Have you ever attempted to make a stir-fry without using a wok, only to be disappointed by the results of using a frying pan? That’s because you need a wok to stir fry, which is why we’re going to teach you how to find the best iron woks, what their benefits are, and review some of the top products in the category. We considered their overall design, ease of use, and durability when selecting the best picks!
What Is An Iron Wok?
A wok is a large, shallow-domed pot that’s used to cook on top of a powerful stove flame. It’s a popular piece of kitchen cookware. Today, the most often utilized materials in the manufacturing of woks are cast iron and carbon steel. While the former was historically the more frequent variety, cooks often have strong opinions on which of the two varieties is the superior choice.
The form of the wok is its most noticeable feature. A traditional wok has a rounded bottom. After shaping, hand-hammered woks are occasionally flipped inside out, giving the edge a mild flare that facilitates pushing food up onto the wok’s sides.
Woks sold in Western countries may have flat bottoms, which resembles a deep frying pan. The flat bottom enables the wok to be used on an electric burner when a rounded wok would not fully come in contact with the heating element of the stove.
A round-bottomed wok enables the traditional round ladle or spatula to easily pick up and toss all the food at the bottom of the wok; this is harder with a flat-bottomed wok. With a traditional pit stove or a gas hob, the bottom of a round wok may reach a higher temperature than the bottom of a flat wok, making it ideal for stir-frying.
Benefits of an Iron Wok
Aside from being a versatile cooking tool, the iron wok also provides a couple of benefits that we can’t just overlook.
Better Heat Retention
The fundamental advantage of a cast iron wok is the quantity of thermal energy retained by the iron’s greater bulk in comparison to steel’s lower mass. Additionally, iron conducts heat less efficiently than steel; yet steel heats up faster but also loses heat more rapidly.
A cast-iron skillet has significantly more mass than a steel skillet. Steel conducts thermal energy differently than cast iron does; the fundamental difference is that cast iron prefers to store thermal energy for a longer period.
Cast iron woks are substantially heavier than other types of pans, which contributes to its enchantment by helping them to retain heat longer than most other types of pans. This method works well whether you’re searing a steak or cooking a stew on moderate heat. If your stove is not the most dependable, a cast iron pan can assist you to avoid accidentally burning dinner.
What to Look for in an Iron Wok
You need to bear in mind the type of stove that you own and what heating elements it has (can be either electric or gas) before making your wok pick. While we nearly always prefer a gas flame, if you have an electric, keep that in mind when selecting a wok.
If you enjoy the original flavor of wok hay, resist the temptation to purchase a nonstick model. These are problematic for use at the temperatures required for Chinese cooking, as most are rated at 500 degrees or less, and many times you will exceed or come dangerously close to that limit.
Iron woks are available in a variety of sizes; restaurants may utilize woks up to several feet in diameter. The size of wok you select will be determined by several criteria, including your personal preferences, what type of stove you prepare food on, and the wok’s depth.
Flat vs Round Bottom
If you’re using a Western-style electric range burner, the best solution is to cook using a flat-bottom wok. Round-bottomed woks can reflect heat onto the element, causing it to malfunction. Additionally, a flat-bottomed wok can be used on gas burners.
A wok with a lid will significantly simplify your life, especially when cooking Chinese food. The ingredients must be simmered and covered for an extended time during the cooking process. Therefore, purchasing a wok with a lid simplifies the process of cooking food in a wok.
Woks typically feature two little metal handles (similar to ears) or a smaller handle and a longer one, made from wood. If you prefer to lift the pan without using a potholder, wood is an attractive feature. However, in general, you’ll use handles to position the wok on the stove, where it should remain flat throughout the cooking process while you turn and stir with a spatula.
How to Use an Iron Wok
Some people look upon cast iron works reluctantly and squint at the prospect of using a heavy wok, as it cannot be held properly in one hand whenever they need to flip the food and keep it moving. Due to the wok’s weight, you can leave it on the cooktop while repeatedly bringing the wok turner into the meal to stir and move it around.
If you believe that using your free hand is necessary to keep the wok stable on the stovetop, you may do so. Alternatively, you can use a second instrument, such as a spatula, a second wok turner, or a hoak (a large wok stirring and serving scoop), to toss the food in the wok as it fries, similarly to how you would toss a salad.
Because this style of stir-frying relies on grilling your food in the wok, temperature control is critical. When you add your meat to the wok, the temperature will drop slightly – but not as dramatically as it would with a narrow wok.
You may need to increase the cooktop set to 90% or full to maintain a high temperature in your wok as you sear. Once the searing is complete and the meat has been removed from the wok, return the temperature to 80 percent, add a little more oil, and heat for a minute, then add your seasonings.
You must, however, continue to monitor the temperature of the wok. This is due to the wok continuing to absorb heat from the range. At this time, all that is left in the wok is oil and seasonings, which are insufficient to bring the temperature down in a large wok — it may do so in a lighter wok, but not in this one.
If the temperature in the wok goes too high, the seasonings and oil will quickly burn, and you may need to reduce the heat setting to 70 percent to avoid burning.
How to Clean and Treat an Iron Wok
After determining which sort of wok is ideal for you, it’s time to assess whether your wok needs seasoning. To prevent rusting, woks constructed of porous metals should be seasoned before you start cooking with them.
When you get a new wok, it is critical to clean it thoroughly before proceeding. Manufacturers coat new woks in factory oil to protect them from moisture during transportation. This protects the wok from rust and guarantees it arrives in mint condition.
To season your new wok, you can simply scrub it using mild soap and a sponge to remove any factory oil or dust that may have accumulated in the pan during shipping. This is the only time you will need to clean your pan with soap and an abrasive sponge. To completely remove every residue, follow the instructions below:
- Fill a sink halfway with boiling, soapy water.
- Scrub the wok’s interior and exterior using a scouring pad.
- Rinse the wok thoroughly.
- Dry the wok well with a dry towel.
- Place over medium-high heat on the stovetop to completely dry the wok and evaporate any remaining water.
Several different methods cooks use to season an iron wok, with the stovetop method being the most popular one of all. Seasoning your wok on the stovetop is a popular option. You’ll need a stovetop burner, your preferred oil, and paper towels.
Complete the basic cleaning to eliminate factory oil. Wrap the wood handles of your wok with aluminum foil or, if possible, remove them during the seasoning process.
Preheat the wok over high heat to allow the pores of the metal to open. The wok will become quite hot and will emit smoke, so clear the area around your burner, turn on your kitchen hood fan, and open your windows.
Tilt and flip the wok to allow all parts to heat up. You’ll notice your wok changing color as part of the heat exposure.
Conduct a water test on the pan by dropping a drop of water on it. If your wok is sufficiently heated, the water will evaporate in a split second, signaling that it is ready to season.
Allow the wok to cool completely before touching it. Coat your wok in a high smoke point oil using a paper towel. Maintain a thin and even oil layer to provide a smooth, nonstick surface. Because seasoning also functions as a rust inhibitor, coat the exterior of your wok with oil as well.
Re-heat your wok over medium-high heat. Once the oil has ceased to smoke, season that section of the wok. Season each section by flipping and tilting the wok.
When the entire surface of your wok has taken on a matte sheen and dark hue, the seasoning procedure is complete. Rinse your wok with hot water and scrub it clean with a bamboo wok brush to preserve your seasoning.
Reintroduce the wok to the cooktop over a high heat source to evaporate any leftover water particles. Alternatively, you can store the wok until ready to use it or repeat the seasoning process. Season the wok three times to obtain a smoother nonstick surface and a more substantial protective covering.
The Best Iron Woks for Cooking
Backcountry Iron’s Cast Iron Wok
The BackCountry wok is durable, handcrafted from a patented metallurgical alloy, and seasoned with our company’s blend of the finest food-grade oils available to assure you’re getting the highest quality skillet possible. You’ll notice that your foods sear more evenly and cook more consistently than they do with other cookware.
- Great heat retention
- Not dishwasher safe
- Two-sided handles
If you look closely at the pan’s surface, you’ll notice that it’s coated in iron micro-globules, a proprietary technology that ensures seasoning attaches readily and rapidly.
Because there is a chance that your wok might rust, you want to keep it away from the dishwasher. Instead, you can use warm water and try scraping food scraps with a spoon or some other similar utensils. You might have to put a little bit of elbow grease into cleaning up an iron wok.
- Highly durable
- Comes pre-seasoned
- Works on multiple cooking surfaces
- Hard to clean
ITSMILLERS Store Iron Wok
This original hand-hammered carbon steel wok is traditional Asian cooking equipment. It is typically free of harmful chemicals and does not oxidize. The carbon steel wok is composed of a thick iron sheet and is hand-hammered, without any chemical coating.
- Fish-scale shape
- Not microwave/oven-safe
- Detachable wooden handle
Additionally, the detachable hardwood handle will not become hot during usage. This gift packaged item contains a 12.5-inch wok pan with a flat bottom. It also features a gorgeous wooden lid and a spatula delivered together with your purchase. This wok is compatible with induction, electric, gas, and other types of stovetops. This item is not microwave or oven safe.
- Includes lid and spatula
- Handle can be removed to prevent overheating
- Non-stick surface
- Can’t be used in the oven
Carbon Steel Wok Pan
Aneder fry pans are constructed with a smooth surface and the fish-scale indentations you sometimes see in these woks. These two features will minimize the likelihood of food sticking and reach the perfect balance of wok hardness and beauty. The carbon steel construction ensures rapid and equal heat transmission and eliminates hot spots.
- Non-stick surface
- Glass lid included
- Storage ring on the handle
The riveted oak handle is great for a secure and comfortable grip and also makes tossing effortless. With this iron wok, you can effortlessly prepare nutritious meals utilizing a variety of traditional cooking methods such as deep-frying, pan-frying, poaching, broiling, and others.
- Compatible with various cooking surfaces
- Includes spatula and lid
- Transparent lid allows to view contents
- Some claim food sticks to the bottom
WANGYUANJI Cast Iron Wok
The Wangyuanji Cast Iron Wok is crafted from pure iron. A well-seasoned cast-iron wok enables safe cooking, making sure your meals are chemical-free and as healthy as they can be.
- Walnut handle and lid
- Turtle shell texture
The natural Walnut wooden lid lends this quality cookware an air of unique chic rural living. The hardwood lid is an excellent choice for cooking because it will remain cool even when cooking at high temperatures. The skillfully constructed wooden handle made of natural walnut wood delivers a smooth and studied cooking experience, as well as a luxurious appearance to this prestige cookware.
- Quality walnut wooden handle
- Includes walnut wooden lid
- Works on all major cooktops
- Not dishwasher/oven-safe
The Bottom Line
There are certainly pros and cons to using a cast iron wok, but the flavor of the food prepared inside it is not questionable. Did you find an iron wok for your needs? If you ask me, I think the Carbon Steel Wok Pan is the best choice due to its functionality and design. If you want more ideas and advice related to how to choose the best kitchen utensils, check out our guide to the best storage canisters!