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The Wok: Recipes and Techniques By Kenji Lopez-Alt Reviewed

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The Wok Recipes And Techniques cookbook cover

W. W. Norton & Company, 2022, 672 pages, more than 1,000 color photos and illustrations, hardbound

Kenji Lopez-Alt is among the most admired food and cooking nerds on earth and the author of the brilliant book, The Food Lab. He also wrote the foreword to my book, “Meathead.” Trained at MIT, in the kitchens of many restaurants, in the lab of Cook’s Illustrated, and as the premier columnist of, in this massive and definitive tome, he reveals the mysteries and secrets behind the ancient and venerated art and science of Asian wok cooking.

The book is replete with the recipes you want, Moo Shu Pork, Sweet And Sour Chicken or Pork, Kung Pao Chicken, and all your other Chinese-American restaurant faves, as well as many authentic regional dishes you never heard of, more than 200 in all, but the real meat and noodles of this tome is the science and technique.

He starts by explaining how the unique bowl shape of the wok works, how to select a wok, and how to maintain it, then we get into how stir-frying works, wok hei (the ephemeral aroma caused by the combustion of vaporized oil droplets), and vital techniques like velveting (treating the meat with a mixture of egg white and cornstarch to improve its water retention), how to use baking soda to improve browning and water retention, marinating, steaming, braising, simmering, and so much more.

I have already tried three recipes and they were outstanding. More to come and my wife and I can’t wait.

My only complaint is the photography. As an author and photographer myself, I know that hiring a pro is very expensive, and the need for hundreds of process photos is demanding, but for finished dishes, a pro should have been brought in. At the very least a Photoshop expert could have improved the images significantly.

But please do not let that deter you. The photos are good enough, and the text is superlative and the recipes awesome. It is all written so anyone can understand the chemistry and physics laced with Kenji’s characteristic Dad jokes.

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Published On: 7/5/2022 Last Modified: 10/18/2023

  • Meathead, Founder And BBQ Hall of Famer - Founder and publisher of, Meathead is known as the site's Hedonism Evangelist and BBQ Whisperer. He is also the author of the New York Times Best Seller "Meathead, The Science of Great Barbecue and Grilling", and is a BBQ Hall Of Fame inductee.


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