The 3 Best Carbon-Steel Woks in 2020
In my experience, Asian cookery provides some of the tastiest and healthiest dishes around. I particularly love Chinese, Indian, and Thai recipes, but the range of recipes and meals that you can use a wok for is enormous.
At the center of Asian cuisine is the wok, quite possibly the most practical and versatile cooking pan ever designed. Once I discovered the joy of using one 30 years ago and bought my own, I found myself using it all the time. Their adaptability means that they work just as well for preparing many Western-style meals as they do for Asian.
I've owned a number of different woks over time, including carbon steel pans which require seasoning and those lined with a non-stick surface, as well as flat and round-bottomed types
I use mine mainly used for stir-frying and making curries, but I've also employed it for much wider duties in the kitchen when required, including steaming, deep-frying, poaching, boiling, braising, searing, stewing, and smoking food.
Below, I list my three favorite woks, giving my reasons and experiences, as well as taking a look at the different types of stir-fry pans that you are likely to encounter, and offering advice on how to season them.
2020's Three Best Carbon Steel Woks
Below is a list of my three favorite woks:
- The Craft Wok: Straightforward and Durable
- The Timoneylove Traditional Stir-Fry Pan: Sturdy and Easy to Use
- The Souped Up Recipes Wok: Versatile and Lightweight
I will give you the reasons for my choices and include my experiences below.
The Craft Wok: Straightforward and Durable
I've been using a Craft Wok as my main pan for stir-fries and curries for just over five years. It's an excellent wok for both beginners or experts. Hand hammered by Chinese professionals in Guangzhou, this is a quality product that's built to last.
- It has my favorite handle design: long handle and a loop.
- The wooden handle is easy to grip and not slippy.
- I love the authentic hand hammered look of this wok
- It's solidly built and durable.
- It has a round bottom, so it's not suitable for flat electric or flat induction stove.
- It will need seasoning before you can use it. See my advice lower down the page.
The Timoneylove Traditional Stir-Fry Pan: Sturdy and Easy to Use
I first used this wok when I was up in New York staying with a friend. It's a super sturdy stir-fry pan that's easy to maneuver and use for cooking. The red eucalyptus one-piece handle is hand welded so it won't fall off.
- Usually pre-seasoned when you buy it, which means that you can use it straightaway
- There's no chemical coating, meaning less smoke
- It's easy to maneuver, despite its sturdiness
- Easy to clean
- I've used it outdoors on a propane-fueled burner
Things I don't like:
- It has a round bottom, so it's unsuitable for an electric stove
The Souped Up Recipes Wok: Versatile and Lightweight
I've been using a Souped Up Recipes Wok for nearly three years now and I love it. Mine came with an attractive wooden lid and a metal spatula. The flat bottom makes it versatile when it comes to heat sources.
- It has a flat bottom, meaning that it works on electric stoves, induction stoves, gas ranges and other heat sources
- The handle is wooden and stays cool, even when the pan is sizzling
- Despite its sturdiness, it still manages to be lightweight
- This is a relatively small wok, which won't suit people hoping to make large meals
The Different Types of Wok Available
There are many different sizes and types of wok.
- One important distinguishing factor is whether it has a round or a flat bottom. The traditional round bottomed pans sit on a ring above the heat source, while the more modern flat-bottomed types sit directly on top of the stove.
- There are pros and cons for both sorts of wok and each has their avid fans and critics, although the type of heating source you have is also an important factor, of course, when considering suitability (for example, gas flames work better with round bottomed pans than electric elements).
- Another important factor that distinguishes the different types of wok is the material that the pan is made of. This article is concerned with those made from cast iron, but there are those made from other materials such as metallic alloy.
- Some modern woks also come with stainless coatings to make them easier to clean. Others have a nonstick inner coating for cleaning purposes.
- Handles also vary. Pans generally either have one long handle and one smaller loop handle, or two loop handles and no long handle. Some come with a lid when you buy them and some don't. Sizes also vary, but the majority of models are between 12 and 14 inches in diameter.
- One modern innovation has been the electric wok. This utensil comes with its own element, which spreads heat evenly across the surface of the pan.
Carbon Steel Woks
Carbon steel is the most common material used for making modern woks - the main reasons being that it conducts heat quickly, it is lightweight, durable, and relatively inexpensive compared to other materials.
The lighter weight also makes them easier to pick up and move around, especially when compared to cast iron pans which are much heavier and sometimes unwieldy, especially for beginners.
Carbon steel woks are a little more difficult to season, but I would not let that put you off. Seasoning is essentially very easy, and although time-consuming, it is not a procedure that you will be required to carry out regularly.
Wok Seasoning Methods
Some woks come pre-seasoned, but most of them you will need to season yourself. Seasoning isn't too difficult and is done mainly to eliminate any metallic taste and odors, plus it stops food sticking to the sides when you are frying.
One seasoning method involves washing out the pan, coating it with cooking oil and baking it. Another method involves stir frying an ingredient such as chives at high heat until charred to get rid of any metallic taste.
A combination of both methods is generally the best way in my experience. See this great video below by The Wok Shop in San Francisco for a walk through.
© 2014 Paul Goodman