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I'm just starting to cook for myself in college, and I'm curious what the best material of cooking tools are for pasta in a metal pan and stir fry in a non-stick wok. To make this question more general, when should you use plastic, metal or wooden cooking tools?

Are there reasons not to use a certain type sometimes? For example, is it unsafe to use wooden tools with raw meat in stir fry?

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There is no good material for cooking in a non-stick Wok, because the non-stick coating is already an extremely poor material. The temperatures used in stir-frying are way too high for it to handle. I understand that you're just starting out but you'll want to replace that with a carbon-steel wok ASAP - they're not expensive, and food won't stick to them after seasoning and regular use. – Aaronut Dec 4 '10 at 14:56
Aluminum filled stainless also works nicely, but every nonstick wok I've seen is basically a dispo item. – Wayfaring Stranger Jun 10 '13 at 13:59
up vote 10 down vote accepted

Metal Advantages: durable, no risk of absorbing flavours Disadvantages: may scratch certain cookware

Wood Advantages: doesn't scratch, looks nice Disadvantages: can wear down over time, can sometimes absorb flavours

Plastic Doesn't find a place in my kitchen other than a rubber spatula for baking.

Silicone You didn't mention this, but I like it, because it works like rubber but can withstand high temps (brushes, spatulas)

I think the answer really depends on what you cook. If you have a basic set (wooden spoon, spatula that can handle heat, good ladle, chopsticks), you can make do without the rest as you start. You'll quickly learn what you wish you had to make it a little easier.

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I actually rather like "wooden" spoons (you know, that shape) made from plastic. Much less flavor absorption, easier to clean, nearly as cheap--what's not to like? – RolandTumble Dec 4 '10 at 17:26
@Roland can't withstand high temperatures, can bend – Agos Dec 4 '10 at 20:22
On the plastic score, I only use melamine utensils with non-stick, they can withstand pretty much any temperature and don't bend. I use silicone coated whisks however. – Orbling Dec 5 '10 at 1:17
It's also a non-renewable resource. I'm not strict or crazy about it, but since I prefer the look and feel of wood and metal anyway and I don't need to worry about heat.... – talon8 Dec 5 '10 at 6:38
Wood disadvantage: Not dishwasher save – user2215 Dec 6 '10 at 0:42

If you do decide to go with wooden spoons (they are cheap after all), you should get at least 2. Write "sweet" or something else on the handle of one so you're less tempted to use the same spoon for cakes as you are for a heavy garlicky curry!

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+1 Very sensible! – Mrs. Garden Dec 4 '10 at 21:22

The main rule here is to not use metal tools on nonstick cookware. Even nonstick cookware labeled "metal safe" can be scratched by using metal tools.

Clean your wooden tools with very hot, soapy water (but don't leave them soaking in water), and they'll be fine.

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