You can become a wok star in the kitchen

NEW YORK — Chef and food writer J. Kenji López-Alt suspects there’s something in your kitchen you’re not using enough — the wok.

The Asian Deep Bottom Stock Pot is her versatile cooking tool for everything from Korean-style pancakes to bacon and fried rice to eggs.

“Obviously people know them for stir-fries,” he says. “But they’re also great for simmering, great for braising, great for steaming. I think they are the best tool for steaming and frying. You can make rice. There’s just a huge, huge amount of stuff you can do in this one pot.

After spending much of the pandemic tinkering, López-Alt offers his wisdom in WW Norton & Company’s “The Wok: Recipes and Techniques,” a book with practical advice, fascinating asides, and some 200 dishes.

“I think there’s only one recipe that even requires turning on the oven. Everything else is 100% made in one pot on your stove,” he says.

“The Wok” gives advice on the best oils to use, how to boil eggs and how to approach stews and curries. This overturns some myths, like the one that only day-old rice makes good fried rice. There’s even a section on making soups in a wok, including egg drop, wonton, and hot and sour.

Lopez-Alt advises home chefs to get what he’s got — a 14-inch, flat-bottom carbon steel wok, and says if you’re paying more than $50, you’re probably overcharged. He bought it at Target in the early 2000s.

This wok has adapted to each stage of its life. He bought it as a college student living with roommates, continued to use it after moving in with his future wife, and continues to cook with it now as a father. He says he takes out the wok three or four times a week.

López-Alt is also the author of “The Food Lab: Better Homecooking Through Science,” a textbook-like cookbook rooted in scientific reason. The new book has similar rigorous tests, with fantastic detours on when to rinse rice, whether to use MSG, how to buy shrimp, and how different types of noodles behave.

“I find it much easier to learn things when I learn the underlying principles behind them. And so I learned why I do something as well as how,” he said. he declares.

López-Alt compares the following recipes in a cookbook to asking Siri for directions on your phone — you get from point A to point B, but learn nothing about the neighborhoods or how they connect.

“I think knowing the techniques and the science is what gives me the confidence to walk away from the recipes and know that I’m still not going to get lost and end up with something edible and hopefully delicious. “, he says.

Her new book has the blessing of Grace Young, an avid wok advocate, who wrote the award-winning books “The Breath of a Wok” and “Stir Frying to the Sky’s Edge.” It welcomes reinforcements of wok lovers, worried that the pot is at a crossroads, especially with the rise of non-stick and inauthentic versions.

“I’m really grateful to Kenji for writing this book because it can appeal to a much wider and younger audience than me,” she says. “That means more woks are coming home, more people are curious, and more people are enjoying that this skillet is so special and so unique.”

The flared shape of the wok gives chefs a better angle to handle food than the vertical sides of traditional pans, and also reduces splashing. Its sides can be used either to protect food from the heat in the center or to be a place that really heats up and provides a sizzle.

López-Alt had written in the kitchen equipment chapter of “The Food Lab” that the wok was his favorite pan, but the last book never had any recipes or tips because that section was deleted for the moment. ‘space.

So when he started tackling a second volume of “The Food Lab”, he started by revisiting the wok chapter and started expanding it. Then he took his own life.

“I was like 200 pages and I wasn’t done with the stir fry. So I felt like, ‘Hey, this is something I’m passionate about and have found useful in my life, so maybe I should write a whole book and other people will find it too helpful,” he says.

He dispels some misconceptions about wok cooking: It’s not true, he says, that you need jet flames, high-powered, restaurant-style burners to cook properly with a wok.

“I’m going to Peter Luger’s in New York, aren’t I? And they have a steak that they cook under a 1600 degree grill. And it’s like a certain experience, isn’t it? I don’t expect to be able to go home and cook steak exactly the same way,” he says.

“It’s like a very particular restaurant style of cooking a steak. But that doesn’t mean there aren’t plenty of other delicious ways to cook steak at home.

Mark Kennedy is at

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