If there is one top staple in Asian cooking, it might just be the good old, reliable steel wok. Chinese food, in particular, utilizes a lot of stir-frying, so having a good quality wok is essential. Just ask any chef that specializes in Chinese cuisine and they will swear to you that a great wok is probably the most important aspect of their cooking.
As for me, I have made the mistake of not always heeding this warning. I love making Chinese fried rice and stir fried noodles at home, and have gone through numerous cheap woks as a result. One rusted on me while the handles of others have broken easily. A wok is the workhorse of the kitchen, especially if you love making Asian inspired dishes. My wok sees action at least twice a week with all the stir-frying that I do. Woks are such versatile partners in the kitchen, they can be used for searing, BBQs and much more. I can even whip up an amazing French omelette using my wok! (Although beginners should use a pan for that). All in all, it is an amazing all around tool for your culinary needs.
It was, therefore, a blow when my steel wok recently gave up on me as I was making some Indian pork wraps. The handle broke while I was washing it because it was not well built enough. Screwing the handle back in place was not a very good option as it had already become too loose. It is always sad when a kitchen companion of mine dies on me. After shedding a few tears, I decided to scour the internet and order a wok that would last me a very long time.
I decided to narrow down my search to the best carbon steel woks as I had heard outstanding things about them. It did not take long before I had found my new partner in Asian cooking. And let me tell you, it has so far exceeded my high expectations. I have been frying and beating it up for some weeks now, and it just looks at me asking for more. I am truly pleased with what I have purchased for my growing kitchen.
But before I tell you what I have bought, let me give you a quick rundown of the other carbon steel woks I chose from. Hopefully, this will help you to decide for yourself which carbon steel wok you think is the best. So grab your spatulas and let us begin!
Our Top 5 Carbon Steel Wok Recommendations
While you won’t really find a good quality carbon steel wok anywhere, the Joyce Chen Pro Chef Flat Bottom Wok Is certainly a good contender for a budget-friendly wok. The wok has a 14-inch diameter which makes it spacious enough for you to stir-fry without spilling your ingredients, so you won’t find your Pad Thai on the floor rather than on your plate.
Like all carbon steel woks, some pre-seasoning and cleaning is required before you can use it. However, once you have done that, it’s ready for action and you can keep using it to cook all of your stir-fry favorites. This wok is very versatile and can be used on most electric and gas ranges.
Quality is a good word to describe the Joyce Chen Pro Chef Bottom Wok, as it is made from heavy gauge carbon steel that is 2 mm thick. When a robust material like this is used, you can be assured that the manufacturer wants the wok to last a long time.
The handles show good craftsmanship. The phenolic handle might not be pretty to look at, but it does conduct heat quite efficiently and can be unscrewed if you want to put it in the oven (although this is not that easy to do so.) One caveat I had with this product is the square shaped handle, which makes it a bit tricky to maneuver. This is not a problem, however, just a mild irritant.
Cleaning the Joyce Chen Pro Chef Flat Bottom Wok is pretty easy. You just hand wash the product and scour it if necessary. However, you might have to redo the whole seasoning process if you plan on using soap.
At 5 lbs, this wok isn’t light, but then again it is not that heavy compared to other high-quality carbon steel woks. Its a bit of a stretch to say the Joyce Chen Pro Chef Bottom Wok is cheap, but its price is low compared to authentic carbon steel woks.
If you really want your wok to shine in the kitchen, then take a good look at the Mauviel M’steel because this product provides a stylish combination of beauty and brawn.
Try to lift up the Mauviel M’steel Wok, and you will discover it screams quality. The 2 mm carbon steel thickness mean it will last a very long time while the sleek triple riveted iron handle will survive the harshest of kitchens. Mauviel products are known for their great quality (just check out this article here). Be warned though, this wok is kinda heavy at nearly 7 lbs, so be prepared for some muscle soreness the next day if you plan on using this baby.
What’s impressive about this wok is it can be used on nearly every cooking surface that you can think off – gas, electric, induction, halogen stovetops, and if you need to pop your wok in the oven, it can do that too. Therefore, this wok provides the finest convenience.
While the handle is pretty to look at, I am not a big fan of the flat structure, which makes it hard to maneuver when I am trying to toss some vegetables (plus its 6 lbs weight doesn’t really help).
Cleaning this wok is easy, you just wash the pan in hot water and wipe the inside with a soft sponge. The manufacturer does not recommend using soap because it removes the non-stick surface the wok will develop naturally.
Overall, if you have the cash to spare, this wok might just be the right addition to your kitchen. Its beauty and brawn are pretty much unmatched when it comes to carbon steel woks.
Are you the type of home cook that wants your kitchenware to look as geographically authentic as possible? Well, if you get the Traditional Hand Hammered Carbon Steel Pow Wok by Craft Wok, then you have a pass to say that your wok has been hand hammered by Chinese professionals in the province of Guangzhou, China. Talk about major bragging rights!
However, this carbon steel wok is much more than just that. At 1.8 mm, the carbon steel is very thick and will last a very long time. And the 14-inch diameter is spacious enough for all your stir-frying needs.
The gorgeous wooden handle makes it a big winner. It is also round, which makes this wok my top choice for maneuverability, and triple riveted, giving it extra sturdiness for tough cooking environments.
This is a round bottom wok, which makes it a suitable choice for deep-frying. I just love crisping up some garlic with this wok. However, the round bottom makes its heat distribution less efficient compared to its flat bottom counterparts.
At 4.6 lbs, the wok is relatively light compared to other good quality carbon steel woks. With the addition of excellent handle ergonomics, this wok is one of the easiest to handle, which is perfect if you need to use it for long periods of time and want to avoid any painful wrist strains.
Overall, the Traditional Hand Hammered Carbon Steel Pow Wok by Craft Wok is a work of art with the added bonus of great quality.
If you are looking for more bang for your buck, then please check out Helen Chen's Asian Kitchen Flat Bottom Wok. It is not only a great quality wok, but it also provides impressive goodies to go along with it.
Starting with the wok itself, the 1.6 mm carbon steel thickness isn’t as thick as the other products on this list, but that does not mean it is a lightweight when it comes to durability. The handles fit pretty well and the wok handles quite beautifully. The flat bottom ensures that it heats up pretty fast, probably just as fast as the copper made pans (For those interested in copper pans, check this article out).
But it’s the bonuses you get that make this wok extra special. First of all, there is the dome-shaped lid with a wooden handle. This is perfect for those who plan to use their wok for steaming purposes.
The set also comes with a lovely wooden spatula, and to top it all off, a recipe book for those still new to cooking. As it is relatively light and comes with everything you need to get you started with wok cooking, this is the perfect product for first-time wok users.
If you like to take your wok out in the backyard for some crazy stir-fry barbecuing, then you might be interested in getting the Eastman Outdoors 22" Deep Dish Carbon Steel Wok Kit. It has everything you need to ensure that your outdoor wok cooking is a resounding success.
Let’s start first with the wok. The pan itself is 22 inches in diameter, so you will have no problem cooking for a big party. It also comes with a spoon and spatula to make it easier to toss that amazing chorizo fried rice while the crowd watches on.
While the price is a bit hefty, it is justified as the set comes with a Big Kahuna propane burner with adjustable legs and propane gas regulator and hose. This makes the whole set extra convenient for those outdoor parties and it is much more impressive than using electric skillets.
The carbon steel wok is not as thick as the others on the list, so you should expect a bit of a dip in quality. Another caveat is that the whole set weighs around 25 lbs, which doesn’t make it very portable. So it’s definitely better to leave this one outside.
However, if outdoor cooking is your thing, then do yourself a favor and check this product out.
Here is an important reminder: always "season" your wok before you use it for the time use, according to the manufacturer’s instructions. The logic behind this is that porous metals made from steel tend to absorb water when they are unseasoned. So what does water do to metals? You got it: it creates nasty, nasty rust!
Oil is normally used to season a carbon steel wok. However, keep in mind that manufacturers have different seasoning methods.
Finally, remember that most woks require minimal cleaning after use and soap might not be a good idea as it can ruin the patina caused by the initial seasoning. So it is best to just use a sponge and hot water after every use. Plus, most Chinese chefs swear that using just water on the wok for cleaning enhances its flavor as time goes by. Some say that this is the secret to excellent tasting wok dishes!
The Wok Out
I really had a fun time making this list. If you are curious as to which wok I decided to go for, then you don’t have to wait much longer. The Mauviel M’steel was my choice because of its looks, sturdiness, and above all, the ergonomics that make it easy to use.
Woks are sturdy workhorses in the kitchen, but carbon steel ones require some tender loving care if you want them to last very long. After all, you really do not want your expensive wok rusting up on you one day! Just follow the manufacturer’s care guide and you will be fine.
Are you a "wokaholic", just like me? If so, please feel free to write down your very own wok stories in the space below. Don’t forget to share this article with any of your friends who might be interested in today’s topic. Don’t forget to wok on and keep on cooking!