toss fried rice from their woks into the air before catching it again. Launching
the rice and its fixings allows the food to cook at a high temperature without
burning, essential for creating the tastiest stir-fried fare. Now, using video
of five chefs in Chinese restaurants, physicists have analyzed the repetitive movements used to toss the rice.
made a specific set of motions that repeated about three times a second, the
researchers report February 12 in the Journal
of the Royal Society Interface. Each repetition includes sliding the wok
back and forth while simultaneously rocking it to and fro, using the rim of the
stovetop as a fulcrum.
complex maneuvers come into play when cooking other foods: Tilting and rotating
the pan is necessary to get smooth, flat crepes, for example (SN: 6/19/19).
By simulating the trajectories of rice
in a wok, the researchers hit on some key culinary tips. The rocking and sliding
motions shouldn’t be totally in sync, otherwise the rice won’t mix well and
could burn. And the wok’s movements should repeat rapidly. Moving the wok even
faster could launch the rice higher, and might allow cooking at higher
temperatures, and perhaps a quicker meal.
But faster shaking may be difficult for
chefs to achieve. According to previous studies,
chefs at Chinese restaurants can struggle with shoulder pain, and rapidly
shaking a wok could be part of the problem. The researchers suggest that a stir-frying
robot could be built based on these results, taking the weight off chefs’