My Beautiful Wok
You don't have to spend a lot of money to have a great cooking tool. All you need to do is find a great wok. My wok actually came from Wal-Mart, but on the mainland I would have looked for a great wok in an Asian grocery store. Here in the islands we have a large Asian population, and so stores like Wal-Mart carry things you wouldn't find at other Wal-Mart stores unless you had the same cultural situation that we do here in Hawaii.
My wok was about $20, it's made of rolled steel, and it has 2 wooden handles. The smaller handle on the left makes the wok easier to pick up when it is full of liquids or when it is heavy with food. It's also great for holding on to when you get your food moving around quickly and your pan is trying to hula on your stove top. Wood is great here because it isn't going to get hot. Wood means you can't put it in the dishwasher, but you would never want to put a wok in a dishwasher.
Woks are meant to turn from their initial shiny steel color to a more golden and blackened color over time. This means the pan is properly seasoned. I freaked out when I turned the bottom of my wok black, but the Nerd who is from Hawaii told me that the blackening was correct.
For a while foods stuck a bit more, and I had to learn to play with temperature and the amount of oil I was using, but now I treat it like my cast iron and we get along nicely. Foods that have a lot of moisture to them, like tofu (like in my tofu fried rice this morning), like to stick. If you have foods that have a lot of moisture to them, keep the heat a little lower than usual. Your food will still turn out lovely.
When cooking with high heat in a wok it is important to use the right kind of cooking oil. Please use oils made for high heat cooking such as refined avocado, almond, grapeseed, safflower, sesame, sunflower, peanut, and canola oils. Check out the chart on PCC Natural Markets for more information on which oils to use for what temperatures. Heating an oil above its smoke point (the point at which the oil starts to smoke in the pan) can damage the oil and possibly create cancer-causing properties.
Woks are versatile tools. They can be used for cooking soup, stir frying, pan frying, sauteing, and a lot more. There's a great podcast by Lynne Rossetto Kasper on How To Eat Supper in which she and her co-author and producer, Sally Swift, discuss woks. They even suggest that they be the first pan given to a young person when they move out on their own. Check it out on iTunes.
Well, I think that's enough on the wok for now. If you have any questions, don't hesitate to ask Google, or me.