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Stir-fry skillet


orbisvicis
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I have a cheap 3" by 13" ceramic nonstick skillet which I use to stir-fry bulgogi, kimchi, etc. On my gas stove food burns in a ring around the outer edge of the skillet. I also have to cook in small batches to avoid stewing the food. It is a black mess after all the batches but being nonstick, cleans easily. Now that it's time to upgrade my skillet, which material is most appropriate?

 

  • Doesn't burn around the edges - no thin side walls.
  • Cooks larger batches - higher heat capacity.
  • Is easy to clean after cooking multiple batches - ??.

 

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I've read that a wok doesn't do well on flat stoves, and needs commercial-grade heat to really shine. Most sites recommend getting a frying pan or stir-fry pan instead, which is basically a frying pan with high-curved sides, aka chef's pan aka sauteuse evasée aka everyday pan .

 

Also, its not like I can do chicken parm in a wok.

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1 hour ago, orbisvicis said:

I've read that a wok doesn't do well on flat stoves, and needs commercial-grade heat to really shine. Most sites recommend getting a frying pan or stir-fry pan instead, which is basically a frying pan with high-curved sides, aka chef's pan aka sauteuse evasée aka everyday pan .

 

Also, its not like I can do chicken parm in a wok.

 

Well, what you have read is largely nonsense. Over a billion a billion people are right now cooking dinner in woks on non-commercial-grade stoves. See here.

Woks were invented for stir-frying centuries ago. And today, many (most) come with slightly flattened bases, so that they can be used on convection cookers. I'll grant they don't do so well on traditional electric stoves, but what does?

What makes you think you can do chicken parm in a skillet but not in a wok?

Edited by liuzhou (log)
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I often used one of these...https://www.mauviel-usa.com/collections/murban/products/m-urban3-curved-splayed-saute-pan-with-lid?variant=32878846476341

 

image.thumb.png.453d1ba350a2a2cecdcc0c2baaf90ae9.png

 

It's great for making a pasta sauce as well; once the pasta is cooked, toss it right into this pan and mix it in with the sauce. I'm pretty sure I have an All-clad verison as well (might check ebay for those, but get there before @gfweb!).

 

For chicken parm, I order in.

 

 

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Mitch Weinstein aka "weinoo"

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I agree with the wok idea.  I recently got a carbon steel flat bottomed wok to use on an induction burner and I love it.  I originally got it for stir fries, but now I find I use it for many tasks.  I use it so much, it lives on my countertop.

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2 hours ago, liuzhou said:

What makes you think you can do chicken parm in a skillet but not in a wok?

 

In the center of the wok chicken will deep-fry. Further up it will shallow-fry as intended. Around the edge I'd imagine it sears.

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15 minutes ago, orbisvicis said:

 

In the center of the wok chicken will deep-fry. Further up it will shallow-fry as intended. Around the edge I'd imagine it sears.

 

What? 

 

That's why we call it stir-frying.  We stir it!  Yes, if you just chuck in the chicken and walk away, it won't work! 

 

That won't work in a skillet either! 

 

I admire your imaginative powers, though! 

Edited by liuzhou (log)
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...your dancing child with his Chinese suit.

 

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14 minutes ago, liuzhou said:

That won't work in a skillet either!

 

But that's how you cook breaded chicken, by shallow-frying, and you leave the chicken in place until it is ready to flip.

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10 minutes ago, orbisvicis said:

 

But that's how you cook breaded chicken, by shallow-frying, and you leave the chicken in place until it is ready to flip.

 

OK.  Tomorrow, I'll tell the Chinese population they're stir trying all wrong. 

 

You asked about stir frying! 

 

What you are now trying to describe isn't stir frying! 

Edited by liuzhou (log)
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...your dancing child with his Chinese suit.

 

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3 hours ago, KennethT said:

I originally got it for stir fries, but now I find I use it for many tasks.  I use it so much, it lives on my countertop.

 

What else do you use the wok for?

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13 hours ago, orbisvicis said:

 

What else do you use the wok for?

 

I can't speak for @KennethT, but I use mine for almost all my cooking.  Not just Asian.  French, Italian, American and more. I doubt you could find a more versatile pan. 

 

I use mine for frying, steaming, braising, smoking, poaching and more. 

 

I cooked my breakfast, lunch and dinner in my wok today. Dinner was fish and chips - all cooked in the wok. 

Edited by liuzhou (log)
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...your dancing child with his Chinese suit.

 

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2 hours ago, orbisvicis said:

 

What else do you use the wok for?

As @liuzhou said, you could use it for lots of things - I made a Mexican red chile chicken in it last night - simmered chicken thighs in the red chile sauce, brought some water to a boil super fast to blanch sliced shallots to make a pickled shallot, etc.  I also use it for steaming (you need a steamer basket of some kind then) or a double boiler.  I've also deep fried fish without having to use that much oil.  I dry fry spices in it prior to grinding. It is vastly superior to a saucepan for reducing sauces in a hurry.  All with the added benefit of being well seasoned carbon steel - it is basically non stick and takes literally 5 seconds to clean - I just rinse it with hot water and wipe it out with a towel, then reheat it till it smokes a bit.

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9 hours ago, liuzhou said:

You asked about stir frying! 

 

Fair point. I use my frying pan as I suspect you use your wok - for everything. The only problems I've had are with stir-fries, that's what I brought it up. So I'll use my new non-stick for shallow-frying (chicken parm), eggs, and pancakes. Anything else? What is a wok not good at?

 

How does a wok address my initial concerns?

 

21 hours ago, orbisvicis said:
  • Doesn't burn around the edges - no thin side walls.
  • Cooks larger batches - higher heat capacity.
  • Is easy to clean after cooking multiple batches - ??.

 

  • Doesn't burn around the edges - no thin side walls.
    • ?
  • Cooks larger batches - higher heat capacity.
    • I don't understand how a wok will help. A carbon steel wok is thin; any food dropped in will quickly lower the temperature of the pot. My current frying pan is only 3/32" thick and has similar problems.
  • Is easy to clean after cooking multiple batches.
    • Seasoned carbon steel is well known for its non-stick properties. How does it compare to ceramic non-stick? Can it cook acidic dishes without ruining the patina?
7 hours ago, KennethT said:

I just rinse it with hot water and wipe it out with a towel, then reheat it till it smokes a bit.

 

Yeah I have no experience with cast iron / carbon steel but after skimming the literature it does seem rather easy to maintain. Do you have a dedicated towel for cleaning the wok - much like a mechanic has one for grease and gasoline - or do you just use paper towels?

 

12 hours ago, weinoo said:

I often used one of these

 

That looks like a small stainless steel wok. How hard is it to clean?

 

So... everyone is in agreement? A wok is best?

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9 hours ago, orbisvicis said:
  • Doesn't burn around the edges - no thin side walls.
  • Cooks larger batches - higher heat capacity.
  • Is easy to clean after cooking multiple batches - ??.

 

I think you need to learn how woks work. For a start, the heat is appled to the bottom of the wok, meaning that is the hottest. The side walls are intentionally cooler. That is one reason for stirring - so that the food passes through the hottest part, then when almost done is pushed to the side to keep warm while faster cooking ingredients are added in the centre.

If you are worried (unnecessarily, I would say) about the sides being too thin, then go for a cast iron wok instead. That is what I use, but then I use it for nearly all my cooking, three times a day, every day. The advantages are that they last longer (I've had my current one for about 10 years) and take a higher heat. The disadvantages are that they are heavier.

To use any wok, the empty wok is heated until smoking hot, then the cold oil is added - it wil be sizzling hot immediately, then add the slowest cooking ingredients. Yes, the temperature will drop slightly. You'll be glad. Food being cooked at a lower temperature is not going to be your problem. Burning it is, so keep that food  moving!

 

1577331045_tossingwok.jpg.d10dad6fd4701c0024eaffc41be24095.jpg

Oh No! The temperature is falling!

 

As @KennethThas said they are easy to clean. Cold water and a wire scrubber does the trick. No cloths or towels involved. Put it back on the stove over a high flame and it will be bone dry in seconds. You could, if you wanted, invest next to nothing in a traditional wok brush. They need replacing quite often though.

 

ea6bf716-e275-4bda-b1b2-3c6e5f3fd236.thumb.jpg.78b4f9aaf53d8bf1da02dd4709df2184.jpg

Wok Brush

 

There are many videos on the internet demonstrating how to stir-fry in a wok. I'd ignore the recipes, but you can see the techniques used.

 

9 hours ago, orbisvicis said:

So... everyone is in agreement?

 

That has already been established!

Edited by liuzhou (log)
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...your dancing child with his Chinese suit.

 

The Kitchen Scale Manifesto

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Well, not necessarily.

 

I'd say in western kitchens, I like the choice. Why bring out a 14" wok if I can bring out a 1 quart saucepan and do the same job, and still have room on my stove for 2 or 3 other pots and pans? Maybe I'm braising in a Dutch oven on one of those. Maybe I'm shallow frying in a different one. Maybe I'm heating water for coffee in a 3rd?

 

So yeah, for all those billions of people for whom 1 cooking vessel is all they're allowed, a wok might be just fine.

 

Me - I like having choices.

 

8 hours ago, orbisvicis said:

That looks like a small stainless steel wok. How hard is it to clean?

 

It's not a stainless steel wok - it's a splayed sauté pan, which they also make in carbon steel.  No harder to clean than any other pot or pan in my arsenal.

 

Mitch Weinstein aka "weinoo"

Tasty Travails - My Blog

My eGullet FoodBog - A Tale of Two Boroughs

Was it you baby...or just a Brilliant Disguise?

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