Best Woks of 2018
A wok gives you the opportunity to prepare your favorite Asian dishes conveniently in your own kitchen. Our shopping guide is here to help you find the best wok to satisfy your next stir-fry craving.
Wok 'n' Roll: Your Guide to the Best Woks
If you're a fan of Asian cuisine, a wok is a must-have tool in your kitchen. Just turn up the heat to re-create all your favorite dishes.
But unless you're a cookware expert, it can be hard to tell which wok is a solid choice and which is a dud. With so many of these versatile pans on the market, what exactly should you look for to find the best wok for your kitchen? That's where we come in.
At BestReviews, it's our mission to cut through the jargon and help you find the best product for your needs. We test products in our labs and in real-world situations, consult experts, and gather feedback from customers who use the products on a regular basis. To avoid bias, we never accept free products from manufacturers. Instead we buy products right off the shelves just like you do.
If you're ready to purchase a wok, scroll up for BestReviews' top recommendations. For everything you need to know before you stir-fry, you've come to the right place.
Why Buy a Wok?
If you've already got frying pans, sauté pans, and skillets, do you really need a wok, too? Let's take a look at a few good reasons why you might.
- A wok is essential if you want to cook authentic Chinese cuisine. Woks are also common in Japanese, Malaysian, and Filipino cooking.
- Woks are extremely versatile pieces of cookware. They can be used for stir-frying, deep-frying, pan-frying, searing, boiling, steaming, poaching, braising, stewing, making soup, and more.
- Stir-frying food in a wok is a quick way of cooking, meaning you can get dinner on the table in no time.
- If you have a compact kitchen, you can make do with a wok in place of a saucepan, skillet, and frying pan.
Hammered, Stamped, or Spun: Types of Woks
Hand-hammering is the traditional method for constructing woks. Manufacturers take a piece of metal and hammer it into a wok shape. This process leaves small indentations, which catch cooked food when you push it to one side of the pan to cook fresh ingredients in the wok's hot center. The main downside of hand-hammered woks is that it can be tough to find flat-bottomed varieties.
Stamped woks are made from a single piece of sheet metal cut into a circle and molded into shape. The sides of stamped woks are completely smooth, meaning food often slides right back into the center when you try to push it to one side. They often feel flimsy, too, and are prone to developing hot and cold spots, but stamped woks are very inexpensive.
A spun wok is created by a lathe and has a unique pattern of concentric circles in its interior. Like the dents in hand-hammered woks, these circles keep food in place when pushed to the side of the pan. Spun woks, however, are easier to come by than hand-hammered woks, with plenty of flat-bottomed and long-handled options available.
Carbon Steel vs. Nonstick: Pros and Cons of Different Wok Materials
- Stainless-steel woks don't need seasoning.
- Most people find stainless-steel woks easy to clean and maintain.
- Many stainless-steel woks are dishwasher-safe.
- Stainless steel takes a long time to heat up and cool down.
- Food sticks to stainless steel more easily than almost any other cookware material.
An average stainless-steel wok costs between $30 and $80.
- Carbon steel is the traditional material for woks and is therefore favored by foodies and Asian-cooking purists.
- Since carbon steel heats quickly and evenly, it produces excellent results.
- A good carbon-steel wok is durable and lasts for decades.
- Carbon-steel woks require seasoning, which can be daunting for first-timers.
Expect to pay $30 to $50 for a carbon-steel wok.
- Cast iron holds heat well. With many dishes, you can turn your stove off toward the end of cooking and finish up with the residual heat.
- A quality cast-iron wok is hard-wearing and could last for generations.
- If you like to get a good char on your food, cast iron does the job well.
- Cast-iron woks are heavy and can be cumbersome to use.
- It takes a long time for cast iron to heat up and cool back down.
- You need to season a cast-iron wok.
A good cast-iron wok will cost you between $25 and $60.
- Nonstick woks are easy to clean.
- Even novice cooks find nonstick woks simple to use as food is very unlikely to stick.
- You can use less oil in a nonstick wok.
- The coating on a nonstick wok doesn't last forever. Your wok must be replaced once the nonstick coating gets scratched or starts to peel.
- Some people worry about the potential health risks of certain nonstick coatings.
Most nonstick woks cost roughly $20 to $50.
Hard-Anodized Aluminum Woks
- Woks made from anodized aluminum are lightweight yet durable.
- Hard-anodized aluminum woks distribute heat very evenly.
- Anodized aluminum is slow to heat up and cool down.
A quality hard-anodized aluminum wok should cost between $40 and $85.
Takeout at Home: Other Features to Consider When Buying a Wok
Think about what size wok you need for your household. A 12-inch wok makes one to two servings. A 14-inch wok makes three to four servings. A 16-inch wok makes four to six servings.
Round-bottomed woks are the traditional shape, and some purists insist they make the most authentic Chinese cuisine. But round-bottomed woks don't work well on modern stovetops. Flat-bottomed woks sit nicely on burners and are the practical choice for most cooks.
Some woks come with a lid. A lid is useful for recipes that call for the ingredients to be covered for all or part of the cooking time.
Cantonese-style woks have two small handles, one on either side. Northern-style woks have one long handle and a small helper handle on the opposite side. BestReviews recommends a northern-style wok with a long handle, which makes flipping and shaking ingredients easier.
Tips for Cooking in a Wok
- Not all woks work on induction stoves. Only pans made from magnetic materials work on induction stoves, so check before buying.
- Don't put your wok straight into cold water after use. This can warp the metal, which is an issue with flat-bottomed woks as the base may no longer make full contact with the burner.
- For the best results, always preheat your wok before adding ingredients.
- Don't fill your wok more than halfway full when cooking, otherwise the ingredients will steam rather than fry or char.
Q. Do I need to season my wok?
A. Only carbon-steel and cast-iron woks need to be seasoned. Seasoning is the process of coating a wok in oil so that it becomes nonstick in time. Different people use different seasoning methods, and it is an in-depth process. Most carbon-steel or cast-iron woks come with thorough seasoning instructions.
Q. How do I get professional results from my wok?
A. A good, heavy wok that heats evenly will help you produce excellent food. But to cook restaurant-quality food in your wok, you'll need to learn more about the techniques involved in wok cooking. A wok cookbook is a good place to start.
Q. What's the best way to clean my wok?
A. Be careful when cleaning your wok, especially if it's seasoned carbon steel or cast iron or has a nonstick coating such as Teflon. Too much scrubbing can remove the seasoning or scratch the nonstick coating. It's best to hand wash your wok with water and a mild dish soap. If your wok has stuck-on ingredients, let it soak for a while to loosen them.