Seven Uses For Your Electric Wok

Do you have an electric wok languishing in a closet somewhere? Many people do. I actually acquired mine when I moved into an apartment several years ago and found it in a cupboard. I don't know about elsewhere, but electric woks became very popular in the United States as Chinese food became less exotic and people wanted to begin making stir-fried food at home. Ironically, electric woks aren't very good at authentic stir-frying. Among other things, they rarely get anywhere near hot enough, they usually have non-stick coatings (less than ideal), and they are stationary. While they aren't actually all that useful for their intended purpose, you can retrieve yours from the closet because there are plenty of other things you can do with it.

Essentially, an electric wok is a large, bowl-shaped, non-stick surface with a built-in controllable heat source. How many uses can you think of for that? Here are seven:

  1. Hot cider When I host gatherings in the fall/winter, I like to set my wok out on a side table, fill it up with some apple cider, toss in some whole spices (and maybe some rum), and set it to low heat. It's like a punch bowl, but better.
  2. Soup An electric wok is a nice size for making soup, and the fact that you can sautee your vegetables and sear your meats in it before you add your stock only makes it more convenient. I usually use it when I make onion soup, as it does a good job cooking the onions. It would probably make onion confit well, too.
  3. Braising In addition to soups, you can make stews... and a stew with a bit less liquid is a braise. Depending upon the shape of the food you're trying to cook, there's no reason you can't use your electric wok to braise it. It's enclosed and has a built-in thermostat. Given the shape of the wok, you might even be able to acheive some sort of tangine-like effect. I don't know.
  4. Chinese food I wouldn't use it for stir-frying, but an electric wok seems like it would be a near-ideal tool for poaching meat in oil, which is a common technique in Chinese cooking. The shape of the wok lets you use less oil, and the built-in thermostat will help you ensure that your oil stays at the right temperature (about 280ºF/138ºC).
  5. Warmer/Server Want to serve your food family-style? An electric wok may not be the most stylish serving dish, but it is effective. It also has a cover and can remain plugged in to keep food warm. There are probably times when this would be helpful for someone...
  6. Rice On Monday, I used my electric wok to make something that was remarkably similar to paella. It even got the toasty crust at the bottom (which, thanks to the wok's non-stick coating, came right off). This works really well, and it might be my new favorite method of making rice dishes.
  7. Extra Burner Sometime, your stovetop is full. When that happens, you still have the electric wok. Chances are, one of the five things you need to cook can be cooked in it. Also, you can use your electric wok to cook at the table. That can be cool.

Can you think of another use for an electric wok? Share it below. OK. There's no maybe about the rum.

Comments

The first use, hot cider, is improved exponentially when you add cut-up apples (leave the skin on): they soak up some of the rummy cider and at the end you get "drunken apples" which are amazing to eat with a fork or baked into something.

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