You Don’t Need a Wok to Make Great Beef Stir Fries – Here’s Why

wok or frying pan

When it comes to making delicious beef stir fries, should you use a wok or a frying pan? Although works are the traditional tool for Chinese stir frying, fry pans actually make more sense in contemporary kitchens. Here are a few reasons why:

Woks Aren’t Designed for Home Stove Tops

Woks are designed to cook surrounded by flames (Chinese restaurants use high-power gas stoves that generate much hotter flames than common household stoves). They aren’t designed to sit on top of a small stove in a contemporary kitchen. Although you can convert a home gas burner into something more suitable for a wok, this is a lot of effort to go to if you only make stir fries occasionally. Frying pans, on the other hand, can be used to make delicious stir fries and they don’t require a high-power gas stove to achieve tasty results.

Frying Pans Can Be Safer

If you’re not familiar with wok cooking, the pan can be a little difficult to handle. Woks are very heavy, and when oil is placed into the very hot pan, it can easily turn to flames if not moderated carefully. Wok cooking requires experience and practice, and your flammable home kitchen may not be the best place to acquire these skills.

This brings us to our next point… When woks are used properly, they get really smoky – in fact ‘wok hei’ (which literally translates to ‘smoky air’) is the main reason wok-cooked food tastes so good. Although this smoke produces delicious flavour, it’s not ideal for open-plan homes (as you don’t want to fill your house with smoke) and will likely set off your fire alarm.

Frying Pans Are Versatile

Although you can’t replicate every wok-intended dish in a frying pan, you can make delicious & authentic stir fried dishes very easily. Unlike woks, which are designed for one type of cooking, frying pans are very versatile and can be used to cook all sorts of meals.

Considerations for Cooking Stir Fries in a Frying Pan

If you want to make a delicious stir fry, everything that goes into the pan needs to remain in contact with the hot metal (not sit in a heaped pile), and the low sides of frying pans can make this tricky. To avoid uneven cooking & to maximise flavour, we recommend that you cook your stir fries in batches.

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This post includes helpful info from Omnivore’s cookbook and Kitchn.