Wok pan: what it is, how to use it and what to cook

Padella Wok: cos'è, come si usa e cosa cucinare

You are probably thinking that you can live very well without having a wok, but I assure you that you are very wrong! In fact, many believe that this utensil is something that can be used once in a while, perhaps to cook typical Chinese dishes, and that for the rest of the time it remains in the cupboard next to the juicer (which is exhumed only to make a juice. in case of flu) or next to the popcorn machine (for the annual family movie night).

In reality, however, the wok is a very useful tool that we could and should use every day of the year. Let's get to know it better and discover its various uses and advantages.

What is a wok?

Let's start by saying that the Chinese word "wok" simply means "pan" and it is precisely this generic name that suggests its versatility in the kitchen and the wide use that can be made of it. It has a narrower round bottom and very high edges that widen as you go up. Originally the bottom was rounded, but for obvious reasons the flat bottom one that can be used on our normal stoves has become more widespread in the West.

In addition, the traditional Chinese wok had two side handles which made it easier to lift and insert into the typical Chinese stove. Nowadays, however, it is more common to find it with a long wooden handle and in some cases even with a handle on the opposite side.

Another substantial difference concerns the material: while during the Han dynasty the wok was normally made of cast iron, today carbon steel models are more widespread. If you are wondering which of the two materials is better, sadly we don't have an answer because experts are still debating this.

What are the differences between the wok and the pan?

Let's be honest! If you thought you could live without a wok it is because you have always believed that your dear pan could perform the same functions, didn't you? Well, you will change your mind after knowing the differences.

Clearly at first glance there is a considerable difference between a traditional pan and a wok that has much higher edges and therefore is much deeper. Its particular shape allows liquids to accumulate in the center giving us the possibility of using less oil than a normal pan. Another great advantage of the wok lies in its capacity, much greater than that of the pan, with the consequence that we can cook more food at the same time.

But that's not all, the high edges of the wok offer the advantage of retaining heat better and therefore allow food to be cooked more quickly; this not only makes us save on consumption but, given that the foods are subjected to less treatment, they preserve their nutritional properties and their taste better.

How is it used correctly?

First of all it is important to know that the wok can be found in cast iron (traditional) or in steel, often combined with glass (modern).

While the steel wok does not need any treatment, the purchase of a cast iron wok should be treated as it comes out of the factory with a kind of greasy coating that serves to protect it and prevent rust.

So the first step is to wash it with warm water and a soft sponge (preferably without soap). Once this is done, dry it perfectly and pour some fat: the best thing would be to use lard, but failing that, any oil with a high smoke point such as peanut or palm oil is also fine.

At this point we can put it on the heat by rotating it gently to ensure that the fat is distributed over the entire surface and that the wok heats up evenly. We will be able to remove it from the fire as soon as we see the first wisps of smoke rise. Now we let it cool and then with a paper towel we absorb the excess fat and clean it well.

Once treated, we can use it safely, having the foresight to move and rotate it frequently to avoid excessive overheating of the food. The other thing we need to pay attention to is the amount of oil we use during cooking because, as we have seen before, the particular shape of the wok allows us to cook with less fat.

How to clean the wok?

The fundamental rule for cleaning the wok is never clean it with a metal sponge or a scratchy surface, in order to avoid damaging the non-stick layer.

So how should we clean it? Very simple: with very hot water and a soft kitchen sponge. In this way we can be sure not to remove the natural patina that covers the wok and which guarantees optimal cooking; if it is particularly dirty and has food stuck to the bottom, it will be sufficient to soak it in hot water before cleaning it, it is also important to dry it well before storing it to avoid the formation of rust.

What can you cook with the wok?

I hope that at this point in the reading you are already falling in love with the wok, but if not, get ready to know its various uses in the kitchen and you will see that you will be convinced. Surely it is already clear to you that the wok is mainly used for frying and sautéing food, but we can carry out many other types of cooking. Let's see them together:

Steam cooking

Most woks have a grill to be placed on the inner surface that allows us to steam. Just put the water in the bottom, place the food on the grill and cover everything with a lid.

Thanks to the greater heat that develops, you will even save time compared to a normal steam cooker and you can cook two foods at the same time, one on the bottom with traditional cooking and the other on the grill. This trick is suitable, for example, for couscous: underneath we can cook vegetables, legumes and meat and above the couscous which will absorb all the flavors.


If you have never tried this type of cooking because you think you need special tools, the wok will solve your problems! It's very simple: line the bottom of the wok with aluminum foil, pour over the ingredients for the smoking (tea leaves, rice, spices, dried herbs, etc.) and put the wok on the fire.

When it starts to produce smoke, we place the grill and the food we want to cook on it, then we cover the lid with more aluminum foil. In this way we could, for example, cook a smoked fish in just 10 minutes.


In this case, there is little to explain. The high edges of the wok allow us to carry out cooking that requires large quantities of liquids. Naturally in this case we will have to use a very low heat and let the cooking go for a long time, obtaining for example a tender and extremely juicy meat.


There is practically no difference between frying in a pan and in a wok as regards the procedure, but the advantages that can be obtained using the latter are surprising.

First of all we will have to use a smaller amount of oil, approximately 33% less, and this thanks to the unique shape of this tool that requires little oil. At the same time the high edges will better hold the oil splashes and therefore we will have to clean less, a detail of no small importance. Finally, we will be able to fry a greater quantity of food in less time and also obtaining a more uniform cooking.

The best Woks on offer

Are you not ready to leave the classic pan yet because you think a Wok is very expensive? You don't have to worry, it doesn't. As for each pan, there are different prices for each Wok line / brand.

One of the best around is definitely WMF's Fusiontec Mineral Platino 28cm Wok, made of stainless steel and glass, with excellent thermal conductivity and cut resistance. The wide rim is suitable for dripping-free pouring and Wmf ensures a material life of thirty years. And if that's not enough: it's dishwasher safe too!

In the Olympus of the Best Sellers of non-stick woks we also find Wok 28 cm Tempra Line by Lagostina, non-stick and stainless steel material with non-slip soft touch silicone handle, allows you to fry, braise, sauté and blend in safety.

The 30 cm Wok from the Alba Collection by Ballarini is unmissable, which appears to be in the Top 5 of Europe, with a bimetallic induction bottom made of aluminum and steel. Two other possible choices by Ballarini are the Granitium Murano and Linea Cookin'.

Let me tell you: "I told you!". Yes, because I know that you are now fully convinced and are already looking forward to the satisfaction you will feel in cooking with your new wok friend on your kitchen hob. But please don't throw away your dear old pan, it wouldn't be right after everything he has done for you! Let her rest and enjoy your new friendship!