Best Wok 2019 • 8 Woks Reviews
Woks - the wonderful things they are! Need a healthy meal quick? Then a stir fry is your go to and a wok is just what you need. Here's our handy review & buyers guide!
Wok Leaderboard 2019
What is a Wok?
While this humble pan may just seem like a confused, bowl-like piece of cook-ware that takes up space in your kitchen and isn’t quite a pan or a pot, it actually has a long and storied history that we’ll go through later in this review!
They are a unique piece of cookware due to their bowl shape, which enables them to be used for many types of cooking and performs most of the functions either pots or pans can, and that’s why in this review we want to highlight how they are one of the best weapons in your cooking arsenal!
How does a wok work?
Woks work very well for all kinds of cooking due to their distinctive shape. The centre of the pan can get incredibly hot with very little heat applied to it, cooking the ingredients in the centre quickly. While the edges of the pan are quite high, and in the case of hand-hammered woks, flared; best enabling you to very easily move the food around the pan.
This means that while every stir or toss of the pan cools the ingredients down, at the same time, they are being re-heated very quickly, so if you constantly review the food while it is in the pan, you can cook an amazing meal that’s never over or under cooked. This also works when adding new ingredients into the pan. The best way of cooking a stir fry in a wok is to add the ingredient types one-by-one while cooking and constantly tossing and stirring. This way the flavour of each ingredient imparts into all the others and creates a unique (often Umami) taste that you don’t have to be the best wok cook to achieve!
At the same time, if cooking over an open flame, the act of tossing the food throws oil particles into the air, and if done by the best masters, can flash the flame into the pan, also gently chargrilling some of ingredients in the process, further adding to the flavour.
Advantages & Applications
As described above in our review, the best advantage of using a wok for frying is that because of their unique shape, they are the best at creating unique flavour profiles that just aren’t possible in a regular frying pan.
Another advantage is that due to the curved edges of a wok (as opposed to the vertical edges in western frying pans), you have more surface area for the food to come into contact with the pan, and you are able to hold higher portions in there to cook. At the same time, you can cook your food much more evenly, by holding large pieces of ingredients (say cuts of meat) on the bottom of the pan, then when cooked, move them up towards the edges so they cook slower as the other ingredients cook quicker. This gives you the best control over how your dish is cooking all in one pan.
However, while woks are best for stir frying, they are also great at:
- Deep frying – Due to their shape, they are very safe to deep fry in
- Pan Frying – A small amount of oil will enable you to fry best if constantly turning the pan and ingredients
- Searing – As the high heat on the bottom of the pan allows fast browning
- Roasting – Placing a lid on the wok allows food to be roasted in a dry heat
- Smoking – Using a rack, smoking wood etc. can be placed underneath the food
- Steaming – If using steaming baskets, the wok can be filled with boiling water and steam food above
- Stewing – You can also stew food in a wok, and use it afterwards as the serving bowl
- Braising – Woks are an ideal size for braising food
- and boiling – Of course, fill the pan with water and boil! This is especially tasty with rice because of the way a wok heats food, creating toasted rice on the bottom of the pan that you can mix in with your rice or use as a delicious snack!
What types of wok are there?
While woks all come in the same general shape, there are some specific differences between them that make them best for the particular heat source you use in your kitchen! We’ll go through the two main shapes and four main materials used for woks in our review.
Traditional woks – These come with a rounded bottom, which enable the extreme heating of food in the bottom of the pan, and the shallow fry/deep fry ability described above. These are used the most in Asian cooking due to the prevalance of open fire cooking in the region. However, if you have a flat stove, it’s definitely not the best idea to use these as the rounded bottom will reflect heat back onto your stove, damaging it (especially with a convention or electric stove!). If you have a gas cooker however, these are the best type you should buy as they are designed specifically for the open flame!
Carbon Steel – These are the most common types of woks available on the market at the time of writing this review for a few reasons. Carbon steel is fairly cheap compared to other materials, they’re also relatively durable, lasting for a long time and can take a beating, they’re also fairly light, meaning they can heat up easier, as well as being easier to lift and toss with. Carbon steel pans can be harder to season than other materials, however, this disadvantage pales in comparison to the advantages of carbon steel.
Carbon Steel also comes in certain subtypes, the cheapest ones being “stamped”, made from a single sheet of metal that is stamped into shape by a machine. The mid-range ones tend to be more expensive, and made from either spun steel, or much heavier gauge steel that is machine-hammered. Finally, the best, top of the market carbon steel woks are hammered by hand, using multiple sheets of carbon steel that are then forged into their final shape. While these tend to be very expensive, they are life-time items that won’t break down before you do!
Cast Iron – The second most popular material for woks in this review, due to their hardiness, heat retention, even heat distribution, ease of seasoning and relative cheapness.
Chinese made pans tend to be very thin, making them fragile at times and can shatter if dropped but can heat up quicker, while western pans will be heavier, which protects them, but means they take longer to heat up and can be too heavy for some to toss food with. Whichever of these is best for you depends entirely on your preference!
Non-stick – Non-stick pans don’t need to be (and shouldn’t be!) seasoned, so they are the best woks for using right out of the box, which also helps ingredients retain juices as opposed to browning. However, this lack of seasoning means there is less flavour imparted into the food. At the same time, you cannot use metal utensils with them as this will destroy the non-stick coating on the pan.
Aluminium – This is also another common material used, however, pans made with aluminium are usually the cheapest on the market for a reason. While they conduct heat very easily so are easier to manage food with, and are light to toss with, they don’t get as hot as other woks and they can be very thin, meaning they can mis-shape or damage very easily. These will be best for those of you that are on a tight budget!
The big wok-buyer’s guide
Here are 5 typical defects and weak points it’s best you watch out for with your new pan!
The first sign to watch out for with cheaper-end woks is a defect in their machine stamping. This can often happen to hundred of woks on the factory floor before the defect is noticed, so it’s definitely best you check the shape beforehand! Common things to watch out for are the bottom of the wok being out of centre, the edges being flared and the sides not being an even measurement.
Matching your wok to your stove type
In nearly every review online, the debate about flat bottoms vs. round bottomed rages on, but the best way to solve this problem yourself is to look at your stove type. There’s not much point to buying a round bottomed wok if you have an induction stove! Your pan won’t stand on the element & you’ll have problems with the heat being reflected back and damaging the element.
Seasoning your wok
If you have a carbon steel or cast iron wok, you NEED to season it! If you don’t, your food will always stick to your pan, creating a very stubborn mess that will damage your pan during cleaning, cooking the food poorly and creating needless amounts of smoke in your kitchen.
Also, DON’T season a non-stick pan as this defeats the purpose of buying one and damages the coating. Exactly the opposite of what you want. The best thing to do even before buying your new pan is to find out whether you need to season or not. While it’s usually just a 30 minute job, it’s your preference whether you’d like to or not!
Because woks can be heavy at times, and you may well be tossing your ingredients in the pan, it’s important the handle (or handles!) attached to it is strong. The best wok handles are be both sturdy enough to handle rough usage, and well enough attached to the pan that they won’t unscrew.
While many woks only come with one handle, the best woks come with two;
Finally, while you may be tempted to go for the more inexpensive brands of woks, it’s important to note that these woks are cheap for a reason. That reason is normally due to the shoddy construction techniques and materials used to make them.
While your wok may be made of carbon steel or cast iron, if it was made with defective steel or weak, thin sheets of iron, your wok won’t last long at all and before you know it, you’ll be looking for a new one!
How can consumers themselves test their product before or immediately after purchase?
When buying a new wok, there are a few things you can do to review and test your new find before buying. Of course these suggestions will only apply when buying one in person as opposed to ordering one online!
The first thing you’ll want to do is ensure you look for the best wok type for your kitchen’s stovetop. If you have an induction heating element, then you’ll need a heavy, flat-based wok made from a ferrous metal such as steel carbon or cast iron. If you have an electric stove, you will also need a flat-based wok, but you can get away with buying a lighter wok, especially one with good heat conductivity such as aluminium.
At the same time, feel its weight by picking it up and flicking it as if you were tossing food. If you are strong enough to flick a heavier wok, it’s always better to buy one as opposed to a lighter one, due to the heat retention properties, stability when cooking and durability. Of course if you have a flat-based wok, or use an induction element, then you won’t be tossing the food around, so you can get away with using a lighter wok that will do the job just as well and save a bit of strain on your wrists!
You’ll want to review that the handle(s) of the wok is durable enough to withstand heavy use. The best wok products available will have handles that are moulded into the final shape along with the pan, which are the ultimate in durability as the handle will never become detached from the rest of the pan.
While you can screw these back in tightly, when the screws have come loose once, it’s very easy for them to come loose again no matter how much you fix them! The cheapest woks on the market may even have the handles glued on, which are likely to come apart after only a few months!
While picking up the wok to review its weight and the handle’s durability, there’s one more thing worth checking: the dimensions of the pan. Make sure that the pan is even and doesn’t have any sides larger than the others, at the same time ensure the top edges of the pay don’t have a flared base, and finally ensure that the wok is actually the right size to fit on your heating element.
If you buy a round bottomed wok that is too small to fit onto your gas stove’s heating element, you will have wasted a lot of time and probably money!
Finally, thanks to the modern world, we can always check a review or 10 before committing to buying anything!
Results and experiences from other consumer tests
While there are many types of woks out there, with many different suppliers selling them, only a few websites review throughout the market to try and find the best wok in terms of value for money, durability and other factors. Two of these are Thoroughly reviewed; an independent and unbiased consumer portal that creates top ten lists on many products, and Expert Reviews; a comparison and review website that started as a technology reviews print magazine in the 1980’s.
What was taken into account in these tests? How did they work? What were the findings regarding weak points?
During their reviews on woks, they first narrowed down the amount of items to test based on size, material and temperature resistance. After that, the real testing began and they checked through the weight of each pan, whether or not the wok needs to be seasoned, quality of life additions, such as helper handles, insulated handles & bundled cooking utensils and finally guarantees provided by the manufacturer.
In general, the weakest woks they found, which they didn’t include in their reviews, were those that were either poorly built with handles breaking off easily, or material that wouldn’t hold heat very well, creating an uneven cooking of ingredients in the pan. Some of the others discarded were those that were only small enough to cook for one – up to 18cm, as you wouldn’t be able to fit many ingredients in those pans, changing the way it cooks.
Regarding which properties are there particularly large differences between the products?
The first main difference between each wok in their reviews tended to be the material used to make the wok with, which has an effect on whether or not the pan needs to be seasoned initially and regularly.
Regarding which properties are the products usually on the same level?
When it comes to what the woks had in common, the list is probably endless; they are after all, just dome shaped cooking pans! Most of them that made the top 10 in each review had similarities in terms of size, all had good thermal capacity and even distribution of heat, they all tended to be made from 4 main materials – either cast iron, stainless steel , carbon steel or aluminium and all were strong, durable and sturdy.
Are there concrete warnings of potential hazards mentioned?
When it comes to potential hazards to watch out for, there are the obvious, regular cooking hazards, as well as being careful with non-stick pans by not using metal utensils on them, or seasoning them, as these will both damage the coating.
There are only two main hazards to watch out for when cooking with a wok specifically. The first one is to be careful when tossing a wok that has oil in it. Tossing the pot necessarily sends oil droplets out onto your heat source, and while this is desirable if trying to cook with “wok hei”, if you’re not careful, you could start a fire, or damage your electric or induction hob!
Brands – Check
When it comes to the top 10 best wok brands, instead of contrasting and comparing, we’re going to be unbiased in our review and just list the top 10 best selling brands in the UK (at the time of writing!) and give you a bit of information on each one.
- Le Creuset
- Master Class
ProCook’s best wok has measurements of 28cm/11in x 7.5cm/3in with a flat base. The wok has deep sloping sides, meaning that you will have to toss your stir fry pretty regularly, but since the wok weighs roughly 2 kilos, and has little weight to it, it could easily be used to toss a stir fry with. The wok is made from aluminium with a non-stick coating and has silicon handles attached to it which mean you won;’t burn yourself when picking it up.One thing to bear in mind is that this wok does require seasoning before use, even as a non-stick pan, however, the best wok cooked stir fry will come from a seasoned wok due to the flavours this imparts.
From the world famous brand comes their version of the best wok; which is made from specially forged aluminium with a non-stick coating that doesn’t require seasoning, so can be used “out of the box”. The wok is coated both within and without and comes with stainless steel handles that won’t heat up when the wok does, which will protect your hands.Because the aluminium is specially forged, it is hardier than most aluminium pans while also having the lightweight benefits of aluminium. Unfortunately the pan doesn’t come with a lid as standard and must be bought separately. The non-stick coating is also not metal utensil proof, so you will need to be careful when cooking that you use silicon or wooden utensils.
The measurements on this wok are: 27cm (10.5″) dia x 46cm (18″) with handle x 11cm (4.25″) high. It is made from carbon steel which makes it especially sturdy and long-lasting as well as giving it good heat conductivity specs. It also has a non-stick coating that doesn’t need to be seasoned. The wok has a flat base so can be used for most hobs and ranges allowing flexibility in its use.This pan is also suitable for use with induction cookers. It doesn’t come with a lid or any utensils, so these will need to be bought separately. the brand does sell some that are specifically designed for this wok.
This traditional pan has two helpers handles and a shallow, concave design with a rounded cooking base but a flat bottom to sit on a flat stove. Even though it is made from cast iron, it is pre-seasoned during manufacture, so you only have to maintain upkeep on the seasoning to use it. the wok is 30.5cm wide which makes it big enough for large meals and due to its shape being ideal for tossing a stir fry with, this would be an item you’d want to show off to your friends with while cooking for them for the best times!Bear in mind this wok isn’t dishwasher safe, though because it is cast iron, it does also provide some health benefits.
This is made from 2mm thick carbon steel, premium non-stick coating that is suitable for use with metal utensils, is dishwasher and oven safe and can be used with induction stoves and comes with a 10 year guarantee. The measurements are 61 x 36 x 10 cm. This pan does need to be seasoned even with its non-stick coating and has a stainless steel handle that resists heat from the pan, as well as a helper handle that is great for taking it out of the oven when finished!
This pan has measurements of 28 x 18 x 18 cm. As it is uncoated, you will need to season it thoroughly before your first use, but this will impart some flavour into your cooking, especially with the range of oils you can use. Over time each session you use it with to cook will also build up flavours. As it is made from heavy gauge carbon steel, it is great for cooking at high temperatures and can be used with metal utensils. Induction hobs are also suitable for use with this pan as the metal inside it is magnetic. Finally, while the wok does have a flat base, it is a small one, enabling you to enjoy a range of cooking styles with the pan.
This wok features easy clean non-stick coating, is made from toughened, black aluminium, has gently sloping sides and features a silicone handle that stays cool to the touch, which is probably the best option for you when cooking for safety. It is 8 cm deep with a 28cm diameter so can cook large amounts of food at the same time. The wok doesn’t come with a lid as standard so one will need to be bought separately if you’d like to use one. The wok features a flat base which is best to use on electric or ceramic hobs, but can also be used on gas hobs or ranges. Unfortunately this pan cannot be used on induction hobs due to the aluminium.
This is the only pan in the top 10 best sellers made from copper. It has a diameter of just over 28cm and a depth of 48.3 cm, with a super non stick surface that is resistant to metal utensils and contains a forged aluminium core to enable better heat distribution through the copper and a flat stainless steel base, allowing it to be used on all hobs and ranges including gas, induction and electric. this pan doesn’t come with a lid
The final brand in our best sellers, Homiu have what is another traditionally made wok. It is made from Carbon Steel which is the best material for heat control and distribution, and doesn’t have a coating, so will require seasoning before its first use. The pan is hand hammered into shape and features a wooden handle. It has a completely concave shape, so isn’t suitable for flat stoves or ranges as it will have no stability.
History of the Wok
These unique pans are at least 2000 years old, apparently being first used in China during the Han Dynasty (202 BC – 9 AD & 25 AD – 220 AD) and being placed in tombs for nobles and scholars during the period. There is a bit of debate about where it originates from exactly however, as there are many wok-like pans used throughout Asia and India which appear to be older. Either way, they are prevalent all over the continent.
Some scholars say that the pan is a “borrowed” concept and that the best guesses of the origin of its name are that it derives from the work Guo or Kuo, which is Mandarin.
Some important safety tips to bear in mind when it comes to woks are that while tossing stir fry around is some of the best fun one can have in a kitchen, it’s especially important to bear in mind that oil droplets will set aflame. Make sure that you are tossing the food away from you so that the flame flashes out, away from you.
You also need to make sure when cooking with one that you only hold it by the handle with your un-gloved hand if the handle is made from silicone, wood or stainless steel. The helper’s handles that are attached are normally moulded into the pan, making them extremely hot while you are cooking so should always be handled using a mitten.
Tips to care for your wok
The main ways to care for your new purchase are first, seasoning it before first use and regularly thereafter if needed, to ensure food doesn’t stick to your pan and become a pain to clean off. Secondly, you should also never scrub it clean, use warm, soapy water and wipe it clean, as this will keep the oil on the pan to enable further seasoning and won’t risk damaging the cooking surface of it.
Finally, you should never heat the pan with nothing in it as this can warp and slowly destroy it over time. Place your oil in first and allow it to heat with the oil inside, then once it is up to temperature, start adding your ingredients.
Accessories for your wok
Some useful accessories to go along with your new pan are a lid that can withstand high temperatures; normally one made from strongly bonded aluminium, silicone cooking utensils, such as a spatula, spoon or tongs to both deal with the high heats being generated and protect any non stick coating you may have on the pan to keep it at its best and if you have a flat range, but a rounded wok, then a wok ring that can sit on top of the range and heat the wok with a stable and steady base.
How to season a wok?
Seasoning a wok is actually fairly simple, first, scrub the inside with soap and steel wool to remove the protective manufacturers coating. Put it over a high heat, then dip some paper towels in a coking oil, and spread this oil along the cooking surface of the pan. Reduce the heat and let the pan sit for 15 minutes. It will then become a shiny black. Leave it to cool and repeat the process again.
How to choose a wok?
The main questions to ask yourself when choosing a pan to buy are; “will this work with my range?”, “do I want to season regularly and enjoy extra flavour, or do I want to go with ease-of-use with a non stick coating?”, “what do the online reviews say” & just with anything else “what is my budget?”
How to clean a wok?
When washing out your pan after use, whether it is seasoned or has a non-stick coating, the best way to lean it is always with soap, hot water and a light sponge to wipe off the food.
What is the best kind of oil to use with a wok?
As woks can reach very high temperatures (especially the bottom of rounded ones), it’s important that you use oils that have a high smoke point. You don’t want to use oils such as olive or sesame as they will burn very quickly and oils like Soybean with a high amount of polyunsaturated fats will turn to a bad texture with your food, making it feel fatty.
The best oils to use are grapeseed oil, peanut oil, sunflower oil or oils similar to those. The oil’s packaging will normally give you a good idea of what the smoke point is; you want to look for one above 430F or so.
What’s the best way to cook with a wok?
As the pan will get very hot and cook your food very quickly, the most important step of cooking with one is preparation. You won’t have time to cut vegetables and organise sauces etc. Once you’ve started cooking. Cut and organise all of your ingredients before you start heating the wok, then add the largest ingredients first – Usually the meats, then work your way through each ingredient, tossing in the lightest ingredients last.
Which size wok should I buy?
A general rule of thumb is; 8″ – 10″ is good for a meal for one person, 10″ – 12″ is good for two people, 12″ – 14″ is good for a family of four (or two hungry people!).