After thinking it over, I suggested that we get the wok, because we could spend time together learning how to use it -- or perhaps, learning that we hate the thing. I figure if it doesn't pan out, we can just give it to someone else to play with. Furthermore, woks are good for cooking healthy food like vegetable stir-fries, and it would provide a reason to try cooking with some Asian vegetables that we don't normally use at home.
We do love Chinese food. We just haven't done much to make our own. So I'm going to do some research on wok resources that look fun to explore.
This is how I learn things. A random opportunity drifts by, I pounce and dig in my claws like it's a catnip mouse. Then I do some research to find resources. I inhale all the resources. Then I experiment with doing the thing.
How to Use a Wok
A most excellent infographic on what and how to stir-fry in a wok.
I knew that a wok could be used (or abused, depending on your stance) for things like deep-frying and making soup. I had no idea it could be used for these interesting things:
You can put a bamboo steamer in the wok, fill the base of the wok with water and steam like that, or get little metal trivets in the bottom, lay a dish on the trivet, and cover with a wok lid. You can also use it for boiling and making stews, or even as a smoker—you cover the base of the wok with several layers of foil, and then you put some sugar and tea leaves and some flour. Heat it up until the sugar is burning and everything is smoldering, and you can put food on a rack, put the lid on, and do hot-smoking like that.
A wok requires at least a little oil for cooking, and it needs to have a high smokepoint so it won't just burn. Happily, two of my favorite cooking oils -- sunflower oil and ghee (clarified butter) -- are fine for this application. I also have light olive oil for its use in sauteing (along with full-flavor olive oil for dressings etc.). Safflower oil goes even hotter, so if I have problems, I can switch up to that. But I doubt our heating equipment will get that hot.
Light/Refined Olive Oil 425-465°F (218-241°C) Saute, pan-fry, grilling, baking, roasting
Sunflower Oil 440°F (230°C) Searing, saute, pan-fry, baking, roasting, grilling, deep-frying
Peanut Oil 440-450°F (227-230°C) Searing, saute, pan-fry, stir-fry, baking, roasting, grilling, deep-frying
Clarified Butter 450°F (230°C) Saute, pan-fry, baking, roasting
Safflower 510°F (265°C) Searing, saute, pan-fry, baking, roasting, grilling, deep-frying
I also sometimes use red palm oil, mostly for African or diaspora cooking, and it has seemed to stand up just fine to heating. Worth testing if I decide to throw African ingredients in a wok which, in fact, bears a strong resemblance to African campfire cooking pots.
Red palm oil is resistant to rancidity, thanks in part to its saturated fat content and its high antioxidant content. Its melting point is roughly 24°C or 75°F. Its smoke point is reported to be anywhere from 150°C or 300°F, to 235°C or 450°F. (This depends on the refinement used to produce the oil, as well as the quantity we use, and the amount of time it is subjected to heat.)
We already have a set of bamboo utensils that came with some other thing, so that's a start. But we do not have wok accessories per se.
We know some things that we like at Chinese restaurants but rarely if ever use at home: water chestnuts, bamboo, baby corn, etc. It would be interesting to experiment with these. I think we have 5-spice powder and might have soy sauce, but those are probably the only Chinese-specific things we have.
This list has 6 key sauces and 45+ recipes to make with them.
Basic ingredients and 23 recipes.
We probably have a couple of general Chinese cookbooks, but I want a wok cookbook specifically.
I am looking at:
The Essential Wok Cookbook [MET 1/27/21]
The Everything Stir-Fry Cookbook
The Healthy Wok Chinese Cookbook
The Breath of a Wok
After discussion, we have decided to begin by ordering The Essential Wok Cookbook, as it has a high rating over the most reviews.
Chinese cookbooks we already own:
Foods of the World: Chinese Cooking
Step by Step Chinese Cooking
I'm not kidding when I say we have a book on almost every topic, even the ones we're not wildly excited about. :D