Will my Staub "perfect pan" function as a true wok with induction?
With the goal of taking on new challenges in cooking, I just purchased the 12" Staub cast iron "perfect pan." It comes with a mini rack, stir fry tools, and a glass lid. At 14", they call essentially the same pan a "wok."
Question #1: how well does it function as a wok? how does it compare to non cast iron woks?
Question #2: How well does it work with an induction energy source?
re: c oliver
It won't function as a "traditional" wok, because those are intended to be used over VERY high heat (you can't do that with enamel, it will destroy the coating), are light enough to be lifted and tossed (this one is far too heavy), and are thin enough to respond very quickly to changes in temperature (this one won't).
This is basically just a wok-shaped cast iron skillet.
Good points. To be fair, they call it a "perfect pan"--not a wok. Staub claims that their products will stand very high temperatures--if the temperature is increased gradually. Perhaps for this reason, one of the W/S reviewers mentioned a "learning curve" involved with this pan.
Have you used it? Why do you suppose that the reviewers (see link above) are so positive?
How about braise and saute? Tried "perfect pan" for the first time today: first, braised some meat, placed it on the rack. Then stir fried some mushrooms, onions, garlic, and spices. Added meat back in. Poured in "magic white sauce" I made earlier. Simmer. Yum.
Not a wok, true--but not bad.
#1: The shape is wrong for both a "true", i.e., traditional, wok and for the flat-bottomed compromises necessitated by smooth glass-topped hobs. There is too much surface area at the bottom to pool oil efficiently, and insufficient wall space to allow you to perch food out of the oil.
Can you stir-fry in it? Yes. But you can stir-fry in a conventional saute pan, too. Good luck tossing in the traditional northern "pow" style; you should focus on Cantonese stir-based preps. Traditional Cantonese woks are often cast iron, but rarely this thick.
#2: If by "work" you mean efficiently generate heat in an induction field, the answer should be "very well". Unless there is a sensor glitch (as was the case with earlier Viking induction units), cast iron is very induction-friendly.
This appears to be Staub's jump onto the "Everyday" or "Essential" (etc., etc.) bandwagon all the other makers are now flogging. It is a hybrid which I think would function acceptably as a rondeau, braising pan, or poele, but it is not all things to all preps and it definitely falls short of "perfect". I think this pan shape is versatile in a common-denominator sort of way, but claiming much more than that is unwarranted.
Assuming you already have a smooth-top induction appliance, I'd recommend you try a $30 flat-bottomed carbon steel pow wok and compare it with this hybrid. Lodge also makes far more affordable cast iron woks that are round-bottomed, yet sit flat.
I'm committed to induction, and my unit is a Vollrath Mirage Cadet. I wish I could have afforded the pro, but the Cadet is wonderful.
There is already quite a body of reviewers at WS who almost all love this pan, so Staub must be doing something right. Like most of those who've commented so far on Chowhound, I don't think this is a wok at all--but that may not be so bad.
In years past, I've owned and enjoyed a real carbon steel wok--low cost, lots of action--but over a gas flame. Even though the French have built cast iron domes that they sometimes call "woks," their concept seems a bit more sedate, derived from their braisers. In fact, the Staub 12" "perfect pan" and the 4 qt. braiser are the same dimensions, differing mostly by cast iron verses glass lids.
Staub and Le Creuset both make 14" cast iron self described "woks.". What does one do with them? I quote: "perfect for stir frying, braising, steaming, and stewing." That's not what I used to do with my wok.
As you have pointed out many times, cast iron takes quite a bit of time to warm up, and these "woks" need to warm up gradually. I could imagine a stir fry meal prepared and on the table with a steel, aluminum, or copper wok before a cast iron wok was warmed up.
But, braise and saute' might be another story altogether.
That's what I think most of the perfect pan users were enjoying: braise some meat, put it on the rack, stir fry some vegetables, add the meat back in, add some sauce, simmer--no?
Sure, this thing would make a good "desert island" type pan. I don't view the utility of the rack as having much to do with the shape of this pan.
I think you'll find that it heats quite fast on induction. Whether or not it heats evenly--and how far up the sides--may be a different matter that depends on how well your specific pan mates with this Vollrath appliance. Given the pan's smaller base and Vollrath's reputation for quality, you may get great results. If you have an IR thermometer gun, why don't you see?
No gun; no fun.
Based on multiple technical reports, I don't expect heat distribution to stabilize too quickly. Staub wants users of all cast iron cookware to warm up the pans for five minutes before going to maximum power. By then, I'm supposing that both temperature and distribution have stabilized.
I've used this same approach for all my metallic pots and pans with great success.
Don't worry about the shape--I have used flat bottom and round bottom cast iron and carbon steels woks, as well as Griswold cast iron skillets and De Buyer carbon steel skillets and they can all make varying tasty stir fries that don't stick.
But what they have in common is the ability to get really, really hot (as in 600F+ hot). Enamel can take this heat occasionally, but it's just not a good or practical to expect it to do this on a regular basis without damage.
Use this gorgeous pan for it's best purposes--sautéing over medium-high heat and for braising. And it makes GREAT popcorn too...!
For really good stir fries you need heat, heat and more heat and metal cookware that can take this heat...!