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The Wok – (Guide to) Choosing the Perfect Cooking Wok!

Best 3 Woks to Buy Right Now

The best wok for you depends on what type of stove you have!

Gas Stoves

If you have a gas stove (or an induction stovetop), the best wok to buy is the Klee Cast Iron Wok. It’s versatile, it’s durable, and it comes with a full money-back guarantee. Your gas stove will be able to generate enough heat for this large, sturdy wok, and you will be able to make delicious meals in it for generations to come.

Electric Stoves

Unfortunately, electric stoves do not get quite as hot as gas ones. Don’t despair though! You can still make tons of delicious dishes over your electric stove with the Lodge Cast Iron Mini Wok. This pre-seasoned wok is only 9 inches in diameter, ensuring it will heat up evenly even on an electric stovetop.

No Stove?

There’s a wok for that! The Presto Stainless Steel Electric Wok is perfect for traveling and for small apartments. You can still cook like a champion with the precise temperature controls and the utensils that come with it. Unlike most electric cooking tools, this one is not coated with a chemical non-stick coating, so it will last you a long time!

Overview

This article will introduce you to everything you need to know in order to start cooking amazing meals with a high-quality wok!

Wok History

Woks originated in China and South East Asia where they were used to cook almost every meal. Today, many still associate woks with Eastern-style foods. More and more people, however, are discovering that they too can cook almost every meal with a high-quality wok.

What Can You Make with a Wok?

It would probably be easier to list what you cannot make with a wok because, honestly, you can make pretty much anything in a wok. It is perfect for braising, roasting, boiling, steaming, and grilling. In addition, cast iron woks can go in the oven, so they can are a great way to convert your favorite meals into “one pan” dishes!

The 3 Best Cooking Woks to Buy Right Now

Again, the best wok for you will depend on the type of stove you have.

Klee Cast Iron Wok

The Klee Cast Iron Wok is the best choice for anyone who has a gas stove, and it is our top pick overall.

We love cast iron cookware because it provides an even cook and lasts forever when you take care of it correctly. The good news is that the Klee comes pre-seasoned and has an unconditional money-back guarantee. If you do not love it for any reason, the company will give you a refund or replacement. This makes it the perfect wok for people who are new to cast iron as well as those who have been using it for decades.

The Klee also comes with a lid, which makes it a good value and allows users to get started with more of their favorite dishes more quickly.

We especially recommend combining this wok with a high-heat gas stove. Traditional woks were used over a very hot fire pit, and you will still get the best flavors when you use your wok over high heat.

Lodge Mini

If you are stuck with an electric stove, however, do not despair! It is still possible to take advantage of the versatility woks have to offer. In fact, you can even take advantage of the durability of cast iron!

The Lodge Mini was designed to be perfect for electric stoves, people who live in small spaces or by themselves, and those who travel frequently.

Lodge may be the most famous name in cast iron, and there’s a reason! Their products are incredibly well-made, and all of them are made at their family-owned foundry in Tennessee.

You will be able to get your Lodge Mini hot enough to cook all of your favorite meals and still get the benefits of cast iron. It’s a win-win!

Presto Electric Wok

What if you have no stove or will be traveling all the time? Consider an electric wok!

Unfortunately, most electric cookware contains a chemical non-stick coating, so it will make subpar food and wear down pretty quickly. The Presto Electric Wok, however, is made of stainless steel and contains no such coating, making it one of the best investments in the electric cookware market.

Electric woks tend to be a bit pricier than regular ones because of their precision heat settings and the fact that they come with accessories. For example, the Presto comes with a lid and a wok spatula.

You can also treat your electric wok like a slow cooker, meaning there is less hands-on time for you.

Wok Materials

If you just started looking at woks and are confused by all of the different types available, you are not alone! We will break them down for you so that you can make the best choice for your culinary adventure.

Cast Iron

Cast iron is the classic choice. It heats up evenly, provides a seasoned flavor to food, and it lasts forever. Seriously, you will be able to make your cast iron cookware into a family heirloom if you take care of it!

Cast iron cookware sometimes gets a bad reputation as “finicky” because it needs to be seasoned and is washed in a particular fashion. While there are countless YouTube videos explaining how to do both, it may be worthwhile for those who are new to cast iron to get a pre-seasoned pan.

To wash your cast iron cookware, you actually have to do less than you would for a regular plate or bowl, and this is what throws people off. You will have to clean your cast iron wok shortly after you finish cooking with it, preferably while it is still warm. All you have to do is wipe it down with a special scrubber and warm water. Avoid using soap if you do not want your next meal to taste like soap.

If there is some really stubborn food, you can put some water in your cookware and then boil that over the stove to help loosen it. Whatever you do, do not let your cast iron pan soak in water. This will make it rust! You should also not put it through the dish washer.

Finally, make sure you completely dry your cast iron with a paper towel or dish cloth before putting it away. Again, this is to prevent rust.

This little bit of extra care will go a long way in ensuring your cast iron lasts for many years!

Carbon Steel

Carbon steel is actually a lot like cast iron, and that is probably one of the reasons it vies for the top spot as the most popular wok material.

Carbon steel distributes heat very well, ensuring that your food cooks evenly. It can withstand high temperatures, making it a great candidate for high-heat wok cooking.

Like its cast iron cousin, carbon steel will last forever if you take care of it correctly. Unlike cast iron, however, it is hard to find pre-seasoned carbon steel woks and pans. You will probably have to invest in some seasoning oil and watch a few videos to ensure your carbon steel wok is ready for cooking.

You can clean a carbon steel wok in much the same way as you would clean cast iron. Do not let it soak in water, and do not run it through the dish washer.

So, what is the main difference between the two materials?

The biggest difference is probably the weight. Cast iron is heavy, and many people, especially older folks and those with mobility issues, have trouble lifting it. Carbon steel is lighter, so it is easier to do the classic “wok toss” and take your wok with you when you travel.

Electric Woks

No stovetop? No problem!

Electric woks are great for people who do not have a stove or who plan to make multiple dishes at once. They tend to be more expensive than traditional woks because they come with more bells and whistles, including lids, utensils, and customizable heat control.

Most electric woks are easy to clean and bring with you when you travel. As an added bonus, many can be used in much the same way as a slow cooker!

Be careful when shopping for an electric wok, however, as many are covered with a chemical non-stick coating, which brings us to the last wok material…

Non-Stick Pans

Everyone loves non-stick pans, right? They’re easy to clean! They’re lightweight!

And they’re cheap! In every sense of the word.

Non-stick pans are basically the refined sugars of the cookware world.

Sure, it may be cheaper to buy a donut instead of an egg if you order breakfast. But which is going to keep you fuller for longer? Which will give you more nutrients?

If you get the donut, you are going to be hungry again sooner and get less nutrition. If you go with a non-stick pan, you are going to be back on the wok market very soon and unhealthy in the meantime.

Basically, non-stick pans are covered with a chemical coating that prevents food from sticking. Many people like this because it means they need to use less cooking oil, which can cut down on the calorie content of the food.

There is evidence that these chemicals can be toxic, and yet people cook their food right on top of them! You can cut down on the calories of your food while making it healthier and tastier if you just cook with oil and then strain it before serving.

In addition, non-stick pans are not meant to last. The non-stick coating chips easily, and they are usually made of low-quality materials. This is why they cost so much less than durable cookware made out of carbon steel or cast iron.

Your kids and your grandkids will be using your well-cared for cast iron or carbon steel woks; your non-stick pan will be in the trash within a year.

Save yourself the time, money, and health risks. Do not buy non-stick cookware.

Restaurant Woks

Perhaps you are interested in getting a wok because you have spent far too much money getting takeout from the fabulous Chinese restaurant down the road. You may be asking yourself how you can make authentic-tasting copycat dishes.

The process starts when you get the right wok.

Most chefs at restaurants will be cooking with multiple woks at the same time. They have an advantage over home cooks insofar as they have multiple, powerful burners.

Some restaurants allow customers to watch the chefs cook because it is quite a spectacle. The flames will lick the cookware as the chef tosses the food high into the air then neatly catche its all within the wok.

And what kind of wok are they using?

It actually varies from chef to chef, but most prefer carbon steel or cast iron. Chefs agree that these generally heat up in a uniform way, can handle high temperatures, and last forever. In fact, the more they use them, the more seasoned the woks get, enhancing the flavors of the foods cooked in them.

If you have a restaurant you really like, ask the chef what kind of wok he or she prefers. Chances are they will be quite passionate about their answer!

Wok Designs

In addition to material, there are a few other ways in which one wok can vary from another. We will go over some of the most common variations so you know what to look for when making comparisons.

Handles

There are two main handle designs for woks.

The first is two small, loop handles on either side. Most of our wok recommendations include this traditional shape because it makes it easier to perform the “wok toss.” That is, it is easier to stir food by using the wok itself to toss the food into the air and catch it as it falls. Woks with this shape are also smaller and easier to store.

Another advantage of woks with loop handles is that they are typically only made of one type of material. This means they will be easier to clean, and you do not have to worry about the handle wearing out before the rest of the pan. Since the handles are metal, however, you will probably need to invest in some removable silicone handle holders so you don’t burn yourself while using your wok!

The other common wok shape includes one small loop handle and a regular skillet handle on the other side. Sometimes the skillet handle is made of wood or covered with plastic, and sometimes it is made of the same material as the rest of the wok.

Even though this design is less traditional, many Western users like it because it allows them to incorporate more of their familiar cooking techniques into wok cooking.

Base

There are also two main types of wok bases.

Woks traditionally had a rounded base because they were used in outdoor fire pits. This allowed for even heat distribution and the development of traditional cooking techniques such as pushing foods up the sides as they cooked.

The downside of cooking with a rounded wok in a Western kitchen, however, is that it will not sit flat on your gas or electric stovetop. Fortunately, there are some special attachments that you can buy to make the wok stable on a Western range. Many people, however, are put off by the extra money and steps needed for that. Additionally, rounded woks can be difficult to store since they do not stand on their own.

For this reason, many Western woks have a flattened based that sits more easily on a gas or electric stovetop.

Lids

Some woks come with a lid, and some do not. They are, however, necessary if you want to take full advantage of all your wok has to offer, including the ability to boil and steam food.

For this reason, it is important to consider whether or not a lid is included with your wok when you evaluate the price. If it does not, make sure you factor it in.

Wok Utensils

In addition to cleaning utensils and a lid, you will need a few other tools to help you make delicious foods with your wok.

Wok Spatula

Regular spatulas are usually too large to properly reach food at the bottom of a wok. Wok spatulas are specially designed to have a smaller, rounded top that is perfect for getting food off of the rounded sides. We recommend using silicone ones so that you do not accidentally scratch your wok.

Spider Strainer

Wok cooking typically requires a lot of liquid, and a spider strainer can help make sure you do not end up serving your guests soggy lakes of food. These special strainers are like large, flattened slotted spoons that make sure you scoop out perfectly cooked foods instead of lots of oil and water.

Meat Scissors

If you plan to make classic stir fry, you should invest in a good pair of meat scissors. These enable you to get small cuts of meat that will cook evenly and add more flavor to your stir fry and similar dishes.

Don’t eat meat? You can use meat scissors to quickly and easily chop up vegetables such as carrots and green beans.

Frying Chopsticks

Want to impress your guests? Consider using frying chopsticks when you cook. They are like regular chopsticks, except longer and more substantial. With a little practice, you can use them to quickly turn whatever you are cooking in your wok. Many people find that, after they get the hang of using them, they actually prefer frying chopsticks over spatulas.

Bamboo Steamer

Like dumplings? Dim sum? Steamed vegetables, meats, and fish?

Your bamboo steamer is about to become your best friend.

If you try to steam food directly in your wok, you will likely end up with something that is not quite fried and not quite steamed. If you put a bamboo steamer in your wok and cook the foods however, you will effortlessly end up with restaurant quality steamed foods.

The steamer is also a great option for people who do not like cooking with a lot of oil. It’s a great way to use just water when cooking with your wok.

Silicone Handle Holders

You will need to get silicone handle holders if you are using a wok with two loop handles. These small grips stay in place while you cook and will help keep your hands cool when doing a wok toss. Additionally, they can be easily removed and cleaned.

Cookbook

Sometimes you need inspiration. This is where a wok cookbook helps. A good book will also give you techniques for getting the best flavor from your wok regardless of what dish you make.

Induction Stovetop

Induction cooking is the future. It’s a safer, more efficient way of heating up pans that actually provides a more even cook to food. There really are no downsides!

Induction ranges are still pretty rare, and most people are equipped with gas or electric. Fortunately, however, portable induction stovetops are relatively inexpensive and do not take up too much counter space.

Basically, induction works by using magnets to make a pan heat up. There’s no open flame or heat source. The pan itself gets hot. In fact, you can even touch the stovetop and not burn yourself!

If you haven’t tried cooking with induction, we definitely recommend it! When you combine a high-quality wok with induction techniques, you will never go back to your old cooking methods!

Complete Wok Systems

A complete wok system contains everything you need to start making meals with your wok. Typically, they include a wok, a portable stovetop, a lid, and other cooking utensils.

Our Recommended Complete Wok System

We recommend combining the following to make the best complete wok system:

That’s it! With these tools, you will be all set to start entertaining, traveling, selling food out of a food truck… the possibilities are endless!

Wok Techniques and Tips

While you can make both Western and Eastern dishes in a wok, you will need to adjust your technique just a little bit in order to get the best tasting dishes.

  • Make sure your wok is hot. Traditional woks were placed directly on hot coals, and you will get the best results when you honor that tradition and cook over high heat.
  • Use oil! This will prevent your food from sticking to the wok. It will also ensure a better, more authentic taste. If you do not want a ton of oil in your finished dish, consider straining the excess oil when your food is done. You should also remember to use an oil with a high smoke point if you are cooking over high heat.
  • Use the rounded sides. Put the food that needs the most heat at the bottom and push food that needs less heat up the sides.
  • Practice the “wok toss” for stirring food. To do this, simply push your wok forwards and upwards so the food goes up in the air in a small arc. It’s probably best to try this a few times with a salad on the countertop before working with hot food over a hot range. Once you master this technique, you will not only impress your guests with the cooking spectacle, but you will also ensure that even the smallest pieces of food are cooked evenly on every side.
  • Take care of your wok! If you do not, it could rust, develop scratches, or lose its seasoning.

Your Next Steps

So what do you have to do to make stunning meals with your wok?

  1. Buy a high-quality wok, such as the Klee Cast Iron Wok.
  2. Decide on a dish, then gather and prepare your ingredients.
  3. Make sure you have all the tools you need and that your wok is seasoned.
  4. Begin!

Bon Appetit!

Best Woks

Which woks will give you the best results? Our favorite is the Klee Cast Iron Wok because it is a high-quality, durable wok that comes with a lid and a money-back guarantee. We also recommend the Lodge Mini for people with less powerful stovetops and the Presto Stainless Steel Electric Wok for those without a regular stovetop.

Any one of these will help you reach new destinations in your cooking adventures. Enjoy!