Archive for the 'Cookware – Pots and Pans' Category

Recipe: Woks

|June 11, 2011|read comments (0)
Author: Mama's Kitchen

Before I bought a wok – because I wasn't sure if I REALLY wanted one – I began my wok cooking in a large stainless steel bowl on the burner of the stove.  I figured why not – I use it to cook many things.  Then I bought myself a wok – and I do enjoy using it.

If you have an electric stove maybe a stainless bowl will help you.  I don't care for electric stoves – just my preference.

This is from my notes and I hope it helps – the notes are old – but they are still good!


A popular, all-purpose Asian pan, it is distinguished by high, sloping sides, resembling a bowl. Hammering looks nice, and does not make a wok better. Expect a carbon steel wok to turn dark (to oxidize) with repeated use; this is a desirable quality.

The traditional wok is 14 inches in diameter and is made of carbon steel.

Iron woks take a long time to heat up, but hold the high heat very, very well.

Stainless steel's inherent qualities make this a poor metal for a wok and also make it much more expensive.

An electric wok is an inefficient and expensive alternative that, with few exceptions, is best avoided.

Non-stick surfaces are unnecessary and don't last long.

Aluminum gets hot all over and considered overkill.

If you have electric burners, you may need to use a flat-bottom wok in order to get enough heat. Or turn the ring to the side that keeps the wok closer to the burner.

Round-bottom woks are best for flame burners. Use a wok ring to keep them stable on the burner.

The idea is to have a hot spot at the bottom of the wok, where the actual cooking takes place. The sides are used to rest the food that is cooking at slightly cooler temperatures. Moving the food about gives you great control and versatility, while enabling you to cook each food perfectly to enhance its flavor and retain its nutrients.

Combined with a bamboo steamer, woks are ideal for steam cooking and, with a tempura rack, make excellent deep fryers or tempura pans.



* carbon steel wok (uncoated woks)

* Before cooking with your new wok, it is important to clean off the protective coating from inside the bowl. The coating will cause no harm but might taint food of not fully removed.
* First heat your wok over low heat with a small amount of cooking oil (any oil except olive oil) – this will burn off the protective coating.
* Then scour the wok thoroughly, inside and out, with a brillo pad or something similar. Rinse and dry thoroughly over heat. Rub the inside of the wok with oil, using a kitchen towel and heat for 20 minutes to season. Your wok is now ready for use.
* The wok will have a blackish hue on the bottom underneath. As it is used more and more it will become blacker and blacker – this is a normal condition for a well-seasoned wok. It will in effect give you a natural non-stick surface.
* Never wash your wok in soapy water – always use hot water to clean and soak if necessary. Dry thoroughly and finish with paper towel or cloth, or even put back on low heat to totally dry. You can rub a drop of oil onto the interior surface and put in a plastic bag to store when not in use.
* If your wok becomes rusty it is because it has not been dried thoroughly or has been left to soak for too long. This is not a problem; just repeat the scouring and seasoning procedure.



A flat nonstick skillet cannot come close to matching the degree of proficiency and pleasure the wok provides in stir-frying, not to mention the flavor enhancement a well-seasoned wok is capable of imparting. In a wok, you can toss vigorously and with great satisfaction without the worry of splattering and spilling of food particles over onto the stovetop. With a good, deep wok, your stove will remain much cleaner after stir-frying than when a flat skillet is used. Try stir-frying a big batch of leafy greens, such as chard or spinach, and you'll see what I mean.

Because tossing is easier in a wok (uses fewer muscles too!), food is cooked more evenly and is less likely to burn. Of course, maintaining a high degree of heat is essential in stir-frying, so knowing how to adapt the wok to your stovetop is a key to success in its usage. For most home cooks preparing meals for two to four people, most stovetops provide sufficient heat for successful stir-frying.

Each stovetop differs. On some, the wok balances well enough on the grate without the need to use any special stand. For greater stability when stir-frying on such stovetops, simply hold on to a wok handle with one hand while tossing with the other.

On other stovetops, the grate may be removed and a wok ring fitted down onto the indentation of the burner to bring the wok as close as possible to the heat source. Many people use their wok rings inefficiently. The wok is better balanced and brought closer to the flames if the wider end of the ring is placed facing up.

Wok rings come in different sizes and depths, so find one that fits the burner you plan to use for wok cooking. Do not settle for the ring that comes with your wok set; if it does not fit your stove, hunt for one that will. Check Asian markets near your home.

Wok rings also come either with open sides or closed sides with a series of small holes around the ring. The latter type is especially important if you have an electric stove as it helps concentrate and direct heat. Wire rings with open sides work best for powerful gas burners (10,000 b.t.u.'s or hotter), allowing air circulation to nurture the flames.

Select a wok that is deep and well-rounded, made of heavy carbon-steel for maintaining good heat and for easy seasoning. Flat-bottom woks are now commonly available and though they provide good balance on flat stovetops, I still prefer the old-fashioned round bottoms. It is much easier to remove all particles of food from round woks without scraping the seasoning, enabling you to stir-fry two or more batches of food without having to clean in between batches.

For a successful stir-fry, always start by heating a wok before adding anything to it. Wait until the surface literally begins to let off smoke. Then dribble in the oil to coat its surface and wait a short while longer to allow the oil to get hot. Now you may begin your stir-fry. The rule of thumb is: always add cold oil to a hot wok and never cold oil to a cold wok. Pre-heating before adding oil will prevent food from sticking. It will also ensure that the oil does not burn and smoke up your kitchen before the upper surface of the wok is heated. You may also avoid the risk of burning in overheated oil the garlic and onions, which should be added early on to flavor the oil, and in turn for the oil to flavor the meats, seafoods or vegetables to be stir-fried in it.

Listen to the sound of food cooking in your wok. The sizzling should be loud and lively. If it slows down, slow down also on the stirring as this can dissipate heat. Spread the food up along the heated sides of the wok rather than lump them in the center. Stir only as needed to cook food evenly and prevent burning. For an average home stove, try not to stir-fry more than a pound to a pound and a half of meats or seafoods at a time.

With an average-size wok and a hot burner, you can cook for two, four, six or even eight, but if you use a flat skillet, you will need different size pans for cooking different quantities. A large skillet is inefficient for stir-frying small amounts and is more likely to burn food should you try to do so. On the other hand, using a small skillet to stir-fry a large quantity of food will likely mean a messy stove when you are through.

Besides stir-frying, a wok is an excellent and very safe utensil for deep-frying. It provides a wide area to work with and makes it easy to scoop up crisped food quickly with a large wire-mesh strainer-spatula. Because of its shape, the oil is far removed from the flames, such that even if a few drops dribble over the sides, they do not endanger the remaining oil inside. Just be sure to fill the wok no more than two-thirds with oil.

For Asians who love their fish whole, nothing works better than a wok in frying a whole fish. A standard 14-inch wok can easily fry a one to one-and-a-half pound size fish, browning it evenly from head to tail when tilted from side to side during cooking. If you love to entertain and do not yet own a wok, I advise you to acquire the next larger size – a 16-inch wok, which can fry fishes large enough to feed six to eight with ease.

A wok this size can be used to cook for two just as well as for eight to ten. Of course, to stir-fry large quantities of food at once, it helps to have a gas range with burners that have an output of at least 10,000 b.t.u.'s. Many of the newer gas stovetops provide at least one burner with this heat capability. As greater numbers of people discover the joys of cooking, more companies are making more powerful gas ranges available to consumers.

A well-seasoned wok is worth its weight in gold. Not only will food not stick to its blackened surface, flavors are greatly enhanced. It is as if the wok has stored memories of the many meals it has cooked and calls on this storehouse of experience to enrich the food it is now asked to cook.

Season a wok as you would any cast iron pan by brushing the surface with oil and baking in a medium oven for an hour. Or do it stovetop, by alternating heating and cooling of the wok surface, each time brushing in a new layer of oil following heating and allowing the layer to burn in before cooling. Until the wok turns completely black, wash only with water and no soap, and dry by heating over the stove rather than wiping with a towel. Season by burning oil onto the surface before putting away. This will prevent the wok from rusting. Probably the best fat to use is lard ? traditionally when you bought a wok you were given a piece of pig fat to season it. I have also used peanut oil. Polyunsaturated oils are not recommended as they can make the wok very "gunky."

If you have an electric stove, you might find that the flat-bottomed woks work better, but because the wok shovel is intended for a round-bottom, you might substitute with some other implement (such as a wooden spoon) that would not scrape off the seasoning at the corner where round sides meet flat bottom.

Make sure you season the wok well: the same way you would season a cast-iron skillet. Once it is seasoned it will have a wonderful black patina: of course never scour a wok as this will take away your hard-earned seasoning! Lard is an excellent choice for seasoning. Peanut oil also will give acceptable results. Never use your wok for steaming as this will quickly remove the patina. Re-season frequently, as necessary, until a permanent coating of black is achieved. Always heat a wok BEFORE adding any oil for your stir-frying – this will season the wok before each use and prevent food from sticking to the surface. Clean only with water and a soft sponge ? do not wipe dry but dry instead with heat on the stove-top. If the wok surface appears dried out, re-season quickly before putting it away so that it will not rust.

As for where to purchase a wok, you ought to find stores in your local Chinatown that sell a wide variety. Most Asian markets sell woks of varying sizes. Look for one that is heavy and deep, made of carbon steel. It will be coated with machine oil to keep it from rusting. Rinse away this oily covering before seasoning with cooking oil.

A stainless steel wok (it does not season and food is more likely to stick to the surface) is not a good choice when buying a wok. Also stay away from teflon coated woks (they do not heat up very hot) and NEVER an electric wok!

Proper Use Of A Wok

Before you use your wok it is essential to wipe the pan inside and out with oiled kitchen paper and heat to a high heat in the oven or on the hob. Remove the wok from the heat allow it to cool and repeat the process several times to give a good coating – this will make it easier to clean and give it a non-stick coating.

Using the Wok

When cooking with a wok the pan needs to be of a very high temperature before the food is placed in the pan. Once the pan is hot enough and the food is placed inside the wok you kneed to keep turning the ingredients to ensure that they are kept hot. Using a wok is a good, healthy and quick way to cook vegetables in stir-fried. Cooking for too long will make the ingredients either burn or be saturated with their own juices and become limp and soggy. Vegetables cooked in a wok should be crispy, not wet.


This cooking method originated in China, and remains the more recognized form of Chinese cooking. In China it is called Ch-au which means that a number of ingredients are sliced and cooked in 1-2 tablespoons of fat.
Stir-frying is usually done in stages, this allows foods that have different cooking times to be removed and then returned at a later stage. The dish is then brought together at the end and sauces/apices are added and then the dish is served as a whole.

There are two different types of stir-frying:
Liu is wet frying with slow stirring and more turning of the individual foods. A stock is then added at the end of the cooking time for a coating sauce.
Pao requires foods to be fried at the highest possible heat. This is a quick method lasting for usually only a minute.

Cleaning your Wok

Woks should be cleaned with simple soap and water. If made of cast iron it should be dried immediately to prevent rusting. The blackening of a wok over time and use is not dirt, as some would believe, it simply is a sign that it has been used well. It is said that the blacker the wok the better the cook.

I hope that you try wok-cooking soon!

Recipe: Cast Iron Pots and Pans

|February 21, 2011|read comments (0)
Author: Mama's Kitchen

How about a nice discussion on cast iron pots and pans today?

I think it’s just about the only cookware that is not made in China, Japan, or anywhere else that is taking jobs away from Americans. Yes, there are cast iron pans out there that are made in China – and you can immediately spot them. They are way too light and no matter what you do – you cannot season them well at all.

Whatever the Chinese do to the “cast iron” (what they call it is NOT cast iron to me) is beyond me – you cannot season it properly and it does a lousy job of cooking your foods – DON’T BUY IT.

Many of us have memories of great-grandma’s cast iron cooking vessels that were used on those old wood burning stoves and also in those old ovens.

They were also great for outdoor cooking.


In addition to a good cast iron skillet, many had a Dutch oven as well. Meals were cooked, meats were roasted, stews were made, breads and biscuits were baked, cornbreads were made, and cakes were baked in cast iron – just to mention a few.


I’ve got skillets, a griddle, a Dutch oven, corn stick pans, etc. all made from cast iron. Some handed down, some purchased. Cast iron pans will out-live you, your children, your grandchildren, your great-grandchildren and all their descendents.


It’s been around since the 1700’s – every family had cast iron cooking vessels. Cast iron is the heaviest of cookware, but that is why it cooks so well. You can keep all those cheap, feather-light pots and pans that don’t do your cooking any justice at all. It heats quickly and evenly. No “hot” spots with these pans.

They also hold their temperature for quite some time. You will find that you do not have burn spots like you would with other pans, and you will not have “undone” spots in your baked goodies.

Season your pans properly and you will never need to use those poisonous Teflon and T-Fal pans. Cast iron is the perfect no-stick cookware! Just think – no more Teflon and T-Fal chips from scratched pans being ingested by your family and doing damage to your health that you cannot reverse.

The minute amounts of iron that may leach into the foods you cook is good for you – it will prevent iron deficiency.

Cast iron, after a time, will rust on you. DON’T THROW IT OUT! Goodness no! Iron easily rusts. As long as the rust has not eaten into the iron leaving deep pits or holes, the pot/pan can be restored. A good washing with hot, soapy water, a good nylon scrubby, and a bit of elbow grease and your pan can be smooth and as good as new.

For tougher rust removal, use a steel wool pad. Some have resorted to using 80 grit sand paper.

Now that you’ve worked so hard to get it back to looking like a black cast iron pan, rinse several times using hot, boiling water; dry well with a good kitchen towel. Make sure you dry it well – you don’t want the rust to come back.

Some cast iron pans get that black “icky,” nasty build-up of grease-goop that sticks to the outside of frying pans that are used when indoor cooking on the stove. (For the life of me I don’t understand WHY people do not wash the outside of their frying pans – whether they are cast iron or not – and allow that disgusting crud to stay there! I scrub the outsides of my pans just as much as I scrub the insides of my pans. Got build-up on the outside of your pans? Grab a can of oven cleaner, invert your pans on sheets of newspaper and spray away. Wash in hot, soapy water, rinse well and dry. You may have to do it more than once – but the bottoms of your pans will not only look better, but your foods will cook better in them!)

Since cast iron can be used over an open flame, such as campfire cooking, you can easily heat the bottom of the pan over the flame and what has built up on it will burn right off. But doing so is an “art.” Wait until the fire has burned down (this will also prevent your pot/pan from cracking – which it will do in too high heat!)

Some have cleaned buildup on their cast iron by placing the cookware in a large, heavy trash can liner and pouring in a cup of ammonia. Tie the bag and place OUTSIDE (the fumes will kill you!) overnight. Beware – when opening the bag – avoid those fumes. But the ammonia will loosen up and the rust and crud will be gooey and easy to scrub out. If necessary, repeat the process. (By the way – the easiest way to clean messy oven racks is the same way! The fumes from the ammonia will knock burned on foods right off the oven racks – same procedure as above.)

I clean my cast iron when I am done cooking in it. I use hot, soapy water – although many say they don’t do it. Heck – we’ve cleaned these pans after every used for generations – and if it was good enough for my ancestors then it’s good enough for me.

Using salt – that’s right – good old-fashioned table salt – helps to loosen food particles as well. Rinse well and thoroughly dry; season; cool; and put away – it’s that simple.

Yes – I season after each and every use. I have to – and it is my choice – BECAUSE ANYTIME YOU USE A DETERGENT (DISH SOAP) TO CLEAN YOUR CAST IRON YOU ARE REMOVING THE SEASONING.

Some will place hot water in their pan, bring to a boil, and boil out whatever is cooked on.


Then wipe out with a paper towel when cool. You can scrape up the bottom of the pan with a wooden spoon – just like deglazing a pan. Some use brillo – others don’t because they don’t want to cut into the seasoned surface.

Now – some have said they clean cast iron with Coca Cola. I’m not sure about it – and I have no desire to try it. When I was young (fifty years ago) Coca Cola (the formula was much different than today’s!) would remove rust from the old chrome bumpers on the cars. It may have done the job then – but, as with everything, companies change recipes/formulas and I don’t know if today’s recipe/formula would work. If you try it – drop me a line and share your experience with it.

Others use oven cleaner or grill cleaner and place in a plastic bag for a day or two – just like using ammonia. A brass brush will work for cleaning as well. You can pick one up at any automotive department (the tag will tell you that the brush is for cleaning whitewalls!) And, of course, there are those that NEVER wash their cast iron and just wipe it out with paper towels. Sorry – I can’t do that. That is something I just don’t believe in. And I do know some that have NEVER washed the pans because their moms and grams never did. I don’t even want to go off on that one!

Okay – now your cast iron cookware is CLEAN and DRY. Next step: SEASONING YOUR PAN.

By “seasoning” your cast iron cookware properly, you will have the best non-stick cookware you could ask for. You can also make the best over-easy eggs using your cast iron!

I season my cast iron by “greasing” (using shortening on a piece of waxed paper as if I were greasing my bake ware for baking) the inside of my cast iron and placing over a low heat. Great-gram, Gram, Mom, and even I have used lard as well. Heat until just before the “smoke-point”, cool, wipe out any excess (you don’t want your pan to be greasy), leaving a light coating. To use – heat first (but then again – I always heat my pots/pans when cooking).

Some may use a vegetable spray or non-stick cooking spray; some use bacon fat. Some place their pans in a preheated 200 – 225* Fahrenheit oven for 30 minutes or so.

If your pan is new – then you do need to scrub it well in hot, soapy water, rinse well and dry thoroughly. Coat well with vegetable shortening (or vegetable oil) and place in a preheated 325* Fahrenheit oven to bake for an hour. Remove from oven and rub it again with fat; return to oven for another oven. When done, remove from oven and wipe out excess using paper towels.

Always store your cast iron cookware in a cool, dry place. If your cast iron is new – the first several times you cook in it, cook fatty foods to help with the seasoning process.

Although cast iron cookware is the “perfect” cookware, there are some foods that should not be cooked in cast iron. Cast iron reacts to acidity and will give you a very nasty taste. Tomato dishes, and acidic fruits like pineapple should be cooked/baked in something other than cast iron. Making stew in your cast iron Dutch oven is fabulous – just use a gravy base instead of a tomato base.

Frying with cast iron skillets is an excellent choice. Meats, potatoes, eggs, omelets – everything turns out well. Heat your pan, add your fat, add your foods. Nothing will stick.

Cast iron Dutch ovens make the best roasts, stews, etc. As above, add your fat to a heated pan, allow the fat to heat and then add your meat, etc.

Use your Dutch oven as a slow-cooker, low and slow in the oven makes everything turn out fantastic! You can also use your Dutch oven for campfire cooking; place in a bed of hot coals and place hot coals on the lid for easy cooking. Bake biscuits, breads, cobblers or pies in you Dutch oven as well.

Cast iron also makes good waffles, corn sticks, and muffins. Preheat muffin and corn stick pans in a 250* Fahrenheit oven for 10 minutes. Increase oven temp to 350* Fahrenheit for the baking process. Fill the pans and bake.

If you have a cast iron griddle – you have something that you can use on your stove top, in the oven, and over a campfire.

For years we have deep fried foods in cast iron. Nothing beats Southern fried chicken fried in cast iron. Be sure to heat your oil to the proper temperature and fry away! French fries, doughnuts, anything – turns out perfect.

Cast iron is strong and durable – but drop it and it can crack. Place hot cast iron cookware in cold water and it can warp or crack. A blacksmith can repair it if needed.

Recipe: Cleaning pots and pans –

|February 21, 2011|read comments (0)
Author: Mama's Kitchen
Stubborn stains can be removed from non-stick cookware by boiling, 2 tablespoons of baking soda, 1/2 cup vinegar, and 1 cup of water for ten minutes. Before using the pan again, season it with salad oil.
Burnt food can be removed from a glass baking dish by spraying it with oven cleaner and letting it soak for 30 minutes. The burnt-on residue will be easier to wipe off.
Whenever you empty a jar of dill pickles, use the left-over juice to clean the copper bottoms of your pans.
Just pour the juice in a large bowl, set the pan in the juice for about 15 minutes. Comes out looking like new.
To restore color and shine to an aluminum pan, boil some apple peels
in it for a few minutes, then rinse and dry.
Instead of using expensive silver cleaners, put a dab of toothpaste
on a clean rag and rub it on your precious possession. After you've
rubbed it in, just clean it with another clean rag. Your silver will look like new.
To clean copper bottoms on pots and pans, simply open a can of tomato
soup paste, rub it on and scrub then rinse. If you do this weekly, your pots and pans stay shiny clean. This is a very inexpensive way to clean copper and brass items!
Stains and sediment in cut glass or hobnob bowls or vases respond
to olive oil. Pour some in and let stand until the stains or sediment disappear.
Clean eyeglasses; Wipe each lens with a drop of vinegar.