A wok is a Chinese round-bottomed cooking pot, but that’s not all. If you thought that woks are limited to preparing just a few dishes, then you’ve got a lot to explore, at least. Apart from the obvious things you can think of, a wok can do much more, but only if you consult from the best wok cookbook.
Not everyone finds it easy to follow instructional videos on YouTube regarding cooking. For this reason, a cookbook might be the best option since you can access it offline, and still, a printout is convenient in the kitchen.
If that doesn’t sound quite convincing, remember cookbooks come with the recipes and resources like tried tips and hacks, as well as histories of the various meals you can prepare.
Why you need a wok cookbook
You may be wondering why a cookbook is still necessary, given the number of online resources available at the moment—but you’ll be glad! Here are some reasons why the longer shot (cookbook) is usually the best option:
Wok cooking is easier said than done.
There are many instructional videos on using a wok for various types of cooking, but none of these seems to paint the entire picture. After all, you cannot squeeze 5 complete recipes squeezed in a 10-minute clip. You need a wok cookbook to get the whole process, step by step, without time constraints.
You’ll learn expert tips along the way
It’s one thing to read a generic recipe, and it’s another to follow through a tried and tested recipe. Cookbooks are authored by cooks, professional chefs, and others with lots of authentic culinary knowledge.
If you want to really perfect your skill with the wok, there’s no better way than avoiding those after-views-and-money YouTube explainers and reading through a great cookbook. The videos can be beneficial, but they usually don’t paint the whole picture.
A cookbook is a permanent resource
Have you ever read, watched something exciting online, and bookmarked, or saved it for later, only to come back and find it no longer existent? Unless you lost it altogether, that’s not something you can experience with a cookbook.
A cookbook is always there whenever you need it, with a physical reference in your kitchen. Most cookbooks, including those focused on the wok, are either Kindle or printed versions that you can store somewhere in your kitchen drawers.
What can you possibly do with a wok?
Now that you know why you need a wok cookbook, it’s just as good to learn what things you can do with the pan. If there are countless cookbooks about it, then the wok must be capable of a lot of things—here are just a few of the everyday things you should try out:
Do you love smoking, but you’ve got no time to babysit an outdoor grill? Or yet, do you just need a handful of wings smoked? If yes, arming yourself with a wire rack and a generous amount of aluminum foil is the way to infuse that coveted smoky flavor in smaller meat batches.
As you’ll find out, a wok even affords you more control over chips or peels you use to smoke the meat.
ii) Pan roasting
Although the skillet is by far the superior option for pan roasting, a wok will still get the job done with excellent results. The large surface area on the sides providesa contact surface for the veggies to roast on. It’s even a greater treat if you pile the vegetables as it allows them to steam, cooking the interiors tenderly soft while roasting the outer surface.
Roasting in a wok is best for foods that need lesser time to cook through, plus you’ll need less fat, promoting a healthier diet.
Compared to a stockpot, a wok is a shallower bath and thus better for poaching. First, you can cook more of the food you want to poach, and more evenly. Secondly, the large surface area exposed to evaporation means that the temperature doesn’t get too high even if your heat setting is slightly high.It’s also easier to maintain the heat level to a low limit since the liquid will not absorb much heat in a short period.
Although woks don’t have a flat bottom and thus have a lesser area in contact with the flame, they are less suitable for searing. For one, you’ll need less oil for there’s lesser ground to coat, and secondly, the burner’s heat will be more concentrated around the smaller base area, making it easier to achieve your sizzle on.
To sear successfully, you need to initially sear enough at the bottom, push the meat or whatever you are searing to the cooler walls, and then set to “keep warm” function. This trick could get you searing larger batches than you ever could in a skillet.
As you may already know, a steaming basket is necessary to hold the contents over the water bath. This is no different when you plan to use a wok to steam. For instance, you need an accessory like a bamboo steamer as a nesting basket held over the wok’s curved edges.
It’s best to use cast iron, carbon steel, or other scratch-proof metal-safe materials for obvious reasons.
Do you prefer deep frying? Or are you a pan-frying head? Either way, a wok has you covered. The only setback here is the need for more oil to achieve the ultimate goal, but still, you can fry bigger batches without any crowding.
A wok’s slope provides a smooth glide for your batch, eliminating splashing, which can be deadly if the oil is searing hot.
Retrieval is also easy, and there’s less risk of burning yourself. The flared edge is much safer and maneuverable to work with, unlike the deep pot of a Dutch oven.
In pan-frying, you’re also at an advantage of no splashes, plus you can push the already done pieces on the walls, while the still cooking batch can utilize the lesser oil funneled at the bottom of the wok!
vii) Tossing and mixing
Don’t think about making your salad in a wok—no! However, not many kitchen apparatuses will beat a wok when distributing sauces or mixing up smaller batches of ingredients for family dinner meals. The high and graduated walls provide the ideal mechanism to cover anything in a sauce, and more so, evenly.
While the wok’s smaller floor keeps your sauces from reducing fast over time, the sloped edges ensure the food is visible and prevent it from steaming or splattering out.
In comparison, a saucepan holds as much as its name suggests, while the skillet’s low edges can easily cause a mess over the stove. Pots may be great, but think of the risk of scorching or drying out the sauces fast whenever trying to make everything in that one pot.
viii) Sautéing and stir-frying
Sautéing and stir-frying are similar except for the high heat needed to stir-fry, while sautéing requires medium heat. A wok will work on anything that a pan can sauté, as we’ve already seen. When stir-frying, a wok’s high walls provide more safety and security. Forget the days of errant leafy greens flying off your pan, and flip and toss like a boss.
ix) Stewing and braising
What’s better and more straightforward than putting those high sidewalls into use by stewing and braising? A Dutch oven requires more attention for the same job, while a pan is outright not designed for this function.
The base is wide enough for searing meat when making a steak or a braise. This should ring bells considering the numerous braised Chinese dishes.
x) Boiling and sous vide
The depth in a wok is its strength when it comes to boiling. Since woks have a depth of between four and six inches, they easily outdo even the high-rimmed braiser or sauté pans.
The wok’s depth is usually enough for sous vide as the vacuum-sealed bags won’t pile up but stay in place, awaiting more things.
The 7 best wok cookbooks reviews
You now have a good idea of what that wok can do! How about the instructions for getting everything done the right way? Here are the most resourceful wok cookbooks I’ve come across, and I admired their approach. I’m sure you’ll find the ideal one from this review. Let’s dive in.
1. Easy Wok Cookbook: 88 Simple Chinese Recipes for Stir-frying, Steaming and More by Terri Dien and Mia Chambers
Ready to start the stir-frying game like a pro? Easy Wok Cookbook is the shortcut you should be considering. Authored two celebrated chefs, you can be sure this cookbook is designed for newbies and wok master chefs alike.
In 200 pages, Easy Wok Cookbook delivers 88 fantastic recipes for sumptuous Chinese dishes. Should you lose your way at some point, the included tips and tricks, as well as straightforward instructions, will get you celebrating your skills in no time.
A sneak peek into the cookbook reveals the Kung Pao Chicken and crispy Sesame beef. Slowly turn the pages as you learn to manipulate those ordinary ingredients into tantalizing meals while sticking to your budget.
Mia and Terry, through this cookbook, let you build on confidence and graduate into a home master cook by sharing the numerous tips while guiding your every step with the wok. Try this wok cookbook to experience stir-fry success while engaging in the Asian-cooking adventure.
Wondering what makes the cookbook so special? The 88 recipes blend Chinese fusion, American Chinese, and Purely Chinese dishes, all of which you can simmer, stir-fry, or steam right in your kitchen.
Many convenient dishes, including several 30-minutes dishes, will set you back no more than $10 because they involve a maximum of 5 ingredients.
Like a cast-iron skillet, a new wok doesn’t work as well as a seasoned one. Get your copy of the Easy Wok Cookbook and learn the basics of cleaning and seasoning the cookware and how to select the best wok in the market.
What we like:
- Easy and doable recipes
- Most ingredients are very cheap and readily available at local grocery stores
- Includes wok selection, cleaning, and seasoning tips
- Has 88 recipes you can try in a wok
- Shares tips and tricks to bypass any lengthy procedures
- It is available in Kindle, hardcover, as well as spiral-bound versions
2. The Complete Wok Cookbook: 500 Delicious Stir-fry Recipes for Your Wok or Skillet by Lucy Lynn
Most home cooks who have a wok at home began with a skillet, a pan, or even the Dutch oven. It’s thus not unexpected that a cookbook covering both wok and skillet recipes would be ideal. This must have been the most likely motivation behind Lynn’s The Complete Wok Cookbook.
The cookbook lets you break free from the same restaurant Chinese food that’s, more often than not, not the healthiest. Armed with this 208-page cookbook and a decent wok, you can enjoy all the Chinese deliciousness from the comfort of your home. You’ll even save a few bucks, in addition to speed, compared to home delivery.
Health is a major focus in the recipe book. This can be attested from the low sodium and sugar used, heart-friendly oil, fresh farm produce, and lean cuts used in most meals. Don’t think this comes at the cost of lesser flavor! It’s the same rich and tantalizing meals, reminiscent of the traditional Chinese culture.
Some significantly tasty but affordable highlights include the Honeyed Sesame Pork and Vinegary Sichuan Beef with Veggies. There are 500 recipes divided into classic and creative categories. By far, this is a shortcut to learning stir-frying, steaming, and simmering Chinese dishes.
In addition to the wok, Lucy shares other Chinese techniques and cooking tools in the cookbook. This makes the cookbook a convenient guide, as it incorporates easy recipes that don’t demand your patience or a big budget; half an hour and 10 buck is all you need for most of these wok dishes.
What we like:
- Easy and inexpensive recipes
- Readily available ingredients
- Includes a guide on other tools and accessories to make wok cooking much more worthwhile.
- Straightforward cooking instructions
- Included service for every recipe to avoid food and money wastage
- Available in Kindle and paperback versions
3. The 30-Minute Easy Wok Cookbook: 200 Fast and Easy Asian Recipes for Your Wok or Skillet for Homemade Meals by Lucy Lynn
Another favorite from Lucy Lynn is The 30-Minute Easy Wok Cookbook. With a focus on the 30+ minutes it takes for home delivery, Lynn takes you through 200 healthy and quick recipes that you can make in that amount of time or less.
Unlike most other wok cookbooks that provide no concrete information on spicing up your wok dishes, The 30-Minute Easy Wok Cookbook details how to include herbs and spices in crispy veggies and savory meats to bring out the best. If you lean more on the steamed rice or noodles, or even a stir-fry, you’ll be glad to know how well they can taste with just the right spices. And what more? These recipes are also compatible with a skillet.
Let your dream come true today by becoming a master of the wok with this cookbook’s guidance. Whatever Chinese or Asian dish that can cook in a wok, you’ve got your back covered. Of course, there is more to wok cooking than the recipes. The 30-Minute Easy Wok Cookbook introduces you to buying the right wok, seasoning, and taking care of it.
You also learn how to clean the wok without damaging it and the type of ingredient you should stock up on for a seamless wok cooking experience on those late weeknights.
What we like:
- Includes 200 wok recipes
- Has tips for the best stir-fried wok dishes, a wok buying guide, and efficient wok techniques
- Ingredients can be sourced locally at affordable prices
- Recipes entail 30-minute meals
- Encourages healthy eating by excluding extra salt, oil, or MSG
- Affordably priced
4. The Ultimate Wok Cookbook: 1000 Days Simple and Delicious Stir-fry Recipes for Beginners and Advanced Users by Jacquelyn Stapleton
One thing you’ll love about making your own Chinese wok dishes at home is the cost which seems unrealistic compared to what you pay for the takeout alternative. With the guarantee that no one else is handling your food, hygiene won’t be much of a worry to you. But how do you make the best of these meals at home? It’s with the help of great recipe books, such as The Ultimate Wok Cookbook.
The cookbook starts with an overview of the wok’s history. While this doesn’t directly influence the way you’d cook, many readers find the cooking more immersive if they know and can relate the history of the wok with everyday cooking. It’s more like experiencing the ancient vibe in the kitchen.
The Ultimate Wok Cookbook goes ahead to explain the Chinese kitchen, taking you deeper into the culture. A wok will not do the magic by itself, so Staplet on explains the other accessories you’ll typically find in a Chinese kitchen that work alongside the wok.
When I first bought a crockpot, I wasn’t sure if I was operating it the right way, let alone the recipes was trying out.The Ultimate Wok Cookbook helps avoid the mix-up by detailing the basics of wok and tips to using and caring for it.
And then the central part—recipes. The recipes are designed to make them straightforward with ingredients lists, cooking times, and detailed steps. There is also a measurement conversion chart, should you live around an area where unfamiliar units are used.
In the end, you’ll have mastered cooking poultry, sauces, snacks and sweets, soups, noodles and rice, vegetables, beef, pork and lamb, fish and seafood, as well as dumplings, eggs, and tofu. These will amazingly have the traditional Chinese flavors while sticking to your budget!
What we like:
- Simple, straightforward cooking recipes
- Uses affordable and locally available ingredients
- Covers diverse foods you can cook in a wok
- Includes unit conversion chart
- Available in two formats, Kindle and print (paperback)
- Fairly priced
5. Easy 30-Minute Stir-Fry Cookbook: 100 Asian Recipes for your Wok or Skillet by Chris Toy
So far, our focus has been on what awesome things you can do with a wok, but how about the ones you can do in a wok within a record short period? That’s all that Easy 30-Minute Stir-Fry Cookbook is about!
30-minutes dishes in a wok doesn’t mean bland meals prepared in a hurry, at least not with the Easy 30-Minute Stir-Fry Cookbook. From intoxicating herbs and spices to crisp veggies, savory meats, and steamy rice noodles, this cookbook is a guarantee of the wonders you can do in that simple wok.
Easy 30-Minute Stir-Fry Cookbook packs 100 Asian mouthwatering meal recipes that even the absolute beginner will nail without much effort. Whether you have a wok or a skillet, you can try recipes like the Thai Basil Pork, Curried Shrimp, and Sweet and Sour Chicken. The recipe names must sound fantastic, but believe me, even a beginner can make them.
It’s not about time only, for you’ll also learn flavor bases across 10 popular Asian food destinations, including Thailand and China. This way, you can modify the recipes to your liking while enjoying the diversity of these regional flavors.
The cookbook includes practical tips for a successful stir-fry, including care and maintenance practices to keep that wok making tastier meals. If you are worried about what stapes to stock up on, you’ll have plenty of ideas so that whenever you feel ‘woky,’ there’s something you can prepare right away.
Have you overcooked some ingredients in the past? Meat, tofu, seafood, and rice are usually the main culprits, but the cheat sheet included in this cookbook will take that worry and risk away, for good. Wok rice has also never been easier. Get your copy today and learn how to prepare the perfect white, brown, or sticky rice, with the most outstanding results, right from your wok.
What we like:
- Recipes take a short time
- Includes a cook time cheat sheet
- Has tips and tricks for ingredient preparation, and wok maintenance
- Available in softcopy (Kindle) and hardcopy (paperback) versions
- Fairly priced
6. The Essential Wok Cookbook: A Simple Chinese Cookbook for Stir-Fry, Dim Sum, and Other Restaurant Favorites by Naomi Imatome-Yun
With 95 effortless recipes, you quickly graduate from ordering Chinese restaurant takeout to making everything right from your home. Of course, this means healthier meals at significantly lower costs. If this sounds like a path you want to go, The Essential Wok Cookbook is your ticket.
Apart from the easy recipes, the cookbook introduces you to the basics of mastering the wok, which is the greatest secret to those coveted restaurant Chinese meals. You learn not to use extra salt, oil, or MSG, something you cannot guarantee that the restaurant will care about.
Selecting a good wok, seasoning it, and maintaining it in the proper condition may not be evident to everyone, which is why Naomi includes tips to accomplishing all that. What makes the book stand out, even more is the illustrations on how you should fold that dumping, egg roll, and wont on, something not many other wok cookbooks even mention.
The book is not just a narration of steps, for it includes humorous stories on the origin of wok meals and the American reinventions of the same. Whether it’s fortune cookies or egg drop soup, The Essential Wok Cookbook teaches you in the most fun way.
Get to try out the beginner-friendly recipes like Better Beef with Broccoli, Perfect Pork Pot Stickers, Sweet Chill Shrimp, and Easy Vegetable Stir-Fry, all of which have several ingredient substitutes listed in the cookbook. These swap tips are handy whenever you don’t want to get something from the store while a substitute lays in the pantry.
What we like:
- Ingredient substitutes included
- Practical illustrations
- Comes in Kindle, hardcover, paperback, and spiral-bound versions
7. The Ultimate Wok Cookbook: 1000 Days Simple and Delicious Stir-fry Recipes for Beginners and Advanced Users by Jacquelyn Stapleton
Jacquelyn is a renowned chef and cookbook author. She presents The Ultimate Wok Cookbook in a detailed manner, making it a cheaper and healthier option to restaurant Chinese takeout and a convenient way of enjoying those meals.
From the history of the work, the working of the Chinese kitchen, The Ultimate Wok Cookbook discusses all there’s to know for a wok novice. For instance, the basics of the wok and usage instructions and maintenance tips are shared in plain language, easy enough for a grade 5 kid to completely understand.
Make soups, meats like beef, pork, lamb, sauces, seafood, vegetables, and dumplings from the comfort of your home, without any hassle. The ingredient lists, cook times, and straightforward directions will get you there in no time. Should you be stranded between metric and imperial units, there is also a conversion sheet to make the experience less frustrating, even for the novices.
Get this 26-page cookbook, and watch your wok skills build every day.
What we love:
- Includes tips such as the basic uses and caring for a wok
- All ingredients are locally sourced
- Most recipes take less than half an hour
- Diverse recipes
- Available as Kindle or printed version (hardcover, paperback, spiral-bound)
What to look for in the best wok cookbook
A wok is not a magic wand where you throw everything and expect it to give wonders. You have to invest significant effort in learning, but you still need the proper wok for your interest meals. Here are the most important considerations you should make when buying a wok:
Practicality, usability, and organization
A helpful cookbook should have practical and straightforward steps to follow through. These steps should be organized reasonably to make the book easily navigable. One way to achieve this is to use a table of contents.
A great cookbook will also have concise instructions but not omit any important information. In addition, a smooth flow makes it more readable and easy to make sense of the instructions.Finally, culinary jargon is not welcome for most recipe book users. Go for a book that uses simple and understandable language while not sounding vague.
A beautiful aspect of cookbook authorship is maintaining the traditional theme of a wok while throwing in a modern twist to create variations of the same recipe. Authors should also get creative with the imagery they add to the recipes. Just like cooking is an art, authors should maintain an artistic outlook for their cookbooks.
Ingredient and equipment accessibility
Not everything that you can cook in a wok is available everywhere in the world. Sometimes you need substitutions, or the author needs to offer solutions around this. A great cookbook will tell you what tools you can use in place of others and how to get around an unavailable ingredient.
At this point, you are well versed in exploring the world of wok cooking. Feel free to start with any of the seven cookbooks above, but don’t forget to check out the buying guide section for tips on choosing the best cookbooks.
You have only come so far; make a pick explore all the possibilities that a wok can offer.
Jennifer D. Simon has spent the last 26 years studying and practicing nutrition science. She has used a larger part of this time in improving people’s livelihoods. She has done so by coming up with unquestionable ideas on how to tackle food problems in her community. Read More