A Guide to Purchasing the Best Wok for Your Needs
You may think that a wok is just an oversized frying pan, that allows you to prepare more food at once. But that’s only one feature of a wok. A wok reaches a much higher temperature (700 ℉ before you put food in, and around 350 ℉ after you put food in) than a typical frying pan. While cooking with a frying pan can allow you to cover the food with a lid and let it cook while you do something else, wok cooking requires that you constantly stir the food around, so that it doesn’t sit in any one place for too long and get burned. Wok cooking will generally get the food ready more quickly, while using less oil, than a typical frying pan.
But there are still lots of variables when deciding on a wok. They differ in the material of the wok, as well as in the size and type of handle. You may also have to consider what type of stove you have, to make sure that you get a wok that is compatible. There may be wok accessories that might help you guarantee success when cooking. We’ll try to go through some of the details, to help you decide!
Types of Woks
Looking at the Best Reviews Guide list of the best woks, we see that they can be made from a variety of materials:
Three-layer wok: These typically have a layer of aluminum sandwiched between two layers of stainless steel. The aluminum distributes heat evenly, while the stainless steel interior and exterior are non-stick and scratch-resistant surfaces. One such construction is utilized in the HexClad Hybrid Stainless Steel Wok. Because it’s made from a magnetic material, it is suitable on an induction stove. It also can be used on ceramic, electric, and gas stovetops, as well as inside the oven up to a temperature of 500 ℉.
HexClad Hybrid Stainless Steel Wok
Carbon steel wok: There are also carbon steel woks, such as the Yosukata Carbon Steel Wok Pan. The material has pores that absorb oil from cooking, to season the pan. This adds flavor to the food that you cook in it subsequently. Some woks are preseasoned, with the manufacturer baking a layer of vegetable oil into the metal. But there are other woks, such as the Craft Wok Carbon Steel Pow Wok, which require you to season them yourself before cooking any food in them.
Yosukata Carbon Steel Wok Pan
Craft Wok Carbon Steel Pow Wok
Cast iron wok: You can also find woks made from cast iron. Cast iron takes much longer to heat up but also retains its heat for a more extended period of time than carbon steel. It also retains seasoning from previous cooking, which adds flavor to the food, and becomes non-stick the more you use it. The Lodge Pro-Logic Wok is an example of a cast iron wok. It can be used on an induction stove, as well as in the oven, on a grill, or even on a campfire.
Lodge Pro-Logic Wok
Non-stick aluminum: You can also find woks from aluminum, with a non-stick Teflon coating for even heat distribution. It also can cook with less oil. This is convenient, but the Teflon tends to peel off over time. Also, since it’s non-magnetic, it won’t be compatible with induction stoves. An example is the T-fal Specialty Non-stick Wok.
T-fal Specialty Non-stick Wok
We can also distinguish between a long-handled wok, or “pow wok”, or a double-handed wok (also known as a Cantonese wok):
Long-handled wok: These have a long handle attached to the wok’s basin. It can either be attached by rivets, as in the Joyce Chen Carbon Steel Wok, or welded on, as in the Yosukata Carbon Steel Wok Pan. The welded handle is considered a more sturdy construction. The handle can be from wood so that it doesn’t get hot during cooking. But some have a stainless steel handle, such as the Willow & Everett Wok Pan. In that case, the handle is extra-long, so as not to get hot during use. Many long-handled woks will have a small loop handle opposite the long handle. This second loop handle allows you better control when trying to serve food.
Willow & Everett Wok Pan
Double-handled wok: There are also double-handled woks (also known as “Cantonese woks”), as we saw in the Lodge Pro-Logic Wok, and in the Chef’s Supreme 24” Hand-Hammered Cantonese Wok. The two handles give better control when serving food, but it’s more difficult to manage when actually cooking. The design was intended more for cooking inside a traditional Chinese stove, than for stir-frying and sauteing.
Chef’s Supreme 24” Hand-Hammered Cantonese Wok
What reviewers say
Here’s what customers say about their choice of wok:
Accessories: Some woks will come with a spatula. Unlike with Teflon-coated frying pans, there is no problem with using a stainless steel spatula to slide under the food when cooking.
Proper preseasoning: As opposed to a Teflon nonstick coating, a carbon-steel or stainless steel wok becomes nonstick through being seasoned with oil. “Seasoning” is essentially oil that has bonded to the surface of the metal through heat. Customers notice that the color of the wok’s metal will change as it becomes seasoned. This is not a defect in the metal, but rather the desired effect for better results when cooking.
Proper maintenance: Maintenance of the wok is also very important. It’s recommended not to leave it moist for long periods of time, because the iron or steel may rust. When cleaning, you should use a non-abrasive scrubbing sponge, so as not to damage the seasoned surface. Right after washing, it’s recommended to dry it, oil it up again, and heat it. This will preserve the seasoning.
Here are some features of the best woks, which may help you decide on one model over another:
Flat-bottom and round-bottom woks: You’ll notice that there are woks with a flat bottom, which sit well on a stovetop, and more traditional woks with a round bottom. The flat-bottom woks are better adapted to Western stovetops since they sit on the range more securely. (Some customers said that sadly a round-bottom wok doesn’t fit their home stove.) Also, if you use induction or electric stove, the flat-bottom wok is preferable, since it has better contact with the heating element. But the round-bottom wok allows you to stir the food more easily and evenly so that the food cooks more uniformly. It will be a preferred choice on a gas stove.
Purchasing a wok with a lid: For a stir-fry, you have to be working with the food at all times. But, a wok is capable of many more options. It can also be used for deep-frying, braising, sauteing, broiling, and grilling. If you want to stew or steam food in a wok, you’ll find that a lid can help immensely. The Helen’s Asian Kitchen Flat-Bottom Wok comes with a high-domed lid to retain heat and prevent the food or oil from spattering.
Helen’s Asian Kitchen Flat-Bottom Wok
We went through some of the options among the best woks available. If you make the right choice of wok that suits your stovetop and the amount of space available, you’ll see that a wok gives unique results that can’t be achieved with other cooking options. It’s also versatile, to use on the stovetop, in an oven, and even over a campfire. Try one out today!