A Student’s Kitchen

When N. started an internship this summer, she was sharing a kitchen with three other students. She wanted to start cooking; we needed to buy her some inexpensive cooking tools as I didn’t want her to borrow and lose any of my favorites! For her summer rental, we bought two non-stick pans: a frying pan for omelets and frittatas and an 8-inch deep pan for boiling noodles/pasta/soup. She also needed a sharp medium-sized knife (for fruits/vegetables/meat). She did, however, borrow a colander, a baking sheet, and some Tupperware from home.

I would suggest buying a wok as a first addition to these basics – I love using a wok. Its shape has three main benefits: 1) heat is evenly distributed; 2) you can use less oil as a little goes a long way in terms of sautéing or stir-frying; and 3) the curved sides hold in food as you toss it. Less cleanup is always a plus!

Woks can be bought inexpensively at kitchen supply stores. Pick the shape and size first. Choose a wok that fits right above the heat source on your cooktop as the food should cook evenly. I like the round-bottomed ones because I have a gas range, but the flat-bottom steel woks work best for an electric range. Material is usually carbon steel, aluminum, or stainless steel.
I prefer non-stick carbon steel as it cleans up easily.

Note that a wok needs to be seasoned (seasoning and care directions follow) before use because manufacturers coat them with a protective layer. After that, a seasoned wok becomes a lifelong friend. Happy cooking!

As always, feel free to ask question or post comments below.


Wash the new wok in hot water. Scrub with a non-abrasive sponge and a little liquid soap.

  • Rinse and dry.
  • Heat over high heat for about two minutes. Remove from heat.
  • Smear the inside of the wok with oil, wiping it evenly with paper towel. Heat for another five minutes. Wipe off any residue.
  • Repeat the process, a few more times, until the paper towel has no black residue.
  • The wok is ready to be used.


  • Clean after every use with warm water and a non-abrasive sponge.
  • You might want to brush the surface with oil for a few more times to prevent food from sticking.

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