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SCIENCE OF THE WOKTM

Our Story of a 2,000-Year-Old Wok Cooking Tradition

BY: TATUM SNODGRASS | FEBRUARY 15, 2018


Every P.F. Chang’s wok chef knows that with great honor comes the great responsibility of conquering a 3,000-degree flame. Yes, you read that right. The flame of the wok can reach up to 3,000 degrees! Every single one of our wok recipes is purely crafted using the power of this 2,000-year-old Asian cooking tradition. To us, the wok is more than a cooking tool; it pays homage to our rich heritage of making food from scratch every day.

Learn more about our wok cooking story by watching the full video here:



When our co-founder Philip Chiang created the very first P.F. Chang’s menu, he had a simple scratch cooking philosophy in mind. Every ingredient was chosen for a reason, whether for flavor or for nutritional benefits. Wok cooking is one of the purest forms of cooking because it cooks food in a matter of seconds and seals in the flavors and nutrients. Wok cooking might look like a mess of food flying in a bowl, but the food is actually reacting to heat in a very scientific way.

To understand the scientific principles of wok cooking, it’s important to dissect the design of the wok itself. The unique shape of the wok is integral to cooking food evenly. The design of the wok is broken down into three zones: the conduction zone, the condensation zone, and the convection zone.


Photo: Wok with Mongolian Beef - Covection Zone, Condensation Zone, Conduction Zone

The conduction zone is right on the flame with direct contact with the wok surface. In this zone, the food comes alive, and proteins and vegetables get that unique smoky, caramelized flavor. Moving up through the condensation zone, the temperate really drops. Food rises and falls through this middle region up off the surface, cooking and resting in the steam. Then at the top, the convection zone is where food flies freely and finishes off.

When cooking proteins and vegetables, the sooner moisture is locked in, the more the nutritional value is enhanced. This is why we use intense heat, and why wok cooking is pure and simple.

One of the most iconic moments of wok cooking is what’s called Bao Sang, an explosion of flavors. That moment when the freshly chopped garlic, onion, chili paste, and other aromatic ingredients hit the wok and your heart sings with happiness. Those who grew up with home cooked meals, like Philip Chiang, know there’s nothing more reminiscent than the first smell of dinner.


Photo: Bao Sang - Explosion of flavors


We source our woks straight from Japan. They craft woks with smart ergonomics and state-of-the-art carbon steel material necessary for what we do every day. What’s unique is that the body and the handle are one piece, allowing heat to spread quickly and food to cook evenly. Because wok cooking is the foundation of our food philosophy, it’s important that we use the very best woks we can find.


Photo: Wok at the Wok Factory


Farm to Wok® is our food philosophy for making food from scratch using purposeful ingredients and the time-honored tradition of wok cooking. Make a reservation for your next made-from-scratch meal at pfchangs.com.


Photo: Farm To Wok