When you think of must-have kitchen essentials, is a wok near the top of your list? If it isn’t, then it should be! These durable, versatile pans are great for preparing a variety of dishes, from stir-frys to popcorn!
If you don’t have one yet, then it’s time to start shopping. Today, we’re sharing how to find the best wok pans on the market. Once you’ve added one to your collection, you’ll wonder what you ever did without it.
What Are Wok Pans?
Before we dive into how to find the best one, let’s talk about what makes a wok pan unique. Put simply, this is a type of traditional Asian cookware. This particular style of pan features a rounded bottom and deep, sloping side walls.
This special design serves multiple purposes. First, the extra depth allows you to pour in a large volume of liquid, which comes in handy when you’re cooking up those delicious teriyaki dishes. Plus, the round lower surface ensures that the liquid has room to pool without spreading so thin that it burns.
At the same time, the extra-tall walls allow you to cook at a higher temperature and retain more heat. This reduces your cooking time and helps you enjoy your meals that much quicker!
Today, you can find woks made in a variety of different materials, but carbon steel is by far the most common and popular. Some manufacturers will also offer ones made from cast iron, but these tend to be heavier and not as easy to maintain.
Conversely, carbon steel is lighter weight and a breeze to wipe clean after use. It’s also a little more durable than cast iron, and conducts heat at a faster rate. Plus, it’s naturally non-stick!
Why Should You Buy a Wok Pan?
Of course, you don’t absolutely have to use a wok pan to fry up incredible Asian-inspired meals. However, it can be an incredibly resourceful type of cookware to have on hand.
With just one pan, you can sauté, stir-fry, grill, and more. The non-stick surface is easy to clean and yields consistent and quick results. In addition, most models are deep and wide enough to accommodate a ton of ingredients, so it’s ideal for those one-pot weekday meals. Here are a few more benefits you can expect when you invest in one for your home kitchen.
Move Food Around With Ease
Have you ever tried to stir a pot or pan that’s filled near the brim? It’s all too easy to push the food over the edge, where it could come into contact with the hot stovetop below. Not only does this pose a burn risk, but it also wastes food! A wok’s sloping walls work to hold ingredients in place, so you can stir and move them around without worry.
Cook Evenly and Efficiently
The tall sides of your wok may look dramatic and imposing, but they serve an important purpose. Together, these walls form two distinct heat zones inside of your pan. When you add food, those zones work together with one another to cook your food as evenly as possible.
If you have tough meat or hard, raw veggies, then you can move these to the bottom of your wok, where the heat concentration is the highest. Once they get going, you can add your other ingredients.
This means no more undercooked chicken or over-cooked veggies. You’ll appreciate the evenly browned results that look as great as they taste. Yet, don’t just take our word for it. Check out these chef-authored scientific reasons why woks just work.
Healthier Meal Prep
Woks allow you to cook your food at a higher heat, with less reliance on cooking oils such as olive oil or vegetable oil. Practically-speaking, this is a great convenience that shortens your time at the stove. However, it’s also great for your health!
Unlike healthy omega-3s, cooking oils are usually high in omega-6s. These fats can accelerate the development of certain health conditions, ranging from blood clots to inflammation. In addition, over-cooking these oils can pose a risk to the environment, as they can produce toxic fumes called free radicals. While it’s OK to use these oils in moderation, it’s smart to avoid them if you can.
Whether you’re cooking for a table of hungry children or a party with friends, a wok is a guaranteed crowd-pleaser. It’s conical shape allows you to add as much food as you need without worrying about over-crowding any items.
Not only does this make it easy to prepare huge dishes, but it’s also great for meal-prepping and bulk freezing. Now, you can create multiple meals at once, all in the same pan.
Wok Pans vs Frying Pans
Should you fry or should you wok? The answer doesn’t have to be one or the other, but it helps to understand what each type of cookware is designed to do.
Compared to a wok, frying pans have much flatter bottoms. This is because they were designed to fit on traditional American stovetops, which have either flat metal grates or smooth electric surfaces. Round-bottomed woks can be a little clunky on these appliances, which is why flat-bottomed wok varieties are now available online and in stores.
Frying pans also have shallower side walls that don’t feature as much of a slope. When you pour in oils and sauces, they spread out evenly across the bottom, rather than concentrating in one specific spot like they would in a wok.
While woks are mostly made from carbon steel, frying pans can be comprised of lots of different materials, including:
- Stainless steel
- Cast iron
Each material features its own pros and cons, though most home chefs tend to prefer stainless steel models due to their versatility and durability.
Still unsure which one to grab when it’s time to sauté some veggies? If your recipe calls for high heat and you need to prepare the dish in a hurry, then woks are the way to go. The non-stick surface makes cooking and clean-up a cinch and can even negate the need for oil or butter in the pan. This can help make your meal that much healthier!
How to Find the Best Wok Pans: Top Features to Look For
As you start shopping for a wok, you’ll soon realize that there are many different kinds on the market! It can help to understand some of the common features that these pans can share. This way, you can create a short list of the ones that are important to you, as well as those that you don’t mind skipping.
Here are the top characteristics to consider.
You could browse stainless steel or cast iron woks, but we always suggest sticking with a carbon steel one. These offer the same durability as cast iron, as well as the lightweight of stainless steel. However, they possess one feature that sets them apart from the rest: Carbon steel is awesome when it comes to cooking food at an even temperature.
Trust the most experienced Asian cooks and focus your efforts on carbon steel models for the best results.
Style of the Bottom
It’s easy to find woks that feature round bottoms or flat bottoms. To determine which one you need, take a look at your stovetop. If it’s an electric range, as is common in many Western kitchens, then you need a flat-bottomed one. Otherwise, the curvature of a round bottom could prevent the pan from sitting securely on the heat.
Round bottom woks offer many advantages, including the ability to withstand higher heats and a lower propensity for warping. However, they’re best reserved for use with specialty wok burners, which are designed to accommodate their special shape.
Size of Pan
If you regularly cook for a crowd, then look for a large wok pan that can meet your needs. You can find ones that are as small as eight inches in diameter to oversized ones that span more than three feet wide!
Not sure what size you need? Take a look at the other pans in your kitchen. If their size fits your family, then you can buy a similarly-shaped wok. If you find yourself wishing you had just a little more room, then size up.
Type of Handle
Traditional woks are usually designed with two metal handles, which are also called “ears”. The handles are on opposing sides, which makes it easier to move the wok up and down out of a Chinese wood stove. However, most modern designs feature a slight variation on this feature. Now, it’s more common to find woks with one long, wooden handle.
The handle looks and operates much like the one you’d find on a standard skillet, and is longer than one on a frying pan. Sometimes, there’s a “helper handle” on the opposite end, which allows you to pick the entire pan up if you need to. The extra-long primary handle allows you to stand back from the pan as you tilt and turn it during cooking.
Consider how you plan to use your wok. Do you anticipate lifting it out of a wok burner or just using it on your stovetop? If it’s the latter, then you’ll need that long handle for easy access. If you plan to purchase and use a more traditional wok, then the ear-handle design might be preferable.
As mentioned, most carbon steel woks do not come with a non-stick coating, because they do not require it. However, you can find some woks that are specifically marketed as non-stick. Usually, these are heavy-gauge aluminum woks that aren’t as long-lasting as steel alternatives.
If the coating is important to you, then look for this feature in the description.
Wok With Lid
There are lots of Asian dishes that require steaming and simmering. In these cases, a wok with a lid is ideal! Adding a lid on the top of your pan helps retain heat, which can encourage the dish to cook more quickly.
While many woks will come with a lid as part of the set, this isn’t always the case. If this accessory is a dealbreaker, then make sure it’s included before you add the pan to your cart!
4 Top Options for Wok Pans
Now that you know how to shop for a wok pan, are you ready to find the perfect one? Below, we’re sharing a few of our top picks in this category. As we browsed all of the available models, we kept three main rating criteria in mind. These included:
- Price point
- User reviews (four stars and up)
- Carbon steel construction
Then, we reviewed the features and benefits of each one, as well as any cons to note. The following list reveals our five favorites!
Nearly 2,500 reviewers agree that the Bielmeier Wok Pan is an incredible buy. This wok is also 12.5 inches and comes in a set, along with a wooden lid and wooden spatula. In addition, you’ll also receive 12.5-inch chopsticks for cooking, as well as a loofah pot brush for easy cleanup!
Made of rugged carbon steel, this lightweight pan cooks quickly and is ideal for a variety of dishes, from stir-fried veggies to deep-fried chicken. Users love the flat base, as well as the hammered steel finish.
- Detachable wooden handle
- No chemical coating
- Naturally non-stick surface
- Nitriding treatment on base to resist rust
- Stepped design on lid to fit snugly on wok
- 12-month warranty
- Some claim that the non-stick coating looses effectiveness after use
- Rust can form if not cleaned properly
Recognized as Amazon’s #1 new release in the Woks and Stir-Fry Pans category, the Gold Dragon Heritage Edition Carbon Steel Wok is a crowd favorite.
At 12.5 inches, this is a standard-sized pan that comes with a wooden lid and wooden spatula. Like the others on this list, it’s made of long-lasting carbon steel and features a flat bottom design. One of the best parts about this pan is that it comes with a helpful recipe book filled with 15 of the brand’s most coveted wok recipes!
- Built-in mouth for easy pouring
- Oven-safe up to 500 degrees Fahrenheit
- Detachable wooden handle
- Designed in the U.S.
- Lifetime guarantee
- Some reviewers said it wasn’t totally stick-proof
- A few complaints about unsealed packaging
One of the most economical pans to make our list, the Kenmore Hammond Carbon Steel Wok is a great deal. We love its simple and straightforward design! In addition, we also appreciate that it’s backed by one of the most recognizable names in the appliance world. Kenmore has been in business since 1927 and has an excellent reputation for designing well-built kitchenware that lasts.
This carbon steel wok measures 14 inches, which makes it the most sizable one on our list. It has a flat bottom that easily retains and distributes heat.
- Heat resistant up to 500 degrees Fahrenheit
- Non-stick interior without special coatings (no PTFE or PFOA)
- Main wooden handle and helper handle
- Handle is not removable
- Does not come with a lid or extra accessories
This versatile wok will become a staple in your kitchen. It’s a great deal at just $29!
The ANEDER Carbon Steel Wok Pan measures 12.5 inches in diameter and comes with a glass lid and wooden spatula. We love the transparent design of the lid, which makes it easy to check on your food while you’re cooking!
Featuring a flat bottom design, it’s the multi-functional pan you’ve dreamed of adding to your kitchen. Here are a few more reasons to add it to your wish list.
- Shatter-proof, heat-resistant lid
- Hanging ring for easy storage
- Detachable, scorch-resistant handle
- The lid can stand up against the handle
- Non-stick interior surface
- “Fish scale” design on the interior to prevent scratches
- Some reviewers claimed the coating began to show wear and tear over time
- The handle can come loose
- Some lids don’t fit snugly over the wok
Get Ready to Wok and Roll!
A wok pan is a great addition to your kitchen, and it’s one tool that you’ll reach for time and again. In fact, you may be surprised at how many new dishes you suddenly feel empowered to try now that you have the right vessel! Use our guide to understand how to find the best wok pans. Start by listing the features that are the most to you, and then look more closely at your available options, keeping your budget and space requirements in mind.
As you shop, check back here often for more helpful buying guides. From beverages to bakeware, we’ve got you covered with the latest reviews and tips to help you deck out the heart of your home.