Have you ever wanted to try your luck with Chinese food? You feel you have the skill but, you’re just one good wok away from perfect fried shrimps? You’ve come to the right place because we are just about to talk about this awesome cookware and see what is the greatest wok on the market.
There are a lot of good things to be said about Chinese dishes. They are tasty, well-seasoned, and packed with healthy nutrients.
What’s even better, this exciting symphony of meat, veggies, spices, and dressings is also conveniently chopped so you can simply dive into the flow of tastes without ever bothering to think about eating (well, unless you don’t want to impress your partner and bring chopsticks to the table).
Still, there is one thing that makes Chinese meals somewhat tricky, and I’m sorry to say that I spent a lot of my novice days trying to figure out why my recipes aren’t working out as they should.
The answer was rather simple and in front of my eyes – I was using all the wrong cookware. And although today it looks obvious, back then, I didn’t know that in order to make a perfect Chinese meal, you have to have a perfect wok.
What is a wok?
So what is that all-mighty wok is?
Well, essentially it’s a glorified round-bottom cooking vessel that does an excellent job distributing temperature making sure that your Chinese will be evenly fried.
The very word “wok” originates from the Cantonese dialect, which serves as enough evidence that you should set off to Oriental culinary adventures without one.
What are the different wok types?
Traditionally, woks can be divided by the materials they are made from Stainless steel, Cast iron, Non-stick.
- STAINLESS OR CARBON STEEL woks can be considered the most traditional variety. They are induction-ready, heat up very fast, and feature excellent durability. However, if you want to keep your food from burning you will need a good seasoning (pan seasoning, not food seasoning) and a pair of skilled hands.
- CAST IRON woks are usually much thicker and heavier so they are not that popular in restaurants where the showcase of skill is just as important as the quality of the final meal. On the other hand, they feature a much more stable carbonized layer of seasoning which reduces the chances of food sticking to the pan. This fact alone makes cast iron an excellent choice for beginners.
- Finally, we have NON-SLIP woks which feature coatings such as FPA and Teflon, which are, by all means, a double-edged sword. On the brighter sight, they make cooking a breeze. Unfortunately, if you use them, you will never be able to produce fabled wok hei (literary – ‘breath of a wok’) – that complex and unique charred aroma that can be accomplished only by stir-frying in a metal dish. This type of woks is usually made from light metals like aluminum.
Further Reading: Most Recommended Carbon Steel Woks
Why buy a wok and not a regular fry pan?
1. Even cooking
As we already briefly mentioned, because of their unique shape and excellent heat-conducting capabilities, woks do an excellent job making sure that your meals are going to be soft, juicy, and evenly fired.
2. The meals are healthier
Another great thing about woks being fast-burners is that the meals are prepared in a relatively short period. That, in turn, means that veggies will get that crisp, crunchy texture without losing too many nutrients and meat won’t have time to absorb too much oil.
3. More food on the table
Since they are built like giant bowls, woks pack many more ingredients than regular frying pans. That means less electricity spent on cooking and more food on the table.
4. Tossing food with ease
Another great thing about woks’ substantial dimensions is the fact that all the food you throw in the air will actually end up in the bowl rather than on the stove (most of it, anyway). That makes cooking incredibly easy and fun for beginners.
5. Less oil, healthier meals
Woks are often wrongfully accused of burning a lot of oil to be able to cook meals. That’s pretty much nonsense. If you preheat the pan before cooking and use the oils with low polyunsaturated fat content and a high smoke point (e.g. Grapeseed oil and peanut oil), you won’t have to use too much oil at all.
6. A spicy taste of Orient
Last but not least, most of the Oriental recipes were designed with wok in mind. You may try to get the same results with other types of pan. Good luck, cause you’re going to need it in abundance.
Things you should know before buying a wok
Woks are always bowl-shaped. The thing they differ the most is their bottom – some of them are flat, some of them round. If you want to efficiently preheat the wok and get that traditional wok hei this is the one to go. Keep in mind that these woks can be used only on gas stoves.
The flat-bottom woks are easier to handle, but more in line with traditional pans. They still produce more than satisfying meals.
Related: Suggestions for 30-Inch Gas Ranges
I already covered the traditional wok materials above so I won’t waste too much time on them.
The handles, on the other hand, are a completely different story. Here, you get two-handle bowl-like and single-handle (usually wooden or silicone) varieties.
As you would expect, single-handled woks are usually much easier to handle and they are often appropriately mounted on flat-bottoms while metal “ears” are saved for traditional woks.
Obviously, the size of your future wok will largely depend on your needs, and, of course, the size of your stove. Either way, even if you are buying a unit that should feed an entire family, there’s no need to go beyond the diameter of 12 – 14 inches. The larger woks might be too tricky for storing.
4. Extra features
When it comes to woks, you can’t expect too many extra features. You are, after all buying an upgraded pan. However, these things always come handy:
Most Recommended Woks: A Detailed Roundup & Reviews 2022
Lodge 14 Inch Cast Iron Wok
Let’s immediately get to the business – this is the one wok to rule them. It doesn’t take more than a brief walk through its specs to see why.
First, the beautiful and quite spacious bowl (you have whole 14 inches to bring your culinary phantasies to life) is made from cast iron which probably retains the heat better than any other metal.
Just, preheat the bowl, throw in the ingredients and your Mapo Tofu will be ready in no time.
Another great thing about it is that its surface is professionally seasoned without the use of any chemicals. The more you use it, the seasoning will only become better.
Also, the bowl is as tough as a nail. No matter where you use it – be it your electric stove, oven, or even a campfire – you won’t be able to beat it or bruise it.
What’s even most important, the wok offers an unprecedented cooking experience and produces that elusive charred note so characteristic for Oriental food.
What can I say – beauty and the beast coming in the same package.
The only downside, you’ll need to use the glows to move the bowl.
What I Liked
- Extremely satisfying cooking experience
- Heavy and durable
- You can put a lot of food in this wok
- Quality seasoning
What I Didn’t Like
- The handles tend to get quite hot
Joyce Chen 21-9980, Classic Series Carbon-Steel Nonstick Wok Set
If Lodge’s wok captivated me with its sheer quality and unprecedented cooking experience, Joyce Chen’s Carbon Steel Wok set does nearly the same with its value.
Seriously, coming at a very affordable price, this package has everything you need to make your first culinary steps.
Of course, the main star of the show is the slim and very light carbon steel bowl with a flat bottom (not overly, though – the heat transfer will still work like a charm).
The bowl is mounted with two phenolic stay-cool handles that. One of them comes in the form of the “side-ear” the second is the traditional pan-like handle. This combination offers a lot of variety and makes for an incredibly gratifying cooking experience.
And then, there are the goodies. The twelve-set I bought for myself contained a nonstick dome-like lid, bamboo spatula, slotted spoon and a bunch of chopsticks. More than worthy addition to my collection.
As for the very cooking, it’s really middle-of-the-road, which is to be expected from Xylan (a material very similar to Teflon), but it’s by no means bad.
It’s just not the wok you want to use to make awesome traditionally prepared meals, but rather awesome meals instead.
What I Liked
- Beautiful package
- A lot of value for the money
- Slim design
- Two different handles do come in handy
What I Didn’t Like
- The Xylan doesn’t produce the finest aroma in the world
Learn more about Asian kitchen: What Part Of Bok Choy You Should Eat
Craft Wok Traditional Hand Hammered Carbon Steel Pow Wok
Check this out – this wok was hand-hammered by Chinese professionals from the city of Guangzhou. I can’t even start to express the feelings that flow through me upon saying these words.
And this is truly a traditional huge wok from a bygone era. Now that is both good and bad news.
On the more positive side, the design and the materials are all traditional. The wok looks appropriately rough, and the wooden handle is beautiful albeit not entirely practical. The ancillary second handle is always a pleasure to see.
The choice of carbon steel as the bowl material is also excellent, and you won’t have any problem quickly pre-heating the wok before you pour in the meat and veggies.
So, you have all the building blocks of a good wok, and the price is not bad either, especially taking into consideration the fact that the unit is handmade.
On the downside, the wok is not pre-seasoned, which, to be quite honest is probably the most traditional way to make a wok, but it only gives you one more thing to think about and makes maintenance that much harder.
The bottom line, the purists will love it, beginners should skip it.
What I Liked
- Forged by Chinese masters
- You do get your traditional slightly charred note
- Pre-heating is extremely easy
- Very affordable for what it is
What I Didn’t Like
- Not the most practical wok on the market
- I would like to see it pre-seasoned
Related article: Most Recommended Carbon Steel Pans
Bruntmor, Pre-Seasoned Cast Iron Wok
Bruntmor’s wok is very decent. No, it is way more than decent. However, it doesn’t do anything terribly special to earn a higher spot on this ranking.
There are a lot of good things to be said about it, though. But, let’s not get ahead of ourselves.
First, the size is quite substantial – the diameter of 14 inches won’t have any problem feeding an entire hungry family.
Second, you get the awesome pre-seasoned (thankfully) cast iron construction which manages the heat distribution just about right. Still, not amongst the best I’ve seen as of yet.
The weight, on the other hand, is a much bigger problem, and moving the wok with two small handles while it is white-hot may not be the most pleasant thing to do. So, forget about showing off your ninja cooking skills in front of your partner.
But, not everything is average. The cooking experience is great, and your food will taste like Oriental heaven. Accomplishing wok hei at this price point is something definitely worth mentioning.
Also, the wok features a very nice rim base which means you can use it on a gas stove, but also on any other flat surface as well.
Essentially, a scaled-down version of our first mention which allows you to get a traditional wok taste without spending too much money.
What I Liked
- A lot of room for food
- Pre-seasoned cast iron
- The food tastes very good
- Nice base rim
What I Didn’t Like
- Business as usual
- Durability could be better
See also: Recommended Gas Cooktops – Reviews in 2022
T-fal A80789 Specialty Nonstick Dishwasher Safe Oven Safe PFOA-Free Jumbo Wok Cookware
This is the package I instantly fell in love with as soon as I laid my eyes on it, but never quite lived to my expectations. And it occurred to me – It’s not a wok. That realization rekindled our love.
The bowl is made from aluminum coated in with nonstick overlay and the bottom is flat, which means you won’t get traditional Oriental experience, but as a multi-purpose oversized pan, this wok does wonders.
It’s really no wonder – the aluminum does an excellent job distributing heat throughout the substantial 14-inch bowl, and once cooking is over, you can safely put your wok into the dishwasher and let it do the job instead of you.
Also, the ergonomic handle features a stay-cool silicone overlay that both keeps your fingers from burning and allows a very solid grip.
Although the heating base we can find of the bottom removes the pan even further from the traditional Oriental woks I talked about above, it improves the unit’s overall usability and makes cooking easier for beginners.
And that is the easiest way to describe this beautiful pan – a perfect wok for people who still haven’t mastered the art of wok hei but do love their stir-fried meat and veggies.
What I Liked
- Beautiful and versatile
- Easy to maintain
- Pretty large bowl
What I Didn’t Like
- Not exactly a wok in the most traditional sense
- The non-slip overlay is not that durable
See also: Learn How To Choose Electric Wok
And now, let’s see who wins this roundup.
This time deciding the winner was very hard because I really like Asian culture and adore Asian food and each of these woks offered me something unique and allowed me to prepare some unforgettable meals.
Still, it’s hard to deny that Lodge 14 Inch Cast Iron Wok stands tall as the undisputed king of the mountain here. Granted, the unit is not the cheapest or the most beginner-friendly, but if you want the real wok experience, here is your wok. You won’t find better taste anywhere else on the market.