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Thursday, July 18, 2013

Wok Cooking On A Home Stove- Good Or Not?

As experience comes with living life, recently not to far away I went to a couples' home to cook stir fry meals, well a few dishes Chinese style. The fist was beef broccoli, the other was sweet sour shrimp, and the other was pork with shrimp paste, all easy to do, however this is the problem.

When I got there I noticed that they had a gas stove, "Great," I thought. I set up the ingredients, sliced everything thin so it would cook fast, after all in wok cooking a dish shouldn't take 10 minutes from the time it hits the heat to the time you plate it. Oh well, their stove was so weak, it took forever to get the oil hot enough to do the first dish.

What I came to realize is that you really need good heat in wok cooking, and doing it on a typical American brand stove is not sufficient enough. But I had to wing it, had to fly with the eagles and not say, "I quit!"

Doing this gig, I brought 2 old woks I had both flat bottoms. I had one I think it was 10" and the other one was an old 14" and on hot stoves with a gazzillion BTUs it works fine, however on a 8000 to 14000 BTU stove, it did not cut it, it was just to cold.

As my friends looked on the woman said, "Ron is everything okay?"

I said, "Well, this isn't anyone's fault, it's just for wok cooking this stove is too cold."

They did not understand, I simply told them that a stir fry that usually takes me about 2 minutes in a pro kitchen would take me maybe 10 on their stove and that the texture may not be what they were used to when dining at their favorite Cantonese dive in China Town. They didn't mind at all.

But.. big but, when I was finally done after 10 minutes on the beef broccoli, the husband did notice, "Hey Ron you said something about not hot enough? I think I see what you mean. The meat doesn't have that char on it, and it doesn't smell very powerful, did you use garlic and ginger?"

I explained, that I did use all the ingredients that was needed, and that the heat was too cold, I could not get the proper sear on the meats and the garlic and ginger did not really heat up well like it would have in a restaurant with higher BTUs on the stoves.

"Well, sorry guys but I had to make do with what I have, I hope at least it tastes okay, and if it doesn't well, this is on the house, I should have asked you first what kind of set up you had in your kitchen."

They were kind, "It actually tastes very good Ron, but yes the char on the meat is missing, as well as the flavors, it does not have that high flame taste, when ever we eat out at our favorite Chinese restaurants, the dishes are steaming hot."

"Yeah well it's hard to get a good sear on a low heat stove..ah again, my bad."

Well long story short, if you will be wok cooking in a home with low heat stoves, I do suggest..

1. Use maybe the smaller woks, and cook in batches.
2. Make the wok as hot during preheating to really get the oil and fats started.
3. Let your diners know that the stove is cold and that you'll do the best you can.
4. Pray.

Wok cooking is an art, and it is not out of the question to get a decent stir fry on a weak stove. If all possible, cook with a wok burner stet up, usually a propane gas burner on a stand with a wide burner that sounds like a jet, if you hear a wooooosh! then that burner will be the thing to wok cook on.

But don't let a weak burner discourage you, just cook in small batches, use a 10" flat bottom wok, and cook in batches, let your diners know, "Look guys, as I plate these dishes you guys start to eat alright?" And if they ask why, just explain..."It's all about the heat, and I ain't getting it on this stove."

Stir fries need to be eaten ASAP when it just comes out of the wok. A good idea is to have lots of appetizers so your diner won't be hungry, so when your small batches of stir fries start to come out, they'll be somewhat fed.

Good luck.