Best 10 Woks
As Of July 2022
We did the
Best Woks & Stir-Fry-Pans: From Stir-Fries To Everything Far Eastern Cuisine Offers!
Where’s your wok?
If you are a fan of Far Eastern cuisine and culture, then you know that a wok is a must-have tool and a substitute for a frying pan when making any stir-fried Far Eastern dish. For real! Cooking with one is a whole new experience. So if you feel that this is what you’re missing then it’s time to make a change.
And it’s not just stir-fried food you can make with a wok. The versatility of this kitchen tool is out of this world! So, to ensure you get the best wok you can possibly invest in (and they are pretty durable), we’ve done the best possible research to present you with the top 10 options so you won’t feel overwhelmed.
Most importantly, we have a buying guide to ensure you know what to look for when you shop, from the material to the shape, and how to care for your wok to ensure it serves you for a long time.
What can you cook in a wok?
Stir fry is the most popular dish that has many people think about woks in the first place. But that’s not the only meal you can cook in a wok. In fact, the shape of this cookware gives it much versatility for a variety of dishes, like deep frying, braising, poaching, making soups and sauces or steaming (if it comes with a lid).
What is the best material for a wok?
While traditional woks were made of carbon steel, modern ones can be found in many types. That gives you a broader selection base, depending on your budget and ability to maintain them. Each material has its pros and cons, so make sure you take a look and decide the best material for your wok.
If you run into a traditional wok, the material will mainly be carbon steel. The advantages of carbon steel models are really important. They’re lightweight, heat up fast and evenly, and have a particular seasoning that most people find flavourful.
The downside for most individuals is the high maintenance level, and the need to season the wok to retain its quality. You will have to handwash it, without harsh detergents and abrasive cleaning cloths. But, with time, the seasoning and proper care make the wok non-stick and pretty durable.
Unlike the carbon steel material that heats up quite fast, the cast iron ones will take time. On the flip side, though, they are good at retaining the heat. You will also need to keep seasoning the iron material for better results in your food and for achieving greater durability of the wok. The good news is some brands sell their woks pre-seasoned, which saves you the hassle of seasoning every time you clean it. The material is also heavy, which might make it a bit hard for you to shake the food when cooking.
Many manufacturers are making woks from stainless steel, which is heavy and takes longer to heat up and cool off, which is not ideal for stir-frying. But, the material is good at heat distribution. Some manufacturers combine stainless steel with other metallic materials, like aluminium, to deal with this issue for faster heating and cooling. Most of the stainless steel woks are dishwasher safe, do not require seasoning and are also durable.
If you are looking for a wok that requires little maintenance, the non-stick material would be a great start. As long as you do not use abrasive cleaning items, like a scouring pad, the non-stick surface will last long. Also, non-stick surfaces do not need seasoning. The problem is its heating point because they cannot withstand high heat like the traditional carbon steel material. This makes it a bit challenging for you to sear any food, even veggies (which is one of the reasons you need a wok. To sear your food!).
What are the different types of woks?
Apart from using the material type to differentiate woks, you can also use the handles' design. The choice is based on personal preference, but it also comes down to the cooking style you want.
Mandarin and Northern-style woks have a single wooden or metallic handle and a distinctive round-shaped bottom. These are best for stir fry meals, as the handle makes it easy for you to flip the food. Some of the Manadarin style woks might have a second small handle on the other side, allowing you to lift the wok when filled with food easily.
On the other hand, you have the Cantonese type, which has handles on either side of it. The handles are usually U-shaped. While these woks are best for easier lifting, especially when making large quantities, they are not the best choice for stir fry that requires you to flip the food.
Which is better: cast iron or carbon steel wok?
Considering that both of these materials are great in distributing the heat evenly, it could be difficult for one to choose. But, you might want to consider getting the carbon steel instead of the cast iron wok. Why? It’s lighter, heats up faster and is better for stir-frying, boiling and blanching.
Thus, cast iron woks are heavier, taking longer to heat and requiring more energy when you need to flip the food. This is best for poaching, boiling, braising or deep cooking.
Weight and Balancing
For effortless flipping of your stir-fries, the woks need to have an excellent balance and a lightweight design. Both of these will depend on the wok's material, but if the material is heavy or has a long handle then you should consider one with a second handle for better balancing.
Is the handle long or short? Is it heatproof? Long handles are best for flipping or tossing food, and are also further from the heating surface. But these require ample storage space, which makes the short-handled woks excellent for anyone with limited space. The short handles, though, are close to the heat. You might need a pair of gloves to protect your hands.
Consider how fast the wok heats up, how evenly it cooks and whether it cools off fast enough. You should aim for a fast heat up and think about your dishes when it comes to evenly cooked results.
Should I choose a flat or round bottom wok?
When it comes to the shape, there are two types to choose from, round or flat bottom. For fast and even heating, the flat-bottomed wok is the best type. Traditional Chinese woks are found in this style. However, these are hard to balance on some heating surfaces, like the induction or an electric hob.
If you have a hob with a flat surface, a flat-bottomed wok is what you need. With proper placement, they can distribute heat evenly.
How do you season a wok?
Carbon steel and cast iron woks will require seasoning before using. If you settle for these two types, here is how you can season the wok for perfect results and durability:
- Wash the wok with non-abrasive products after unpacking to remove leftover machine oils. The oils are just there to reduce rusting while in transit.
- Set the heating surface to a high temperature. Heat the wok for about 10 minutes, or as instructed by the manufacturer. During the heating process, the wok's colour might change, but this should not lead you into a panic attack.
- When the whole wok is hot, (we mean very hot) switch off the heat and let the wok cool. Then, apply some oil, mostly high-smoke oils like vegetable or canola oils using a hand towel or a dry paper.
- If there are other residues, wipe them away with a dry towel or paper, and continue heating the wok for 5 minutes or so. Again, you might notice the colour changing and some smoke, but it is normal.
- Set the wok aside and let it cool before storing it away.
Tips for using a wok like an expert
Unless you don’t want to end up shopping for a new wok after a few months, you have to care for it like it’s the most precious cookware you have (because it is). To do it like an expert, here is what you need to do:
- Always cook with high-smoke oils like corn, vegetable, canola, and grapeseed oils. These can withstand high temperatures, which you need for frying. Coconut oils and flax oils are a no for woks.
- Most wok materials will take a while before heating, so you need to ensure the wok is hot before adding any oil. Imagine leaving the oil in there while your wok heats up. This can damage your wok's surface.
- To know whether the wok is hot enough, pour a few water droplets. If they disappear right away, then it’s hot enough to add the oil.
- For quick and even cooking, cut all the ingredients into small or thin pieces.
- When searing, the best results are achieved when you add ingredients in small batches. Add the first batch, push the ingredients to the sides, clear the middle surface, and then add the next batch. Continue with this process until you have added all the ingredients.
- When flipping the ingredients, it is best to flip them in a tumbling motion. However, if you cook in a heavy wok or the Cantonese type with two handles, use a spatula to turn the food.
With the plethora of cookware items, enjoying any type of cuisine in your home is getting easier and easier. To achieve that perfect stir-fry dish with a touch of Far Eastern style, all you need to do is invest in one of our recommended woks and stir-fry pans. They are affordable, readily available in the UK, and work on most sources of heat, including electric & gas stovetops. Most importantly, our buying guide saves you from all the hassle of going through an array of product descriptions without knowing what to look for exactly. Check our top 10 options and prepare your delicious meals.