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Using a wok on an electric stove -- is this truly doable?

CindyJ Feb 17, 2011 09:21 AM

I'd like to pass some information along to my son, who doesn't do ANY wok cooking because he cooks with electric. For years I, myself, had pretty much assumed that woks and electric cooking surfaces were incompatible. A few years ago I got a gas cook top, and I've been wokking happily ever since I mean, I feel like my old kitchen has taken on a new life because of my ability to use my wok.

But my son really does love to cook, and I'm afraid, rightly or wrongly, I've passed my wok-related beliefs on to him. So now I'd like the REAL truth: Is it possible to successfully use a wok on an electric stove? And if the answer is "yes," what does he need to know? What equipment does he need to have? Is there one type of wok that's better than another? Are there any special techniques that need to be used, particularly where heat control is concerned? I guess what I'm asking for is a primer on wokking with electric. Can anyone provide some insight? Thanks!

  1. raytamsgv Feb 17, 2011 10:13 AM

    I've never had much success using a wok on an electric stove. It never got hot enough. And it took a long time to warm up.

    Having said that, I think a flat-bottom wok would be better because it would be closer to the range element. As I mentioned, it never got hot enough for me. But if the need arises, just lift the wok off stove to cool it down while you turn down the controls of the heating element. Because the wok is so thin, it will cool off quickly.

    2 Replies
    1. re: raytamsgv
      EricMM Feb 17, 2011 02:03 PM

      I have a flat bottomed wok that works perfectly well on my electric stove.

      1. re: raytamsgv
        slopfrog Feb 17, 2011 04:52 PM

        A flat bottomed wok will work, but it never gets quite hot enough. I cook with mine on the highest setting.

        One day I will have a house with gas dang it!

      2. h
        Harters Feb 17, 2011 01:17 PM

        I manage to wok quite happily on electric - but then I've never cooked on anything else, so have no comparision.

        1 Reply
        1. re: Harters
          oakjoan Feb 17, 2011 02:08 PM

          I also have a &**^%$^%$!!! electric stove and the wok works very well considering that it's a $$#@$%$%@!!!!##$$ electric stove!

        2. chefathome Feb 17, 2011 02:10 PM

          I find it works better on gas but is completely doable on electric which is what I used for ages.

          1. monku Feb 17, 2011 05:18 PM

            Flat bottom wok on an electric stove is doable.
            A better alternative is a cast iron pan because it will retain the high heat better when stir frying. That's what my Chinese mother uses, she never owned a wok.

            1 Reply
            1. re: monku
              aventinus Feb 18, 2011 07:14 PM

              Agree. Use a cast iron skillet.

            2. lilham Feb 18, 2011 02:43 AM

              You didn't say what type of electric cook top you are using. An induction cooker response faster, and a lot of them generate a higher heat than a residental gas cooker. Your gas cooker at home isn't the same as the ones in a commercial chinese kitchen.

              3 Replies
              1. re: lilham
                soccermom13 Feb 18, 2011 03:18 AM

                Does anyone know if carbon steel woks (the kind Grace Young recommends) work on an induction burner? I too have a &**^%$^%$!!! electric stove and I have been tempted to purchase one of those stand alone single induction burners when I want hotter heat than my &**^%$^%$!!! electric stove can produce.

                1. re: soccermom13
                  slopfrog Feb 18, 2011 12:35 PM

                  If it is a carbon steel wok then it should work fine.

                2. re: lilham
                  CindyJ Feb 18, 2011 06:14 AM

                  He's got traditional, coil-type electric burners.

                3. greygarious Feb 18, 2011 01:13 PM

                  I have an electric stove and used a flat-bottom wok until I bought my 4-qt chef's pan. These are sometimes also called sauciers or sauteuses. Different manufacturers use those names to mean different things. What I mean is a wide, deep pan with a flat bottom that curves up to straight sides. It has a lid and a helper handle. It does a better job than the flat-bottom wok because it has about triple the flat area as the wok, so it covers the whole burner.

                  1. tommy Feb 18, 2011 01:22 PM

                    Even a gas cooktop isn't going to produce the heat that restaurants with woks produce. Do what you want. I've never had a problem. My food is always good whether it's a wok or a pan. The problem, as I see it, is people don't know how to make very tasty food. That goes for about 98% of the Chinese places.

                    Focus on cooking well, using good ingredients, and don't worry about rules put in place by people you don't know.

                    1. PinchOfSalt Feb 18, 2011 01:34 PM

                      For 25+ I used a variety of round- and flat-bottom woks on the worst electric stove ever made. I turned the biggest burner up to high, let it get really hot, and then start cooking. I was also careful to take the wok off the heat as soon as whatever I was cooking was done, or sometimes just between steps to cool it down. Sometimes I would have another burner ready at a lower heat if I really needed to cook at two different temperatures. So, I guess I have to say I was able to cook with a wok on that stove.

                      Then, one glorious (and scary/messy) day, the stove decided to end it all. It died most spectacularly. This forced me to finally get a new stove, which I did. It is gas. It is soooo much better, for cooking with a wok or with western pots and pans. Why ever did I wait so long?

                      So my advice is to set your son's expectations appropriately. He CAN cook with a wok on an electric surface, BUT he will have to do things for heat control. Since he loves to cook,being forewarned about the limitations may help him select recipes that he can execute without undue frustration.

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