Best Three Cooking Woks to Buy Right Now
These are our top three recommendations.
The best overall wok is the Klee Cast Iron. This wok is sturdy, versatile, and comes with a 100% money-back guarantee that is hard to beat. We especially recommend this wok for people with gas stoves because this large cast iron wok requires a lot of heat.
First Runner Up
The Lodge Mini Wok is also a great choice because it is made of strong cast iron and will not wear out even after many years of use. Although it is smaller than other cast iron woks, it is a great choice for people with an electric stove since they tend to generate less heat.
Second Runner Up
No stove? Small space? An electric wok might be your best bet! Our favorite is the Presto Stainless Steel Electric Wok because it is one of the few high quality electric woks without a toxic non-stick coating. This wok is perfect for anyone who wants the versatility of a wok but lives in a small space or travels a lot.
Are you looking for something specific when buying a wok? We have recommendations for that!
Best Budget Wok
If you are looking for the best value, a small but durable wok will be your best bet. We recommend the Jim Beam Cast Iron Wok. It’s larger than the Lodge Mini Wok, but similarly priced. It’s the perfect mix of value and durability.
Best Carbon Steel Wok
Many people love cooking with a high-quality carbon steel wok even though they are less likely to come pre-seasoned. Our favorite is the one from M.V. Trading because it has a flattened bottom that works well with Western stoves and is one of the only Cantonese style carbon steel woks on the market.
Best Wok with Everything Included
Sometimes you just want to make one purchase and know that you are getting everything you need. The NuWave Mosaic Induction Wok comes complete with an induction stove top, a wok, a lid, bamboo utensils, a steamer, and a cookbook. This means you can start cooking just about any meal that strikes your fancy immediately.
Ready to start making better food? You’re in the right place! This article will cover everything you need to know about woks so you can make the best buying choice and begin making unforgettable meals.
Woks originated in China and Southeast Asia thousands of years ago. They were and are massively popular because they could be used to cook a variety of foods in just one pan. The wok is certainly at the heart of many styles of Eastern cuisine! Recently, however, the wok has gained a cult following in the West as more and more people have realized its utility and convenience for both Eastern and Western foods.
What Can You Cook with a Wok?
Think woks are just for stir fry?
Sure, you can make stir fry and a variety of Eastern dishes in a wok, but you honestly would be hard pressed to find a meal that you can’t make in a wok. You could make breakfast, lunch, and dinner in your wok every day for over a year without running out of new ideas. In addition, pretty much any Western dishes that can be cooked in a pot or skillet can be made in a wok, including eggs, meats, vegetable, grains, stews, soups, pasta, and even popcorn. Many woks are also oven safe, meaning you can even use them for bakes and casseroles.
What Type of Woks Do Restaurants Use?
Many people want to get a wok because they are inspired by their favorite East Asian restaurant. If you are looking to recreate meals, you might be wondering what kind of woks restaurants typically use. Surely, you want to get a similar one, right?
Well, that depends.
Restaurants typically have access to larger, stronger burners than most households. Since woks require high heat to confer the best taste to food, this is a great advantage! It also means that chefs can use larger woks because they will still be able to heat them up evenly.
Chefs at restaurants also usually cook multiple meals at a time. Most have perfected the art of the “wok toss,” that is, stirring the food in the wok by tossing it up in the area and catching it with the wok. In fact, this looks so impressive that many restaurants have a window to their kitchen so customers can see the chefs in action.
In addition, burners at Chinese restaurants are often specially made to accommodate woks with rounded bottoms.
Restaurants almost always use carbon steel and cast-iron woks. Most chefs have strong opinions about which material they prefer and can probably give a long explanation as to why. If you want to know which one your favorite restaurant uses, just ask!
Different Types of Woks
Like the chefs, we have different wok materials that we recommend and do not recommend.
Cast iron is the classic choice. It’s virtually indestructible, and it will last many decades if you take good care of it. Cast iron heats up evenly and, the more you cook with it, the better your food tastes.
Cast iron is also oven safe, meaning you can make dishes in one pan and save lots of time!
If you do opt for a cast iron wok, make sure it is pre-seasoned or that you season it properly for the best results. Also make sure that you clean it correctly and shortly after cooking.
We recommend using a cast iron scrubber to scrape off excess food and running the wok under hot water. Make sure you always thoroughly dry any cast iron cookware before putting it away. Do not use a ton of soap or the soapy taste will get onto the wok. Also make sure that you don’t put your cast iron wok in the dish washer or let it soak in water as this will cause rust.
Admittedly, cast iron is heavy. This is one of the main reasons that some people prefer carbon steel to cast iron. It will still last practically forever and provide an even, tasty cook to any dish.
Like cast iron, carbon steel needs to be seasoned. Since it is less likely to come pre-seasoned, you may want to check out some online videos or the manufacturer’s instruction on how to do this correctly.
A properly maintained carbon steel wok will also last many years. Like cast iron, it should be hand-washed and dried completely after every use.
Electric woks work a bit differently than a typical stovetop wok, but they are perfect for anyone who doesn’t have a stove or travels frequently.
While electric woks tend to cost more than other types, they also usually come with a lid and other accessories. You can also precisely control the temperature with an electric wok.
Woks are meant for high-heat cooking, and food will usually taste best when it comes out of a hotter wok. Electric woks, however, do have some lower heat settings that can keep side dishes warm while you finish the main show. You can also use some of the lower heat settings to make it work like a slow cooker.
The main downside with electric woks is that many of them are covered in a non-stick coating.
What’s Wrong with Non-Stick?
But how could you go wrong with a non-stick wok? They’re less expensive, you don’t have to use as much oil when cooking, they’re lightweight…
They’re also pretty much disposable cookware.
Sure, it will cost you less to buy a non-stick pan, but you will also be back on the wok market in less than a year. It’s a much better idea to just get a durable wok in the first place.
Think about it this way: If you had back problems, would you buy a cheap, inflatable mattress or a high quality therapeutic one? Even though you would spend less money on the inflatable mattress up front, you would constantly have to replace it and it would not do any favors for your back. Now apply the same thinking to cookware.
Let’s dispel the non-stick myths:
- Non-Stick Woks are Less Expensive
Technically, yes, they are. Since you will need to buy a new one pretty much every year, however, and you can expect to use a cast iron or carbon steel wok for decades, you will spend much less money in the long run by investing in a high-quality cooking wok instead.
- Non-Stick Woks are Healthier
If you are using less oil in a certain dish, it must be healthier, right? Yes, you do have to use more oil when cooking with a cast iron or carbon steel wok. This is how woks were meant to be used. If you don’t like oil, you can drain it off at the end.
In addition, the non-stick coating is made of chemicals. Yum. Non-stick coating also tends to chip easily, and the chip spots are a great breeding ground for bacteria. Double yum.
Don’t be led astray by the bright colors. Do your wallet and your health a favor and get a high-quality wok in the first place.
What kind of style you want depends on how you plan you to use your wok.
You do want to make sure you have a lid for your wok so you can take full advantage of all it has to offer. Otherwise, you will not be able use it to boil, steam, or simmer, limiting what you can make.
Double check whether or not your wok comes with a lid. Otherwise, a simple wooden one will do.
Traditional woks have a rounded bottom because they were designed to be used in outdoor firepits. Since most people are not cooking in an outdoor firepit, however, a rounded bottom can pose several problems to modern wok users.
First of all, rounded bottoms do not sit on Western range stovetops. They require a special attachment in order to work. They are also harder to store.
Most of the woks we recommend have a slightly flattened bottom because it provides sits easily on a Western stovetop and can be stored with no trouble.
There are two main handle designs for woks.
The first includes two small looped handles on either side of the wok. The handles are usually made of the same material as the wok itself, so users will need to get silicone grips for them in order to avoid burns.
The looped handles are great because they allow home chefs to easily perfect the wok toss and impress guests with their technique. These woks are also more durable because you don’t have to worry about a wooden or silicone handle wearing out before the rest of the wok. Other chefs like the small handles because it makes the wok easier to store.
Alternatively, some woks have one small looped handle and another long handle like a skillet. Chefs who prefer this style like that it is more like a familiar pan, so it is easier to apply familiar cooking techniques. Some long-handled woks use the same material for the handle as for the rest of the wok, but some do not. Those that do not will wear out more quickly.
Once you have picked out your wok, you need to pick out your cooking team! Having the right utensils will yield more delicious results.
A regular spatula will likely be too wide to scoop food at the bottom of a wok pan, and metal utensils risk causing scratches. For the best results, use a specially designed wok spatula. We recommend using silicone or bamboo since they will not cause scratches.
Wok cooking is oily business! You’ll want to have a high-quality spider strainer to remove food without also excess oil that could make it soggy. They include a wide surface area so you can get more food out of water or oil in less time. The flattened design also works well with the shape of the wok.
You can certainly use your wok to cook large slices of meat and fish, but many Eastern dishes, including stir fry, require smaller cuts of meat. It is much easier and faster to slice them up with a good pair of meat scissors than with regular knives.
And don’t skip over this part if you are vegetarian! Meat scissors are also incredibly convenient for cutting vegetables such as green beans and carrots, both of which taste great in stir fry.
If you are interested in Eastern steamed dishes like dim sum or Western steamed dishes such as salmon, a bamboo steamer will make your life a lot easier. They ensure that food doesn’t get too hot and cooks perfectly every time. You can set the bamboo steamer inside the wok, set a timer, and then essentially forget about it. It may just become your new favorite cooking technique.
Even if you opt for a long-handled wok, you will still have at least one looped handle that is going to get very hot. Rather than fiddling with a pot holder, stick a silicone grip on the handles of your wok. They will stay in place and prevent you from burning yourself. They are also easy to remove and clean.
Frying chopsticks are like regular chopsticks except much longer. They can reach down to the bottom of the wok with no problem, and it looks impressive when you use them correctly. Although there is a bit of a learning curve, most people find that it is easier to turn food with frying chopsticks than anything else.
How can you even decide what to make when there are so many great options? A cookbook can help! Make sure you get one that also tells you the proper techniques so that you can get the most out of your wok.
Complete Wok Systems
A complete wok system includes everything you need to get started with cooking, including a lid, utensils, and a heating element.
Complete wok systems are great for people who want to get cooking at soon as possible, particularly those who live in a small space, own a food truck, or travel frequently.
The best option for a heating element is generally an induction stovetop because it carries the least fire risk. Unlike a traditional burner that gets hot and heats up a pan from underneath, an induction stovetop uses magnets to make the pan itself heat up. The stovetop doesn’t even get warm and only works when a pan is in contact with it. This also makes the induction stovetops incredibly energy efficient.
Cast iron and carbon steel are both compatible with induction stovetops.
Best Wok System
We recommend using the following products to put together your failsafe wok system:
- Klee Cast Iron Wok
- Induction Stovetop
- Silicone Wok Spatula
- Spider Strainer
- Frying Chopsticks
- Meat Scissors
- Bamboo Steamer
- Silicone Handle Holders
- Cast Iron Scrubber
- Wok Cookbook
That’s it! Get ready to start cooking at home or on the road!
If you’re taking the time to do the research, then you are probably pretty serious about making good food in your high-quality wok. Don’t stumble at the finish line by using the wrong techniques! Make sure you remember the following when cooking with a wok:
- Woks are meant for high-heat cooking. Use a gas range if possible and don’t be afraid to turn your stove up to the highest setting!
- Woks were designed for cooking with oil. Do NOT skimp out to try to cut calories. You’ll just end up with food baked onto the sides of the pan. If you don’t want excess oil in your final dish, use your spider strainer or blot the food after you remove it from the wok. Also make sure your oil has a high smoke point.
- Don’t just move food around and hope it cooks correctly. The small pieces in dishes like stir fry need to cook on all sides. Use your frying chopsticks or wok spatula to make the pieces tumble over themselves.
- Better yet, stir your food properly with the “wok toss.” Grab the handles of the wok and push it forwards and upwards. The food should go up in the air in an arc that goes back towards you. Catch it and repeat as necessary. If you are nervous about trying that with a hot wok, practice with a cold salad on the countertop first. That will also be a way to improve your strength if you are not used to working with heavy-duty cast iron. As an extra bonus, the wok toss looks incredibly impressive if you are cooking commercially or entertaining guests!
- Cook multiple foods at one time. As some of the foods finish, push them up the sides of the wok. Keep the foods that need more heat and more time at the bottom.
Your Next Steps
These easy steps are all that stand between you and deliciousness.
- Pick your wok by checking out the list below to see which wok is best for you.
- Ensure you have all of the wok accessories you need.
- Pick a recipe. Gather and prep the ingredients.
- Season your wok if necessary.
- Start cooking.
- Enjoy your meal!
To help you figure out which wok is best for you, we have separated our recommendations into categories. Find your category, and you’ll find your wok. Once you do that, follow the previous steps to get started!
Overall Best/Gas Stove
The Klee Cast Iron Wok is the best overall wok. It’s made of durable cast iron and comes with a lid. The flattened bottom and loop handle design mean that it’s both easy to store and easy to make authentic Eastern dishes. The best part? If for any reason you don’t love it, Klee has a 100% money-back guarantee!
If you have an electric stove, a Lodge Mini Wok will work better than a Klee because the weaker burners will not be able to get a larger wok as hot as it needs to be. Fortunately, the Lodge Mini is a high-quality wok made at Lodge’s family-owned facility in the USA
While a gas stove is best, the Presto Electric Wok is a good solution for those who don’t have access to a range. It is not covered with a cheap non-stick coating and includes a lot of settings. As an added bonus, it can be used like a warmer or a slow cooker.
If you just want to make one purchase and be done, the NuWave Mosaic Induction Wok is the best bet. It includes a carbon steel wok, a glass lid, an induction stovetop, cooking utensils, a steamer, and a cookbook. The only real downside is that the wok does not have any loop handles.
Not ready for the big investment? Don’t opt for non-stick! You are much better off with a Jim Beam Cast Iron Wok. At 12” in diameter, it is bigger than a Lodge Mini but comes in at about the same price. It’s actually cheaper than many 14” non-stick models. Note that you would need to buy a lid separately in this case though!
M.V. Trading has one of the only carbon steel woks with two loop handles. This wok is comparatively lightweight and incredibly durable. The main downside is that you will have to season it yourself!