Cooking with a wok is all drama- from the tall flames that lick the perimeter of the pan, to the aromatic sizzling of vegetables.
Woks are now considered one of the most popular types of cooking pans in the world. They originated in China during the Han dynasty and now they’re being used by chefs and enthusiasts alike all over the world.
Woks traditionally have a rounded bottom and high walls. However. Flat-bottomed alternatives are becoming increasingly popular. They’ll usually have either two side handles or one long handle which is typically made from wood.
The main difference between a wok and an ordinary pan is that a wok is capable of distributing heat more evenly. This is thanks to the curvature of the walls of the pan itself.
Cooking with a pan like this ensures that the entirety of the pan is all the same temperature, which prevents cold spots.
Woks are also loved for their large bowl-like sides which make it safe to toss food into the air while frying.
You won’t have to worry about any flyaway beansprouts as the shape helps to keep any food inside the pan contained.
A wok is a versatile piece of equipment. As well as being perfect stir-frying, a wok can be filled with water and used for boiling or it can be filled with oil for deep frying.
Some woks can even be used as a meat and cheese smoker if you get your hands on some wood chips.
Alternatively, your wok can be used to steam vegetables or even seafood, providing that it has a lid.
One of the most popular materials for woks is carbon steel. It combines fast and even heating with durability, making it a favorite of many chefs in the industry.
With proper seasoning, a good chef can easily reduce the chance of food sticking to the pan. Since they're magnetic, carbon steel pans can also work with wok induction ranges.
With so many woks and frying pans on the market right now, it can be tricky to ensure that you’re making the best purchase.
In this article, we’ll provide a rundown of the best carbon steel woks out there and their best features.
Read on to our handy Buyers’ Guide and FAQ section to ensure you find your perfect carbon steel wok.
OUR TOP PICK
First up is this traditional hand-hammered carbon steel wok which is manufactured by a company called Craft Wok.
This pan stands out from the crowd for numerous reasons, including the thousands of positive Amazon reviews it has received.
Some happy customers mention how well made this wok is and how it feels authentic enough to have been passed down through generations.
This wok was hand-hammered in China by professionals, making it just like the real deal. It’s also strong and sturdy too, weighing in at 4.6 pounds.
This wok has one handle that is made from authentic hardwood. The handle is also coated with a special hygroscopic grip that prevents any slipping when in use.
No plastic, lacquers, or harmful chemicals are used in the making of this wok and the manufacturer claims that the materials used are sustainably sourced and healthy.
As well as one long wooden handle, this wok also features a small helper handle.
These are positioned adjacent to the long handle and they’re super helpful when the pan is hot, as this handle stays cool. The helper handle is also ideal for hanging and storage.
This wok doesn’t come pre-seasoned, so you’ll need to season it yourself before you cook with it.
- Tried and tested by thousands of happy Amazon customers
- Traditional hand-hammered wok with a rounded bottom
- Has a long wooden handle with great grip
- A small helper handle makes storage a breeze
- Sturdy and strong
- Due to the nature of carbon steel, this wok will require lots of seasoning, especially after washing
This carbon steel wok comes from Souped Up Recipes. This brand is a side-project from the YouTube channel with the same name.
The channel is run by a woman named Mandy who shares recipes and videos about traditional Asian cuisine.
The Souped Up Recipes YouTube videos have millions (yes, millions!) of views, so Mandy really knows her stuff. This deserves a place on this list as you get a lot for your money.
Even though this wok is relatively budget-friendly, it comes with lots of neat freebies. It comes with an authentic-looking hardwood lid which makes steaming vegetables and seafood a walk in the park.
The handle of the lid is also hardwood, so there’s no risk of any burns and injuries. It even comes with a handy metal spatula.
The pan itself is 12.5” in diameter and has a flat bottom. This shape makes it suitable for use on induction stoves, electric stoves, gas ranges and other heat sources.
This wok sports an attractive printed hammered texture and it comes non-coated, so seasoning is required.
But don’t stress- this wok comes with full English instructions as well as access to a helpful video guide to get you started.
- Made by Souped Up Recipes- a very popular culinary Youtube channel
- Comes with a hardwood lid for steaming
- Comes with a metal spatula
- Suitable for use on electric, induction, and gas stoves
- Access to a handy video guide is included
- This wok requires seasoning before and after use
Next up is this carbon steel wok pan from Sky Light. This wok is has a 6.5-inch flat base which allows it to be used securely on a variety of different heat sources and surfaces.
The manufacturer claims that this pan provides fast and uniform heating thanks to its superb electromagnetic induction capabilities.
The surface of the wok has been treated with nitrides which improve the overall durability of the pan as well as improving temperature and corrosion resistance.
The pan is an attractive jet black color that contrasts pleasingly with the striking handle.
The handle is a solid orange wood that remains cool even when cooking at high temperatures. This prevents burns and injuries.
The handle is even fully detachable without the need for any tools which is perfect for making it fit into the oven or storing in a small space.
At the very end of the handle, there is a small metal ring. This ring allows it to be hung up to dry or to store.
This wok even comes with a 1-year warranty and 30-day money-back guarantee for your peace of mind.
- 6.5 inch flat base means it can be used on many surfaces
- Temperature-damage, corrosion, and rust-resistant
- Attractive color and design
- The solid wood handle has anti-scolding properties to prevent injuries
- Easy storage
- Warranty and guarantee included
- Manufacturer instructions are confusing
Helen Chen’s Asian Kitchen wok is a great budget-friendly option that doesn’t compromise on quality.
It’s designed by Helen Chen, an Asian culinary expert, cookbook author, and cooking instructor- it’s safe to say she knows her stuff! It’s constructed from 1.6-millimeter thick carbon steel which helps to distribute heat quickly and evenly.
Over time, the surface of the pan will collect a natural patina that has non-stick properties.
Until this has formed, you’ll need to season this pan. It also has a flat bottom which allows it to sit securely on any stovetop including gas, electric, and induction.
The handle of this Helen Chen wok is made with beautiful 2-tone bamboo. Not only is it pleasing to the eyes, but it’s also eco-friendly and sustainable too!
Bamboo is also heat-resistant, so you’ll be able to hold onto it even when cooking at high temperatures.
The handle has a sturdy riveted design which makes it super comfortable to hold and easy to store. This wok also has a handy ring at the end of the handle for hanging.
- Designed by culinary expert Helen Chen
- The flat bottom makes it suitable for use on many surfaces and stovetops
- The bamboo handle is comfortable and heat resistant
- Made from sustainable materials
- It doesn’t have a helper handle
Our final find is this Pre-Seasoned Carbon Steel Wok from Yosukata. This large wok pan is made from heavy-duty, black carbon steel and measures 14 inches in diameter.
This wok is unique from the rest on this list, as it is the only pre-seasoned option.
The pan has already been seasoned at high temperatures, which means that you won’t need to worry about seasoning your pan before cooking anymore.
Despite this, you’ll still need to grease your pan with oil before use.
The handle of the Yosukata pan is made from treated beechwood. It’s heat resistant and comfortable, allowing you to use it for long periods of time without the risk of accidentally burning yourself or dropping the pan.
This wok is also super versatile. It’s suitable for different techniques such as pan-frying, braising, and deep-frying.
- Family-sized (14 inches)
- Pre-seasoned saves you time and money
- Attractive and comfortable beechwood handle
- Heat-resistant and ergonomic hold
- Some reviewers state that it’s not pre-seasoned enough
Best Carbon Steel Wok Buying Guide
Not all carbon steel woks are the same. There are a number of different factors you should consider before committing to buying one.
You should consider the material, the size, the handle, etc.
Authentic carbon steel woks are not only affordable, but they’re durable too. They conduct heat quickly which is great when whipping up a tasty stir fry.
On the other hand, carbon steel woks need to be looked after correctly or they’re likely to rust. They’ll need to be regularly seasoned to prevent this from happening.
Alternatively, woks can sometimes be made from cast iron. Cast iron requires seasoning too. A cast iron wok takes longer to heat up than a carbon steel one, but it maintains temperature well.
Cast iron is known for being a heavy material, so it’s not ideal for stir-frying. If you want something easy to maintain, consider a wok with a non-stick coating. However, they’re not as effective at searing food as carbon steel pans are.
Some woks come pre-seasoned, but most of them you will need to season yourself.
Seasoning isn't too difficult and is done mainly to eliminate any metallic taste and odors, plus it stops food sticking to the sides when you are frying.
However, seasoned woks can save you money on oil and a lot of time before cooking. It’s a good idea to weigh up the pros and cons and consider which features are most important to you.
If you have an electric stovetop, a flat-bottomed wok is probably the best option for you as it can prevent damages.
If your stovetop is gas-powered, consider getting a round-bottomed wok.
However, these will require a wok ring to keep them steady when in use and these are unlikely to be included with your pan, so consider the extra costs involved.
Many modern and high-quality woks will be suitable for all surfaces and stovetops, regardless of shape. We’ve included a couple of these in our list above.
Regardless of the material used in construction, the shape, diameter and height should be considered.
One that is too deep will retain the heat in the well, or bottom, and heat transfer to the sides will be inadequate.
If it’s too shallow, you’ll lose the ability to toss and move foods up the sides, losing workable surface areas.
So, look for a minimum of 5” for the flat bottom, with a 4” depth for a pan that’s 14” in diameter.
Wok handles can vary in number and design. Some woks will have one long handle, which is great for tossing vegetables when making a stir-fry.
Others will have two small ear handles. These are great when using your wok for boiling, as they provide more stability.
Some woks can even have one long handle with a smaller ‘helper handle’ adjacent to it. These are useful for making heavier pans easier to hold and allow them to be hung up for drying and storage.
Some woks are sold as individually, while others come in a set with a lid, burner rings, a spatula, ladle, steamer tray, etc.
You should determine the most common uses in your home before making your selection.
Some uses such as steaming, smoking and deep frying will all require extra pieces of equipment to use them effectively.
Frequently Asked Questions
How do I season my wok?
Seasoning is an essential step in caring for your wok. Regular seasoning protects your wok from corrosion and rust, therefore improving its longevity.
If your pan isn’t pre-seasoned, don’t panic- seasoning your own wok is really simple. Here’s how to do it:
Firstly, scrub your wok thoroughly in hot, soapy water and then dry it over low heat on the stovetop.
Next, turn the burner on your stove to high and splash 2 to 3 tablespoons of your favorite oil into the wok.
Some great options for Asian cuisine include peanut, sesame, chili and canola. Coat the wok surface evenly with oil by tilting and turning it.
Next, heat the oil and keep spreading it across the surface until it starts to “glaze” the wok. Use a wok spatula to move the oil around, or you can tilt it. Be aware of hot oil spitting- use a wok lid if you have one.
Lastly, let the wok cool and the layer of oil will harden on the surface. Your wok is now ready for use.
What is Wok Hei?
Wok Hei translated into English means ‘wok thermal radiation’ or, metaphorically, the ‘breath of the wok’.
It refers to the flavor and tastes imparted by a hot wok on food during stir-frying, and is particularly important for those Chinese dishes requiring searing heat.
These dishes should have a complex smoky flavor that is only achieved by cooking fresh ingredients over extreme heat, meaning that the flavor develops while simultaneously retaining the textural crunch.