How to use a Wok


Often, somebody will claim to have a wok, and it will turn out to be some sort of wide pan with a flat bottom. Or it will have a coating of Teflon. Well, I hope they are happy with their purchases. Those things may be very nice, but they are not woks.

Woks have round bottoms, so you can use a small pool of oil to fry the food. They have bare metal surfaces. If you treat them wrongly, they go rusty. You can buy a real wok from a Chinese supermarket. It will be oily, to stop it rusting. Scrub the oil off the wok, as it is not cooking oil. This should be the only time you use detergent on your wok, and you must ensure you rinse it all off. Put the wok on the gas ring, and turn the gas up high. Do not forget to light the gas. If you do not have a gas cooker, move to a different house.

Heat it for ages, then a bit longer. Add ground-nut oil, and spread it all over the cooking surface with kitchen towel. There will be a lot of smoke. Heat and oil again, if you like. You just created a non-stick surface NASA would envy, if they didn’t love Teflon so much.

Now. In the unlikely event that anything sticks to the surface you just created, scrape it off with a wooden spatula. Cleaning is done with a damp cloth, and is followed by heating and oiling. If you use your wok at really high temperatures, the food will rarely stick, and you can use metal implements without worrying about scratching the wok.


Woks with long wooden handles prevent injury. You want your wok really hot before adding food, as it stops the food sticking and makes the cooking time very short. It also makes very spectacular sounds and clouds of steam, which will impress your guests no end. If you have a gas cooker with a wok-burner, you are really in luck, and can do jet engine impressions while cooking.


These are handy too. The bamboo ones work well. They will never be as clean as when you bought them, but steam kills all known germs…


Here we go. You can not cook Chinese food by starting something cooking, and going round the kitchen finding things to add, then peeling them and chopping them before adding them. It all needs to be ready to go, the way you see the television cooks do it. Like this…

how-to-use-a-wokHow to use a Wok – Everything is in the preparation. Carefully cleaned plastic food containers are useful, but these days I prefer proper dishes. Three of the tubs contain meat that has already been part cooked in the wok. The shorter the delay before finishing the cooking, the better. So you get it all ready like the picture. And you check everything is present… Something is missing from the picture, a tin of sweetcorn.

The tubs at the front contain carefully prepared garnishes. Too fancy? I don’t think so, and ten minutes extra work will have your guests amazed by how good the food looks, as well as the taste.

From left to right: Sweet and sour pork. Chicken and walnuts. Chicken and sweetcorn chowder.
Beef and black beans with green peppers.