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What Is a Wok Pot?

Eugene P.
Eugene P.

A wok pot is a type of cooking pan that originated in China and is recognizable by its circular, bowl-like appearance. The traditional wok pot has a rounded bottom, although flat-bottomed varieties developed as the pan became more popular in home kitchens with flat burners. The curved pans are designed to distribute heat in a way that makes them flexible for a wide range of cooking techniques, including frying, boiling, deep frying, steaming and braising. In nearly all instances, the pot is made from some form of metal because, in some authentic Asian cooking, the wok is regularly exposed to very high levels of heat. Many types of accessories can accompany a wok, from special supports for flat burners to bamboo brushes used for cleaning, to racks that are used to suspend food along the edges.

One of the advantages of using a wok pot for cooking is the control the cook has over the distribution of the heat in the food. The concave shape of the pan exposes a rounded surface to the fire which, in fire pits or other ovens designed for a wok, allows heat to hit the bottom center of the pan and then move up the smooth walls. This means food can be added to the center of the pan at the deepest point to cook quickly, after which it can be pushed up the sides of the wok so less heat reaches the food and it cooks slower. The shape also tends to draw liquids down into the center so fats drain away from meat not resting directly in the center.

Shrimp and noodle dish stir-fried in a wok pot.
Shrimp and noodle dish stir-fried in a wok pot.

The material from which a wok pot is made can include aluminum, cast iron, carbon steel or stainless steel. Carbon steel is the most common, being both durable and inexpensive. The pans are designed in a way so they are light enough to move easily, while also having walls that are thick enough to distribute and hold heat. The handles attached to the pans can be made of the same type of metal or can be coated in wood, plastic or other materials that allow them to remain cool as the pan heats.

There are a variety of accessories that are used with a wok pot. For the flat gas or electric burners that are common on home range tops, there are metal rings designed to support a round-bottomed wok so it can sit directly over the heating element. To aid cleaning, there are bamboo brushes that provide a way to clean the wok effectively without leaving damaging abrasions on the surface. Racks that hang on the lip or inner sides of the pan are popular and often used to hold the food when steaming or deep frying.

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    • Shrimp and noodle dish stir-fried in a wok pot.
      By: torsakarin
      Shrimp and noodle dish stir-fried in a wok pot.