Wok (peking pan) in 33 cm / 13': decent size?

frenchmanNovember 6, 2010

Hi,

I found a peking pan whose construction I liked at my local Asian store. It is Japanese made and the handle is part of the wok itself (not welded or riveted, except when it folds back onto itself to become a round handle), which is what I liked. It also has a round bottom which is what I was looking for.

The one pan that my store had is 33 cm in diameter, i.e. 13 inches. I would cook for 1 to 4 most of the time, and it seems that the size would be okay, but I could return the 33 cm and get a 14" online for the same price shipped. Is it worth it? or will my 13" be fine? If I then love woking so much that I want to do it for company, it seems that I'd then want a 16" and not a 14", and then the two sizes would complement each other?

I have barely used a wok before (the Ikea one) and look forward to using a better one, but am not sure about the size. It also seems that size is a reflection of culture: a Thai site said "get a 16" it's good for one as well as eight;" Half the European sites (where kitchens are smaller) say "30 to 32 cm is a good size" while some others say "get a 35 cm" (~ 13 3/4), and in America, home of the ubiquitous big stove (I hone myself :p) people say "14" is a minimum!"

I'm confused :)

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frenchman

13 INCHES of course (messed up the subject line).

    Bookmark   November 6, 2010 at 5:36PM
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johnliu_gw

Get the 16'' wok if you have plenty of room on your rangetop, otherwise get the 13'', don't get anything larger.

If you are using a wok for traditional Chinese stir-frying, the limitation will be the heat from your range's biggest burner. Typically the meat is cut into small pieces and marinated. The wok is heated to very hot (put on highest heat, leave it for 5 minutes), then a small amount of oil is added, when the oil smokes the marinated meat is placed in the wok and cooked quickly over highest flame.

You want the meat to quickly brown without overcooking. If you cook too large a batch of meat, this will not happen. The marinade and juices from the meat will pool in the wok and the meat will boil in this liquid. It will not brown until the liquid is cooked off, by which time the meat will be overcooked, rubbery, and gray.

What is ''too large'' depends on how hot your burner is. Almost all residential ranges have fairly weak burners, 10-15K BTU/hr. A commercial range will be 20-30K BTU/hr. The chef at the Chinese restaurant uses a special wok range with 100-250K BTU/hr. So he can stir-fry 1 lb of marinated meat in 15-30 seconds.

On a residential range you'll need to cook in small batches, 6 oz at a time. Yes it is a pain, but the results are worth it. A small batch like that doesn't need a big wok.

A lot of recipes ignore this, and tell you to cook all 1 lb of meat, etc at once. Those authors are not testing their recipes under home conditions - they probably just adapted a restaurant recipe, or don't care.

Traditional Chinese cooks use a wok for everything - braising, deep frying, simmering, steaming, etc. But those don't require a big wok either.

The disadvantage of a wok 16'' and larger is that they crowd out other pots on adjacent burners. The disadvantage of a wok 13'' and smaller is there is less room to turn the food without losing a piece or two over the edge.

Also get the wooden wok spatula, it is shaped to fit the curve of the wok. Also get the wok ring support, you may have to experiment to get it to fit over your burner. Finally, get the cheap lid and have it handy when cooking, because if the oil catches fire, the fastest and safest way to extinguish it is to put the lid on.

Don't pay much for this stuff. A carbon steel wok should cost $10 to $30.

A wok should get seasoned over time. Treat it like a cast iron pan - don't scrub with soap, just use a brush and hot water immediately after cooking, then back on the burner to dry. Wipe with oil before putting it away.

    Bookmark   November 11, 2010 at 11:55AM
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johnliu_gw

I forgot to mention - pat the the marinated meat dry and lightly dust in cornstarch. Helps it stay dry and browns faster. Pretty common procedure in Chinese cooking.

    Bookmark   November 11, 2010 at 12:18PM
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