What Are the Best Tips for Buying a Wok?

Lainie Petersen

When buying a wok, it is important to take into consideration its shape, size, and the material from which it is made. Wok cooking experts generally advise against the purchase of electric woks, as they do not provide uniform, consistent heat to the cooking vessel. Instead, consumers should choose a stovetop wok made of carbon steel or cast iron that is suitable to the stove on which it will be used. Consumers should also take their time when buying a wok, visiting stores and actually handling the woks on sale so that they can select one that is comfortable to use and that is size-proportionate to their cooking appliances. It is also a good idea to find out if a wok comes with other accessories, such as a bamboo whisk for cleaning or cooking utensils.

Woks are ideal for stir-fries and noodle dishes, thanks to their wide rim and deep sides.
Woks are ideal for stir-fries and noodle dishes, thanks to their wide rim and deep sides.

It is generally a good idea to select a wok that is made from carbon steel or cast iron, though some experts believe that a carbon steel wok is easier for most cooks to handle, given the heavy weight of cast iron. Carbon steel is a popular choice because it heats evenly and quickly and can be seasoned so that it develops a naturally smooth, non-stick surface. It is best to avoid buying a wok that has a non-stick coating, as it can be compromised by the high-heat cooking techniques required in many types of wok cooking.

While some woks have round bottoms, these may not work on the flat stove tops common in many industrialized countries. Many wok manufacturers offer flat-bottomed woks, which are better suited to use on flat burners. Wok buyers should consider the amount of food that they make on a regular basis as well as the size of their stoves. A wok should be proportionate to the amount of food that it prepares as well as the stove on which it rests.

Before buying a wok, a consumer should think about what kind of a handle he or she would prefer. Many people like working with woks that have a single long handle on one side and a short handle on the other, which can be gripped when moving the wok off the stove. The long handle offers the advantage of being able to more easily manipulate the wok during cooking. This handle should be attached securely to the wok and ideally made of a material, such as wood, that doesn’t conduct a lot of heat during cooking.

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