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Charcoal grilling with a cast iron wok?

whiskeyhead May 24, 2010 10:55 AM

I've said I wanted to try this for a few years, but this summer I'm investing in a cast iron wok to use on the grill because my husband is already having too much fun being the burger and chops master--now it's my turn!

I'm just curious if anyone has tried and enjoyed cooking this way, and if you have any tips to share in regards to safety, seasoning/oils, cleaning, etc. Not looking for a discourse on how cast iron stinks and carbon steel is the only way to go.....I have a cs wok and am purchasing this one in addition to try something different ;)

Also, and this may be a dumb question, should I go with a flat or round bottomed wok?

Thanks for the input.

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  1. p
    pabboy RE: whiskeyhead May 24, 2010 11:34 AM

    Round bottom woks are easier to stir-fry with. Alton Brown used one with a wok ring on top of a charcoal grill for the Good Eats Pad Thai episode.

    http://www.goodeatsfanpage.com/season...

    1. bushwickgirl RE: whiskeyhead May 24, 2010 11:35 AM

      Are you thinking of stir frying with the grill as your heat source? I haven't tried this but I would think it's very doable as long as you preheat your wok well. I suggest a flat bottom wok for your grill for stability, always easier than a round bottom.

      1 Reply
      1. re: bushwickgirl
        MikeB3542 RE: bushwickgirl May 24, 2010 11:57 AM

        The Chinese have been heating their woks for a really long time with wood and charcoal. The challenge is to create an intensely hot fire -- not necessarily a lot of fuel, but concentrated and with a lot of draft. An idea would be to use a round bottomed wok over a charcoal chimney starter with holes cut into the top as well as bottom. (Or turn your chimney starter upside down and set on top of a grill grate -- assuming there is enough room in the bottom for charcoal.)

      2. Bada Bing RE: whiskeyhead May 24, 2010 11:47 AM

        I'm a fan of experiments, too. But I wonder what you think will be gained with a cast iron wok? Heat retention? (I actually haven't seen a cast iron wok, so I'm trying to picture things.) Will it be super heavy? What recipes are you shooting for?

        2 Replies
        1. re: Bada Bing
          bushwickgirl RE: Bada Bing May 24, 2010 11:57 AM

          They are super heavy. Great heat retention, though, but take some time to heat up. I can't use them because 1) too heavy 2) too heavy. It's just me, though.

          Photo of Lodge cast iron wok:
          http://t3.gstatic.com/images?q=tbn:GL...

          I believe both Le Creuset and Lodge makes a round bottom cast iron woks with a ring on the outer bottom for stability, a good choice for stir frying on the grill. I use a flat bottomed model (not CI) rather than round in the kitchen, with no discernible difference in cooking results.

          Mr Barbeque brand has one with a flat bottom for the grill:

          http://www.cooking.com/products/shpro...

          1. re: bushwickgirl
            Bada Bing RE: bushwickgirl May 24, 2010 01:17 PM

            Thanks for these tips. I'm getting intrigued.

        2. r
          ricepad RE: whiskeyhead May 24, 2010 11:54 AM

          I would opt for a round bottom with a wok ring, but that's the traditionalist in me. Just remember that a cast iron wok will take longer to heat up, owing to its greater mass. Have fun!

          1. SanityRemoved RE: whiskeyhead May 24, 2010 12:20 PM

            I'd go with a flat bottom with round interior for the grill.

            Grilling outdoors is a totally different mindset than cooking in the kitchen. We tend to look at the surroundings more outdoors and distractions abound. Safety would be a big issue if someone or something bumped into the grill. Everyone has different situations and scenarios but I tend to err on the side of caution.

            1. Bada Bing RE: whiskeyhead May 24, 2010 01:16 PM

              I vote for flat-bottomed wok. Just make sure the flat part is not too large, and that the slope up the side is low-angled enough that you can pile things to one side effectively, when desired.

              I have cooked for twenty years with a quite large steel wok (18"?) with a flat bottom perhaps 5" in diameter, and I can never recall wishing it had a rounded bottom.

              1. whiskeyhead RE: whiskeyhead May 25, 2010 08:11 PM

                Thanks for all the suggestions--although now I'm going to have a difficult time choosing between flat and round bottom :) I assumed flat would balance better on a grate, but I suppose a wok ring would make that a non-issue. I'm planing to buy one from my Asian grocer; $25 for what looked like a 16".

                Yeah, I've read (on Chow and in books) that cast iron retains heat best, but I also thought it would be sturdier and able to withstand the grill. That said....do you think my carbon steel wok would fare okay on the grill?

                3 Replies
                1. re: whiskeyhead
                  p
                  pabboy RE: whiskeyhead May 25, 2010 08:36 PM

                  Woks were originally designed to cook over charcoal. That's was the source of fire for hundreds of years in China.

                  http://www.what2seeonline.com/wp-cont...

                  1. re: whiskeyhead
                    ipsedixit RE: whiskeyhead May 25, 2010 09:18 PM

                    Yes, absolutely. Your carbon steel wok will be just fine.

                    Stick with carbon steel when it comes to woks; avoid cast iron.

                    1. re: whiskeyhead
                      b
                      bagofwater RE: whiskeyhead Jan 15, 2013 11:08 AM

                      There's no reason you can't use your current wok over charcoal. I mean, if you want an excuse to buy a new toy, that's one thing. But there's no reason to spend the money if you don't have to.

                      Because the charcoal will provide pretty constant heat (versus, say, electric, which keeps turning on and off), you wouldn't really need a great deal of thermal mass in your wok.

                    2. ipsedixit RE: whiskeyhead May 25, 2010 09:07 PM

                      Woks are good.

                      Cast iron is good.

                      Cast iron woks ... are not.

                      1. t
                        tidecreek RE: whiskeyhead Jan 14, 2013 04:56 PM

                        I just got a Cast Iron Wok for Christmas to use on the grill, just wondering what you bought and what you like to cook on the grill? I got a flat bottom rounded wok to sit on my cast iron grate on my Big Green Egg, so I'm excited to try it out? Just wondering what you like to cook in it?

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                          Eager6 RE: whiskeyhead Jan 14, 2013 08:42 PM

                          I got tired of not enough heat from my glass top electric stove, and since I built an outdoor cooking spot for dutch oven cooking, I adapted it for wok cooking. I like a LOT of heat, and just keep things moving if it's too hot. I use a carbon steel wok with a hollow steel handle and I have foundry workers gloves. I find that charcoal is not enough heat for me so I add some small pieces of kindling wood, when I want more heat. They burn fast on top of the coals with lots of heat. Playing with fire is fun. But it works great for fast hot woking too. This is especially good when my wok is "overloaded" with stuff, and I really need a lot of quick heat.

                          Cast iron should be OK. I would recommend round bottom, a fire ring and some fire bricks to play with around the coals. You'l want to get that heat right in the middle and right under the wok. It can be easy to wastes a lot of charcoal if you can't get the right configuration. I don't use my weber kettle, but rather a dutch oven stand, with bricks to position an old grate over the fire. I also use a charcoal bucket to keep coals going in my weber kettle to the side to augment my cooking fire with new hot coals. Cooking is fast, so you got to be ready to add or subtract coals as needed. Mostly add. Did I mention to get good gloves? Those cotton Ovegloves should work. Also, you've got to have heavy tongs for moving coals.

                          Did I mention that playing with fire is fun?

                          I've even considered adding an old hair dryer/blower to make an iron workers forge outta the thing to get even more insane heat. Like those real chinese restaurant wok set ups.

                          safety? gloves... fire extinguisher nearby....

                          ..a stable adjustable grate..or ability to surround the coals witrh fire bricks, for heat direction control and minimization of wasted coals...
                          a heat resistant table to be able to set it all on, when it's cooked...an easy way to start coals and keep more going, if you need to add during cooking. outdoor woking is as much about keeping the fire right, as cooking...

                          ...more heat.

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