You don’t have to cook with a wok to create a good Chinese meal, however, the best carbon steel wok offers key advantages, such as even cooking and a lower oil requirement for deep frying. These pots can also be used in conjunction with steamers to cook more than one dish simultaneously. Basically, once you use a wok, you’ll find yourself relying on it for almost every meal, since they’re incredibly versatile. But if you’re new to wok use, how do you know what features to look for or even how to choose a wok that’s designed to last? That’s where I come in…
As an experienced cook, I’ve tested out many of the top-selling models of carbon steel woks on the market and have narrowed it down to the leading six models. These models have what it takes to withstand heavy-duty use, feature a durable design, and can turn out a pro-quality stir fry and other dishes you’ll love. Below, you’ll find a comparison chart that lists each of the woks that made it onto my must-have list, the top features they have to offer, and how they rated.
Carbon Steel Wok Comparison Chart
|Souped Up Recipes Carbon Steel Wok|
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|Craft Wok Traditional Carbon Steel Wok|
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|Mammafong Carbon Steel Wok|
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|Golden Tulip Carbon Steel Wok|
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|Timoneylove Carbon Steel Wok|
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Souped Up Recipes Carbon Steel Wok
This twelve and a half-inch flat-bottomed wok is compatible with induction stoves, electric stoves, and gas ranges. The durable materials and lightweight design make this model a great buy for cooks of all skill levels. The wok comes with some nice extras including a metal spatula and a wooden lid. This is a versatile wok that allows you to cook a wide range of foods, and features the type of lightweight design many cooks are looking for since it allows the user to easily handle the pot, even when it’s full.
- Compatible with all types of ranges
- Lightweight design
- Lid included
- Must be washed by hand
This versatile, durable wok can withstand heavy-duty use, thanks to the rust-resistant, carbon steel design. It comes with a wooden stay-cool lid and handle and features the type of lightweight design that allows you to easily move the pan from surface to surface even when it’s full. This wok is a great buy for cooks of all skill levels.
Craft Wok Traditional Hand Hammered Carbon Steel Pow Wok
This fifteen-gauge wok is made out of commercial-grade carbon steel and features the traditional Chinese round-bottom design. However, the design of the wok can be limiting for some users. This model should not be used on flat induction or flat electric stoves. The wok’s steel helper handle remains cool to the touch, even when you’re cooking at a higher temperature, while the long wooden handle will also remain cool to the touch during use and features an ergonomic design that improves user comfort.
- Stay-cool handles
- Traditional round-bottom design
- Low price
- Wok does not come with a lid
- Not compatible with flat ranges
This is a fairly basic wok that offers a decent cooking capacity. The biggest selling point is the comfortable wooden handle. The wok itself is low-maintenance and dishwasher safe, which will be a big selling point for most buyers. The wok’s durable carbon steel design is durable, yet lightweight, and will heat up quickly while distributing heat evenly.
Mamma Fong Carbon Steel Wok
This is the top-selling model for Mamma Fong and it features a flat bottom design that makes it a more versatile pan since it can be used on induction, electric, and gas ranges. The wok itself features an authentic hammered carbon steel exterior with a base that has been machine-pressed for improved durability. The wok is designed for both personal and commercial use and can handle heavy-duty use. The carbon steel material ensures the surface of the pan heats evenly, with no cold spots. It will also heat up significantly faster compared to stainless steel and cast iron.
- Hammered carbon steel exterior
- Stay-cool handle
- Fast heat-up time
- Does not include a lid
- Must be washed by hand
If you love hosting dinners at your home, then this model’s higher cooking capacity will give you every reason to buy. It’s built tough, features a durable design and it earned top marks for its beautiful exterior that makes this pan display-worthy. This is an authentic Hei wok that is made out of high-quality carbon steel that’s designed to cook food evenly, while offering superior heat up time. The ergonomic wooden handle combined with the lightweight durable design makes this pan a great choice for home and pro use.
Gold Tulip Carbon Steel Wok
This is a fourteen-inch carbon steel hand-hammered wok that disperses heat evenly and quickly. The 1.2-millimeter thick carbon steel construction is lightweight and makes the pan easy to handle and move a full pan from one surface to the next. The long wooden handle will remain cool to the touch during use, which is a great safety feature to have, especially for those with small children in the home. This model features a deeper and larger pro canton-style design that offers an interior that will become naturally nonstick once it has been seasoned. The pan is rust-resistant, durable, and since it’s made by hand, it’s one of a kind.
- Stay-cool handle
- Hand is unfinished
This model features a unique handmade design complete with a larger, deeper interior that allows you to cook a higher volume of food, making this pan a good choice for those who love to host dinners, or for large families. This model must be washed by hand only in order to prevent damage that can occur in a dishwasher. This model earned top marks for its handmade design, thicker than average carbon steel material, and overall quality.
Timoneylove Carbon Steel Wok
This model earned big due to it’s pre-seasoned design that gives the pan a nonstick surface right out of the box, unlike competing models which must be seasoned by the user. The pan is made out of 1.8-millimeter thick carbon steel, complete with a one-piece handle design and joint reinforcement. The pan is free from any chemical coatings and features that beautiful, clean traditional design that’s made out of cold-forged carbon steel.
- Made out of cold-forged carbon steel
- 8 millimeter thick
- One-piece handle design
- Must be washed by hand
- Heavier than average pan
- Can cause user fatigue
Unlike competing models, this wok is pre-seasoned, so you can enjoy a smooth, nonstick surface, that allows you to cook without oils. The handmade cold forged carbon steel design and hand-welded one-piece handle tells me this is one durable wok that can be used in a commercial kitchen or at home. While the pan must be washed by hand, it’s a fair trade-off for a model that’s durable and a steal for the price.
Carbon Steel Wok Buyer’s Guide
Using a good wok will make it much easier to cook your favorite Chinese dishes, not to mention dishes from other cultures.
There really is no substitute for a durable wok made out of carbon steel. These woks are affordable and do an excellent job of conducting heat. While there are woks that are made out of other materials including copper, stainless steel, and aluminum, carbon steel is the best option, according to many of the pros.
Benefits of Cooking with a Carbon Steel Wok
- The biggest benefit of cooking with a wok is that it allows you to cook a healthy meal in a fraction of the time it would take cooking in a cast-iron pan.
- When using a wok, you don’t have to use much oil, even when you stir fry or make your favorite Filipino rice recipes. Somehow, veggies are still able to retain a crunchy and crisp texture, while seafood and meats will not absorb a large amount of oil, making a meal more heart-healthy.
- Using a wok will eliminate the need to cook with several pots and pans. Just a single wok is able to hold a wide variety of ingredients.
- Woks can be used for frying, steaming, and sautéing
Other Important Features
Woks have been used for hundreds of years and have more recently become popular in western cuisine. These pots are very versatile, easy to use and clean, and allow you to cook more efficiently, using less oil, so each dish is light and healthy.
So, what features do you need to look for in a wok? The most important features include the following:
- Nonstick surface
Below, you’ll find more in-depth information concerning feature options and how to ensure you buy a wok that’s designed to last.
If you’re cooking on a western electric range, then you’ll want to use a flat-bottom wok. Round bottom models will reflect the heat back at the element, which can damage it. This type of wok can also be used on a gas range.
Some woks come equipped with a couple of handles, which can make them much easier to lift. But many modern models will have one single long handle that’s made out of metal or wood. You’ll find some models of round-bottomed woks that follow the traditional wok design with the two small metal handles, or a single long wooden or metal handle.
These pots will come in a variety of sizes. It’s common for a commercial kitchen to use a wok that measures several feet across. The size of wok you use will depend on many different factors, including the type of range you have, your cooking needs, cooking volume, and the depth of the wok.
Since the rise in popularity of low-fat cooking, there are many manufacturers that offer woks that have non-stick coating. But how well this type of cooking surface works will depend on the type of coating and how it’s applied. Generally speaking, a nonstick coating will not work well on woks that are made out of carbon steel. If you want to use a nonstick wok, then I recommend purchasing a model that’s made out of aluminum.
Not all woks come with lids, but if it does, a lid can make it much easier to cook your favorite Chinese dishes. In most cases when cooking Chinese cuisine, ingredients need time to simmer and must be covered when cooking. So, if you buy a wok with a lid this can make cooking your favorite dishes significantly easier.
Before you use your wok for the first time, you’ll need to season it. Seasoning the pan will remove any preservative oil from the wok’s surface. The preservative oil should be replaced with a light coating of cooking oil instead.
Cooking with a wok offers a healthy alternative to using a traditional frying pan. These pans are versatile and beautifully constructed and should have a place in every home kitchen. While they’re mainly used for frying, they can be used to stew, braise, and steam, all of which are healthy cooking methods.
Basically, the wok is a type of frying pan, yet the curved shape of the pan changes how your food is cooked. It’s much healthier than using a standard frying pan due to the high heat retention, combined with the need for very little oil. Additionally, the food can be pushed up the wok’s sides and will still be cooked. Pushing the food up the sides of the wok will also allow you to drain any excess oil.
Unlike a traditional frying pan, the higher sides of the wok are what will allow you to cook more food as it’s being stirred, without the food soaking up any oil that remains in the bottom of the pan. The structure of the wok is what allows the veggies or meat to cook more evenly, all in one pan.
With a wok, the veggies or meat are put into hot oil at the bottom of the pan as they fry, until they’re cooked halfway. The food is then pushed up the sides of the pan while the next ingredients, which are usually delicate seafood or tender veggies, are then added. As the last ingredients are cooked, the first ingredients added are still cooking, just at a much slower rate. This helps to prevent food from being overcooked.
High Food Volume
Compared to a standard frying pan, the wok features a much larger usable cooking area. Due to the high edges, the cook can place more food in the wok. This means you can cook a higher volume of food and enjoy leftovers the next day. This will also help when it comes to less cleanup after a meal, since there are fewer pots and pans to clean.
How to Cook with a Carbon Steel Wok
When you’re cooking with a wok, always be prepared. Before you begin heating up the pan, make sure you have all of the ingredients ready and cut into uniform pieces that are bite-sized. This will promote even cooking. Stir-frying doesn’t require a lengthy cooking time, so you won’t have a chance to chop up food while food is already cooking in the wok. Make sure you place the ingredients next to the wok in the order that it will be added to the pan.
The wok should be heated over medium-high to high heat for a period of two to three minutes before you add the oil. Once the wok is hot you can pour a couple of tablespoons of oil into the pan, moving the oil around the pan’s surface in order to coat the sides and bottom.
If you’re going to add some garlic and onion, make sure you add the onion to the oil and stir often as you cook until the onion has softened. Next, you’ll add the garlic and allow it to cook for one minute before you add the protein, whether it’s tofu, chicken, or beef. Cook the protein for two to three minutes before you add hardy veggies. Cook for a few minutes before adding any leafy veggies or delicate ingredients. To keep the contents of the pan moving around, use a long spatula. If you’re cooking a large amount of veggies learning how to make rice curry dishes, then cook the protein until it’s almost done and then transfer it to a plate or bowl while the veggies continue to cook. Add the protein back to the pan when the veggies are almost ready, in order to finish the cooking process.
The best carbon steel wok will be built tough, lightweight, and can allow you to cook your favorite dishes, whether it’s a simple stir fry, or a beef and barley stew. These pans are just that versatile. The guide I’ve written will give you a good foundation in terms of finding a wok that includes all of the features you know you’ll need in the kitchen, based on how much food you want to cook at one time, the type of dishes you prepare, and even your skill level. Each of the products that have made it onto my top six list has what it takes to turn out the perfectly cooked Chinese dish, while offering the type of durability and ease of use that cooks of all skill levels are looking for.