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Rustem

Problem with wok – everything sticks to it.

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Hello all,

My name in Rustem, I live in Switzerland. I was reading this forum for few of years (well, mostly watching photos in “chinese eats at home” topic and getting salivation:). I like Chinese food, especially stir-fry and I want to cook it at home. I have electrical stove with ceramic surface and after reading internet and reviews I went to a shop and bought an expensive BODUM CAST IRON WOK K0810. I followed every word of user manual. Though, every time I cook something it sticks to the surface at the bottom (chicken, meet, noodles – everything, except vegetables), burns and forms a layer of burned staff which is hard to remove.

I am very disappointed because this wok has the “special one-layer coating which is a mixture of glass and porcelain” and supposed to be non-stick (ot it is just a marketing bullshit ?). I noticed that inside surface of my wok is not smooth, but with little bumps (I believe it is called “coarse surface”) - could it be a reason why food sticks to it ? Another problem that no matter for how long I pre-heat wok, it starts with very good temperature (oil is smoking), but loses it quickly so food is not fried but steamed and I believe it is mostly because of layer of burned staff at the bottom which blocks the heat.

Can somebody help me to understand what I am doing wrong? Jest to let you know:

- I use maximum heat setting on my stove. Though, stove is too “smart” and turns off heating element periodically, I cannot control it. But I don't think temperature is the problem as wok is hot enough to smoke the oil.

- I pre-heat for 10 min dry wok until it is hot (it is a heavy wok and it takes time to heat it !), then add oil and wait few seconds until it starts smoking.

- then add ingredients such garlic and ginger (almost every recipe starts with them) and they immediately stick to the bottom and burn !! If I add meat before , it sticks too.

Please help me. I really want to archive the results of this video:

As you can see nothing stick to his wok, not even noodles ! Do you think it is doable with my current wok and stove ? Should I buy new wok ? Which one ?

Thank you

Rustem.


Edited by Rustem (log)

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The wok in the video is a carbon steel wok that has been appropriately seasoned. It is worlds away from a supposedly non-stick wok, many of which shouldn't be used on the high heat that wok cooking requires anyway. If you have an Asian supplier somewhere close, you should be able to get one very cheaply. Look on the Internet on how to season a wok properly. Get a flat bottomed one for your range. Follow the process and you will have a real non-stick cooking utensil rather than a pretend one.


Nick Reynolds, aka "nickrey"

"The Internet is full of false information." Plato
My eG Foodblog

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A "special one-layer coating which is a mixture of glass and porcelain" doesn't sound like anything I would call a wok.

Real woks are the simplest. Made of plain metal - the best being plain cast iron or carbon steel - no glass, porcelain or anything else.

Season it well and you will never have a problem with sticking. It should be reasonably heavy, but not so much that you can't lift it. Choose one of an appropriate size for your cooking needs.

The one I use every day (often several times a day) is a ferro-selenium wok. I bought it on March 3rd, 2007. Nothing has ever stuck to it. (Except me.)


Edited by liuzhou (log)

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Electric cooktops and woks don't go together. Not even flat bottomed woks.

If you use a flat bottomed wok on an electric cooktop, only the bottom of the wok gets heated up. Cast iron has very poor thermal conductivity, which means that the sides of your wok will heat up very little. If you are going to use an electric hob and you want the sides of the wok to heat up, you need a more conductive metal, like copper or aluminum - unfortunately there are no copper or aluminum woks that I know of.

As to why food sticks - it is because your wok isn't hot enough. As you have noted, the surface of your wok is full of jagged edges. When the wok is heated, the jagged edges (which represent metal crystals) start moving relative to each other similar to Brownian motion. You can actually see this - sprinkle some peppercorns on your wok and you can see them being pushed around by the crystals. The more the wok is heated, the faster the crystals move.

When you put food on the pan, the food immediately cools the metal underneath and they slow down considerably and shrink. This causes the crystals to grab on to your food. As you continue to supply heat and your food heats up, the crystals start moving again - which is why food, when left on a pan for long enough, eventually gets released. Unfortunately, if you are using an electric cooktop and a cast iron pan, the heat is supplied very slowly - so slow that your food would be burnt before it is released.

With normal wok cooking, this isn't much of an issue because the wok is superheated. Any food that is put on it floats on a bed of its own steam - the so-called Liedenfrost effect. Chinese style stir-fries are intense, hot, and fast.

I hope you can see that a wok by itself isn't going to help you cook Chinese food. If you use a wok, and fail to heat it up properly, you are simply using a giant pan with curved sides. You need to think about how you are going to replicate that high intensity heat at home. I presume your house isn't plumbed with gas, so maybe you could consider an outdoor wok burner.

I don't mean to discourage you, and I hope this isn't taken that way.

  • Like 1

There is no love more sincere than the love of food - George Bernard Shaw

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I think you'd be much better off using a plain old flat-bottom frying pan (or saute pan, as the case may be) to do your stir-frying.

Can you return the Bodum?

Forget it, here in Switzerland customer rights non-existent, it is almost impossible to return anything back to the shop (especially if it was already used, or simply opened). In fact I am so angry with with wok that I want to throw it away !

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The one I use every day (often several times a day) is a ferro-selenium wok. I bought it on March 3rd, 2007. Nothing has ever stuck to it. (Except me.)

Dear Liuzhou

Can you tell me what is model of your ferro-selenium wok ? Can it be found on internet ? BTW, do you cook on electrical ?


Edited by Rustem (log)

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I don't mean to discourage you, and I hope this isn't taken that way.

Dear Keith_W

Thank you very much for your very informative answer. There are indeed 2 opinion about wok on electrical stove – some says “forget it”, others says it is perfectly doable. This is why I posted link to the video – this man clearly cooks on electrical stove using carbon steel wok (as confirmed by nickrey). So I thought if I can get non-sticking wok I also can do it. Well, it won’t be authentic wok technic, but at least I will be able to archive some good approximation.


Edited by Rustem (log)

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Keith, that's not wok cooking!

This is wok cooking:

LOL!

Rustem, I am at work now. I will share some of my techniques with you later. Don't give up yet.

dcarch

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Electric ranges... gotta love 'em! :rolleyes:

Dear Nasi_Campur

I think my English is not good enough to understand the meaning of your message. What do you mean ? Thank you.


Edited by Rustem (log)

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Electric ranges... gotta love 'em! :rolleyes:

Dear Nasi_Campur

I think my English is not good enough to understand the meaning of your message. What do you mean ? Thank you.

This was a sarcastic remark. Nasi appears to dislike electric ranges (as do I).

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Electric cooktops and woks don't go together. Not even flat bottomed woks.

Tell that to the locals. It is almost impossible to find round bottom woks here in China any more. Flat bottomed woks are everywhere. The reason? Not electric hobs. I don't think they exist. No, it's portable induction cookers which have become ubiquitous in domestic situations.

Can you tell me what is model of your ferro-selenium wok ? Can it be found on internet ? BTW, do you cook on electrical ?

Sorry. I have no idea. which model it is. I bought it here in China,so I doubt you'd find it on the internet. No. I cook on gas.

(It's also worth noting that there is a big difference between restaurant wok cookery and domestic wok cookery. I have never met anyone in China with a separate, high powered wok burner in the back yard, as so many people in the west seem to think is mandatory.)

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Electric cooktops and woks don't go together. Not even flat bottomed woks.

Tell that to the locals. It is almost impossible to find round bottom woks here in China any more. Flat bottomed woks are everywhere. The reason? Not electric hobs. I don't think they exist. No, it's portable induction cookers which have become ubiquitous in domestic situations.

(It's also worth noting that there is a big difference between restaurant wok cookery and domestic wok cookery. I have never met anyone in China with a separate, high powered wok burner in the back yard, as so many people in the west seem to think is mandatory.)

Ha! I've always suspected this. Just another example of the Food Media/Industrial complex selling us on the necessity of un-necessary stuff.

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Dear Gfweb

you just gave me an idea ! I have knew new about "portable induction cookers". I quickly looked on internet and they seems to be affordable. What kind of wok is needed for this type of cooker ? Flat-bottom obviously, but cast iron or carbon steel ?

Rustem

Just look at it:

My meat would GLUE to the wok in the same situation ! What kind wok is she using ? It is carbon steel, int it ?

No, it's portable induction cookers which have become ubiquitous in domestic situations.


Edited by Rustem (log)

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Most woks make decent popcorn; they are my favorite vessel for stovetop popcorn. The pan may be worth holding on to if you eat it regularly. Have a big bowl ready. Just heat, brush oil all over (something you wouldn't have to do with an ordinary seasoned wok), then add a small amount of oil, about a quarter cup, and toss in 2-3 kernels and cover. when the test kernels pop toss in more corn, you want enough so that it's only about half submerged in oil. Cover and shake occasionally, turn the heat off as the popping slows. Shake one last time to see if that gets a lot more pops, or not, and pour into the bowl.

And, yeah, I would try contacting the company, even with a handwritten letter.

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A low tech solution is to remember that woks are very old devices. Originally they were round bottomed to nestle down into the coals of a fire.. stoked up lump hardwood charcoal with a good hollowed out dip in the bed of coals works ammazingly. If you have a decent bed of coals and a thin hammered carbon steel wok you can stir fry as well as on any high output wok burner.


Edited by Ashen (log)

"Why is the rum always gone?"

Captain Jack Sparrow

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Hello all !

I can see the light at the end of the tunnel :) The idea of liuzhou of portable induction cooker may solve all my problems. If the theory "why food sticks" of Keith_W is correct, the induction must be the best technology for wok as it transfers energy directly to wok via electro-magnetic field.


It seems to be dozens of different models of portable induction cookers available! There are even special models for woks with round bottom (!), look here:


http://www.amazon.de/s/ref=nb_sb_noss?__mk_de_DE=%C3%85M%C3%85Z%C3%95%C3%91&url=search-alias%3Dkitchen&field-keywords=Induktionstischwok

Though, they all seems to be able to reach max temperature of 240-250 degrees Celsius (I guess it is safety measure), will it be enough ?

Which would YOU buy regular induction cooker with flat surface (they are cheaper) + flat-bottom wok or one of these fancy ones with round surface ? I tend to like cheap version with flat surface as these fancy things could be just marketing bullshit but in fact they work exactly as cheaper models.

What power do you think I would need more is better ? 3000 Watts will be sufficient I think ?

Do you think I will be able to season wok properly on induction cooker ?

Rustem


Edited by Rustem (log)

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Though, they all seems to be able to reach max temperature of 240-250 degrees Celsius (I guess it is safety measure), will it be enough ?

Yes

Which would YOU buy – regular induction cooker with flat surface (they are cheaper) + flat-bottom wok or one of these fancy ones with round surface ?

Flat bottomed one. I have two (I have two houses.) Never have a problem.

What power do you think I would need – more is better ? 3000 Watts will be sufficient I think ?

The more the better, yes.

Do you think I will be able to season wok properly on induction cooker ?

Yes.

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Hi Rustem, don't know if what I'm saying is very helpful to you. I have Induction now and after years of electric hobs I can tell you I cannot go back to an electric kitchen. As for the wok, I had very little patience for my carbon steel wok, and gave up. Eventually I bought a Beka cast iron. It's kind of an heavy western style cast iron wok. I did the proper seasoning but still everything was sticking to it. so I decided to keep it as my deep frying vessel. It took me more than one year to get a patina on it! After that it become non stick. For cast iron, you do need a lot of time...you could try also a debuyer blue steel wok, too bad doesn't go on induction, I'll get one for myself otherwise.

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I would like to suggest you try putting in half the amount of food you are currently. You say it is steaming and your temperature is dropping even though it is smoking hot. So I doubt it is your initial temp, but rather your amount of food; you may be seriously overcrowding, which is both going to steam and cause sticking. I took a moment to look up your model on Amazon and the pan is very popular, including with those who use it on a flat-top glass electric, horrible as they are. The whole thing about the bumps inside is confusing, I have no idea what that is about; you might want to check to make sure that is how it is supposed to be and is not defective. Keep trying with this for a while. Carbon steel, well-seasoned, is the way to go if this proves to have been a bad purchase. Stick with the tried and true.

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Grace Young in the Breath of a Wok has these invaluable tips for stir-frying in a non-ideal domestic wok cookery situation - I don't know whether this will help in your case, because it sounds like getting the proper seasoning will be very difficult, but the main points are, roughly:

- flat-bottomed wok for maximum heat transfer from typical Western ranges of any type

- uniformly prepped ingredients, chopped to same size so they cook at the same rate

- dry your vegetables!

- no more than 12 ounces (340 grams) of meat in at once!

- allow meat to sit without stirring for 20 seconds, stir-fry for 10-15 seconds, spread it out and sear for 30 seconds more, then continue to stir-fy

- heat the wok before adding oil - a drop of water must vanish in a second or so before you add the oil

- swirl the oil in down the sides

- both stir the ingredients and move the wok around while stir-frying

- don't lift the wok off the heat surface while doing so however

- swirl down any liquids as you add them so they don't lower the temperature too much

I suspect your wok is still too heavy and hard to season, and I don't see the point of the bumps... spend (probably the equivalent of about) $15-20 at your local Asian supply store on a cheap flat-bottomed carbon steel wok, season it in the traditional way (tons of links on eGullet and online), follow the instructions above, and you will have delicious results.

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Rotuts,

do you use it on Induction stove ? I still cant find anything like this in Switzerland. May be I will use service like www.myus.com to buy at amazon.com and ship over here.

Rustem.

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i have not used it on my single portable induction burner. Ive only used it on a gas stove.

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