Cooking with a wok can be quite an experience. The food flipping, the flames leaping. For some, a wok can seem daunting. And yet, a wok is about the simplest piece of cookware imaginable. It’s just a big ole bowl that cooks up a yummy heap of veggies and meats. Not quite so daunting, is it?
Though if this is your first time deciding what’s the best wok to buy, deciphering the different types of woks can seem a bit overwhelming. In this handy buying guide, we break down the best material for a wok, explain the benefits of cast iron or carbon steel woks, talk nonstick and uncoated surfaces, get into how to use and how to season a wok, and a whole lot more.
What’s the Best Material for a Wok?
In many culinary circles, a debate has raged over this very question. The two primary answers tend to be either a cast iron or carbon steel wok. And now, as the dust has settled on the debate, the definitive answer seems to be: it depends.
Advantages of Both Cast Iron and Carbon Steel:
- They both get hot and retains heat.
- They put on an unmatched sear on steaks, char on veggies, and complex carmelizations throughout.
- They build up a practically nonstick surface when seasoned with regular use and care.
- They develop a character that is all their own.
Ok, so maybe our “it depends” is a bit of a cop-out. But you can see now how it’s totally true! The best material for a wok really does depend what kind of home cook you are and what kind of expectations you have from your cookware for its performance and care.
So What’s the Best Wok to Buy for Me?
Here are some handy recommendations for the best wok to buy, based on the different types of home cooks we encounter the most:
If you’re a home chef looking to take it to the next level...
This is a large traditional wok made with 1.8mm heavy-duty carbon steel. It’s an uncoated surface, which over time with regular use and care, will develop that complex seasoning pro chef’s covet (check out our how-to-season-a-wok video).
If you’re a purist looking for an authentic experience…
Buy the Joyce Chen Classic Series 14-Inch Round Bottom Carbon Steel Wok with Birch Handles (and don’t forget the wok ring!)
The round bottom wok has hundreds of years of incredible cooking behind it. Plus, the carbon steel will develop a beautiful coating with a custom character all its own with regular use and care.
If you’re shopping for an impressive holiday or housewarming gift...
Not only is this a great starter set for anyone with a hankering for stir fry, but it’s also a no-fuss option, thanks to the nonstick wok surface and lid.
If you just can’t make up your mind…
This pan can do it all since it whips up so many dishes beyond stir-fry—from sauteed veggies to scrambled eggs. And the nonstick coating makes cleanup a cinch.
So there you have it. Hopefully you (or your gift-ee) can identify with one of the above so you can make sure your wok is the perfect fit.