When it comes to preparing Asian dishes, many people settle for the traditional wok, which has its origins in Asia as reliable cookware for stir-frying. This piece has increasingly become popular among chefs worldwide, probably due to its suitability for the job.
However, in recent days, electric woks have emerged and given the traditional ones a run for the money. Even with the competition between the two sets of cookware, many individuals do not understand the differences between them.
For this reason, we have come up with this article, and we shall try to make you understand what the two types of cookware are all about. This involves looking at the benefits and demerits of both sets of items.
Here we go!
What is a Wok?
We cannot assume that everyone knows what a wok is. This is a cooking utensil with a round bottom and high sides and usually features one large handle or two side handles.
The round base’s significance is that it allows for even heat distribution, and as a result, it would take less time for the food to be cooked. As for the high walls, they make the food-tossing to be easier, and this allows for even cooking and mixing of the ingredients.
A Brief History of the Wok
It is widely believed that this cookware was invented over 20,000 years ago in China during the Han dynasty. The earliest designs were made out of cast iron material, which made them durable and longer useful.
There are different theories that try to explain why this unit was invented. The first theory stated that due to severe food shortages during the Han dynasty, the wok was the cookware that was versatile enough to prepare different meals with the same ingredients.
The other theory stated that since there was a shortage of fuel and oil during the dynasty, this unit would allow individuals to prepare their meals using little oil. This makes a lot of sense since presently; you only need a small amount of vegetable oil to prepare a meal at home using the wok.
The final theory is that since the tribes used to travel a lot with all their belongings, they required a portable utensil that would prepare large quantities of food that could feed all the travelers.
The Modern Wok
Presently, the wok is one of the most versatile cooking utensils that can prepare different meals. Most of them are constructed out of carbon steel so that they can be durable, non-stick, and lightweight.
You can use them for various cooking techniques such as stir-frying, steaming, pan-frying, smoking, braising, deep-frying, stewing, and searing.
The above uses apply to both electric and stovetop woks, and the dilemma comes in when deciding which of them does a better job. To get a definite answer, we shall look at both woks separately and outline their pros and cons.
I) The Stove-top Wok
There are many benefits of the traditional wok, and we shall see what they are in brief below.
* Most of these units are made out of stainless steel, carbon steel, cast iron, and aluminum. The advantage of these materials is that they give the woks the capacity to absorb high temperatures from the gas range and cook the food in the shortest time possible.
* It is easier to use a wide wok spatula to prepare vegetables, meat, and other ingredients in these units. This is because the spatula easily conforms to the rounded shape, and this makes stirring and flipping of the food more straightforward and faster.
* As the cooking continues at the heat spot at the wok’s bottom, you can move the ingredients to the rounded sides to remain warm as you finish preparing the dish.
Even though the traditional wok is superb cookware, it has its fair share of disadvantages. They are:
* Using a round-bottomed wok on an electric stove will require a coil so that it attains the balance required for proper heating.
* The stovetop wok requires seasoning to create a patina that would prevent food from sticking. It involves heating the unit over low heat with a small amount of cooking oil.
* When washing the wok with soapy water after use, you will erase the patina formed during seasoning, meaning that you will have to repeat the process all over again.
II) The Electric Wok
The electric woks are considered an upgrade of the traditional ones, and we shall look at some of the benefits they bring.
* They do not require seasoning before use as most of the units are designed to be permanently non-stick.
* The electric woks come with their own stand, which means you will not need additional accessories to attain stability.
* They are easier to clean as you do not have to worry about wiping out the seasoning as you did with the stovetops.
* The main disadvantage of electric tops is that they cannot withstand high temperatures as the traditional ones could. So, a fried dish will end up more as boiled while meat and vegetables will not acquire the crispiness you were hoping for.
To beat this problem, go for a unit with a higher wattage since this is the one with a higher heating capability, although it may not get to the same level as the traditional wok.
From what we have discussed, it is easy to see that it is more advantageous to invest in an electric wok than a stovetop unit. The electric units are more user-friendly, easier to maintain, and tend to last longer.
Keep in mind that you need to give them utmost care to get the best out of them.
We are not saying that traditional woks are entirely bad, but you will have to contend with regular seasoning and the need for a coil to balance.
So, it is up to you to decide which of the two options you can put up with as they both have their share of drawbacks.