From stir fry to soup, a wok is a handy tool to have in the kitchen. One of the most versatile of cooking pans, a wok offers a simple design that can make it possible – and easy – to cook just about anything. Their deep bowls retain heat, which holds a large amount of both solid and liquid ingredients, and evenly heats the food you are cooking to ensure it is perfectly prepared. While a wok is certainly an excellent cooking pan to have in the kitchen, finding the best one for your needs can be a bit challenging. There are so many different options to choose from, which is a good thing, but having so many options can make it difficult to choose the best wok for your needs.
In order to help you on your quest for finding the best wok, we have put together this handy buyer’s guide. This guide highlights the different types of woks, the factors to consider when choosing a wok, the different features they can offer and the best brands of woks that are on the market. With the information offered in this buyer’s guide, you will be well informed and well on your way to finding the best wok for your specific needs.
Types of Woks
When it comes to buying a wok, you will find that there are several different types to choose from. In order to find the best wok for your needs, you first have to understand the different types that are available.
Woks can be differentiated by the type of material that they are constructed out of. There are four main materials that woks are made out of, which include:
- The carbon steel wok
- The stainless steel wok
- The cast iron wok
- The copper wok
Here is a breakdown of each of these four types of woks.
The Carbon Steel Wok
Carbon steel allows for fast and even heating while offering exceptional durability, making it one of the most preferred materials for a wok. Carbon steel woks come in different gauges, which will impact the heat induction and the durability of the pan. Most chefs agree that a 14 gauge carbon steel is the best, as it is strong, offers great heat induction and is lightweight enough to make flipping foods while cooking a breeze. Carbon steel is also magnetic, which means that they can be used with wok induction ranges. On the downside, carbon steel woks need to be seasoned in order to prevent sticking, which takes some know-how. Also, carbon steel woks tend to be the most expensive.
The Stainless Steel Wok
A less costly alternative to carbon steel, stainless steel woks also offer great heat induction and cook food evenly. Stainless steel is also durable and relatively easy to maintain. However, this material is heavier than carbon steel and it takes a longer time to heat up, which can make it a bit more difficult to cook certain dishes, such as stir fry. Also, stainless steel has to be properly seasoned early on, otherwise the pan becomes sticky, particularly when cooking proteins, such as chicken or beef.
The Cast Iron Wok
Cast iron is another option to consider. This material is strong and durable, but only when it has a thick construction. When it is thin, it is fragile, which will impact the durability of the wok. While a thick cast iron will ensure durability, it also makes the pan heavier, which will make it more difficult to flip foods while you are cooking your food.
The Copper Wok
A copper wok is designed with a stainless steel interior, which will allow you to head and cook your food quickly, safely and efficiently. Copper is an excellent conductor of heat; however, it is not safe for direct cooking, which is why this type of wok has a stainless steel interior that can make it heavy and cumbersome to flip foods. Cooper offers a beautiful and shiny finish, but it is susceptible to oxidization, so it needs to be properly cared for.
Woks can further be differentiated by the way that they are manufactured. There are three ways that woks can be made, which include:
- Traditional hand hammered
Traditional Hand Hammered Woks
As the name suggests, this type of wok is created by hammering the material by hand. This hand hammering leaves behind slight indentations, which will allow you to push the foods that you are cooking to the sides of the pan so you can easily add ingredients to the center without having to worry about slipping. On the downside, it can be difficult to find a hand hammered wok that has a flat bottom.
Stamped woks are created by cutting a circular piece of thin carbon steel and pressing it into a mold with a machine. This method of construction is inexpensive and offers a smooth surface, which can make it difficult to properly cook stir fry and other dishes that use a lot of ingredients that are added to the wok during the cooking process.
Spun woks are created on a lathe, which gives them a distinct patter of concentric circles. This pattern offers the same benefits as a hand hammered wok, which will allow you to keep your food in place against the side of the pan.
Factors to Consider When Choosing a Wok
There are a number of factors that you should take into consideration when choosing a wok. By taking these factors into consideration, you will be able to choose the best wok for your specific needs. Some of the top factors that you are going to want to consider include the size of the wok, the rate at which it heats up and the price, among other things. To learn more about these and other important factors that you should take into consideration when choosing a wok, please keep on reading.
One of the first and most important factors that you are going to want to consider when choosing a wok is the type of material the pan is made of. As mentioned above in the ‘types’ section, woks can be made out of four different materials: Carbon steel, copper, stainless steel and cast iron. Each of these materials offers certain benefits, so make sure you read over the ‘types’ section so you can gain a better understanding of each material and the benefits that they offer when deciding what material would work best for your cooking needs.
Another important factor to take into consideration when choosing a wok is the type of bottom. Woks can have either a round or a flat bottom. The type of bottom that will work best for you will depend on the type of heating element you will be using it on. If you are going to cooking with your wok on an electric range, you should choose a flat bottomed wok; one with a round bottom will reflect the heat that the pan generates back onto the electric heating element, which can do some serious damage to it. A round bottom wok is better suited for use on a gas stove, as you do not have to worry about the heat that it generates damaging the heating element. A flat bottomed wok can be used on both gas and electric heating elements; however, if you are going to be cooking on a gas stove, a round bottomed wok is a better option, as it provides more even heating.
You should also consider the type of handles the wok has. You will have the option of either a single, long handle, or two smaller handles that are placed on either side of the pan. The advantage of a single, long handle is that it will be easier to tilt the wok and flip the food inside the wok when you are cooking. Also, a long, single handle can help to prevent burning yourself. The benefit of having two handles is that you will have better control over flipping your food, which can help you avoid spilling items out of it while you are cooking.
Another factor that you are going to want to take into consideration is the size of the wok. The size that you will need depends on the amount of food that you will be preparing at one time. Woks come in several sizes, from a few feet in diameter to mini woks that are less than a foot in diameter. Larger woks are mainly used in commercial settings, such as restaurants; however, if you have a large family or you often entertain a large crowd, a larger wok may be a good choice for you to use in your kitchen. If you are going to be cooking for a smaller crowd, opt for a smaller wok, as it will take less time to heat up and cook your food.
Another thing to keep in mind when considering the size is the depth of the wok. Woks also come in several different depths. The deeper the pan is, the easier it will be to contain your food; however, it can also be more challenging to move ingredients to one side in a deep pan. It will be more difficult to contain a large amount of food in a shallow pan, but it will be easier to move ingredients to one size, and it will take less time to cook your food in.
Lastly, you should also consider the price of the wok. These pans vary significantly in price. Generally, stainless steel is the least expensive option, while carbon steel is the most expensive. Also, the more features that a wok offers, the more expensive it will be. Make sure you know how much you want to spend before you start shopping so you can avoid spending more than you are comfortable with.
The Features Woks Can Offer
Believe it or not, woks can actually offer several different features. These features are intended to make the pan easier to use, and more efficient. As mentioned above, the more features a wok offers, the more expensive it will be. It is important to understand the intention of these features so that you can determine whether you want or need them, and if the added cost will be worth your while.
Here is a look at some of the most popular features that woks can offer.
A Non-Stick Surface
If you want your wok to be truly easy to clean, and you want to avoid having your food get stuck to the pan, look for one that offers a non-stick surface. With a non-stick surface, the food you are cooking won’t get stuck to the interior of the pan, which means there will be less of a likelihood of burning, and the pan will be much easier to clean.
A Covered Handle
To protect your hands from the heat induction that the wok will create and spread into the handle, a covered handle is a great feature. With a covered handle, you won’t have to worry about burning your hand or using a pot holder to flip your food while you are cooking it.
A lid can also be a handy feature for a wok to have. If you plan on using the wok to simmer food or cook soups, a lid will definitely be useful.
The Best Wok Brands
There are several manufacturers that make woks, which can make it difficult to choose the best one. We have tested them all out, and have narrowed the selection down to the following brands, which we think are the absolute bes.
This company produces some of the best woks on the market. They use high quality materials and durable construction to craft woks that will last a long time.
This company is a trusted brand in the kitchen product industry, and their woks are excellent. Constructed of durable materials and expertly crafted, they cook excellent meals.
We also like the woks that are created by Lodge. They offer various types of woks, including pre-seasoned cast iron, that yield exceptional results.