Are you looking for the best wok? Finding one can be tough and time-consuming for many people due to the plenty of choices available on the market now.
If you’re in the same boat like the rest, you might also be overwhelmed for not having an idea what a wok is used for, what its history is and what to look for when shopping around for a wok.
For this reason, we’ve created a buying guide to answer most of your concerns and help you pick the right wok based on your needs and requirements. In the following, we’ll also help you gain an idea on the different materials used in making a wok and other vital information you may want to know.
So if you’re ready, let’s begin and also review the top 11 picks on the market to help you make a better decision later. Keep reading for a guide.
I. Our Top 5 Picks for Woks
II. History of the Wok
Wok (Cantonese) is a cooking pan first introduced in China during the Han period, two thousand years ago. It is a versatile round-bottomed cooking vessel often used in various Chinese cooking techniques like steaming, poaching, frying, smoking, boiling, roasting, searing, and other cooking methods.
Woks are said to derive from the Mandarin words Guo or Kuo according to scholars. In Southeast Asian Countries, woks are known under different languages. In Indonesia, it is called penggorengan or wajan, Kuali and kawa (small and big wok) in Malaysia, kawali and kawa (small and big wok) in Philippines, chūkanabe in Japan, and karahi in India.
When it comes to physical appearance, classic woks are usually made round bottom for easy stirring and tossing of food while the hand-hammered ones are made for flipping inside and out in order to make food easier by pushing in the side of the wok. In Western Countries, woks are designed to have flat bottoms particularly designed for electric stove use. Different styles for different usage.
In today’s woks, materials used by manufacturers are cast irons, carbon steel, non-stick, and aluminum intended for various cooking styles. There are also manufactured in two styles: loops and stick. Loop handles are made of all types of materials while stick handles are made of steel.
III. What is a wok used for?
Woks are kitchenware that can be used for different types of cooking. The use of wok can be trace way back to ancient China where it was firstly introduced about two thousand years ago to cook Chinese cuisines. Now, not only Asian countries are using wok but western countries have their own version of it too because of its universal use.
Those who are not very familiar with cooking, some believes that woks are only good for frying, which is definitely not true since woks are also very handy for steaming, boiling, poaching, searing, roasting, braising, smoking, steaming, and other type of dishes depending on the size and the kind of wok you use.
Types of Wok
There are two types of woks: the flat bottom and the round bottom.
Flat bottom woks are good for all types of frying and for small amount of cooking. It can also be used for gas range and best for electric stove cooking.
Round bottom woks, on the other hand, are useful for medium to large amount of cooking. This wok has the ability to distribute heat equally, which is advantageous over other kitchen cooking wares. Concave bottoms can also handle different amount of boiling waters depending on its size.
Cooking Types You Can Do on Woks
Placing steaming baskets over boiling water is one way of steaming food by using wok. Dumplings, siomai, and other Chinese food that need steaming can be cook in a wok. Even rice and vegetables can also be steamed as well as some desserts like leche flan, gelatins, etc.
Wok can also be used for boiling of water and soups.
Poaching and Stewing
Poaching and stewing are kind of cooking where ingredients are being boiled in a cooking ware for 15 to 30 minutes normally. It can be done on Round bottom wok because the concave style bottom can handle the amount of water needed for this type of cooking.
Wok is also effective for searing. It is a cooking method where meat, poultry or fish is cooked in a high temperature until it browned.
Wok for smoking is the perfect kitchenware for this kind of cooking.
Wok is also good for braising. Food can be sautéed, seared, braised in a pan.
Wok is also best in roasting. In fact, a large size round bottom wok is the usual choice for roasting chestnuts. Due to its size and shape, tossing of food is better in a wok.
Deep, Pan, and Stir Frying
If you are going to fry anything, woks are the best kitchenware to use in this kind of cooking. For Pan and Stir-frying, flat bottom, wok can be used for this. For deep frying, round bottom wok are best be use since it can hold plenty of oils you needed for frying unlike the former type where only small amount of oils can be accommodated due to its size and built.
Definitely, there are many uses for a wok. It is why it’s one of the most common kitchenware to find in almost every home. It is versatile, durable and highly reliable for most types of cooking methods.
IV. What is the best material for a wok?
In the following, let us have a closer look at the different materials and compare Carbon steel vs. Hard-anodized Aluminum vs. Cast Iron vs. stainless steel wok to help you choose later.
Originating from the Chinese, a wok is considered to be one of the most cookware in the world. It comes in either one or two handles and has a round shape. Because of this, the wok distributes heat more evenly.
It’s made out of a wide array of materials and design that can make or break your cooking. Among the popular types are the carbon steel, hard-anodized aluminum, cast iron and stainless steel that will be discussed in the article.
Traditional carbon steel woks still remain a staple in most Asian households. Compared to other types of wok, they are cheaper, lighter and more durable.
Carbon steel woks are light and thus, can heat more quickly and spread heat more evenly. Despite that, they can withstand high temperatures without releasing toxic substances.
Aside from that, carbon steel woks are also typically non-stick but, even if they are not, they are also relatively easy to season. With this, you will be able to cook healthier meals for you and your family since it requires less oil or butter. Moreover, this makes them easier to maintain and clean.
One downside to carbon steel woks is that they are quite high-maintenance. Otherwise, the wok will develop rust, corrode, and break down quickly.
Do make sure that they will not remain in the dishwasher for too long for this will damage the non-stick coating. You also need to wash and dry the pan after the use.
Carbon steel woks are best to use in cooking omelets, meats, cakes, bread, vegetables and the like. However, as much as possible, refrain from cooking highly acidic food since this will, again, break down the non-stick barrier.
Hard-anodized aluminum woks made out of this material have become popular lately. It is because these types of woks are usually lightweight and thus, are a good at conducting and transferring heat. With this, it distributes heat evenly and is good for cooking and baking.
Aside from that, hard-anodized aluminum woks are also durable and are scratch-resistant. They are also affordable compared to the other types.
However, the downside to these types is that while they are excellent heat conductors, they lose heat much faster compared to other types. They also have low thermal capacities and are quite thin compared to the other wok types are.
Moreover, hard-anodized aluminum woks are still fairly new and people are still not sure of their effect to the human body. As such, people typically recommend not using these as much as possible.
Cast iron woks are also generally preferred by most chefs and Asian households. Dubbed as being the second most popular wok, cast iron woks are also a versatile and reliable cooking material.
Cast iron woks are known to have excellent heat retention. Once it gets hot, it stays hot for a considerable length of time. This is great especially when you are cooking meats or when you are roasting, frying or even baking. Moreover, with this heat retention, you can use less fuel or energy when cooking.
Aside from this, cast iron woks also age like fine wine- they get better as you use it longer. They are versatile and can be used in any medium from fire pits to stoves, to grills and the like.
However, cast iron woks are also quite high-maintenance. If not properly cared for, it can rust and crack easily. It’s also difficult to wash the wok since it is heavy.
Moreover, cast iron woks also do not distribute heat that evenly and thus, it’s prone to cold spots. Users recommended preheating the wok for about 10 minutes, and then rotating it for a few times.
Among the other types, the cast iron woks are also the most difficult to season. However, once you do, the non-stick properties typically last a long time.
Stainless steel woks are known to be durable and non-reactive. As such, they are also quite popular in the market.
They are also non-reactive compared to the other types; thus, you can cook a lot of food using this wok. They can also quickly absorb heat and evenly distribute heat along the pan. With this, you have fewer cold spots and you can ensure the food is cooked properly.
Moreover, they are low maintenance and are easy to clean. They also do not need to be seasoned unlike the others.
Stainless steel woks offer an attractive appearance with its shiny finish. They are also very light, making it easy to lift and maneuver.
However, stainless steel woks are bad heat conductors. They need to be mixed with other materials to negate this effect.
Due to their material, food tends to stick to these types. While it can cook a variety of food, it’s difficult to cook eggs, lean meats, fishes, and tofu using this.
V. Top 11 Best Woks
1. Calphalon Contemporary Hard-Anodized Aluminum Nonstick CookwareOur Pick
The Caphalon wok is a top pick in the category and for reasons. It is made from durable materials like hard-anodized aluminum that also ensures even heating and durability. In addition, this wok is dishwasher safe, so it is not at all hard to clean.
It is also worth mentioning that it has a flat bottom and a wide cooking surface, allowing for versatile uses. This feature also makes the wok ideal for stir-frying either on electric or gas ranges. The wok also has three layers of nonstick coating for more convenience.
The stainless steel handles stay cool, too. It also has covers and pans, which are oven safe and ideal for gourmet dishes.
- Durable aluminum construction
- Non-stick surface
- Wide cooking surface
- Easy release performance
- Effortless cleanup
- Can be small for a large batch of food
2. Best Carbon Steel Wok: Craft Wok Traditional Hand Hammered Carbon Steel Pow Wok
Another choice to consider when looking for a wok is the carbon steel wok from Craft Wok. It features a round and wide bottom that allows for a larger cooking surface.
This 731W88 wok is with a wooden and steel handle helper that makes it easier to use. The carbon steel wok has a round bottom, which is a traditional design.
You might want to check out the wok that has durable and heavy-duty construction, lasting for many years provided you take care of it. This model also has a steel helper handle, which won’t burn even over high heat while stir-frying.
- 15-gauge carbon steel
- Original design
- Responsive customer service
- Elegant looking traditional Chinese wok
- Top choice in carbon steel wok
- Not for use in flat electric or induction stoves
3. Best Cast Iron Wok: Lodge P14W3 Pro-Logic Cast Iron Wok
The 14-inch and black walk is another to consider when finding a cast iron wok. This product by Lodge is also affordable and high quality.
The Lodge wok is made from heavy-duty cast iron, so you can look forward to long-term use. This material can retain heat better. It is also good not just for stir-frying and sautéing.
It is also with a flattened bottom, which is ideal for virtually most cooking surfaces, such as induction. This cookware is already seasoned, too.
Overall, the product is a great choice for its sturdy construction and design and can be used for most cooking methods especially stir-frying.
- Large cooking surface
- Durable cast iron material
- Can retain heat better
- Top quality USA product
- Seasoned cookware
- Can be heavy for stir frying
4. Budget Pick: T-fal A80789 Specialty Nonstick
T-fal is a reputable name for non-stick cookware for its features. This product is dishwasher-safe, offering ease of cleaning. You can also use it on the oven. It is safe on temperatures of up to 350 degrees Fahrenheit.
This jumbo cookware is also black in color, making it ideal for all kitchen designs and decorations. It also has a large capacity for your family’s needs.
It also has a nonstick surface on the exterior and interior, allowing for easy cleaning and cooking. Choosing it, you can cook healthy meals with less oil.
- Up to 350 degrees F oven safe
- Affordable and made from quality materials
- Large sized cooking surface
- Dishwasher safe
- Might not be the most durable around
5. M.V. Trading 14 Inches Carbon Steel Wok
Another decent pick for carbon steel wok is the M.V. Trading wok that has a thick material of 14-gauge carbon steel. With it, you can look forward to long-term use and durability.
This wok also has a flat bottom, which makes it ideal for electric grills or stove. In addition, this wok also has a wooden side spool handle, allowing for full wok command.
This product has a design that allows for even cooling and heating. However, you need to season this wok before using first.
- Durable, heavy 14-gauge thickness
- Flat bottom for flexibility on electric grills and stove
- Wooden side spool handle
- Designed for even cooking
- Affordable and quality
- Unseasoned heavy carbon steel
6. TeChef – Art Pan 12″ Wok/Stir-Fry Pan
TECHEF is a trusted brand for thousands of consumers worldwide. One of the things that make the wok special is its five times coating. It promotes ease of use and better cooking. In addition, this product is without PFOA Free, making it a suitable choice.
The Teflon Select Non-Stick cookware is made with the DuPont Teflon Select. The made in Korea cookware is also affirmed for safety by different regulatory agencies worldwide.
Its frying pan also has a pattern that aids in cooking healthier and better food using only the right oil amount.
- Soft touch handles
- DuPont Teflon select
- Nonstick coating
- Safe for cooking
- Cooks better with the pan pattern
- Can be heavy for stir-frying
7. Mauviel M’Steel Steel Wok
The Mauviel steel black 11.8 inches wok is a top rated choice in the steel wok category. This Made In France cookware is made from a thick black steel or carbon steel that makes it excellent when it comes to heat conduction. This model also comes with heavy-duty iron handles, too.
It is made of steel that can deal with the high temperature. With this said, you can expect excellent searing and longer preheating.
The M’steel is versatile for use on all types of cooktops, such as induction. You can also use metal utensils on it without any issues.
- 2-3mm black steel or carbon steel
- Durable iron handles
- Can deal with high temperature
- Good for heat conduction
- Can be used for searing
- Smaller cooking surface
8. Chef’s Medal Round Bottom Wok
The Chef’s Medal item is a top rated choice in the category. It is made from durable and high quality materials. You might even be able to pass down this wok to the next generation. It is made from 1.8 mm of thick carbon steel that is hand hammered to ensure longevity.
This item also comes with a bamboo handle with a hole for easy hanging or storage. It also has a good curvature that allows for better heat circulation, promoting easier cooking like boiling and steaming.
If you would like to season the wok, you can follow the instructions included in the purchase.
- Delightful bamboo handle
- Included instructions for wok seasoning
- Durable wok for passing down to the next generation
- Good heat circulation for better cooking
- Lifetime Limited Warranty
- Too short handle
9. Cooks Standard NC-00233 Stainless Steel Stir Fry Pan
The Cooks Standard fry pan is another to consider when shopping around for a wok because of its quality features and heavy-duty construction.
This product comes with a dome lid that can help in trapping moisture and heat for faster cooking. In addition, the silver wok is made from a durable 18/10 stainless steel with aluminum core.
It also has a large cooking surface of 13 inches, making it good for families more often cooking in a larger batch.
This item is also dishwasher safe and can be used in the oven for up to 500 degrees Fahrenheit. Finally, it is backed by a limited lifetime warranty.
- Elegant appearance
- Limited lifetime warranty
- Rust-free stainless steel
- Secure fitting dome lid
- Heavy-duty 18/10 stainless steel plus aluminum core
- Denting issues
10. Calphalon Triply Stir Fry Pan
The Calphalon wok with a cover should not be missed when finding a good wok that can offer a heavy-duty performance. It is ideal for stir frying and other methods of cooking.
This Calphalon wok also has an aluminum core that is sandwiched between two layers of stainless steel for an even heating, promoting full control of cooking. It is also ideal for browning food.
In addition, this product comes with clear tempered glass lids that can let you check the food while you’re cooking. It also has a reflective cook surface that remains beautiful for a long time. This product also comes with a full lifetime warranty.
- Heavy-duty aluminum core
- Brushed stainless steel for elegance
- Clear and tempered glass lid
- Safe for all cooking utensils
- Reflective cooking surface
- A bit expensive
11. AmazonBasics Pre-Seasoned Cast Iron Wok Pan
Check out this AmazonBasics cast iron wok pan if you’re looking for a quality and reliable cookware that can last and that can serve your family for years.
The cast iron wok is also affordable while not compromising the quality. It is also versatile, allowing you to use it for different cooking methods that include baking and roasting.
This product can also offer excellent heat retention as well as even heating for a better cooking experience. In addition, it has a two loop side handles offering a secure and steady hold when carrying or lifting.
- Heavy-duty cast iron
- Pre-seasoned wok
- Also works well for roasting and baking
- Two loop side handles for secure hold
- Can handle up to 500 degrees F
- Rusting issues
VI. What to Look for in a Wok
To help you work in the kitchen and create tasty dishes with ease, it is important to keep the following things in mind when choosing for a wok.
Type of Wok
There are various types of wok available in the market, from the traditional carbon steel to the aluminum type and the stainless-steel type. Each type has its advantages and disadvantages and it is important to keep them in mind in choosing a wok. But still, nothing can beat a good old carbon-steel type of Wok. It is inexpensive compared to the other types, conducts heat well evenly and also has a natural non-stick finish to it.
The non-stick property is also an important factor to consider. A wok with non-stick properties requires less cooking fat that is good for creating a healthier meal. Food doesn’t stick to the surface and does not burn easily. It is easy to clean up after use and any debris comes off easily. But how well non-stick works still depends on the layers of coating and ways it is applied. Some may come off after several uses.
Woks can have a flat or round bottom. We suggest that you choose the one with a flat base because it can be used and suitable for most cooking surfaces such as gas stoves, electric and induction stovetops.
Size and Lightweight construction
Size matters in choosing a wok. Woks come in different sizes; you can choose one that is suitable for you and your cooking needs. Its size can depend on your personal preference, the type of stove you have at home or your preferred depth of the wok.
Size can also affect the weight of the wok. Look for a wok with a lightweight design. Some woks may be bigger in size but weigh less because of its thin and lightweight design. This type of wok allows for easy maneuverability when cooking.
Speaking of maneuverability, woks with a handle is very helpful. Traditionally, woks have two metal handles to lift them easily. Now, woks usually have long stainless steel, wooden or bamboo handles. These handles do not conduct heat well and stay relatively cool. Consequently, they do not burn your hands when cooking.
More than that, the long handle of a wok allows you to move, tilt or lift the wok while cooking. Woks also usually have a small loop, a “helper” on the opposite side of the handle for a firm grip and help you in handling and lifting the wok.
Wok with lids
Lids are also important in choosing a wok and generally for cooking. Lids will make it easier for you in cooking foods because most often than not, in the cooking process, ingredients need to simmer and be covered. Lids also help cook the food faster, evenly and help the keep in flavors.
In buying a wok, it is also important to look out for the price. There are many different types and designs of wok out in the market today. You can choose them according to your preference and your cooking needs. But never forget to compare the price point. There are many wonderful choices available; you can get a well-made and high-quality wok at a relatively lower price.
It is also important to look for a product with a good warranty. Warranties can be your lifesaver when you have problems or you are not satisfied with the wok you purchased. A good warranty will help you get the best out of the money you paid for the product.
The abovementioned things are just some of the few things you have to look for in choosing a wok. Ultimately, your choice will still depend on your preference. Choose one is suitable for your needs, home and one that fits your budget.
VII. How to season a wok
A wok is very important to Asian cooking. It cooks the ingredients perfectly and it has a unique shape that makes it the perfect kitchen equipment for tossing motion that is needed in cooking stir-fried meals.
Purchasing the right kind of wok can be intimidating because they come in different shapes and different materials are available in the market. Getting the right wok for you depends on your personal preference.
Once you get the wok that you need, you need to season it. With proper care, a natural patina will develop over the surface ever time, making it nonstick. Here are the steps on how to season a wok:
Scrub off the oil
Woks that are made from carbon steel have a layer of factory oil around its walls. They do this to keep the steel from rusting and to keep them looking brand new, at least while they are still in the market. You must remove the layer of oil before you use the wok as it could get mixed up in your food.
To scrub the oil off, you need a metal scrubber and a dish soap. You only use abrasive scrubbers and soap when you are preparing the wok for seasoning. Do not use them for maintenance and regular cleaning as you will remove the patina and it will ruin the nonstick surface of the wok.
Dry the Wok
Place the cleaned wok on your stove over high heat. You do not have to pat your wok dry with a towel. The water will evaporate when it is placed on a stove over high heat. Once it is clean and dry, you can wet your hand and flick some water onto the wok. If it sizzles and evaporates after a few seconds, the wok is ready.
Season the Wok
The goal of this process is to open the small holes of your wok so it can absorb the oil that you placed to prevent damage and rusting and to start having a nonstick surface. It is best to turn your exhaust fan before you start this set.
Put 2 tablespoons of high heat oil or peanut oil into your wok. Reduce the heat of the stove to medium. You can then add the sliced ginger, garlic, and scallions to the wok. Stir fry the vegetables and use the back of a spatula that is made for woks to press the vegetables against the sides and walls of your wok. It can help spread the oil around the wok evenly.
Do it for a couple of minutes, as the wok needs time to develop a patina. Your vegetables will look a bit burned by the end of the step but that is normal.
Some woks will undergo so much change in color once it is heated for a long time, they usually go from grey to blue. It is perfectly normal. After a couple of minutes, you can turn off the your stove. Let your wok dry up and cool down for a bit before you remove the vegetables and throw them away.
Dry your wok and seal it with oil
Heat your wok again by using high heat. Once the water evaporates, you can turn off the heat. Rub a thin layer of oil into your wok carefully. You can pour 1 to 1 1/2 teaspoon of oil into your wok and run it throughout the wok with layers of paper towels.
If you spot bits of food stuck to the bottom of the wok, you can fill your wok with 5 cups of water. Boil the water and drain it. The boiling water should be able to separate the bits of food from the wok and loosen it so it will be easier to remove with a sponge. After you clean your wok, you can dry it over high heat and rub oil on the inside.
To take care of your wok and make sure that it will last long, you can scrub it the first signs of rust with a scouring pad. Rinse your wok and season it again.
There you have the things to know about the best wok and those that make one special so that you can make a better buying decision later.
Choosing the right wok, you will be able to find more satisfaction in your purchase because it’s versatile for use in different cooking methods that include searing, stir frying, sautéing and boiling, to name some. With it, you can also expect a long-term use and heavy-duty performance.
So if you want to find the right wok for your family’s needs, you might want to get started referring to our buying guide and reviews. Buy the right wok today!