A wok can be used for a variety of different cooking methods. These include the most obvious one, stir frying, and also deep frying and smoking. It is less well known that with the right accessories, such a steel rack and a dome-shaped lid, a wok can also be used for steaming.
Steaming with a wok involves placing the food on a perforated steel rack above a small amount of simmering water and covering it all with a lid. As the water evaporates it creates steam which transfers the heat energy to the food and cooks it. Foods that can be cooked this way include:
- Pastry-based foods, such as dumplings or other dim sum-related dishes.
- Green vegetables, such as broccoli, artichoke, eggplant, are all very suitable for steaming.
- Shellfish and seafood
- Soft, fatty cuts of meat before stir frying.
What are the benefits of steaming compared to other cooking methods?
Steaming is a relatively quick and hassle-free cooking method for those who wish to spend less time in the kitchen, but without compromising the taste and nutritional value of their food. Steaming preserves nutrients in the food that are destroyed by micro-waving, pressure-cooking or boiling, especially folic acid and vitamin C. Studies have shown that boiling reduces folic acid by 35% and vitamin C by 25%, whereas steaming reduces both by only 15%.
Why use a Lotus Rock stir wok for steaming?
Most stir woks are made of the following materials:
- uncoated carbon steel, uncoated cast iron;
- stainless steel;
- non-stick coated aluminum.
Steaming requires a large amount of water to be boiled, making it preferable for the wok’s surface to be non-reactive (i.e. coated). If it is not, boiling water in the wok will cause rust or will remove or discolour the seasoning. Consequently uncoated carbon steel and cast iron woks, which both have excellent thermal properties for stir frying, are unsuitable for steaming.
Aluminum non-stick coated stir woks have the opposite problem. Although a PTFE non-stick coating is very non-reactive, it is not bonded very tightly together and during steaming the particles of fast moving water vapour can penetrate the coating, making it peel off and impairing its quality. In recent years ceramic coatings have been used on stir woks, and this type of coating is much more tightly bonded together than a PTFE non-stick coating. However, although a ceramic coating may have a stronger construction than a PTFE non-stick coating, the silicone oil which gives the coating its non-stick release cannot withstand the high temperature which occurs during steaming and so often the silicone oil dries out quite quickly.
Uncoated stainless steel is a more appropriate material for steaming, as its surface is more non-reactive than either carbon steel or cast iron, and there is no non-stick coating to be damaged. However, steaming is a very intense cooking process and even a stainless steel wok can, over time, start to rust if frequently used for steaming. In addition its thermal properties (uneven heat transmission, with a high tendency for hot spots) make it less suitable for stir frying, which is what woks are mostly used for.
A Lotus Rock pan has none of these disadvantages. Unlike uncoated carbon steel and cast iron, a Lotus Rock pan has a non-reactive surface which is suitable for boiling water. Unlike most general non-stick cookware (whether PTFE or ceramic), which is organic bonded and can easily break under a high temperature, the Lotus Rock coating is made up of inorganic substances and has much higher heat resistance. This type of coating material is more advantageous for a cooking method such as steaming, especially when compared to a general non-stick coating, which will either break up or dry out in such hot and moist conditions. Lastly, in contrast to stainless steel, a Lotus Rock stir wok’s thick carbon steel base has a much better heating effect for stir frying, making it more multi-functional.
Lotus Rock stir wok accessories for steaming
Stainless Steel Rack
A Lotus Rock steamer rack is thick and strong enough to withstand the weight of one or more porcelain dishes on top of it, for steaming entrees, such as fish, which taste better if the juices can be used for a sauce. The stainless steel material is highly heat-proof, with excellent corrosion resistance. The holes in the rack are wide enough to create convection currents to circulate the steam around your food. However, they are also small enough to prevent food falling into the boiling water below. All Lotus Rock steamer racks are sold with a diameter which generally fits half way down the stir wok. This way there is enough space for the steam to circulate between the food and the lid, while at the same time ensuring there is enough distance between the rack and the boiling water to avoid water splattering and soaking the food.
Stainless Steel Glass Dome Lid
A tight-fitting dome-shaped lid is essential for steaming. In order to ensure that very little steam escapes from the wok during cooking all Lotus Rock lids are manufactured to fit the edges of the wok very tightly. The dome shape is important because it allows condensation to run down the sides of the lid, rather than dripping onto the food you are steaming. The rim and sides of a Lotus Rock stir wok lid are made of stainless steel, whose its strong construction can withstand the intense heat from the rising steam below it. To steam food well timing is all important (if you steam for too long then the food can be quite dry), so a glass centre allows the cook to monitor the progress of the cooking more easily and safely. Lastly, the lid has a clip-on knob design which allows the lid to be safely removed from the wok (especially useful after steaming as the temperature inside the wok can get very hot). After this the lid can then be placed upright on the kitchen worktop with the clip-on handle as support.