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I was just given a carbon steel wok for christmas. I used it to cook my first stir-fry vegetable dish and I noticed on that the directions indicated to cook on a high flame. I was not sure if this translates to an electric range as turning on the electric burner on high. I am interested in any general knowledge or hints on the most effective use of a carbon steel wok on an electric coil range.

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3 Answers

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I am first of all assuming your carbon steel wok has a flat bottom. You want maximum contact.

If you're stir frying, you want to turn your heat as high as possible. The idea is to cook everything very, very quickly. Crank it all the way. :-)

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My father-in-law, an authentic Chinese person from China, has a round-bottom wok, which sits on a little stand so that the bottom is just above the element of the stove. He turns the heat up to max. Seems to work for him but it's probably not super efficient.

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It is hard to get a wok anywhere near authentic stir-frying temperature over an electric burner. In fact, most home gas stovetops won't do it very well either. If you've ever watched someone cook in a wok over a proper wok burner, you'll know how crazy hot they get. But if you just want to get some use out of your wok, even an electric burner will be workable. –  bikeboy389 Dec 23 '10 at 14:44
    
@bikeboy389: Well, "authentic" is pretty subjective. And people have to make do with the tools they have, sometimes. But he's lived in Canada for 40 years and used this stove for 30 and he still manages to make Chinese food. The wok is almost the only "pot" he uses. –  Mr. Shiny and New 安宇 Dec 23 '10 at 16:49
    
Yeah--perhaps I should have used quotes as you did. The fact is that it's hard to get true stirfry results when the majority of us are only able to get the wok hot enough to stir-steam on our stoves. That's why the results at top Chinese restaurants are so impossible to get at home. I'm happy to live with the approximation, but it IS an approximation. –  bikeboy389 Dec 23 '10 at 18:03
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I wok on an electric stove and have found there's a few tips to really help - its not perfect, but it helps:

  • Preheat, preheat, preheat. Before you start any of your prep, put your wok on the stove and crank the heat. Let it heat up before you do anything at all to it.

  • Make sure everything is at least at room temperature. We often use frozen stir fry veggies, but we thaw them out first and they're at least at room temp before they go in. The same goes for meat. For sauces, we'll often microwave it so that its a bit warm before it even goes in. If you have a screaming hot wok, and you add cold food - then for a long time it will only steam the food.

  • Do it in batches. Don't crowd your wok until everything is already hot. If you're doing meat and veggies - do the meat first, take it off, let the pan reheat, and then do some of the veggies. Work in batches so that the pan temperature doesn't drop and give it time to reheat between batches. Assemble it all at the end.

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Ran across this post and didn't really care for the existing answers. –  rfusca Feb 21 '12 at 7:05
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