Learn techniques for deep frying in a wok and how it can elevate your kitchen
When most people think of woks, they think stir fry, steaming, Chinese cooking, and delightfully punny restaurant names.
But what if we told you your wok had a hidden talent that isn’t just that it doubles as a bowl when you haven’t eaten all day and are too hungry to plate your beef and broccoli?
That hidden cooking technique talent is deep frying. Let me wok you through woks’ relationship with deep frying (sorry — we couldn’t help ourselves) as we touch on deep frying in a wok in general, what foods are best to deep fry in a wok, and finally how to deep fry in a wok.
Can I deep fry in a wok?
Yes! As we mention in our rundown of the history of the wok, woks’ flared shape means they’re ideal for dealing with smaller foods that you want to cook fast and at high heat. Furthermore, this shape means you can fit a lot in a wok without adding on cooking time due to overcrowding.
Mold it out of a high quality heat retaining material blue carbon steel and then you have yourself a true workhorse pan that has a place in any kitchen (stay away from deep frying in non stick woks as this can damage their non stick coating).
All of these characteristics that apply to typical wok use? They apply to deep frying in a wok as well!
Is a wok good for deep frying?
Yes! Not only are woks capable of deep frying, they’re actually your best option in many cases. They may not be the first piece of cookware that comes to mind when you think “it’s fry time,” but that’s why we’re here!
Here are the 4 main benefits of deep frying in a wok rather than a more commonly used piece of cookware such as a Dutch oven, frying pan, or stock pot.
1. Less oil splatter
Tired of your stovetop looking like a Jackson Pollock painting after you deep fry? Woks’ high and wide sides catch a lot of oil splatter that frying pans, cast irons, pots, and Dutch ovens don’t.
2. You’ll use less oil to fry the same amount of food
Because woks’ sides rise up earlier than those of other cookware, it’ll take you less oil to reach your desired oil depth.
Cook’s Illustrated notes that a wok can achieve the same oil depth as a dutch oven while using 33% less oil.
3. Ease of access
Woks’ gently sloping sides grant you the ability to freely and easily move items in, out, and around inside, ensuring an even fry.
4. Fry more at once
The increased surface area of a wok when compared to other cookware means you can complete your fry in fewer batches, which equates to less time spent slaving over a hot stove and more time cramming your face with your delicious fried concoctions.
What foods are best to deep fry in a wok?
Deep frying smaller items (think french fries, calamari, and karaage) and items that float (beignets, donuts, and funnel cake) are where the wok’s unique shape truly shines at creating delicious golden brown morsels.
Woks are great at deep frying batches of smaller items like chicken nuggets, but aren’t as ideal at simultaneously deep frying multiple larger items like chicken breasts. This is because the wok’s shape doesn’t allow for more than one or two large items to be fried at once without the walls sloping the items into one another and causing an uneven fry.
How to deep fry in a wok
This method works for chicken, mozzarella sticks, crab rangoons — you name it!
- Fill wok with oil until you’ve reached your desired oil depth.
- Place a deep frying thermometer into the oil and heat until the oil temperature reaches a consistent 375 degrees fahrenheit.
- Drop your food into the hot oil, being careful not to cause oil splashes or disturb the wok.
- Once golden brown, remove your fried food from the oil with a spider strainer or slotted spoon and dry the food on paper towels.
- Exercise caution when deep frying in a wok, as their small bases make them less stable.
- The sides of a wok have a shallower depth than the center, which means you won’t get an even fry if frying multiple larger items at once.
- Use high smoke point oils when deep frying in a wok.
- Because you need to achieve high temperatures, it’s not recommended to deep fry in non stick woks. Carbon steel woks are great woks for deep frying and wok cooking in general.
In this article, we touched on whether or not you can deep fry in a wok, the benefits of doing so, the best foods to do it with, and how to do it.
Woks get the deep fry job done, and done well. Do we think woks are going to replace vat fryers at the state fair any time soon? The fairground psychic would be correct in saying “all signs point to no.” But for home cooks, they’re a great deep fry at home option.