So, you’ve decided to buy a wok. Maybe a friend has raved to you about the simplicity, style, and flavor of these classic pans, or you want to try your hand at cooking restaurant-quality stir fry at home. You’ve made the right choice. Once you have a wok of your own, you’ll realize that your kitchen was never complete without one.
For thousands of years, woks have been used to fry, boil, braise, and steam. They’re a favorite among Chinese grandmas and professional chefs alike, and for good reason. Whether you’re new to cooking with woks or an aficionado looking to add to an extensive collection, a quality wok is a worthwhile investment.
Keep in mind that not all woks are created equal. You’ll want to take time to research the best woks for your kitchen and cooking style.
For an elegant, professional quality option, try Dalstrong’s 12” Frying Pan Wok, or the easy-to-clean nonstick version of the Frying Pan Wok with Eterna® nonstick coating. These sturdy woks never require seasoning and conduct heat like a dream.
- What Are the Different Kinds of Wok?
- What Kind of Wok do Professionals Use?
- How do I Choose a Good Chinese Wok?
- What Kind of Nonstick Wok is Best?
- What is the Best Quality Wok?
In traditional Chinese cooking, woks are valued for their ability to produce a unique flavor called wok hei, sometimes translated as “the breath of the wok.” Due to their shape and ability to conduct heat, woks are uniquely suited for creating the complex, smoky flavor of wok hei, which is achieved by searing vegetables at the perfect temperature. While it can be difficult to replicate, wok hei is one advantage of owning a wok and adds an extra layer of flavor and authenticity to your cooking.
Woks are commonly associated with stir fry, the delectable Chinese cooking technique which involves frying vegetables or meat in small amounts of oil. Stir fry is a popular dish worldwide, and makes for a quick, nutritious and healthy meal that can be as easy or complex as you want. “Stir fry” is not a direct translation, and the Chinese term refers more to tossing than stirring, since the unique rounded shape of a wok allows for the food to be flipped with a flick of the wrist while cooking.
Despite their reputation for stir fry, woks are actually remarkably versatile pans. Of course, woks are fabulous for cooking up a chicken stir fry or a batch of fried rice, but the other uses for woks are nearly infinite.
Plop a lid on your wok, and it can be used to steam vegetables or dumplings. The unique shape means that woks are well suited for cooking deep fried food, too, since the sloped sides reduce the chances of a boil over and help contain hot oil splatter. Many wok connoisseurs swear that woks are perfect for making perfectly popped stovetop popcorn – and due to the high heat and coating of oil, popcorn will even help with seasoning your wok.
1. What Are the Different Kinds of Wok?
While traditionally made of carbon steel or cast iron, modern woks come in a wide variety of metals and finishes. Now, enthusiasts have the option of buying not only traditional cast iron and carbon steel woks, but also stainless steel, aluminum, nonstick, and even electric woks. Carbon steel and cast iron are classic choices, but they are not without its disadvantages.
Cast iron and carbon steel woks rust quickly, and require a lot of care, attention, and upkeep. Cooking acidic foods like tomatoes or special sauces containing vinegar or wine can stain carbon steel woks, making carbon steel less versatile as other materials. Maintaining carbon steel woks can be challenging for home chefs, so nonstick and stainless steel woks are better alternatives.
Unlike carbon steel, stainless steel or aluminum woks are well suited for a modern kitchen. Cast iron and carbon steel woks need to be seasoned, the process of filling pores in the metal with oil or grease. Seasoning stainless steel or aluminum cookware is optional, though many chefs still opt to do it anyway.
The fact that you don’t have to worry about seasoning or rust means that stainless steel and aluminum are a lot easier to clean. Unlike cast iron and carbon steel, you can toss your woks in the dishwasher or scrub away particularly difficult stains without worrying about rust or destroying the finish. Dalstrong woks are also safe for the refrigerator or freezer, and can withstand the heat of an oven or broiler up to 500 degrees fahrenheit.
For a long time, chefs favored carbon steel over aluminum or stainless steel due to its ability to conduct heat. While stainless steel is durable, heats quickly, and holds heat well, it’s prone to uneven heat distribution. Alternatively, aluminum is great for conducting heat evenly throughout the pan, but it doesn’t hold heat like stainless steel, and can be less durable.
Fortunately, high quality modern woks offer a solution to this problem: the best woks fuse stainless steel with an aluminum core to mitigate the issues of each metal and maximize their advantages. With a stainless steel and aluminum wok, you’ll get the best of both worlds.
2. What Kind of Wok do Professionals Use?
Cookware varies by needs and personal choice, so different chefs will prefer different types of wok. Carbon steel woks have been a traditional choice for professional chefs before high quality aluminum core stainless steel woks were readily available. However, modern woks are beginning to gain popularity as chefs realize that newer technology can provide superior heat distribution and negates the issues traditionally associated with carbon steel.
If you’re looking to fill your kitchen with professional level cookware, it’s worthwhile to pay for quality. A good wok will last you a lifetime. Add some professional culinary tools to your collection, like titanium tweezers that help you manipulate delicate foods while cooking, and you’ll be whipping up crispy tempura and savory stir fry like a pro.
3. How do I Choose a Good Chinese Wok?
The cast iron or carbon steel woks traditionally used for Chinese cooking feature rounded bottoms with handles on each side. These were great for kitchens in ancient China, where stoves had curved burners that kept the rounded bottoms upright, nonstick coating was nonexistent, and nobody had to worry about whether or not their cooking pans were dishwasher safe. However, modern chefs in modern, western kitchens have different needs.
Since traditional woks with round bottoms are incompatible with modern gas and electric stoves, you’ll have to modify your stove with a wok ring if you opt for a round bottomed wok. While wok rings are inexpensive and readily available on the internet, it requires careful research to find a wok ring that fits your stovetop, and they can be a hassle to use. Round bottomed woks also require special wok spatulas to fit the curved bottoms of the pans.
Alternatively, you could check out the wide variety of modern, flat bottomed wok pans available. With a flat bottomed wok, you won’t have to buy a wok ring or worry about your pan being incompatible with induction hobs or your gas stove, and you can use your favorite spatula, too. Plus, nonstick stainless steel woks offer alternatives to finicky carbon steel and cast iron.
4. What Kind of Nonstick Wok is Best?
When buying nonstick cookware, you always want to look for options that are PFOA and APEO free. Nonstick coatings featuring PFOA and APEO have a tendency to deteriorate over time, leaking chemicals into your food. These chemicals can potentially cause harm not only to your body, but also the environment. Fortunately, new technology means that you can find nonstick options that are free of PFOA and APEO and perform better than ever.
Eterna® nonstick coating is one such option. In the industry standard dry-egg test, Eterna® lasted 26 times longer than competing brands, and 10 times longer than premium options. It’s always worthwhile to invest in high quality nonstick cookware for the sake of your health and wellbeing. Plus, you’ll never have to worry about seasoning your pans!
5. What is the Best Quality Wok?
Considering the wide range of woks available on the internet, the best wok will always be the one that best suits your style and kitchen needs. Remember: when opting for a stainless steel wok, the best woks have aluminum cores to ensure even heat distribution.
The combination of steel and aluminum will heat your food cook quickly, evenly, and easily. The woks listed below are great, sturdy, and versatile options that don’t require seasoning, hold heat well, and clean easily – perfect for the modern kitchen.
Both woks feature a double handled design, making it easier to maneuver the hot pan through your kitchen. These woks are the height of style and luxury, with a mirror-like shine and strong, 2.5mm stainless steel cladding that will make for an elegant and eye catching addition to your cookware collection. These woks are built to last, and if they don’t, Dalstrong will honor a lifetime guarantee on defects.
The 12” diameter means that these woks are perfect for stir frying or cooking large amounts of food at once, and the flat bottom lets the wok rest sturdily on your stove. Pop on an apron, chop up some vegetables with your favorite knife, and get cooking. You’ll have food for the whole family in no time.
The best wok for anyone who loves cooking but hates mess, the Eterna® non stick frying pan wok from Dalstrong’s Oberon series makes cleanup easy and hassle free. Not only is the Eterna® non stick coating safer than PFOA and APEO coatings, it’s also built to last. The thick, 35 micrometer coating means the wok will retain its nonstick properties for years longer than competing nonstick pans.
Unlike carbon steel or cast iron woks, you’ll never have to worry about seasoning this pan or scrubbing out difficult messes. The durable nonstick coating can easily handle acidic foods that would damage a carbon steel or cast iron wok. It’s the perfect pan for families, or anyone who loves cooking a simple, quick, and stress-free stir fry.
The wok comes with a tempered glass wok lid, which helps contain heat and keep splatter contained. This wok blends the practicality of non stick cookware with the Oberon series’s signature aluminum core and stainless steel cladding.
The 12” Oberon Series Dalstrong frying pan wok is a great choice for an experienced chef looking for a sturdy, versatile pan. The aluminum core helps conduct heat for evenly cooked beef, chicken, or vegetables, while the stainless steel cladding keeps the wok safe from dents and allows you to cook whatever you want without worrying about rust or stains.
While stainless steel is much more resilient and requires much less diligent seasoning and upkeep than carbon steel or cast iron, many chefs still like seasoning it to make their pans extra slick.
Some more experienced chefs might prefer this pan to the nonstick option because of the level of control that seasoning their stainless steel cookware gives them. It’s also the best option if you’re interested in cooking delicate dishes that require searing or browning.
The vented, tempered glass lid is perfect for popping popcorn, cooking up stews, or steaming vegetables. Check out the Dalstrong frying pan wok if you’re interested in an elegant, beautifully engineered piece of cookware that is guaranteed to last.
While cast iron and carbon steel woks may appeal to traditionalists, modern technology and engineering provides a wider array of options and continues to improve on the ancient design.
From families to students to professional chefs, anyone who spends time in a kitchen can benefit from a high quality wok. Whether you’re interested in stir frying a quick dinner for your kids or searing a succulent steak, you’ll doubtlessly find yourself cooking with your wok for years to come.
Written by Cassie WomackBased in Richmond, Virginia, Cassie enjoys trying challenging new recipes with her cat for company.