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Old 02-17-2014, 05:30 PM   #1
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Stir Fry - oil catches fire

Hi all,

I have a nicely seasoned carbon steel wok and I've been trying to do stir fry's with some decent success. But I've never got that sizzle, you know the really nice TZZZ!!! when I put the meat in the wok - I've been cooking on medium high because I've been afraid to set the house on fire.

I was looking at these videos today on youtube for stir fry technique:




Between these two videos and what I've read one of the key aspects of stir fry is to get the wok HOT HOT HOT! I noticed in the video the two chefs had plenty of time after adding in the oil. So I did a little experiment today.

I heated my wok on high until it stopped smoking. I added oil to see how much time I had.

In the time the two chefs had to add oil, swirl it, let it smoke, and add the meat, peanut oil caught on fire for me. I tried a second brand of peanut oil. It smoked fully in less than a second and I removed it from heat. I tried sunflower oil, and even though I removed it from heat about a second after adding it, it caught fire. The best I had was plain ol' vegetable oil. It acted much more like the grapeseed oil in the videos... had a little time before smoking and I removed from heat after about five seconds. Based on the amount of smoke I had, I'm guess I was 1 or 2 seconds away from setting it on fire.

I seriously doubt my kitchen range is hotter than those guys' stoves. Should I stick to grape seed oil, or just cook on medium high? I gotta feel that there are people out there with hotter stoves that used peanut oil.

Hoping for some good advice

Cheers!

pistos

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Old 02-17-2014, 05:39 PM   #2
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Incidentally, after all that, my wok is even better seasoned!! ;)
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Old 02-17-2014, 05:54 PM   #3
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Oh dear. I don't think your oil should be catching fire. Maybe stick with the grapeseed oil? I'm surprised, peanut oil usually has a high flashpoint. You must have a really good stove! Kick it down a notch.
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Old 02-17-2014, 06:16 PM   #4
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Put the wok on high heat and it will start smoking shortly. When it starts to smoke, add a couple of tablespoons of oil in the pan and wait a minute or so until it starts to smoke then add your meat and start stir-frying. If you don't splash the oil around too much, you shouldn't have a problem.
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Old 02-17-2014, 07:34 PM   #5
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Is this a gas or electric stove?

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Old 02-17-2014, 07:55 PM   #6
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If you have a Wolf or Molteni range (or one as good/expensive as that) a wok will get hot enough. Those professional chefs never use a Sears/Kenmore range.
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Old 02-17-2014, 08:29 PM   #7
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It's a whirlpool - electric
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Old 02-17-2014, 10:44 PM   #8
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Andy M. View Post
Put the wok on high heat and it will start smoking shortly. When it starts to smoke, add a couple of tablespoons of oil in the pan and wait a minute or so until it starts to smoke then add your meat and start stir-frying. If you don't splash the oil around too much, you shouldn't have a problem.
That is what I do.
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Old 02-18-2014, 07:26 AM   #9
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You could go with safflower oil as well. High smoke point, no flavor and cheaper than grapeseed (at least around here).

Once an oil starts to smoke it starts to break down into things that are "bad" for you. You should run right under that line. Watch the oil, when it starts to look like it is flowing in the pan it is about to smoke.
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Old 02-18-2014, 10:35 AM   #10
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It's a whirlpool - electric
I have an electric stove also. But if you watch cooking shows/professional chefs you'll never see them using an electric range. A Wolf range, just to use one example of what brand professionals use, will bring the heat high up around the sides of the wok. An electric range can't do that.

About how YOU can do high heat cooking with a wok with an electric range---- beats me. I just can't do it. I use peanut oil because that's a common oil for oriental cooking.

It's frustrating, I know.
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Old 02-18-2014, 10:38 AM   #11
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Or in a worst case...keep a fire extinguisher or a box of baking soda handy. :)
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Old 02-18-2014, 10:46 AM   #12
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Wow pistos, I'm with cave, I think you're pretty lucky to get that kind of heat out of an electric range. I've never even been close with mine.

Incidentally, I use canola or peanut oil, and follow Frank's advice, no problem. Don't wait too long once the oil is running fast.
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Old 02-18-2014, 11:00 AM   #13
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I think it's simply a popular myth that a wok has to be super-hot to cook Chinese food. We've been over this before. Chinese restaurants use very high heat because they need to cook a lot of food quickly. I have an electric wok; I set the heat to 350ºF, wait about a minute, put the oil in, wait for it to begin to ripple in the wok, swirl it around the wok, then put the meat in.

IMO, the real key to homemade Chinese food is not moving the meat too soon. Let it sit in the hot oil and caramelize for a minute before turning.

More info and a demonstration: http://www.steamykitchen.com/4997-br...-stir-fry.html
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Old 02-18-2014, 11:29 AM   #14
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I like to watch the Chinese chefs using those foot pedal turbo wok burners.
They are using more than twice the heat the OP is and they get some fire, but they are showing off.

To me the OP is trying to replicate what she/he is seeing in the videos. You really cannot replicate a professional setting at home and time may be adjusted for video.

Heat the wok, add the oil and fry. It does not have to look or take the same time as what you see in the video. If its tastes good, you are well on your way to success.
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Old 02-18-2014, 11:34 AM   #15
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To me the OP is trying to replicate what she/he is seeing in the videos. You really cannot replicate a professional setting at home and time may be adjusted for video.

Heat the wok, add the oil and fry. It does not have to look or take the same time as what you see in the video. If its tastes good, you are well on your way to success.
There ya go! In a nutshell.
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Old 02-18-2014, 12:37 PM   #16
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Quote:
Originally Posted by GotGarlic View Post
I think it's simply a popular myth that a wok has to be super-hot to cook Chinese food. We've been over this before. Chinese restaurants use very high heat because they need to cook a lot of food quickly. I have an electric wok; I set the heat to 350ºF, wait about a minute, put the oil in, wait for it to begin to ripple in the wok, swirl it around the wok, then put the meat in.

IMO, the real key to homemade Chinese food is not moving the meat too soon. Let it sit in the hot oil and caramelize for a minute before turning.

More info and a demonstration: Chinese Broccoli Beef Noodle Stir Fry | Steamy Kitchen Recipes
I agree you have to let the meat sit still in the wok as you would in a sauté pan so it can brown. Then you go on to stir-fry.

I don't agree that cooking with a very hot wok is a myth. It actually simplifies the whole process. A hot wok is important to sear the meat quickly and to cook the veggies without making them too soft.

That said, you will continue doing it your way and I'll do it mine.
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Old 02-18-2014, 12:52 PM   #17
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Originally Posted by Andy M. View Post

I agree you have to let the meat sit still in the wok as you would in a sauté pan so it can brown. Then you go on to stir-fry.

I don't agree that cooking with a very hot wok is a myth. It actually simplifies the whole process. A hot wok is important to sear the meat quickly and to cook the veggies without making them too soft.

That said, you will continue doing it your way and I'll do it mine.
There's nothing complicated about the process. The meat sears in a minute or two, I toss it, give it a couple more minutes, toss again, remove, add a bit more oil, throw in the veggies, repeat. Push veg to the sides, pour sauce in the center, it thickens in about 10 seconds, mix with veg, add meat back, stir and warm, then serve. Very quick.

All I'm saying is that you don't have to have a dangerously hot wok to make a good stir-fry. Btw, I use peanut oil, too.
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Old 02-18-2014, 01:25 PM   #18
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Originally Posted by GotGarlic View Post
There's nothing complicated about the process. The meat sears in a minute or two, I toss it, give it a couple more minutes, toss again, remove, add a bit more oil, throw in the veggies, repeat. Push veg to the sides, pour sauce in the center, it thickens in about 10 seconds, mix with veg, add meat back, stir and warm, then serve. Very quick.

All I'm saying is that you don't have to have a dangerously hot wok to make a good stir-fry. Btw, I use peanut oil, too.

Who said anything about a dangerously hot wok?
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Old 02-18-2014, 01:31 PM   #19
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Chinese restaurants use very high heat because they need to cook a lot of food quickly.
I disagree. Chinese restaurants are not cooking a larger quantity of food than any other type of restaurant or needing to cook any quicker than any other type of restaurant, yet they go through the huge expense of getting those jet burners installed and pay the price for all the gas they burn. With margins what they are for restaurants, they are all looking to keep costs down wherever they can. If they were able to get the same results with a standard restaurant kitchen setup they would. The wok flavor that you get from a good Chinese restaurants meal is accomplished because of the high heat. I am not saying that you can't get excellent results in a home kitchen with a standard stove, but you will not get the "wok hay" flavor that is so sought after. That comes from the high heat and well seasoned wok.
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Old 02-18-2014, 01:33 PM   #20
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Thanks all for your replies. I really appreciate the diverse range of opinions and experiences.

Quote:
Originally Posted by cave76 View Post
I have an electric stove also. But if you watch cooking shows/professional chefs you'll never see them using an electric range. A Wolf range, just to use one example of what brand professionals use, will bring the heat high up around the sides of the wok. An electric range can't do that.

About how YOU can do high heat cooking with a wok with an electric range---- beats me. I just can't do it. I use peanut oil because that's a common oil for oriental cooking.

It's frustrating, I know.
Aha, so what you're saying is that my stove isn't too hot, it's jsut concentrating the heat too much in the bottom. Totally makes sense. The local kitchen supply store has burners that run off these little cans, butane I think. If I remember correctly, they put out a quite a few BTU. I'll have to check it out.
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