The 4 Best Woks You Can Buy, According to Our Test Kitchen
If you're new to the world of woks, finding the right one can seem overwhelming. These ancient cooking tools have been used in China for roughly two millennia, but today's woks look pretty different than they did during the Han Dynasty.
The word "wok" actually means "cooking pot" in Chinese, and they're as versatile as the name would suggest. Their smooth, round shape is great for quickly heating over a small flame. They typically have long handles that allow you to "toss" foods, eliminating the need to stir entirely.
What makes the wok the tool of choice in Chinese-stir frying? Its ability to reach wicked high temperatures, giving foods a beautiful sear. But don't stop there! You can use a wok to braise, deep-fry, make sauces, soups, and even popcorn.
We called on Test Kitchen Product Tester Marianne Williams to put the top-rated woks on the market to the test, and we've determined the winners. But before you start shopping, we've answered a few frequently-asked questions about woks, including how to choose the right one for your needs.
Best Woks at a Glance
- Best Value Round Bottom Wok: The Wok Shop Carbon Steel Wok With Metal Side Handle, Round Bottom, 14-inch
- Best Splurge Round Bottom Wok: Craft Wok Traditional Hand Hammered Carbon Steel Pow Wok, Round Bottom, 14-inch
- Best Value Flat Bottom Wok: KYTD Carbon Steel Wok, 12.5-inch
- Best Splurge Flat Bottom Wok: Yosukata Carbon Steel Wok Pan, 13.5-inch
How We Tested Each Wok
We chose to focus on carbon steel woks for their durability, heat adaptability, and natural non-stick that comes from seasoning. To put these woks to the test, Marianne looked at the ease of the seasoning process, weight and feel of each wok, and comfortability when stir-frying with each wok.
Here are a few important characteristics that Marianne looked for:
- Overall Feel: Is the wok comfortable to use?
- Durability: Is the wok made to last?
- Ability: How evenly does the wok cook? Does food stick to it?
- Overall Value: Is it worth the investment?
Marianne's testing is finished, and we've reached a consensus on the best woks to buy in 2021. Read on for our picks. See one you like? Click the link below each image to get your very own.
What to Consider When Buying a Wok
What is the best material for woks?
Aren't all woks the same? Well, no. Turns out woks can vary on everything from size, shape, and even material. For the sake of our testing, we chose to focus on carbon steel woks, as this is the material that is traditionally used to make woks. But in order to find the right wok for you, it's important to get acquainted with all the varieties on the market.
Carbon Steel: This is the most traditional material used for making woks, and it also tends to be the most recommended by wok enthusiasts. It's inexpensive, lightweight, durable, and most importantly, it heats up quickly and evenly. For these reasons, we decided to focus our testing on carbon steel woks. It does require seasoning and careful cleaning - more on that below.
Cast Iron: No surprise to anyone, cast iron woks are heavy. But they do retain heat very well and can withstand extremely high temperatures. A major downside of cast iron is it doesn't adapt to changes in heat very quickly. And like carbon steel, it requires seasoning.
Cast iron woks are the best option for outdoor use. Although our testing focused on carbon steel, Marianne did find this Lodge Cast Iron Wok to perform well, but a wok spatula is a must when using cast iron because it's too heavy to toss around.
Stainless Steel: Stainless steel woks are gaining traction for their even heat distribution and retention. And they require no seasoning, which is a serious upside, especially to those new to woks. However, because you cannot create a nonstick surface by seasoning, some foods may stick to the surface of a stainless steel wok. If you're in the market for a stainless steel wok, Marianne found this Cooks Standard model performed well and maintained a high temperature throughout the cooking process.
Nonstick: For the beginner cook, nonstick is a great option because it's easy to clean and doesn't require seasoning. However, you're not going to get the same sear on meats and veggies as you would with other woks, because the nonstick coatings cannot be heated as high. For these reasons, we didn't include any nonstick woks in our testing.
Round Bottoms Woks vs. Flat Bottom Woks
Traditionally, woks are made with a round bottom, allowing them to get closer to the flame. Most of today's stoves don't accommodate the shape of a traditional round bottom wok, and require the use of a wok ring or a stove equipped with a wok top.
Many home cooks prefer to use flat bottom woks, as they don't require any additional accessories. However, wok traditionalists argue that flat bottom woks limit the surface area and don't allow you to toss food as you would in a round bottom wok.
We know it all comes down to preference. Whether you're looking for the traditional feel of a round bottom wok or the convenience of a flat bottom wok, we've got picks for all of the above.
Read More: How to Clean a Cast Iron Pan
Best Value Round Bottom Wok: The Wok Shop Carbon Steel Wok With Metal Side Handle
For those looking to invest in a traditional round bottom wok, Marianne selected this classic carbon steel model from The Wok Shop as her favorite.
She says, "Comfortable handle, classic in shape and style, and easy to toss. I asked multiple people in the test kitchen to rate their favorite wok, strictly by feel, weight, and aesthetics, and this one was the overall winner. You'd never know this was the cheapest of the bunch."
This carbon steel wok quickly reached the desired temperature, and easily adapted to heat changes. For the value, you can't beat this American-made wok from The Wok Shop.
Buy it: The Wok Shop Carbon Steel Wok With Metal Side Handle, Round Bottom, 14-inch, $35; The Wok Shop
Best Splurge Round Bottom Wok: Craft Wok Traditional Hand Hammered Carbon Steel Pow Wok
If you're willing to splurge for a more artisan look and feel, this wok from Craft Wok was hand-hammered in China. Marianne says, "After seasoning, this changes color and really achieves a natural non-stick surface. It's a gorgeous and affordable workhorse."
Marianne found the wok to have a medium weight that was easy to toss with one hand. The wooden handle and carbon steel handle make for easy two-handed carrying, and the traditional round bottom quickly heats and adjusts to changes. You'll get years of use out of this hand-crafted wok.
Buy it: Craft Wok Traditional Hand Hammered Carbon Steel Pow Wok, Round Bottom, 14-inch, $60; Amazon
Best Value Flat Bottom Wok: KYTD Carbon Steel Wok
If you prefer the ease and convenience of a flat bottom wok, this one from KYTD received high marks from Marianne for its lightness and comfortability during use. The flat bottom will sit nicely on any stove top, and the hole in the handle allows for easy hanging storage. The fish-scale pattern finish on the black carbon steel resists scratches.
This starter set includes a wok cover to retain heat and wok spatula. This is a great option for anyone new to woks or simply looking to update their existing wok.
Buy it: KYTD Carbon Steel Wok, $40; Amazon
Best Splurge Flat Bottom Wok: Yosukata Carbon Steel Wok Pan
For a wok that's truly the best of both worlds, this flat-bottomed black steel wok is well worth the splurge. "This wok heats impressively quickly and evenly," says Marianne. "Its flat bottom allows for use without a wok ring, yet it has rounded edges on the bottom which made stir frying without the wok spatula easy."
This wok may need a little extra seasoning attention before your first recipe, but it quickly builds up nonstick capability. The light to medium weight of this wok allows for easy motions when tossing with one hand. It was also one of the fastest to preheat of all the woks Marianne tested.
Buy it: Yosukata Carbon Steel Wok Pan, $70; Amazon
Others Woks We Tested
We can't all be winners. Although these woks didn't place top in their categories, some of them still performed well in Marianne's testing. Read on if you're curious about the competition.
Joyce Chen Pro Chef Flat Bottom Wok Uncoated Carbon Steel
We had high hopes for this wok, but it just didn't shine above the others. Marianne also found the handle to be slightly uncomfortable.
Buy it: Joyce Chen Pro Chef Flat Bottom Wok Uncoated Carbon Steel, $86; Amazon
Made In Cookware Blue Carbon Steel Wok
The flat bottom wok sits nicely on any stovetop. However, the uncomfortable, wide handle and the heavy weight of the wok made it awkward and difficult to use.
Buy it: Made In Cookware Blue Carbon Steel Wok, $99; Made In Cookware
Cooks Standard Multi-Ply Clad Stainless-Steel 13-inch Wok with Dome Lid
While our testing focused on carbon steel woks, Marianne did find that this stainless steel variety maintained a high temperature. It's a great option for someone who wants to avoid seasoning.
Buy it: Cooks Standard Multi-Ply Clad Stainless-Steel 13-inch Wok with Dome Lid, $68; Amazon
Lodge Seasoned Cast Iron Wok
The weight and poor heat adaptability of cast iron woks kept them out of the running in our testing. However, Marianne said this would be a great option for outdoor cooking.
Buy it: Lodge Seasoned Cast Iron Wok, $50; Amazon
How to Season and Care for Your Wok
Both carbon steel and cast iron woks require seasoning before cooking to make sure food doesn't stick. Think of this process as creating your own natural non-stick surface that can withstand high temperatures. Here are step-by-step instructions for seasoning your new wok:
- Clean your wok. Hand wash your wok using dish soap, warm water, and a sponge. This will help to remove any of the machine oil applied to prevent rusting during transit.
- Heat your wok. Fire up the stove and heat your wok on high heat for about 10 minutes. Rotate the wok to ensure all sides are evenly heated. The color may begin to change - this is normal!
- Oil your wok. While your wok is still hot, use a paper towel or rag to apply a small amount of high-smoke point oil, such as vegetable oil. Cover the entire surface area of the wok with the oil. Then use a rag or paper towel to wipe away as much of the oil as you can.
- Keep your wok hot. Allow the wok to sit on high heat for an additional five minutes. You'll notice the color of the wok will begin to change once again, and this is a good sign. Go ahead and turn off the burner and let it cool. Your wok is seasoned and ready to use. To continue building the seasoning, repeat these steps as many times as you'd like.
To protect the coating you worked so hard to achieve, you should avoid cleaning your wok with any abrasive sponge or cleaning tool. After each use, use warm water and a non-abrasive sponge with a small amount of dish soap (don't use any cleaning agent stronger than this) to hand wash it. Immediately dry your wok before storing it to avoid rusting.