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Chinese food sometimes gets a bad rap for not being very healthy, but a tasty stir fry loaded with veggies is one meal you don’t have to feel guilty about enjoying. When the craving for stir fry hits, a trip to your favorite Chinese restaurant isn’t always necessary. Stir frying is an ideal method for home cooking because it’s quick, easy, and can be very nutritious. But if you’re going to make delicious stir fry meals at home, you definitely need a good wok; you simply cannot get the same results with a frying pan.
Choosing the right wok means knowing what to look for. Woks are available in a variety of materials, sizes, and designs, so before you buy one, you should know which model is going to work best in your kitchen.
At BestReviews, we don’t accept products from manufacturers, so our recommendations are 100% unbiased. We also conduct field and expert research so that we can provide all the info you need to make a good shopping decision. If you’re ready to buy a wok, check out the matrix above for our top recommendations. For general info about woks, continue reading this shopping guide.
If you enjoy stir frying, you definitely need a wok. Yes, you could do the job in a basic skillet, but you wouldn’t get the same results as you would with a classic wok.
Even if you don’t stir fry weekly, a wok can come in handy in your kitchen. It can double as a skillet, Dutch oven, and even a saucepan.
You can also use a wok with a bamboo steamer to steam your favorite veggies and dumplings.
Product in Depth
Product in Depth
Cooks Standard Multi-Ply Clad Stainless Steel
Stainless steel, by its nature, cannot be seasoned, so the Cooks Standard will never be considered a nonstick wok. However, the brushed 18/10 stainless layer does resist sticking and scorching very well if the cooking temperature is carefully monitored. The Cooks Standard wok is dishwasher safe and will withstand oven temperatures approaching 500°F.
Stir frying in a wok allows you to cook meals quickly and easily. Preparing the raw ingredients may require a little time, but it usually takes five minutes or less to actually cook the food in your wok.
Because foods are cooked quickly when stir fried, they aren’t overheated. That means they hang onto all of their heat-sensitive nutrients for a healthier meal.
Most stir fry dishes feature large amounts of vegetables paired with smaller amounts of meat. That allows you to prepare an inexpensive yet satisfying meal.
When you stir fry in a wok, the food isn’t exposed to excessive amounts of heat for a long period of time. As a result, the veggies retain their color, and your food looks more attractive when it hits the table.
If you’re having trouble getting your children to eat their vegetables, stir fry dishes are an ideal option. Kids often enjoy watching the cooking process and the food’s bright colors, so they’re more likely to eat the vegetables.
Organize and prepare all of your ingredients before adding them to your wok. Food cooks quickly in a wok, so you don’t want to waste time chopping veggies or measuring out sauces in the middle of cooking.
Woks can be made of carbon steel, stainless steel, cast iron, anodized aluminum, and/or nonstick materials.
Carbon steel conducts heat very well, so it heats quickly and evenly.
Carbon steel requires seasoning, but it offers a naturally nonstick surface.
Carbon steel is extremely durable, which means it can last for years.
Stainless steel woks don’t require seasoning like cast iron or carbon steel woks do.
Food can stick to the stainless steel, so you may need to use more oil.
Stainless steel is extremely durable, which means you can clean it with steel wool if necessary.
Use an oil with a high smoke point when stir frying. Make sure the oil is cold when you add it to the hot wok.
Cast iron requires seasoning, but the surface of a cast iron wok is naturally nonstick.
Cast iron can take a long time to heat up and cool down.
Cast iron woks – and other cooking utensils made of cast iron, for that matter – can be heavy and difficult to maneuver.
Anodized aluminum distributes heat well, but it can take a while to heat up.
Anodized aluminium woks are lightweight but fairly sturdy.
Anodized aluminum woks are usually treated with some type of nonstick coating to make the pan easy to use and clean.
Nonstick woks are treated with a nonstick coating that makes cleanup extremely easy.
The nonstick surface means you don’t need to use much oil. This is great for those interested in low-fat cooking.
Nonstick woks don’t get hot enough to sear and brown foods.
There may be some health risks associated with the chemicals in the coating of nonstick woks.
When you’re preparing stir fry in a wok, don’t push the food around the way you would in a skillet. Instead, lift the food with your spatula and allow it to tumble back down.
Woks are made several different ways. They may be hand-hammered, stamped, or spun. Each construction method impacts the final product in a different way.
Traditional woks are hand-hammered, which means they have slight indentations from the hammering that allow you to keep foods on the side of the pan without them slipping back down.
Most hand-hammered woks do not have a flat bottom or handle.
In a pinch, a wok can double as a mixing bowl for baking.
Stamped woks are produced by taking a circular piece of metal and pressing it into a mold with a machine. They have an extremely smooth surface, which means food that you push to the side is likely to fall back down into the center of the wok. Stamped woks often develop hot and cold spots that can lead to uneven cooking.
Spun woks are made on a spinning machine, which gives them a pattern of concentric circles. The texture allows you to push food to the sides while frying without it falling back into the center of the wok. Spun woks usually have flat bottoms and handles.
Use a spatula with a rounded metal edge or a wooden spoon when frying in your wok. These utensils are less likely to harm nonstick surfaces.
Woks vary in size; the typical wok diameter is somewhere between 10 to 16 inches. As you shop around, however, you may encounter woks as large as 36 inches in diameter and as small as eight inches in diameter.
If you’re debating what size of wok to get, realize that larger woks can be difficult to handle, and smaller woks may not have enough room for ingredients if you have a larger family.
A 14-inch wok is usually a good choice for home cooking.
A wok ring can help stabilize the pan on the stovetop.
In addition to size and the material and method with which the wok is made, here are a few other features to pay attention to when selecting a wok.
Traditional woks have a rounded bottom that gives them a bowl shape. However, the rounded bottom doesn’t work well on modern stovetops, so it requires a wok ring to stabilize it.
A flat-bottomed wok can work on virtually all stovetops as is. Look for a wok with a flat bottom area of four to five inches and gently sloping sides that flare out.
It’s important not to overcrowd the wok when you’re stir frying. For example, you shouldn’t add more than 12 ounces of protein to a 12-inch wok.
It’s a good idea to look for a wok that comes with a lid, though you may encounter some models in your product search that do not have one. A wok lid allows you to cook meals with just a little oil and steam the food inside rather than frying it.
Woks usually have one or two handles.
If you opt for a heavier wok, we suggest you get one with two handles. Having two handles makes it easier to maneuver both the pan and the ingredients.
For the most functional wok, look for one with a long handle on one side and a shorter handle on the opposite side.
If you choose a wok with a lid, we recommend you get one with a clear glass lid. That way, you can check the progress of your food without removing the lid.
Woks vary in price based on their material and size, but you can typically expect to spend between $25 and $85 on a good one.
For a nonstick wok, you’ll usually pay between $25 and $40.
For a cast iron wok, you’ll usually pay between $25 and $60.
For a carbon steel wok, you’ll usually pay between $30 and $50.
For a stainless steel wok, you’ll usually pay between $30 and $80.
For an anodized aluminum wok, you’ll usually pay between $50 and $85.
Product in Depth
Product in Depth
T-fal Nonstick, Dishwasher/Oven Safe
We are impressed by the T-fal's inclusion of a "helper handle" and its exceptional lightness. Cooks should have no problem tossing or flipping food in this pan, although the limited flat surface necessitates careful handling. The nonstick coating is PFOA-free, and the pan may be placed in an oven up to 350°F.
Woks made of cast iron or carbon steel must be seasoned before you use them for the first time. Scrub the pan with soapy water and dry it thoroughly before placing it on the stove over high heat. After the wok is completely heated, remove it from the stove. Rub down the entire surface of the wok with oil to season it.
After it has been seasoned, washing a wok with soap can ruin the seasoning. Instead, use very hot water and a soft sponge to gently clean the wok.
To get restaurant-quality stir fry at home, preheat your work. Place it on the stove over medium-high heat with nothing in it. Let it heat until water that you drop onto the surface immediately evaporates.
Use an oil with a high smoke point (like peanut oil) in your wok, and make sure that the oil is cold when you add it to the hot pan.
For a stir fry, it’s important to cut all the ingredients to a uniform size ahead of time. That way, they’ll cook evenly once you throw them into the wok.
For the perfect stir fry, cook your protein first. When it’s finished, remove the meat from the wok and add the veggies. Just before the veggies are done, toss the meat back in.
Your ingredients should always be dry when you add them to the wok. If they’re slightly damp, they’ll lower the wok’s temperature.
Q. What type of wok is easiest to clean?
A. A nonstick wok is usually very easy to clean because you can simply wipe it down. However, seasoned cast iron and carbon steel pans are naturally nonstick and therefore fairly easy to clean as well.
Q. What else can you make in a wok besides stir fry?
A. You can make a variety of dishes besides stir fry in your wok. A wok is ideal for tossing a salad, scrambling eggs, preparing taco filling, warming tortillas, steaming seafood, and roasting coffee beans.
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At BestReviews, we purchase every product we review with our own funds. We never accept anything from product manufacturers. Our goal is to be 100% objective in our analysis, and we do not want to run the risk of being swayed by products provided at no cost.