Kitchen Equipment Guide: Woks, Bamboo Steamers, and Tagines
Check out this handy Tilda® equipment guide to help you navigate the versatile ways to use woks, bamboo steamers, and tagines.
Learning how best to use and take care of your kitchen equipment can make all the difference in terms of how you feel about time in the kitchen. At Tilda® Rice, we love cooking cuisines from all over the world, so we want you to give you the guidance you need to prepare it with confidence using our rice varieties.
In this guide, we’ll be exploring the ins and outs of a few kitchen gadgets that chefs simply cannot live without, including woks, bamboo steamers and tagines. If you’ve never used these before, no problem, that’s what we are here for.
Let’s begin with the ever-versatile wok.
Cooking with a Wok
Woks are commonly associated with firing up deliciously flavorful Chinese food, but the wok is a diverse piece of equipment that can be used for all kinds of cuisines. The real magic of a wok is its ability to be incredibly unique and very versatile at the same time – bringing full-on fired-up flavor, to all kinds of meals, however you use it. This pan can take a simple rice dish up a notch by giving it a distinct taste and texture.
Getting to know when to use a wok and how to take care of it will help you make delicious dishes with confidence time and time again. Let’s dive right in!
What is a Wok?
Derived from the Cantonese word for ‘cooking pot’, the wok is a wonderfully wide metal pan known for its distinct bowl-like shape. While you can bet on finding it in kitchens across the world, it was in fact born out of China over 2000 years ago, and has long been considered the secret ingredient to classic Chinese dishes due to a special something known as wok hei, meaning ‘breath of the wok.’ This refers to the unique flavor that the pan gives the food when cooking quickly on an extremely high heat.
How to Use a Wok?
This pan is seasoned with richness, flavor and history, but it’s also incredibly practical — able to stir-fry, steam, deep fry, braise and boil up the most delicious dishes, enhancing the flavor of all manner of meals.
For boiling, remember a wok can act just the same as a saucepan, only faster, so instead of waiting for your favorite grains to boil in a pot, whip them up in the wok! In this section we’re going to be covering some of the top ways you can cook with your wok – giving you the secrets to getting the maximum level of deliciousness out of it.
How to Steam?
For steaming, a wok is the perfect base for your bamboo steamer — but more on that later!
How to Deep Fry?
Deep frying produces some of the most wickedly delicious treats, but for home cooks it can feel intimidating to turn up the heat with oil. Fortunately, the wok is perfectly designed for it and makes the food all the more flavorful.
Here are a few simple ways to master deep frying:
- Use vegetable oil — it has a high burner temperature which you’ll need to stand up to just how hot the wok can get.
- Never fill the wok more than halfway with oil to avoid splashing.
- Ensure the food you’re frying is dry (or as can be), it’ll save any vicious oil spatters.
- Take your time adding pieces of food in small batches — an overcrowded pan means clumping.
- Have tongs, wooden chopsticks or a metal skimmer handy to remove bits from the oil.
How to Smoke?
Why not try smoking food in your wok? It’s simple to do, and sure to impress.
Simply scatter your flavorings — tea leaves, sugar and rice work well — in the base of your foil-lined wok and heat until the mixture begins to smoke. Once those aromatic fumes have grown, cover the wok with a lid to trap the smoke.
Take the food you wish to smoke (already cooked) and place it in your new smoking device to infuse it with the rich aromas.
The most common dish associated with a wok is a beautiful stir-fry being mixed up in a flash. As long as you know a few quick tips, you’ll be able to effortlessly get restaurant-quality meals in no time! So, how can you avoid a clumpy mess of soggy, unevenly cooked food? Take these tips to heart:
- Heat the wok gradually, allowing it to reach a high temperature slowly.
- Once the wok is searingly hot, add the oil and your ingredients straight after.
- Don’t be afraid of a little flame in the pan — that’s where the flavor comes in.
- If you’re using vegetables, check their moisture — too wet and they’ll go soggy, too dry and they’ll burn, but just enough water content should keep them crunchy.
- Don’t overcrowd the wok, less is more.
Stir Fry recipes
The best part about stir-fry? The endless possibilities! Pick a protein and go from there:
Chicken: Chicken Fried Rice
Duck: Oriental Duck Mushroom Stir-fry
Pork: Char Siu Pork Fried Rice
How to Take Care of a Wok
Rather than using soap, simply soak your wok in hot water and remove any leftover food with a soft sponge to protect the coating. Make sure that your wok is dry: either toss it in a warm oven or gently dry it on the stovetop over low heat. This will make all the difference in protecting that all-important wok hei.
If you notice little rust spots appearing — especially after messier, thicker, saucy dishes — then it’s time to clean and re-season your pan.
Now, let’s get back to using your wok to steam by jumping into another one of our favorite kitchen gadgets: bamboo steamers.
When it comes to cooking up deliciously healthy dishes in a flash, a bamboo steamer is exactly what you need. It’s simple to use, effortless to clean, and an easy-to-love culinary essential that we think deserves a place in your cupboard.
In this helpful hint-packed section, we’re going to unlock the secrets of the bamboo steamer and learn just how you can use it to enhance the flavors of some of the best meals.
Bamboo Steamer Basics
If you think of steamed and soggy synonymously, you haven’t explored bamboo steamers yet! Due to its special woven structure, bamboo steamers allow the steam to gently pass through the different stacked layers, enhancing its contents with flavor rather than taking it away, and doing it all without a drop of oil or butter — clever, delicious, and hassle free.
Famed for its stackable woven basket form and moisture locking domed lid, the bamboo steamer is a simple, but powerful, piece of cookware that will totally transform any bad tastes left in your mouth about steaming. Bamboo steamers are loved all around the world for many rightful reasons, but the real joy in these baskets is their natural ability to weave wonderful flavor into food.
What are the Advantages of Bamboo Steamers?
- Moisture is absorbed into the bamboo, controlling the humidity and avoiding any unpleasant broiling.
- They’re also more eco-friendly (and easier on the purse strings) than their counterparts, as they don’t require electricity and are made using natural fibers.
- The signature domed lid works smarter to control the temperature, allowing excess heat to pass through rather than sitting inside and causing food-damaging condensation.
How to use a Bamboo Steamer Without a Wok
If you don’t have a wok, don’t worry! You can still get simply delicious bamboo steamed food from other pans too. Find a pan or pot that is a bit smaller than the size of your steamer, half fill it with water and bring to a rolling boil. Then place the bamboo steamer on top and you’re all set up to steam.
Hot tip: if your bamboo steamer overhangs your pot or pan considerably, gently wet the steamer before placing it over the top — this will avoid any creeping flames from burning the steamer.
How to Take Care of a Bamboo Steamer
Another advantage of a bamboo steamer is that it is simple to clean. In fact, the real trick to making it last for a long time is more about the drying. Bamboo is extremely absorbent, so even when you think it might be dry, it may still be retaining some moisture, and that could develop any unpleasant mildew while in the cupboard. So, once you have cleaned your steamer with a sponge and mild soap and have thoroughly rinsed it out, leave it to air dry for a couple of days before storing it away.
Cooking With a Tagine
A tagine, or tajine, is the name of the covered terracotta pan with a conical lid. The tall top nestles inside the wide and shallow base. During the cooking process, the steam rises up the cone before condensing and dripping back down into the dish.
When preparing a traditional hearty tagine meal, this terracotta dish is useful but not essential. A cast iron skillet is the next best option: it not only cooks dishes faster than a common skillet, it also distributes heat evenly, cooking all your ingredients uniformly. Plus, flavorful Moroccan spices will season your skillet to perfection.
Common in North African cuisine, lemon adds bright, floral flavors to savory dishes. So why not double down on the tangy citrus by pairing your favorite Moroccan Fish Tagine with Tilda Lemon & Herb rice?
These three handy tools will revolutionize the way you prepare meals! Knowing how to take advantage of specialized kitchen equipment – from rice cookers to paelleras – will take your Tilda® Rice creations to the next level!
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Written by Tilda Kitchen