mushrooms into flat slices, and chop the red capsicum.

Then cut the zucchini into small cubes and finely chop the garlic and onion. Peel the ginger and grate it on a fine grater.

Heat a wok with sesame oil over a fire, and put garlic, ginger, and hot pepper into it; fry for a minute.

Then add carrots, zucchini, and mushrooms — fry each ingredient separately for a minute. Add cold rice, stir, and fry for two minutes.

In a separate bowl, mix the soy sauce with the raw egg and pour it into the pan.

Eggplant With Tomatoes

Heat a tablespoon of sesame and olive oil in a wok. Chop red onion and fry for a couple of minutes. Cut the eggplant into small cubes, add to the pan and fry for two minutes.

Add peeled tomatoes, half a spoonful of turmeric, coriander, finely chopped chili, and 300 ml of vegetable broth.

Cover the wok with a lid and stew for about 5 minutes. The cooking is over!

Salmon With Peas and Teriyaki Sauce

Cut 3 salmon fillets into strips and marinate in teriyaki sauce. Heat up the wok and add 2 tbsp. of sesame and olive oils.

Fry chopped 3 onion feathers and 1 minced garlic clove. Add the fish and fry wok for 1 minute.

Then add 200g of peas and the remaining marinade and boil.

Boil some noodles separately and serve them with the dish. Enjoy!

Chicken With Cashew Nuts

Finely chop 700g of chicken meat and roll in flour with salt and pepper, with the addition of 1.5 tbsp. soy sauce, and 3 tbsp. rice vinegar.

Heat up the wok and add 2 tbsp. of oil and the meat. Add 100g of chopped young corn, 100g of pea pods, 100g of mushrooms, 1 chopped red pepper, and 1 package of cashew nuts to the pan; fry all for 2 minutes.

In the end, add 300 ml of chicken broth and 150 g of oyster sauce, let the dish boil, and serve it.

Chinese Pork Noodles

Boil small egg noodles, set them aside, and season with sesame oil. Separately, finely chop the pork fillet into thin strips, mix with 1.5 tbsp. starch, and add soy sauce to taste.

Fry in a hot wok until browned, then add 4 chopped onions and a packet of bean sprouts.

Fry over high heat for a couple of minutes, and add the noodles later, 150 ml of chicken broth, and soy sauce to your taste. Let the dish boil and serve immediately after cooking.

Fried Mushrooms With Seafood and Peas

Heat up the wok and pour in 2 tbsp. of sesame oil, and 1 tbsp. of sunflower oil. When the oil is hot, add 8 sliced scallops, 18 peeled shrimp, season, and stir them.

Then add 200g of shiitake mushrooms and 200g of peas. Stir the dish constantly so that it does not burn.

Finally, add a bit of grated ginger, 1 crushed garlic clove, and a bit of soy sauce. Sprinkle lemon juice on top, and enjoy your meal!

Try Wok Cooking Today

As you can see, a wok pan is a great purchase if you want to diversify your usual daily menu.

Learning how to cook in it is a matter of a few minutes, and the result will amaze your taste buds, as you just need a little patience and oil.

Feel free to share pictures of the cooked dishes and your recipes with us in the comments.

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