Use the Wok
J Thoendell stashed this in Food
A wok is not a giant saute pan, nor is it a Dutch oven. The reason people think it can be used to, say, saute vegetables in olive oil for twenty minutes is because a huge proportion of the woks sold today are nonstick. These woks are garbage and if you care about them you should put them in the garbage can where they can be reunited with their families (their families are garbage, they come from the Garbage Clan, their coat of arms is a rotten banana peel gently nestled inside a styrofoam takeout container). Earlier this month, a collection of hundreds of scientists and safety experts released a series of condemnations and recommendations known as the Madrid Statement, which is primarily concerned with certain chemical compounds known as poly- and perfluoroalkyl substances (PFASs). These are the chemicals which cause non-stick pans to be non-stick (in addition to making fast food wrappers greaseproof, and many other very useful roles), and the authors of the paper make a very convincing case that these chemicals are under-regulated and almost definitely going to kill us all.
That’s in addition to the many reasons why a non-stick wok is awful. For one: high heat will cause it to warp and melt. Another: a typical tool to use in a wok is a metal ladle, which will scratch the coating and cause it to leach into your food. For another: a proper wok, by which I mean carbon steel—or possibly cast iron, but I prefer carbon steel because it’s much much lighter—will eventually achieve what’s basically a nonstick coating thanks to repeated uses, like the seasoning of a cast iron pan. (This is called “wok hei” in China, which means something like “the soul of the wok,” and is considered almost a flavor in food. China seems cool.)