For centuries, woks have been an integral component of Asian cooking. In recent years, the wok has also been embraced by cooks throughout the world because of its simplicity and ability to create healthy meals.
A wok is shaped like a large bowl and usually made out of carbon steel, with some alternatives being aluminum and cast iron. The stove top wok's rounded bottom nestles into the grates of a gas range. This projects the flames' heat into a hot spot on the wok's bottom.
A wok's main advantage is that cooks can create healthy meals in a relatively short amount of time. Little oil is used in preparing vegetables, meats or seafood. Vegetables retain a crisp, crunchy texture, while the meats and seafood do not absorb large amounts of oil, which is heart-healthy.
Stove top woks come with both rounded and flat bottoms. The rounded fit easily into a gas range's grates. For electric ranges, a flat bottom is usually necessary. There are also electric woks on the market, but they generally do not work as well because they cannot attain the high temperatures needed for stir-frying, for instance.
Woks also eliminate the need to cook with a number of pots and pans. One wok can hold a variety of ingredients. Woks also are useful for sauteing, deep frying or steaming.
Woks should be seasoned with oil before their first use. Do not use dish soap to clean. Simply rinse with very hot water and a plastic scouring pad.
A graduate of the University of Minnesota, Charles Fredeen is a writer with a love of politics and journalism living in Los Angeles. He has written four published books, including a biography of the journalist Nellie Bly. With more than 25 years of writing, he has also written numerous articles for publications, including the "Los Angeles Times" and "Los Angeles Magazine."