Woks are a staple for kitchens around the world. They're a great way to cook healthy meals quickly, with little fuss. And, they're versatile: besides fast stir frying, you can use woks to steam, sear, deep-fry, even braise. If you buy the right one, they're easy to wash and completely free of toxins.
Maybe best of all, a good wok is a relatively inexpensive investment that will last for decades.
We'll teach you all about woks so you can buy the right one for your kitchen.
Best Woks at a Glance
Here are our wok recommendations in several helpful categories. Before you select a wok, you should know the size you need, the cooktop you use, and how you'll use the wok (so you know the best type to get: round or flat bottomed, lid or no lid, carbon steel or stainless steel, etc.). I
f you're not sure how you'll use a wok, we discuss several applications below.
You may also want to buy one that comes with wok utensils, although they are inexpensive and easy to find. Here's a great wok spatula for less than $12.
Best Flat-Bottomed Wok:
Joyce Chen Carbon Steel Wok
-14" diameter, 4.5" deep
-1.5mm thick spun carbon steel
-Birch handle/helper handle
-About 3.2 lbs
-Must be scrubbed and seasoned before use.
-Standard stir frying, deep frying
-Feeds 2-8 people.
Best Wok w/Lid and Spatula:
Helen's Asian Kitchen Wok
-13.5" diameter, 4.5" deep
-1.6mm thick spun carbon steel
-Bamboo wok spatula
-About 4 lbs (w/lid)
-Must be scrubbed and seasoned before use.
-Stir frying, deep frying w/out lid
-Stewing, steaming, braising w/lid (but may require more re-seasoning)
-Feeds 2-8 people.
Best Pre-Seasoned Wok:
BK Black Steel Wok
-12" diameter, 3" deep
-Also best small wok
-Stamped from 1.6mm thick black carbon steel
-Cast iron handle, steel helper handle
-Stir frying, deep frying
-Feeds 2-6 people
-Great for those who hate to season their pans.
Best Round-Bottomed Wok:
Letschef Black Steel Wok
-14" diameter, 4" deep
-Stamped from pre-seasoned black 1.2mm carbon steel
-Bamboo handle, steel helper handle
-Includes spatula, spider, and wok ring
-For use only on gas stoves or other open flame heat
-Stir frying, deep frying
-Feeds 2-8 people
-May need to be seasoned after initial washing.
Best Stainless Steel Wok:
Cooks Standard Wok with Lid
-13" diameter, 4.5" deep
-Tri-ply stainless/aluminum construction
-Stainless lid included
-No seasoning required
-3.8 lbs (without lid).
-Standard stir frying, deep frying w/out lid
-Steaming, braising, stewing w/lid
-Great for acidic foods (no seasoning)
-Feeds 2-6 people.
Cooking with a Wok at Home
Woks are versatile pieces of cookware. They are most commonly associated with stir frying, but you can use them for many other things, especially if your wok has a lid.
A wok with a lid functions much like a chef's pan, which makes it one of the most versatile pieces of cookware you can own. With it, you can stir fry, sear, steam, make soups, and make stews and other braises.
However, many high-liquid cooking methods (like steaming and braising) can take a toll on the seasoning of a carbon steel wok, so many cooks use their wok primarily for stir frying and other frying and searing. On the other hand, traditional Asian cooking uses a wok for nearly everything without an issue (except more frequent re-seasoning).
You can decide for yourself how you want to use your wok, or if you want a second wok or other large pan for the wetter cooking methods.
Below, we do a comparison of woks and chef's pans to help you decide which one would be more useful for you (or if you need both of them).
Stir Frying: The Main Use of a Wok
A wok is uniquely shaped for stir frying and is the best possible pan choice for this cooking method.
Stir frying is a fast cooking method in which you dice ingredients up beforehand into similar-sized pieces, then cook it rapidly over high heat; because the pieces are all roughly the same size, they all cook at roughly the same rate. As you add food to the pan, you move the cooked pieces up the sides so they stay hot while the new ingredients cook. After everything is cooked (or mostly cooked), you can pour a pre-made sauce into the wok to heat and thicken, and voila! Dinner is served.
All said and done, it should take you less than 10 minutes to stir fry an entire meal in a wok. Most of your meal prep is spent dicing the meat and vegetables, making the sauce, and cooking rice to serve with the stir fry.
Not all stir fries follow this exact procedure. One exception is fried rice, where most people cook the egg first and remove it, then cook the rest of the ingredients and add the egg back in at the end. Or if you're cooking something delicate like shrimp, you may want to remove it from the pan so it doesn't overcook, then add it back in before serving.
But for the most part, this stir-fry procedure is the most common way woks are used.
You can use a regular skillet to stir fry, too, but for fast, one-pot meals, a wok is the best choice: the small cooking surface and deep sides are the ideal design for it, and you can cook for as little as one or as many as eight or ten people (depending on the size of your wok).
Searing--that is, browning meat or vegetables with high heat--is also a good use of your wok. Woks--the right ones, anyway--can withstand very high heat, so you can get an excellent sear.
However, the shape of the wok makes it hard to sear larger pieces and get even browning. And, woks are typically thinner carbon steel than skillets, so they won't retain heat as well.
A lot of people use their woks for searing, but a cast iron skillet is our top choice for most searing.
Full-sized woks (14" diameter) work great for Asian steamers. You can place the steamer(s) inside the wok (these steamers are designed to fit perfectly) with a little bit of water or stock, and in a few minutes, you can have a whole meal on the table.
Soups, Stews, Braising
Woks are big, so you can use them for soups, stews, and braising.
This is a standard application for many Asian cooks. However, if your wok is carbon steel (and it should be), these liquid cooking methods will erode the seasoning. So if you use your wok this way, you may be having to re-season it more frequently than you'd like to.
An alternative is to buy a second wok in stainless steel, which requires no seasoning, or you can go with a chef's pan, Dutch oven, or deep sauté pan, all of which are excellent choices for liquid cooking methods.
(The deep sauté pan is one of our favorites.)
Why Don't My Home Stir Fries Taste Like Restaurant Stir Fries?
When you buy a wok, you may have dreams of re-creating your favorite Chinese restaurant dishes.
Unfortunately, it's unlikely you'll be able to do that. The sizzly, smoky flavor you get from Asian restaurant food is largely due to what's called wok hei, which translates roughly as "breath of the wok."
This wok breath is the result of extremely powerful burners. A typical home gas burner puts out 7,000-12,000 btus; if you have a professional range it could be as high as 20,000 btus.
Restaurant wok burners put out 100,000-150,000 btus.
The powerful flame is what provides the distinct flavor of restaurant wok-cooked food. The flame literally goes up the sides of the wok, and when the chef tosses the wok, the food will actually move through the flames, which is how it gets that delicious smoky flavor.
You can't do this at home.
But worry not: there are some things you can do to get that wok hei flavor at home:
- Cook in small batches: If you're cooking on a regular stove top burner, cook in small batches. Yes, part of the appeal of wok cooking is that it's a one-pot meal. But stove top burners aren't hot enough to attain the wok hei flavor. You can compensate for this by cooking in small batches: adding less food to the wok allows it to stay hotter, so it will cook at a higher temperature. You may not get ideal wok hei flavor, but cooking in batches can really improve the flavor of your stir fries.
- Get an outdoor wok burner: If you really want the wok hei flavor, get an outdoor wok burner. They're available in a wide range of btus, but you can get them as powerful as 200,000 btus, which is more than powerful enough to get the flavor you're looking for. (All you need is practice.)
It may take a bit of practice to perfect these methods, but they will definitely help you get closer to that elusive wok flavor.
Common Types of Woks
You may already be aware of the types of woks on the market, but we'll cover them briefly here.
The traditional wok has a round bottom and is designed for use with an open flame. It has one long handle and one helper handle.
The burner you use should be large enough for the wok to sit safely on it, without rocking or sliding. The round bottom is ideal for wok cooking as it allows the flames to shoot up the sides of the wok evenly.
Round bottomed woks are best for use with a gas burner; if you have an electric coil or glass top stove, go with a flat-bottomed wok, which has more surface area to heat.
You can buy a wok ring that allows you to use a round-bottomed wok on any cooktop, but it's not ideal because they aren't stable and will move around frustratingly as you move the wok. And, if it's a coil or glass cooktop, the wok is too far away from the heat source to get as hot as it needs to be.
Flat-bottomed woks are just that: they have a flat bottom designed for use with electric coil and glass cooktops. Like round-bottomed woks, they have a long handle and a short helper handle, in the traditional northern Chinese design.
Traditional Asian woks have a smallish flat cooking surface, about 5.5-6 inches on a 14" wok. Other (non-Asian) brands tend to have a larger flat cooking surface of 7-8 inches on a 13"-13.5" wok.
There's no right or wrong design, but the smaller flat cooking surface is more traditional. If you choose one with a larger flat cooking surface, it will have better crossover to a skillet, but less wall space to move your food around as you will want to do in a traditional stir-fry.
A Cantonese wok is shaped like a standard wok, but it has two short handles. It usually has a flat bottom. These aren't as common simply because they're harder to use: When you're cooking over a hot flame, you really want the long handle because it's much safer.
The one pictured here is cast iron, which is a common material for Cantonese woks, but you can find them in other materials, including carbon steel and clad stainless steel.
Why Is Carbon Steel the Best Wok Material?
Woks are available in many different materials, including carbon steel, clad stainless steel, cast iron, and nonstick-coated aluminum.
We strongly recommend carbon steel in a light-to-medium gauge (which we talk more about below).
Carbon steel is the ideal material for woks. It heats slowly (like cast iron), but once heated it retains heat well. The thinner gauge you want in a wok won't retain heat as well as thicker gauges you may find in skillets, but you want the lighter weight for wok cooking, particularly if you like to toss the wok. And because most wok cooking happens fast, the heat retention isn't as important. (Some people prefer thicker gauge woks, but we like the lighter ones--if you want a thicker one, typically 1.8mm, look for that in the description before you buy.)
Another aspect of carbon steel is that it becomes more and more nonstick with use. Nonstick is a great feature in a wok because without it, they can be messy to clean.
So these are the two main features of carbon steel that make it the ideal wok material: light (at least lighter than cast iron), and it develops a nonstick patina. It is also extremely durable and will last for decades: a $50-60 carbon steel wok can provide a literal lifetime of service.
The downside of carbon steel is that it needs seasoning. And this can be a bit of a pain in the beginning, as most carbon steel cookware is sold with a protective wax finish that needs to be removed before any seasoning, much less cooking, can happen. But seasoning isn't difficult, and once you've got your carbon steel wok seasoned, it will just keep getting slicker and more nonstick. At least, it will if you don't use it with acidic sauces or with a lot of liquids, both of which will cause it to need more frequent re-seasoning.
Most woks come with instructions for washing and seasoning, but if yours doesn't, you can find the information on the Internet. Here's a short video from Serious Eats (a reliable source of cooking information) on seasoning a carbon steel wok.
Don't let seasoning scare you. It can take a little practice, but once you know how to do it, it's a simple process.
Gauge: How Thick Should the Carbon Steel Be for a Wok?
The carbon steel used to make woks varies in thickness from about 1.5mm (16-17 gauge) at its thinnest to about 1.8mm (15 gauge) at its thickest. "Gauge" is simply a unit of measurement for the thickness of steel. For most people, the millimeter equivalent is more useful, so that's what we use.
The weight difference between 1.5mm and 1.8mm carbon steel is substantial. A 1.8mm, 14" wok weighs upwards of 4 pounds, while a 1.5mm, 14" wok weighs 3 pounds or less. If you want to toss the wok, the 3-pound wok is easier to handle.
A lot of sites will tell you that you need the thicker gauge carbon steel for a wok. We disagree. Woks are designed for very fast, high heat cooking, so why would you need a thicker carbon steel?
You may want the thicker gauge because the wok will be more durable. It's true that the thinner carbon steel could warp or get bent out of shape more easily. However, we haven't had any issues with this in our testing. (By the way, warping isn't a huge issue with a wok because carbon steel is tough and you can simply hammer it back into shape if you have to.)
A thicker gauge wok would certainly be better for searing and braising because it will hold heat longer. But if you're going use your wok primarily for stir-frying, this is a minor issue.
There's no right or wrong answer. It's about personal preference, and how you'll use your wok. But when you buy, you should know the thickness of the carbon steel so you can make an informed decision. Fortunately, most makers provide this information.
Types of Carbon Steel Woks: Hammered, Spun, and Stamped
Carbon steel is fairly malleable, which means there are several ways to make objects out of it.
Woks can be hammered, spun, or stamped.
Hammered woks are hand hammered into shape from a flat piece of carbon steel. This is a traditional Asian way of making woks. The wok will have hammer marks, and some people prefer them because the marks help food cling to the sides of the wok while stir-frying. Surprisingly, hand-hammered woks tend to be about the same price as woks made other ways, although you can find some artisan woks that go for a premium.
Spun woks are made on a lathe, which is a machining tool that rotates sheets of metal around a central point, turning the sheet into a round-shaped object. If you've ever seen a wok with concentric grooves, you've seen a wok that was made on a lathe.
Spinning is also a fairly traditional method of wok-making. Some people like the concentric grooves because they help food stick to the sides of the pan during stir-frying (like hammer marks). However, some people hate them, saying they're hard to clean because of the many tiny ridges.
Stamped woks are made the most modern way: a large machine stamps a sheet of carbon steel into a wok shape. Stamped woks have a very smooth surface and are most likely to be found in a non-Asian brand. And obviously, clad stainless and nonstick woks are almost always going to be stamped.
All types of woks perform about the same (if they're carbon steel), and surprisingly, most are priced about the same, unless they're an artisan brand. Our recommendations include spun and stamped woks, but we would be happy to include a hammered wok, as well.
As with thickness, there's no right or wrong answer, but you may want to know how your wok is made before you buy it, especially if you have a preference.
Why Are Nonstick Woks a Bad Choice?
If you take nothing else away from this article, take this: Don't buy a nonstick wok.
Yes, the nonstick is appealing because it's easier to wash and you don't have to season it. But a nonstick wok is a terrible choice for several reasons. Here are the three most important ones.
High Heat Destroys Nonstick Coatings (All Types)
Nonstick coatings are inherently at odds with standard wok cooking: Good wok technique requires high heat, and high heat destroys nonstick coatings.
If the coating contains PTFE (any brand of Teflon), high heat (above about 400F) will release toxic fumes.
If the coating is ceramic nonstick, high heat simply destroys the nonstick properties.
Either way, a nonstick wok is not what you want.
If you read reviews of nonstick woks on Amazon, you'll see a lot of complaints about nonstick coating peeling off or otherwise not lasting. Well, duh.
Nonstick Coatings Are Terrible for the Environment
If you've read any of our articles about nonstick cookware, you may know how terrible the PTFE cookware industry is for the environment. It is almost single-handedly responsible for the world's water supplies being contaminated with PFOA and other toxic, carcinogenic PFAS chemicals.
Yes, PFOA is no longer used, but the replacement chemicals are just as bad. And these chemicals aren't regulated, so makers are still free to dump them into the water supply.
It's a terrible industry, and buying any PTFE nonstick cookware supports it.
The Aluminum Base Won't Hold Heat as Well as Carbon Steel
Most nonstick cookware has an aluminum base, and aluminum is not the best material for high-heat stir-frying. Aluminum heats quickly and evenly, but it cools down just as quickly (because it is a very responsive material, making it excellent for many other types of cooking). Carbon steel heats slowly, but once hot, will hang onto heat much better than aluminum (because it is not responsive, so it has good heat retention).
The same is true for clad stainless nonstick woks, which also have an aluminum center for responsive heating and cooling; the steel somewhat negates this, as it has better heat retention than aluminum--but it's nothing like carbon steel.
If you want a wok you don't have to season, we strongly recommend going with clad stainless without a nonstick coating. It won't hold heat like carbon steel, but it will do a much better job than nonstick, and it will last much longer than nonstick (decades vs. just a year or two).
Woks Vs. Chefs Pans, Deep Sauté Pans, and Dutch Ovens
A wok can serve as a versatile piece of cookware, but if you want something for tasks beyond stir-frying, you may want to consider a clad stainless chefs pan.
Yes, you can use woks for steaming, braising, and making soups and stews, but as we've mentioned, these high-liquid cooking methods will destroy the seasoning, meaning you'll have to re-season your wok more than you might want to do.
These uses are common in traditional Asian cooking, and you can certainly use your wok for all these things. However, if you don't want to be frequently re-seasoning your wok, you may want a different pan for braising, steaming, and soups and stews.
Chefs pans are large and shaped much like woks. They're typically large, and are a very versatile pan (thus the name). You can use a clad stainless steel chefs pan for dozens of tasks, including soups, stews, braising, steaming, searing, and even stir frying.
If you want something with more cooking surface, then a clad stainless deep sauté pan or a cast iron Dutch oven is an excellent choice. Both are deep, with a lot of cooking surface, and are excellent for all the tasks listed above. Enameled cast iron Dutch ovens are the ideal choice for braising and stews because they hold heat incredibly well. Deep sauté pans are also extremely versatile, great for pretty much any stovetop application: soups, stews, searing, pan frying, deep frying, stir frying, and more. They'll work for braising too, though clad stainless can't match the heat retention of cast iron.
Which pieces you need entirely depends on what you like to cook. If you do a lot of stir frying, a wok is the best piece. If you only stir fry occasionally, you may prefer a chefs pan, Dutch oven, or dee sauté pan.
Or, if you do a lot of braising, the Dutch oven is an essential piece that you can use for many other things.
The most interchangeable of these is probably the chefs pan and the deep sauté pan in clad stainless, but again, it all depends on how you cook.
What to Look for When Buying a Wok
Much of this we've already covered above, but here's a summary of what to look for when buying a wok.
We strongly recommend carbon steel woks for reasons given above.
If you want your wok for steaming and braising rather than stir-frying, you may prefer a clad stainless wok, which doesn't need to be seasoned.
Avoid nonstick woks; cast iron woks will work, but they're heavy and hard to handle.
All of our recommendations are carbon steel and one clad stainless model.
Shape: Round Vs. Flat Bottom
If you have a gas stove or are going to use a powerful wok burner, you can go with a traditional round-bottomed wok.
If you have an electric coil or glass top stove, you must go with a flat-bottomed wok.
You can also use a flat-bottomed wok on a gas burner (but not vice versa). A round bottom better facilitates even flames up the sides, but it can be harder to handle.
Standard wok size if 14 inches in diameter. You can find them as small as 12 inches.
For most stir frying, you want a lot of surface area, so the 14-inch size is good even if you're just cooking for two or three people.
If you're limited in storage space, go with a smaller wok. Otherwise, we recommend a 13.5-14 inch wok.
You almost certainly want one long handle and one short handle; this is the traditional northern China wok design.
The long handle makes the wok much easier to handle over high heat.
Handles can be made of wood or steel. Wooden handles are traditional for good reason: they'll stay cooler, so are easier to handle over high heat. They also provide excellent grip for what can sometimes be an unwieldy handful.
Wooden handles are also lighter than all-steel handles.
Steel handles aren't the end of the world, especially on smaller woks. But we much prefer the traditional wooden (or bamboo) handles.
All woks of any size should have two handles--don't buy a wok without a helper handle.
Lid or No Lid?
Lids aren't necessary for traditional wok stir-frying. However, if you want to use your wok as a chefs pan, for braising, soups, and other things, you want to get a wok with a lid.
Keep in mind that a lid requires more storage space, especially a domed lid. And many wok lids don't have a loop, so you can't hang them with the wok.
If you do want a lid, you have to decide on wooden, aluminum, steel, flat or domed. Our pick has a domed aluminum lid, which we prefer. Wooden lids are traditional, but they absorb cooking odors and won't last as long as the wok itself.
There's no wrong answer here. It just depends on how you're going to use the wok.
But we will say this: If you already own a Dutch oven, chefs pan, or deep sauté pan, you probably don't need a lid with your wok.
Utensils include wok spatulas, spiders, and spoons.
You will definitely need a wok spatula for stir frying, but you don't have to buy a wok that comes with one. They're inexpensive and easy to find, if not an Amazon than at any Asian grocery. We recommend a steel wok spatula because it will fit the curve of the wok better than bamboo and will be generally more useful.
If you don't already own a spider or large slotted spoon, it's a great tool for deep frying and fishing any sort of bits out of any liquid (as in making stock). The Asian spider tends to be less expensive than American brands and just as good (though it may not last as long as the steel is typically not as high quality).
Depending on how you'll use your wok and what you don't already have, you may want all three. Here's a nice set of all three for a reasonable price.
Do I Need a Wok Ring?
A wok ring helps to stabilize a round-bottomed wok on a flat cooktop, or on a gas burner if it doesn't easily fit between the slats of the burner.
Wok rings can be tricky to use if they're designed to sit on top of a burner: they tend to slide around and make it hard to handle the wok, especially if they're lightweight stainless steel (shown above left). A cast iron wok ring (shown above right) is the best choice if you want to keep your wok as stabilized as possible.
Built-in wok rings that replace your cast iron burner are a much better choice, though more expensive.
Don't try to use a wok ring to adapt an electric coil or glass cooktop to a round-bottomed wok: it will keep the wok too far away from the heat source, so you won't get the blistering heat you need for optimal wok cooking.
Best Flat Bottomed Wok: Joyce Chen Carbon Steel Wok
The Joyce Chen wok is 14" in diameter and about 4.5" deep. The flat cooking surface is about 5.5" in diameter. It is spun from 1.5mm thick carbon steel and has a birch handle and helper handle. It weighs 3.2 pounds. It's a great choice for gas cooktops (no ring required), and will also work on electric coil and glass cooktops.
A lot of sites recommend the thicker Joyce Chen wok (1.8mm carbon steel), but we prefer this one. You don't need thick carbon steel for stir frying, and the thinner walls keep this wok nice and light--though heavy enough to feel well made.
The spun carbon steel is a classic way to make woks; it provides tiny ridges to help food stick to the sides. However, some people find it harder to clean.
We picked thinner gauge carbon steel because it's good for stir fries and easy to handle (under 4 pounds). If you're going to deep fry or braise, you may want a thicker gauge carbon steel (or possibly a clad stainless wok, see below for review). In this case, we recommend the Helen's Asian Kitchen wok, which is 1.8mm thick.
The Joyce Chen is a standard carbon steel wok, nothing fancy about it. But if you want a basic carbon steel wok that will last for decades and keep getting more nonstick with use, it's a reliable brand and a good choice.
However, there are several carbon steel wok brands on Amazon that could work just fine for you. We chose brands that had a recognized name and a lot of reviews. But you can find one for less that could be just fine it's just a bit more of a risk if you go with a brand that isn't as well known.
Whichever carbon steel wok you buy, know that it will come with a protective coating that will have to be scrubbed off, then the wok will have to be seasoned before use. If you follow the instructions that come with it, you should be fine--and once this essential care is done, the wok will continue to get more seasoned and more nonstick with use.
Buy joyce chen carbon steel wok now:
Best Wok with Lid and Spatula: Helen's Asian Kitchen Carbon Steel Wok
Helen's Asian Kitchen wok is 13.5" in diameter and about 4.5" deep. The flat cooking surface is about 5" in diameter. It's made from 1.6mm spun carbon steel. It has bamboo handle and helper handle and comes with a bamboo spatula and aluminum lid. It weighs about 4 pounds with the lid. It will work on all heat sources, with the flat bottom good for electric and glass cooktops.
Helen's Asian Kitchen wok is a good package deal that includes spatula and lid. It is well made and gets good reviews, with most of the negative reviews from people who don't understand how to use carbon steel cookware.
The spun carbon steel is a classic way to make woks, used for thousands of years. Spinning provides tiny ridges to help food stick to the sides. However, some people find spun woks harder to clean. (We don't have a problem with them.)
Most wok cooking is stir frying, which doesn't require a lid. If that's what you're buying a wok for, then you don't need a lid, and this domed lid will add substantially to the storage space you need for a wok. (If you hang your cookware, note that there is no loop on this lid to attach it to the wok for hanging.)
However, woks are quite versatile, and a lid adds to their versatility. With a lid, you can braise, steam, and simmer. So if you're looking for a multi-functional piece of cookware, then a wok with a lid is a good choice.
The 13.5" size is just a hair under standard, and the weight is also about standard for the size.
The bamboo spatula is our least-favorite piece in this set, because the best wok spatulas are steel and built to match the curve of the pan. (We couldn't find any woks that came with a lid and a steel spatula.) Bamboo is lovely, but it's thick and not great for a wok. A steel wok spatula is a better choice. Or, if you want the set, get a steel spatula, spider, and ladle. With all of these tools plus a lid, you're ready to wok just about any way you want to.
On the other hand, if you don't want to shell out any extra money, the bamboo spatula is a nice feature.
This wok must be scrubbed and seasoned before use. Scrubbing removes the protective coating it's shipped with and may require 2-3 washings to fully remove it. Then seasoned to cover the cooking surface with a protective patina that won't rust and gets more and more nonstick with use. This is all standard with carbon steel cookware, and even pre-seasoned carbon steel still requires thorough washing before use. Follow instructions that come with the wok and you should be fine (and ignore the negative reviews from people who didn't follow the instructions and don't understand carbon steel cookware).
Overall, this wok is a great choice if you want a standard-sized wok with a lid. It's also a great deal at about $40. Just be sure you want the lid before you buy. 🙂
buy Helen's asian kitchen wok with lid and spatula:
Best Pre-Seasoned Wok: BK Black Steel Wok
The BK Black Steel Wok is 12" in diameter and about 3" deep with cast iron handle and helper handle. The flat cooking surface is about 8" in diameter (large for a wok). It is stamped from 1.6mm pre-seasoned black carbon steel. It weighs about 4 pounds.
If you're looking for a truly pre-seasoned wok, or want a smaller-than-standard size, the BK black carbon steel wok is a great choice. It's well made and gets good reviews, with a few complaints about loose handles.
The pan is also beautifully designed. If you chose a wok purely by aesthetic qualities, this would the choice every time. One thing you will either love or hate about it is the larger-than-usual flat cooking surface: most woks have about a 5" flat spot, but this one has closer to 8". For use on an electric or glass top stove, this provides a lot more contact with the heat source. (For use on gas, you may want something more wok-shaped so the flames can shoot up the sides more easily.)
The wok comes with a wax coating, as most carbon steel woks do. Be sure to wash the wok thoroughly before first use to remove all the wax. To do this, follow the instructions that come with the pan or google for more detailed instructions (basically, you just have to wash in soapy water 2-3 times, scrubbing with a non-abrasive sponge to remove the wax). If you can smell wax when you heat the pan, it needs another wash.
The cast iron handle feels very sturdy, but it adds weight to this pan: at 4 pounds, it's a little heavy for a 12" wok; many 14" woks weigh less than this, so if you want something smaller because it's lighter, this may not be the right choice.
buy BK pre-seasoned black steel wok:
Best Round Bottomed Wok: Letschef Pre-Seasoned Carbon Steel Wok with Utensils
The Letschef wok is 14" in diameter and weighs 3.3 pounds. It has a bamboo handle, steel helper handle, and comes with a spatula, spider, and wok ring. This wok is for use with gas stoves or other open flame heat sources--not for use with an electric coil or glass cooktop.
The Letschef round-bottomed wok is a little spendy, but it's good quality and gets great reviews. The pre-seasoning is real, though you do need to wash thoroughly before use, which may result in it needing a re-seasoning before use for best results (or at least using a thorough coating of oil on the entire cooking surface).
The Letschef wok comes with a spatula that actually fits the curve of the pan, which is exactly what you want in a wok spatula. You also get a spider (for fishing out deep-fried goodies), and a wok ring, which, if you don't have one, will cost you an extra $10 or so (and you should really have one of these cast iron rings for best results--the lighter ones tend to slide around on the burner and can be frustrating to use).
One of the things we really like about this wok is its weight: only 3.3 pounds. This is due to its thin gauge carbon steel of just 1.2mm. Some sites say this is not thick enough to retain heat, but for fast-cook methods like stir frying, it's fine (and perfect if you're looking for a wok that's fairly easy to toss).
It's a bit thin to retain heat well for deep frying, but other than that, it's an excellent wok.
It has a sturdy bamboo handle and steel helper handle; we prefer a wooden helper handle because it doesn't get as hot, but the steel will hold up well even if it gets direct flames on it (which, if you're using the wok correctly, it should).
Buying a pre-seasoned wok won't save you from the seasoning process; the seasoning won't last forever, so you will need to re-season it occasionally.
Unseasoned Option: If you don't mind seasoning, you can save a few bucks and get a just-as-high quality wok. We like the Craft Wok for about $60. At a thickness of 1.8mm, it's a little thicker and heavier than most of our other choices.
buy the letschef pre-seasoned round-bottomed wok:
Best Stainless Steel Wok: Cooks Standard Tri-Ply Wok with Lid
The Chefs Standard wok is 13" diameter--a bit smaller than standard wok size--and weighs about 4 pounds without the lid. The flat cooking surface is about 7" in diameter. It has stainless steel handles and domed stainless lid.
Stainless steel isn't our first choice for a wok because it's heavy, it heats and cools more rapidly than carbon steel (you want a material that hangs onto heat), they won't develop a nonstick patina as well-seasoned carbon steel will, and they're almost always way more expensive than carbon steel woks.
Still, there may be times when a stainless steel wok is the better choice. For example, if your stir fry sauce is quite acidic, because acid will eat away at the seasoning on carbon steel. It's also a decent choice for braising and steaming, which use a lot of liquid, which will also wear away your carbon steel wok's seasoning.
In short, clad stainless can be a good choice for a second wok, or if you're primarily going to be using the wok for acidic stir fries and/or braising and steaming.
Or, if you just hate dealing with seasoning a carbon steel wok, then clad stainless is your best option.
Our recommendation is fairly inexpensive, but it's well made and gets surprisingly excellent reviews. It comes with a domed lid, which means you're set for braising and steaming in it. It has a nice amount of flat cooking surface, making it a good choice for electric and glass cooktops (more contact with the heat source)--but makes it less than ideal for a gas burner.
Skip the disc-clad woks, such as the Cuisinart Chef's Classic wok. The price is appealing, but you really need full cladding so the sides hold heat all the way up.
Upgrade: You can go with an All-Clad Copper Core wok, which is beautiful, but doesn't come with a lid. You don't need to spend this much to get satisfactory performance from a wok.
Alternatively, you may want to consider a good quality Chef's Pan, which is close to wok-shaped but also excellent for many other tasks; it also comes with a lid, adding to its versatility. A chef's pan just might become your go-to pan in a way the wok might not.
buy cooks standard tri-ply wok with lid:
What is the best wok material?
As we've already said, carbon steel is by far the best material for a wok. It's durable, holds heat well, and the surface gets more and more nonstick with use. Best of all, carbon steel woks are surprisingly affordable, and they'll last for decades.
Stainless steel woks are an option for those who don't want to deal with seasoning, but they are not optimal because they won't hold heat as well.
Avoid nonstick woks, which can emit toxic fumes at the high heat used with wok cooking.
What is the best size wok to buy?
A standard wok is 14 inches in diameter, and this may sound large, but it's an ideal size for traditional stir-frying even if you're just cooking for a couple of people. You want all that surface area so you can move food around the pan as needed to cook it properly.
A smaller wok will work for 2-3 people, but it really isn't ideal. If you have the storage space, go with the standard 14-inch size.
What is the best wok for a gas stove?
A 14-inch carbon steel wok with a round bottom is the best choice for a gas stove. If you're concerned about stabilization, you can also get a flat-bottomed carbon steel wok. The difference in performance will be minimal.
What is the best wok for an electric or induction cooktop?
For an electric coil or glass top stove, you need a flat-bottomed wok. Carbon steel in a 14-inch size is the best choice for most people.
Should I get a wok with a lid?
Traditional stir-frying does not require a lid, but a lid can be useful if you want to use your wok for other tasks. Keep in mind that a lid can require more storage space, especially if domed. If you already own a Dutch oven, chefs pan, or deep sauté pan, you probably don't need a lid for your wok.
What is the best wok for beginners?
A 14-inch carbon steel wok is a great choice for anybody who wants to get into Asian stir-frying. It's inexpensive, will last for decades, and you won't need to replace it as your skills grow.
Final Thoughts on Choosing the Best Wok for Your Kitchen
Buying a wok shouldn't be hard, and you don't have to spend a lot to get a good one that will last for decades, even if you go with clad stainless.
Probably your biggest decision is whether you need a wok at all: if you love Asian stir fries, then a wok is an excellent investment, as it is the ultimate pan for stir-frying, and versatile enough to use for other tasks as well (steaming, braising, searing, and more).
If you only stir fry occasionally, you may be able to get by with a big skillet or chefs pan.
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