When you want to cook authentic Chinese stir fry, only the best wok will do. But what does that mean? If you've never cooked with a wok before, it may seem like any big, deep pan will do.
The best wok is actually one that is untreated metal, like cast iron or carbon steel. That will let you season your wok as you cook with it, developing a layer of patina that keeps food from sticking while passing on your own cooking traditions.
But with so many woks available, how do you know which wok will be the best wok for you? Don't worry! We are here to help!
The Best Wok for Your Stir Fry
A wok is a big, bowl-shaped pan traditionally used in some types of Chinese cuisine. They heat up evenly around the entire pan, so you can cook using the whole surface area.
That is important when you're trying to sear everything in the pan at the same time, for example. Having a big surface area that reaches the same temperature means everything cooks at the same rate.
Traditionally, woks have rounded bottoms. These are the ones most often used in Chinese cooking. That's because they fit into the ring-shaped burners often found in Chinese kitchens.
You'll recognize them by the big rings of fire that sit below the pan and get it to high heats quickly.
For home kitchens, there are flat-bottomed woks. These can sit on nearly any cook surface, including your gas or electric stove at home. If you're wondering whether you need a round or flat-bottomed pan, don't worry. Unless you have commercial kitchen gear at home, it's a flat-bottom wok for you!
Woks also usually have two handles for more control. They're big pans and often, cooking with a wok means you need to toss your food. The best wok will either have one long handle and a helper, or two short handles that run parallel to the sides of the wok.
What Makes One Wok the Best?
So now you know what makes a wok a wok. But what makes one the best wok you can buy? Well, it all comes down to how the wok cooks the food.
In traditional Cantonese cooking, there is a quality known as wok hei, when the wok sears and chars the food without burning it. That happens when the wok is properly seasoned with oil and can develop a nonstick patina from long term use.
Because of this, at least in a commercial setting, the best wok is one made of carbon steel. While it's not nonstick at the start, it lets you create a wok with its own unique qualities.
properly seasoning, rather than stainless steel, is essential because it heats up much quicker than stainless, and is much easier to lubricate. Food sticks easily to stainless steel.
Nonstick is a bad choice as well because woks need high heat. The nonstick coating won't always be able to withstand the intense stir-fry temperatures.
If you're not interested in a carbon steel wok, though, the next best option is cast iron. While cast iron can be too heavy to properly toss the food around the way traditional stir fry calls for, it does get seasoned the way carbon steel does. It can also be remarkably sturdy.
Of course, if you're using your wok at home, the pan will never get hot enough to give your food true wok hei.
But using a proper carbon steel wok will still get you closer than anything else. And if you do, properly seasoning the wok will eventually give you a beautiful, nonstick patina that will carry the history of all the times you've used your wok.
How We Chose the Best Woks
We chose the best wok for your kitchen through a few different criteria.
First, every wok had to fit the basic standards we established earlier. It either uses cast iron or carbon steel. These are the best materials for making woks.
Second, and most importantly, every wok had to have a customer rating of 4.0 stars out of 5 or higher. The few of them that did not have this rating had to be vetted by an outside source.
With this combination of verification processes, we are sure that this list holds the best wok for you.
Investing in the Best Wok
Fortunately, if you're trying to add this essential piece to your kitchen, you won't have to shell out the big bucks. The best wok is affordable, and most of the woks on our list cost between $ and $$$.
Some of the more expensive woks use cast iron or come with accessories such as lids. Some are pre-seasoned, meaning they are ready to use immediately. Overall, though, the fluctuation in price is relatively small. It does not indicate a significant difference in quality from one wok to another.
Our Top 10 Best Woks
Our top 10 best woks are all useful for cooking healthy stir-fries in your home kitchen. Some are cast iron, some are carbon steel, and any one of them is the potential best wok for you.
We listed them here in alphabetical order.
- 13" diameter light weight cast iron wok, weighs about 4.6 lbs (2.1 kg)
- ~7" diameter flat extra thick bottom for electric/induction cook top
- Ultra smooth polished cooking surface
The AG2T Cast Iron Wok comes with an extra wide flat bottom. While this is against what most traditional woks use, it actually works very well for home kitchens.
This wide bottom, seven inches in diameter, is so home cooks with induction or electric cooktops can still get the even heat that woks are known for. If you're worried that your electric cooktop may not be able to stir fry as well as a gas stove, this could be the best wok for you.
This wok is cast iron, which makes it a bit heavier than other woks, but it means you can season it as easily as any carbon steel wok. It is also preseasoned, so you can use this pan as soon as you get it.
Eighteen customers on Amazon reviewed this product, giving it a rating of 4.9 stars out of 5. One reviewer said that after seasoning it was a perfect wok that was lightweight and well-polished. The AG2T Cast Iron Wok costs $$ to $$$.
- Sturdy base keeps the wok steady on the stovetop
- Pre-seasoned and ready for immediate use
- Can be used on any stovetop: electric, gas, induction; can also be used in the...
Bruntmor's pre-seasoned cast iron wok is Cantonese style, meaning it has two parallel handles rather than one perpendicular one.
That gives you more stable control over the pan since you can easily use both hands to toss your food around and cook it evenly. Just be careful to use hand protection, since the handles don't have any wood covers.
Like many of the woks on this list, it is pre-seasoned so that you can use it immediately. Just remember that seasoning is an ongoing process that happens as you cook with your wok!
The Bruntmor cast iron wok received 365 reviews on Amazon and has an overall rating of 4.5 stars out of 5. Reviewers said that even though it was a large wok, it was not hard to handle and had an attractive design. The Bruntmor Pre-Seasoned Cast Iron Wok costs $ to $$.
- A wok to pass down to the next generation - 4 3/4 lbs. of Chinese cooking...
- Instructions are included to season wok to become non-stick - the heating...
- Delightful bamboo handle comes with a hole perfect for hanging the wok in...
This traditional carbon steel wok by Chef's Medal earns its "traditional" label. Professionals from Guangdong in southern China hand hammered these woks. This wok is has a curved bottom, meaning it is more appropriate for gas cooktops than it is for electric ranges.
The Chef's Medal wok is not pre-seasoned, but there are instructions included to help you build your patina and create an artful wok. It will hold the experience of everything you've cooked, and it will show you've earned your nonstick coating!
The assist handle is a loop of metal, but the main handle is bamboo. That not only protects your hand while using the wok but gives you a place to hang and preserve your pan.
On Amazon, 32 customers gave this wok 4.5 out of 5 stars. Some of the four-star reviews warned that the wok would rust if not properly oiled and maintained, but this is standard practice for carbon steel woks. Chef's Medal hand hammered wok costs $$ to $$$.
- 15 gauge (1.8mm) carbon steel, commercial grade. Original design by Craft Wok...
- Traditional chinese wok pan with round bottom: not suitable for flat electric or...
- Hand hammered by Chinese professionals in Guangzhou. This wok is the proven...
Craft Wok's traditional hand hammered wok is made with commercial grade carbon steel and is made by craftsmen in southern China.
Like other traditional woks, this has a rounded bottom which means it will not heat up properly on an electric or induction stove. If you have a gas cooktop, however, this wok will work well for you. It also does not come pre-seasoned, so you will have to take care of it well to prevent rust.
This wok has a bamboo handle and metal helper handle so you can keep your stir fry moving and prevent burns.
On Amazon, this wok had 290 customer reviews and an overall rating of 4.3 stars out of 5. Reviewers recommended seasoning it regularly before and in between uses and noted that it felt like they could hand it down to future generations. The Craft Wok costs $$ to $$$.
- [The Choice of Professional Chefs] --- Made of high-quality wrought iron, our...
- [Healthy & Non-stick] --- Adopting premium quality iron, this stir fry pans is...
- [Wooden Handle Helper] --- The wooden handle protect you from being burning when...
This wok, like many of the traditional woks on this list, comes unseasoned and with a rounded bottom. Made of hand-hammered iron, this is as close as you can get in your home to a wok used by Cantonese professionals.
This wok has fewer impurities, meaning it is easier to season it to a nonstick level. Its thick bottom and thin sides let the heat travel quickly through this pan, and it will heat your food evenly.
Since this wok has a rounded bottom, it is, like the others, unsuited for electric cooktops. Like the other traditional woks, this one will still work on home gas cooktops.
Amazon customers rated this wok highly, giving it a total of 4.3 stars out of 5. They liked that it only took a small amount of oil to cook with. As with any carbon steel wok, it's important to keep it well oiled to prevent rust. The Ieoke traditional hand hammered wok costs $$ to $$.
- Flat bottom wok with a 14-inch diameter; ideal for electric or gas ranges
- Constructed of heavy gauge carbon steel; 2.0 mm professional weight
- Ergonomic Phenolic handle fits comfortably and stays cool
The Joyce Chen Pro Chef Flat Bottom Wok combines the best of the traditional woks and the woks made for home use. This one uses professional-grade carbon steel and has a 14-inch diameter, which is as large as traditional woks.
However, it also has a flat bottom, meaning it can work on both electric and gas cooktops. Additionally, it has synthetic handles which stay cool even at high heat.
Joyce Chen developed this wok to address the issue of low-quality Chinese cookware in the U.S., so it's made to work with home kitchens.
While this wok only has 3.8 out of 5 stars on Amazon, it has earned reviews by more customers than nearly any other wok on this list and has the recommendation of the experts at Serious Eats. It also received the Amazon's Choice award.
One review found that the coating that comes with the wok, which you must remove beforehand, was difficult to get rid of. But ultimately, the wok was very good for cooking with. The Joyce Chen Pro Chef Flat Bottom Wok costs $$ to $$.
- READY TO USE Cast iron wok has been pre-seasoned and is ready to use right out...
- HEAT RETENTION Cast iron wok is perfect for retaining heat while cooking, so...
- BEAUTIFUL WOODEN LID Most woks don't have lids, but this one comes with a unique...
Kasian House's cast iron wok is a heavy duty, Cantonese style wok that comes out of the box pre-seasoned and ready to use.
Since this cast iron wok is heavy duty and has a flat bottom, it is useful for any cooking surface. It will work on electric and gas stoves, and can even go over an open flame in your grill if you desire.
This wok is unique because it has a wooden lid that keeps food warm or even lets you steam food in the wok.
Forty-one customers on Amazon gave this wok 4.7 stars out of 5. Reviewers liked the weight of the pan, which means they can stir food without needing to hold onto the wok. The Kasian House Cast Iron Wok costs $$$ to $$$.
- 14 Inch Seasoned Cast Iron Wok. The Lodge Cast Iron Wok weighs 11.86 lbs and is...
- SEASONED COOKWARE. A good seasoning makes all the difference. Lodge seasons its...
- MADE IN THE USA. Lodge has been making cast iron cookware in South Pittsburg,...
Lodge's 14-inch Cast Iron Wok comes from one of the premier cast iron manufacturers around. Lodge has earned a reputation for its high-quality cast iron pans, and its wok is no exception.
This wok comes out of the box pre-seasoned, and its flat bottom means you can use this pan on any cooking surface. However, this wok weighs almost 12 pounds, which may be too heavy for some home cooks.
It is incredibly durable, though, and will retain heat very well. This wok will serve you for years.
Nearly 1,500 customers reviewed this wok on Amazon and gave it a rating of 4.6 stars out of 5. Reviewers liked the weight of the pan because it would stay put. They also loved how deep the pan is. The Lodge Cast Iron Wok costs between $$ and $$.
- The wok - Traditional wok used by professional chefs, this chinese wok is built...
- Authentically hammered wok - 100% hand hammered pow wok by our master craftsmen...
- Healthy non-stick - the wok will become naturally non-stick with use and...
Mammafong's traditional wok is again, a hand hammered carbon steel wok made in Guangdong, China. It comes with a wooden handle for better control and heat protection. However, its traditional rounded bottom still makes for a pan that will not fit on electric cooktops.
The wooden handle is extra long, giving you even better control over your cooking. Mammafong emphasizes that it will offer authentic wok hei to your cooking with their traditional carbon steel.
One thing that sets this wok apart from the other traditional woks on this list is that these woks are made with the founder's own mother in mind. These woks will last for decades, so you can provide authentic Chinese cooking to your loved ones.
The Mammafong Authentic Hand Hammered Wok earned 4.3 stars out of 5 from 22 customers on Amazon. Reviewers found that the craftsmanship of the wok is beautiful and it heats up quickly and evenly. Mammafong's Authentic Hand Hammered Wok costs $$ to $$.
- Follow simple seasoning instructions before use as this Wok is uncoated for...
- Ideal when cooking for 2 - 4 people especially when flash-frying and...
- Handwash Only.
The School of Wok 12-inch Carbon Steel Wok is smaller to other woks on this list, at about 12 inches rather than the more common 14-inch.
While this means you'll be able to cook less at once, it also means this wok will take up less space on your stove. That is helpful if you have a smaller cooking space, especially if you're usually cooking for fewer people.
The School of Wok 12-inch carbon steel wok only had five customer reviews on Amazon and received a total of 4.0 stars out of 5. Like any other carbon steel wok, it is important to keep this wok well seasoned to prevent rust. This wok costs approximately $ to $.
Which Is the Best Wok for You?
The best wok for you is ultimately the one that works best in your kitchen. If you use an electric cooktop, you'll definitely want a wok with a flat bottom. But if you have a gas stove, a traditional wok with a rounded bottom is open to you.
Our recommendation for the best all-around wok is the Joyce Chen Pro Chef Flat Bottom Wok. It combines the best parts of traditional woks with those of woks made for modern kitchens.
Its flat bottom lets it work on any cooking surface, and its carbon steel still develops the patina that creates a real, authentic wok experience.
If you want something more traditional, we recommend Mammafong's traditional wok. It's hammered by hand by craftsmen in southern China, and it comes from the tradition of the founder's mother's own cooking.
Woks carry tradition in their patina and their construction, so it makes sense to buy one made with that heritage in mind.
Do you have a favorite wok? Tell us about it in the comments!