Home » Chop Suey » How to Cook With a Chinese Wok

How to Cook With a Chinese Wok

Have you ever wondered where the unique umami (or savory taste, is one of the five basic tastes, together with sweetness, sourness, bitterness, and saltiness) of Chinese foods come from?  Well, it comes from a special cookware they use!  A Chinese wok!  I bet you are eager to buy your own and copy stir fry recipes at home.  Unfortunately, you found your recipe nowhere near the original dish!


Cooking with a Chinese wok is not as easy as you think.  It is an art, and the wok needs to breathe first.  Wok hay, translated as the breath of the wok, gives stir fry it’s unique and authentic taste!  So before you start cooking, let’s get to know a wok first.

What is a Wok Made of?


Traditionally, a wok is made of cast iron.  A heavy material that is well able to retain heat.  They are designed to withstand long hours of cooking without warping.  They are of excellent quality and gives the best wok hay!

Another type of material used to make a wok is carbon steel.  This is the most common wok you can find today as it is much cheaper than cast iron.  It’s a bit lighter than its cast iron counterpart and heats up a little quicker too.  It could have been better than cast iron if it isn’t hard to season.

Aluminum is sometimes used but not as often and less favored by cooks.  Aluminum is thinner and easily loses heat.  There is also a danger in warping them as they are not as sturdy as cast iron and carbon steel.  Because of the increasing popularity of Chinese recipes and stir fries, the western market has commercialized wok in the form of Teflon coated steel.  Unfortunately, you cannot season non-stick woks, so you won’t be able to get an authentic wok hay.

Seasoning Your Wok Is Half the Work!


Buying your preferred wok is the first step.  Now, you have to season it thoroughly before your first use!  But before attempting to season your wok, you must thoroughly clean it with a scouring pad and soapy hot water.

The reason why you want to season your wok is that carbon steel and cast iron are porous metal and will rust when water gets stuck.  Eventually, season and use your wok, a non-stick coat will naturally form.

Pro Tip 1:  A coarse steel wool can scrape off clean all the factory debris and oil.

Now, set your wok on a stove top and heat it up until its smoking.  Brush oil on it and let it smoke for about fifteen to twenty minutes.  Apply a thin layer of oil once in a while when it gets too dry.

Pro Tip 2:  Use oil with a high smoke point.  When oil reaches its smoking point, it easily breaks down and melds with the metal.  Bacon fat is among the most recommended for its high smoke point and excellent flavor!  Animal fats are a great choice!

Pro Tip 3:  Set your exhaust to high or open all the nearby windows as this seasoning process can be smoky!

Let it cool and brush a thin layer of oil before storing it.  Do this for three more times to make a reliable non-stick coating.

Cooking With Your Wok


Now that you have a seasoned wok, its time to make delicious dishes out of them!  Woks are designed to be used in high temperature and cook food real fast.  That’s why it’s called stir fry in the first place!  As you dump your cut ingredients on it, you stir it and its fried in a few minutes!

Place your wok on the stove, put oil on it, and heat it up until it smokes.  Now you’re ready to stir-fry!

Things to Keep in Mind

Remember that woks are intended to cook fast in high temperature.  Be sure that you are turning your ingredients often to avoid burning them.  Since it’s done with high temperature, you will need a long handle ladle.  This will ensure that your hands will not get burned!

Make sure you don’t crowd all your ingredients together too quickly as this will disperse your heat!  You need to maintain a high temperature for ultimate stir-fries!

Do not wash your wok with soap.  You will ruin the seasoning!  You may end up with dishes with soapy taste!  Lightly scrub your wok with a scouring pad and water.

Apply a thin layer of oil before storing your wok to seal the all the flavors!  As you frequently use your wok and follow the seasoning guidelines, you will eventually have a unique wok hay that you can hand over to your next generation!

I bet you love stir fry’s too!  Share this page with your stir fry love friends too!  Have some questions?  Leave it below, and I’ll connect with you soon!

kristenMy name is Kristin, and I’m a housewife with a big love for cooking. When I’m not bringing on the Food Network and attempting to become America’s Next Top Chef, I’m browsing online for unique recipes to awe my friends with. Now I ‘m a founder and main editor for Taste Insight, my blog about nutrition and vegetarian food!

The Chinese Quest welcomes original articles pertaining to the Chinese dining experience.  Your article should pertain to Chinese restaurants, Chinese food, recipes, etc.  For more information, please contact us.

Please share this article if you enjoyed it! click-to-share


  1. Thank you for this very informative article.
    If you want to find out more about the best woks available in the market check out this article:

  2. I am a professional chef. But I don’t know about wok and how to cook or how to use a wok. But to read your article I get enough knowledge on wok. Really wok is a special cooking pan.

  3. The Chinese Quest

    Oh my gosh! That flying food looks so delicious. Do you have a recipe for it? Please?!!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *


This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.