Woks have been in use for centuries, designed for cooking foods at high temperature while constantly stirring or flipping the food to keep it from burning. But woks aren’t just for stir frying – they can be used for shallow or deep frying, for steaming, or for simmering foods.
Woks are often described as having a round bottom or a flat bottom. That refers to the outside bottom of the pan, which affects the type of cooking surface you can use.
Round bottoms are traditional on woks, but they need a... wok ring to keep them stable on gas cooktops or other cooking surfaces. They don’t do well on glass or electric cooktops, since the bottom of the wok doesn’t touch the heating surface. Flat-bottomed woks can be used on a wide variety of cooktops, including glass, electric, gas, and some can even be used on induction cooktops.
The inside of a traditional wok is rounded, with sloping sides and a wide rim. Some of the more modern woks have a flat cooking surface on the inside, with typical sloped walls.
While the general shape of the wok is fairly consistent, the material that woks are made of varies quite a bit, from the traditional raw carbon steel to more modern materials like stainless steel or even nonstick. Each material has its pros and cons, but woks are relatively inexpensive, so there’s no reason you couldn’t have two – or more – in your kitchen. Read on for our best picks of 2018.
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This wok is about as far from traditional materials as you can get – which makes it great for the modern cook in a contemporary kitchen. It’s made from heavy gauge hard-anodized aluminum with three layers of nonstick coating on the cooking surface for durability. And of course the nonstick coating helps prevent the food from sticking and burning, which is a risk when stir-frying.
The aluminum heats quickly and evenly and the stainless steel handle is designed to stay cool on the stove.
This wok... has a flat bottom that’s a bit larger than the bottom of a traditional wok so you get plenty of heat in the center for stir frying. You can use it on any gas or electric stove, but since it’s made from aluminum, it won’t work on an induction cooktop. It includes a domed cover for steaming, or you can use the wok for simmering, braising, or frying.
This is a little small compared to more traditional woks, since it’s only 10 inches in diameter at the rim. The sides have a steeper slope than some woks, so it’s more compact for storage. This is a great starter wok for someone who doesn’t want to store a large a large wok or who prefers a pan that’s not quite so specialized.
This wok is oven-safe to 450 degrees and dishwasher safe. It has one long handle with a hole for hanging.
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Woks are not typically expensive pieces of equipment, but this one is particularly wallet friendly. The large 14-inch wok is great for cooking large family meals, while the nonstick cooking surface makes it easy to use and clean, since food won’t stick.
This wok is made from aluminum, so it’s lighter in weight than steel woks. It’s oven safe to 350 degrees, and it’s also dishwasher safe, for easy cleaning. A large wok can be a bit difficult to fit into a dishwasher, but this is nonstick inside... and out, so it’s easy to wash by hand, too.
Since this is made from aluminum, it can’t be used on an induction cooktop, but since it has a flat bottom, it can be used on any gas or electric stove. It has a long handle, and a helper handle that makes it easy to use and move, and the handles are covered with silicone for a stay-cool comfortable grip. The inside bottom has a flat cooking surface that’s more typical in modern woks.
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This 12-inch wok has an aluminum core inside of dual layers of stainless steel, so it heats evenly, provides fast browning, and it can be used on any type of cooktop, including induction. The exterior is brushed stainless steel for an elegant look, and since it’s stainless inside and out, you can use metal utensils in it with no problem.
This comes with a tempered glass lid, so you can use it for steaming or other cooking purposes, and you can watch what’s cooking. Both the pan and lid are oven... safe, so you can finish a dish in the oven, or keep it warm for serving. The pan is also broiler safe.
This wok has a flat bottom inside and out, so it can be used on any type of stove. It has one long handle and one helper handle, so it’s easy to use and easy to move.
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Carbon steel is a very traditional material for woks, but it has some downsides that a home cook needs to be aware of. Like cast iron, carbon steel needs to be seasoned to keep it from rusting and it can’t be washed in a dishwasher. When this wok is hand washed, it needs to be dried immediately and oiled before storing to keep it from rusting. A well-used carbon steel wok will turn black from use and will become more and more nonstick over time.
When carbon steel is heated, it emits a metallic... odor that some cooks find objectionable. This odor becomes less noticeable as the wok is used and seasoned over time.
Since carbon steel is so prone to rusting, woks are sold with a coating that must be removed before the wok is seasoned before its first use. It’s important to read the specific instructions included with the wok for the proper way to remove the coating.
This wok is made from cold forged carbon steel with two riveted loop handles and a very traditional round bottom. You’ll need to use a wok ring to hold it on your gas stove. It won’t work well with other stovetops, since the round bottom won’t make contact with the heat.
While carbon steel is one of the most traditional wok materials, casual home cooks might find the care and seasoning to be more than they want to deal with unless they’re passionate about wok cooking. At 16 inches, this is also a large wok that will take quite a bit of storage space.Continue to 5 of 6 below.
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This 14 inch wok combines traditional carbon steel construction with a premium nonstick surface that’s safe for metal utensils, so it doesn’t require the finicky care of an uncoated wok. However, wood, nylon, or silicone utensils will help extend the life of the nonstick surface.
The wok has a long maple wood handle and a helper handle that look attractive and stay cool during cooking. It also includes a domed lid.
This is great for a first-time wok user since it includes the many of the tools... needed, including a tempura rack, a bamboo spatula, bamboo cooking chopsticks, six pairs of bamboo dining chopsticks, a steaming rack, bamboo tongs, and a bamboo rice paddle.
This pan should be hand washed without any abrasive pads or cleaners. It should not be washed in the dishwasher. Because of the wooden handles, it is not oven safe.
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This heavy, sturdy, cast iron wok can be used on any kind of cooktop, including induction – and you can even use it on your grill or on a campfire. Cast iron isn’t a typical wok material, but it retains heat well, even when you’re adding cold ingredients to your stir fry.
While the base is of this 14-inch wok is flat, the inside has a rounded bottom that’s more typical with traditional woks. The wok has two large loop handles that make it easy to move, even when you’re wearing mitts. Since it’s... so heavy, you won’t be able to use this to flip the stir-fry food, but the weight means it won’t move on the stove when you’re stirring and mixing.
This is also great for deep frying, and requires less oil than a saucepan or that has a flat bottom and straight sides.
This should be seasoned before the first use and should be cleaned, cared for, and stored just like any other cast iron cookware.
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