Contributed by Lindsay Shugerman, Top 10 Guru

A list of wok cooking basics

A wok is a wonderful way to cook healthy, simple to prepare meals.

But cooking in a wok isn’t like using a standard pot or pan. It requires some new techniques and first time users might not know exactly what to do. But we do.

Here are our top 10 wok cooking basics to get you started off right with your new wok.

10. Cut everything before you start cooking

wok tips man cutting vegetables

Wok cooking is fast, so before you heat the wok, have everything cut up seasonings and sauces at hand and needed bowls or plates in place. Once you start, there’s no time to do prep work.

9. Big pieces and small pieces don’t mix

To ensure uniform cooking, cut all of your ingredients to about the same size and shape. The exception would be for very hard vegetables like carrots. A slightly thinner or smaller cut would allow faster cooking, making it a better match with less dense food like mushrooms or onions.

8. Heat it before you use it

Food should never be placed into a cold wok. Heat the wok over high heat (using a wok ring on an electric stove) for about 2-3 minutes before adding any food or oil.

7. Coat the whole thing, not just the bottom

When you add cooking oil to your hot wok, swirl the oil around the whole wok. A word of caution, however. Do not allow the hot oil to spill or drip over the sides, as it could start a fire.

6. The order counts

Unlike a stew pot or saute pan, the order in which you cook in a wok matters. If the recipe you’re using doesn’t specify the order, add the aromatics and seasonings first, then the protein, the dense vegetables and finally the soft vegetables.

5. Keep it in motion

Food in a wok needs to be kept moving, so use wok chopsticks or wooded utensils to keep the food stirring as you cook. Use a flipping motion to pull food from the bottom to the top, rather than stirring round and round.

4. Make it dry

Make sure the vegetables and seafood you add to the wok are dry. You want the food to stir fry or sear, but wet ingredients will make it steam. That will make your food soggy instead of crisp.

3. Woks don’t like crowding

The shape of a wok does not work well when it’s too full, so if you’re making a large meal cook the ingredients in stages. As you cook each type of food, remove it to a bowl while you cook the next part. At the end, you can add all the elements together and combine.

2. When the steamer basket goes in….

If you plan to use your wok for steaming with a bamboo steaming basket, make sure the water level is 1″ or so from the bottom of the wok. Any closer and your food will get soggy instead of steaming. Much further down, and it will boil away too quickly.

1. Keep it clean, but forget the soap

To clean your wok, use warm or hot water and a soft cloth. Remove stuck on food with a wok brush. But woks and soap don’t mix, so skip the dishwasher and the dish washing soap.