The results are in! We have reviewed dozens of carbon steel woks and picked out our favorites.
Carbon Steel Wok – Which One Is Best?
Without further ado, the winner of the best carbon steel wok is the M.V. Trading’s 16 Inch Wok.
This carbon steel wok is huge and durable, and is perfect for all of your Western and Eastern cooking needs. It is one of the only 16-inch carbon steel woks on the market and that it is one of the only Cantonese style woks with two small handles, making it easier to stir your food by tossing it.
It is made in the United States of high-quality steel, and it will last decades if you properly season and clean it.
First Runner Up
This wok even comes with detailed seasoning instructions to ensure you will be able to use your wok to make delicious food for many years.
Second Runner Up
Mamma Fong’s 14 Inch Flat-Bottomed Wok is a versatile, highly-rated carbon steel wok. It also has one long handle and one small handle, which may be more comfortable for some users.
This wok is slightly smaller than the one from M.V. Trading, but it is still a great option for first-time wok users.
Wok Cooking… Interested?
You’re not alone! Woks have become trendy because they are incredibly versatile. In this article, we will discuss the history of woks, modern wok cooking, types of woks, cooking accessories that go with woks, and the best carbon steel woks on the market.
Brief History of the Wok
Woks have a rich cultural history in China and other parts of South East Asia that stretches back thousands of years. They were traditionally used in outdoor fire pits, and their rounded shape ensured an even heat distribution.
Woks were used to cook everything from grains to meats and also had the advantage of being highly portable.
Unlike their ancient ancestors, modern woks typically have a slightly flattened bottom allowing them to sit on a stove-top.
What Dishes Can You Make?
Woks continue to be a prized cooking aid today because they can be used with almost any cooking technique to make almost any type of food.
When most people think of woks, they think of stir fry. While it is true that a high-quality wok will enable to you to make delicious stir fry any time you like, your wok can do so much more than that!
In addition to Asian-inspired classics like Pad Thai and dim sum, you can make all of your Western favorites in woks as well. Scrambled eggs, soup, French Fries, and even popcorn can all be made in a wok. It can honestly replace most other cookware if you let it!
It is hard to generalize restaurants since the exact materials they use depend on the type of cuisine they serve and the size of their establishment. For example, a small Chinese restaurant may do things differently from an up-scale Thai place.
In general, however, restaurant cooking is going to be done on a larger scale than home cooking. They will have access to more powerful burners that can heat up larger woks.
Restaurants will always follow this rule when cooking with woks:
All good wok cooking is done in a well-seasoned vessel over a very hot flame.
They are also more likely to use a round-bottomed wok with special attachments that make them work with Western stove-tops.
A professional wok chef looks impressive when he or she works.
They cook over large flames and toss food around, creating quite a spectacle. The end result, of course, tastes fantastic.
Many restaurants use carbon steel woks because they are highly durable and perfect for high volume use. They are also lighter than other highly durable materials, like cast iron.
The Best Carbon Steel Wok for You
If you would like to cook like a professional at home, a carbon steel wok is the perfect choice. After reviewing dozens of woks, our favorite carbon steel one is M.V. Trading’s 16 Inch Carbon Steel Wok.
This wok has a traditional two-handled design, allowing users to easily master the “wok toss” for cooking and entertaining. It is made of carbon steel and is large without being too bulky or too heavy, making it perfect for when you have guests or want to do some batch cooking.
M.V. Trading’s wok has a flattened bottom, meaning it will work well with any gas, electric, or induction stove-top without special equipment. We especially like this carbon steel wok because it is so similar to a restaurant-style wok. After seasoning, you will be cooking like a pro in no time!
Carbon Steel Wok vs. Cast Iron Wok
The debate about the best type of material for cookware never seems to end. Chefs tend to be incredibly passionate about one type or another.
When it comes to woks, most prefer cast iron or carbon steel. The two materials are both durable and can withstand high-heat.
Carbon steel tends to be a bit lighter and a bit cheaper, but cast iron tends to be easier to season and last a bit longer.
We recommend that users use whichever they are more comfortable with.
Other Wok Types
There are several other kinds of woks on the market in addition to cast iron and carbon steel.
Have you ever used an electric skillet? Electric woks function in much the same way. You can plug them in, and they will heat up to a preset temperature.
Many people use electric cookware if they have an electric stove that takes a long time to warm up. In addition, electric stove-tops often do not get hot enough for high-heat wok cooking.
If you tend to have trouble controlling the temperature when making food, an electric wok may be a good choice for you.
Electric woks are also useful when you are making a lot of food and your stove-top is otherwise being used. Since they can be used anywhere, many people use them when traveling or camping too.
Electric woks tend to have a higher price point than cast iron or carbon steel woks because of their features. Make sure that if you are making the investment, you get one made of durable materials instead of a simple non-stick electric wok.
There are a lot of non-stick woks on the market. They tend to have a low price and advertise themselves as being healthy and cleaner since you do not need to use as much oil to cook with them.
Don’t fall for it.
First of all, your food will taste much better and be more authentic if you use oil.
Secondly, non-stick woks work like a cheap haircut. If get the cheap haircut, odds are that it will be uneven, and you will have to go get a regularly priced haircut anyway. In the end, you will have paid more than you originally planned to because you tried to take a low-quality shortcut.
Non-stick pans are the low-quality shortcut. They are essentially meant to be disposable cookware, and you’ll eventually have to go buy new cookware almost immediately as the chemical non-stick coating starts to chip.
It is well worth the effort to spend a few more dollars and get a wok that will last you decades.
In addition to what materials are used to make them, woks come in many shapes and sizes. Deciding which one is right for you may seem daunting. We will go over the most common variations below.
Bottoms of Woks
Traditional woks have a rounded bottom, but most western woks have a flattened bottom.
The rounded bottom was great for outdoor fire pits and allowed for evenly cooked foods. The flattened bottom can still cook food pretty evenly, but it can also sit on a Western-style electric or gas stove-top.
There are some attachments available that allow a rounded-bottom wok to sit on a stove-top. Many people swear by them, but most people who are more familiar with Western-style cooking will be more comfortable with a flattened-bottom wok.
Lids for Woks
If you do want to take full advantage of all your wok has to offer, you are going to need to get a lid.
Woks were intended to be a vessel for all types of cooking, and they are still used that way. However, if you want to do any steaming or boiling, you will not have much luck without a lid.
Unfortunately, most carbon steel woks do not come with a lid and need to be purchased separately. A simple, flat wooden lid works well for most purposes.
There are two common handle designs for woks: traditional and long-handled.
Traditional, Cantonese style woks have two small handles. Chefs will use these handles to stir their food by quickly pushing the wok forwards and upwards before bringing it back to catch the food. This kind of wok toss certainly creates a spectacle!
The downside of a Cantonese style wok is that the handles heat up quickly. Most are not covered in something heat-resistant because that would make the woks harder to clean and less durable. After all, a carbon steel wok could last decades, while a silicon grip will last a few years at most.
Fortunately, many companies sell detachable silicon grips that keep your hands cool without interfering with the lifespan of your wok.
The other popular option for wok handles is one small handle and one long handle. Many people like this style because it makes the wok more familiar for those who are used to Western-style skillets.
These woks tend to be a bit harder to clean and larger to store, but with some practice, a wok toss is still manageable.
Accessories for A Carbon Steel Wok
Yes, a wok is an all-in-one piece of cookware. You will, however, need to invest in a few other accessories if you want to get the most out of your wok.
As stated above, lids are necessary if you want to steam or boil anything with your wok. Simple wooden lids work fine for most purposes, but aluminum ones are fine too. If you are getting a carbon steel wok, you will likely need to buy a lid separately.
The rounded nature of a wok makes regular spatulas pretty useless for wok cooking. It is better to get a smaller, rounded wok spatula instead. We recommend getting a silicone one instead of a metal one as it will be less likely to scratch your cookware.
You can also opt to get frying chopsticks instead. While it may take a bit of practice, many people prefer the precision that comes from frying with chopsticks. You will be able to quickly turn even small pieces of food and also impress your guests with your skills.
It is also a good idea to get a spider strainer for wok cuisine. Spider strainers work like a slotted spoon, but they are larger and flatter. They are perfect for taking food out of hot oil or boiling broth.
Whether your wok has one small handle or two, you are going to need something to help you hold onto your cookware without burning yourself.
Sure, you can keep a regular pot holder on your hand, but they tend to be bulky and make it difficult to grip cooking utensils. You could also use a dishtowel, but it is easy to accidentally get an edge in the food or on the burner.
Your best option to help you grip the wok without burning yourself is a pair of small silicon wok holders. These can be easily cleaned and will stay in place even when you are not gripping them.
Do you love dumplings? Then you’ll love to know that you will be able to make fantastic dumplings in your wok. If you don’t want to end up with pot stickers instead, however, you are going to need to get a steamer.
A bamboo steamer is designed to sit in your wok and perfectly steam your dumplings without burning them or making them oily. The technique is super easy as long as you have the right tools.
The wok can sometimes give chefs the overwhelming feeling that comes from the paradox of choice. That is, when there are so many options available, it is hard to pick just one!
Since it is possible to cook all of your Western and Eastern favorites in your wok, it may help to get a recipe book to help you narrow down your decision.
The best books will also give you tips on how to season your wok and techniques for producing the best flavors.
If you are relatively new to carbon steel wok cooking, pick one or two recipes to start with. Once you perfect those, you will have the confidence to cook pretty much anything that strikes your fancy.
While gas burners and electric burners have been the predominant cooking methods in the West for some time, induction is steadily gaining a cult following.
Induction works by causing a magnetic pan to heat up directly, rather than providing a source of heat below the pan. Induction stove–tops are safer and more efficient than other cooking methods because the “burner” itself does not actually get hot. All heat is generated by the cookware.
Induction also cooks food evenly because it heats the pan or wok evenly. Again, since the heat is not being generated by a source below the cookware, it is the same at all points in a way that is similar to an electric wok or skillet.
If you have not tried induction, you definitely should! Most people that give it a try do not go back. Their gas or electric bill and their food quality reflect that change!
If you already have fallen in love with induction, you should know that both cast iron and carbon steel are naturally magnetic. Any wok you buy in those materials will be automatically compatible as long as it has a flattened bottom to sit on the induction stove-top.
Complete Carbon Steel Wok System
If you live in tight quarters, want to start a food truck, or love to cook while you travel, a complete wok system is going to be your best friend. Basically, this is a package deal that comes with everything you need to start cooking like a professional, including:
- A Carbon Steel Wok
- A Wok Lid
- An Induction Stove-top
- A Spider Strainer
- Frying Chopsticks
- A Bamboo Steamer
- A Wok Cleaning Brush
- A Cookbook for Woks
The NuWave Mosaic is the best system on the market. While it definitely costs more than a lone wok, it is a much better deal than buying everything separately. Getting a complete carbon steel wok system is a surefire way to make sure you have everything you need to create delicious meals anywhere you go.
Cooking Techniques and Tips for the Carbon Steel Wok
Whether you are cooking on a traditional or induction stove-top, it is important to master a few basic techniques when cooking with your wok, especially when making Asian inspired dishes.
- You must season your carbon steel wok before you can use it. Check out different YouTube videos on how to do this. You will need some seasoning oil to do this properly. If you don’t do this, your food will not taste right.
- Remember that woks are meant for high-heat cooking. An electric stove may not be able to handle it.
- When making stir fry and other, similar dishes, it is important to not simply swish your food around the wok. You want to make sure the pieces of food are tumbling over themselves and cooking evenly on every side.
- You can achieve a perfect cook on your food by perfecting the wok toss. This is where you quickly move your wok forwards and upwards while holding it with both hands. Your food will go up in the air and should land back in the wok. If the idea of trying that while cooking over hot flames makes you nervous, try it with a salad when your wok is not on the stove. Mastering this technique will leave you with fantastic food and also impress anyone who sees you do it.
- Push foods up the side of the wok as they cook. Foods that need more heat should be towards the bottom of the wok. If you need to take something off the direct heat, push it towards the edge and place new, uncooked pieces at the bottom. *Note: this is less effective when working with an electric wok or with a wok on an induction stove-top.
- Take good care of your wok. Carbon steel woks should be hand washed and thoroughly dried after every use. Never put your carbon steel cookware in the dishwasher. You should also make sure you do not scratch your wok with an abrasive scrubber and ensure you re-season frequently.
- Experiment with different wok recipes! If you make the same thing in your steel wok over and over, you are going to get bored. Practice the different techniques needed for steaming, stir frying, and braising. Consult your wok cookbook if you need inspiration. You will be an expert in no time.
Get Started On Your Carbon Steel Wok Adventure!
If you are ready to begin an exciting new chapter in your cooking journey, follow these simple steps.
- Buy a carbon steel wok and any accessories you will need.
- Clean and season your wok before your first use.
- Pick a recipe you know you like and gather the ingredients.
- Make your first dish in your wok!
- Hand wash and dry your carbon steel wok.
- Enjoy fantastic food for decades to come.
Make sure to share!
Woks are popular because they can be used to make just about anything. Carbon steel woks cook foods evenly while being lightweight, durable, and relatively inexpensive. When you properly take care of it, a carbon steel wok will last decades.
With your carbon steel wok and a little bit of practice, you will be making delicious Western and Eastern dishes to please even the pickiest palates!