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Mar 23, 2013 07:34 PM

Can a Stir Fry Wok double as a Saucier

I'm just getting into cooking and the next thing I want to try is making roux and sauces (mainly from roux). Now I believe the best way to make this is with a Saucier, meaning a pan with sloped sides and rounded edges, to make easy work of whisking (a must for roux) and to aid in sauce reduction due to faster evaporation.

Now I've looked around and unless I want to reduce my per piece cost by buying a whole set, a decent saucier would cost upwards of a hundred dollars. So I though this could pass for a Saucier:
18 bucks!!!

Not knowing if it would I figured, if not I could just start to learn to make stir frys and just bought it and would return it if anything. When I got home I learned two things that concern me, first, I have to season the Carbon Steel Wok which is a hassle for me and second, its bad with acidic foods. And I'm also thinking maybe this is bad to use a whisk on?

Any suggestions?

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  1. You can use a wok to reduce sauces if you want, but the poor heat distribution of the thin carbon steel could be a problem. In the end, you don't need sloped sides or rounded edges. I feel that you are overthinking things. Sloped sides or rounded edges may may some things easier, but a regular sauce pot works fine, especially if you already have one vs getting a pot you don't really want or need.

    2 Replies
    1. re: khuzdul

      Roux's and other sauces were made for centuries using a simple cast iron skillet. You don't require a specialized pan for this type of cooking, nor do you need a Windsor pan for reducing sauces through evaporation.

      It all about the technique and skill used to cook, not the pan. As mentioned above, different pans can make some things easier but, do you really want to store a bunch of pans that aren't used frequently?

      1. re: Sid Post

        If you're talking about making a roux for cream sauces and such, there is no long stirring period--maybe five minutes total. I just use whatever size saute pan is appropriate for the amount of sauce I am making and it seems to work out fine. But a wok concentrates all the heat in one spot so I would consider that the least desirable for a roux.

    2. Today at a Korean grocery I saw a $40 stainless steel wok. It was a Swiss brand, multilayer, and felt quite solid. I was tempted to get it - not so much for stirfry, but for things like sauces. I have a small nonstick aluminum wok in my camping gear that works nicely for things like scrambled eggs, grits, and quick preparations of fish. Again not a true stirfry, but the smooth transition from flat bottom to sloping sides does make stirring easy.

      A carbon steel wok isn't as good for this use. As noted, it does not have good heat distribution. And lots of wet cooking will prevent the buildup of any seasoning, negating that advantage of carbon steel.

      1. Ok, so I'll return the wok. But I felt that I needed to buy something because all my saute or frying pans are non-stick and since you need to constantly whisk roux, that wouldn't work. Also when I think of whisking (someting I've never done, always used a fork for eggs and mixer for batters, meringue...) you need a wide mouth vessel to at the very lest make it easy and if nothing else to do it properly with the speed required. Now this may not be the case with roux and sauces, since I've never done one I don't know?

        Now I have a stainless steel pan, about a quart or two in size. After that I'd have to jump to a stock pot. So I guess I can try that. I bought myself a balloon whisk, thinking it was an all around whisk, but for working in a straight sided pot, do you think I should get thin, narrow whisk? My balloon whisk is about half the diameter of my pot so that would be a very tight range of movement.

        Also I have a cast iron skillet, 10 inch I think, but I'm still struggling to season it correctly. I can't seem to get that non-stick feeling and I've followed advice on cleaning them with kosher salt and that just seems to take out any little non-stick surface I had. So constantly whisking (an "abrasive") on that surface would do the same. Also I know iron is good for us, but all that whisking would produce a lot and does that affect the taste of the sauce?

        Just so you know, I left my cast Iron on the burner unattended once and it created a black spot in the center so I don't know if that is what is causing my issues with properly seasoning it, but thats my working theory.

        3 Replies
        1. re: FooDeeLee

          I don't have problems making sauces in a nonstick skillet. Mostly I use wood spoons or plastic spatulas, but have also tried non-metalic whisks. My most recent purchase was silicone coated metal. But I also have a stainless skillet that works fine. I rarely make enough sauce to need a deeper sauce pan.

          Gently rounded corners, as on some of my nonstick skillets, are nice but not essential. It's not that hard to reach the corners with a well designed silicone spatula.

          1. re: paulj

            I agree. In fact for a bechamel, which starts with a roux, non stick is a blessing.

          2. re: FooDeeLee

            A stainless pan of the size you describe should be great for making sauces. I note Escondido likes nonstick for Bechamel, but SS ought to work fine. Key in my experience is heating whatever dairy you are using and incorporating it slowly.

            Personally I am a copperholic, but amazingly even though I have been collecting it since the very early 70s I have never bought a copper saucier. Saucepans, sauté pans, and fry pans all work well for roux based sauces. I know posters here opine that CI or steel are bad choices, but other than discoloring a perfect Bechamel or velouté I have used them and not noticed any major issues. One of the pluses of pans with tough interiors is they can handle deglazing and working the fond into the sauce with a wire whisk.

            A final misguided sentiment is that if you were to use a wok to make sauces you would have to move quickly to deal with hot spots but it could be done and come out fine!

          3. You can make a sauce in any pan, but a good saucier is nice for several reasons:

            1. Shape and size. A wok has the rounded shape, but is too large for a small amount of sauce.

            2. Material. The saucier will be mostly aluminum or copper to distribute the heat up the sides, surrounding the sauce. A steel wom will make it too easy to scorch the sauce in the center. The interior of the saucier is SS, so nonreactive. It will not retain any flavors as a wok used for cooking asian food might.

            My All-Clad MC2 saucier is one of my favorite pans. I can't imagine making do with a wok. I would use a plain SS saucepan before I would use a wok.