How to Choose the Best Wok to Buy

by dustytoes

Buying a wok is a big investment because it is a big item. You only need one, so make it the right one for you.

Over the past few years I have been changing my diet. My hope is that it is becoming more kidney friendly since I discovered I have kidney disease. This means eating not only more vegetables, but eating mostly vegetables.

I've done the research, and there isn't a diet out there that says vegetables are bad for you! One of the ways to get more servings of vegetables is to use a wok to make stir fry meals.

As I began searching for the right wok to buy, I discovered that the decision would not be easy. I do most of my shopping on Amazon and I found that there were many woks with high marks on the site.

Before I had the chance to make up my mind, my son bought me a cast iron wok. Decision made! I decided I would create this page to share what I learned while searching for the perfect wok for me.

A Little About Woks

Everyone needs to eat more vegetables and woks will help that happen!

A wok is not a frying pan.  The sides slope down to a center point where the heat is concentrated but the entire wok heats up so all the food cooks nicely.  

The size and shape allow for the food to be stirred (or tossed) easily while cooking quickly over a high heat.  This helps retain nutrients in vegetables and make the meal taste fresh.

This big pan can be used to cook all kinds of food.  Woks come in various material with either one long handle (good for flipping food) or two side handles.  Usually the long handle wok will have a smaller grab handle on the opposite side.

To stir fry, let the wok heat up over medium heat (for cast iron), then add oil and ingredients.  Cast iron should never be used on high heat.  It will get hot and stay hot longer than other types of pans.  Woks are meant to be used on direct flames, but those of us with electric stoves can use them as well.

Some people want a cover for their wok, so rice can be steamed or noodles cooked.

Lodge Cast Iron Wok is Easy to Use and Clean

This is my wok, it's 14 inches across. It's heavy, doesn't slide on the stove, cooks nicely and is easy to clean.
Lodge P14W3 Seasoned Cast Iron Wok, 14 inch
$85.00  $49.90

My Lodge Cast Iron Wok

It fits perfectly on the small inner burner on my electric stove.
My wok on the stove.
My wok on the stove.

The Shape of Woks

The woks with a rounded bottom seem more authentic.  Picture the chef grabbing the handle and tossing the food into the air then lands sizzling back into the pan.  This requires a pan light enough to hold and flip food - like in the video on this page.  They can have a rounded bottom or a small flat area at the bottom.  I have one linked further down the page.

But a rounded bottom wok is best used with a gas stove where it can be held in place.  They are not recommended for electric ranges.

A more sturdy wok will have a base and won't move around on the stove.  My Lodge cast iron wok doesn't move at all while I stir food, and the base fits perfectly on the small burner on my electric stove (see my photo above).  The inside of the wok is rounded and I must move the food around with a spatula.  I can not do any fancy food flipping, which is fine with me.

Surprisingly, the handles remain cool enough for me to move it off the stove when I am done cooking without using pot-holders!  I am cooking quickly, so for longer time on the heat the handles may get hot.

 

Jamie Oliver Gives Us Tips on Stir-frying

He uses a light weight pan with a long handle.

Joyce Chen Carbon Steel 4-Piece Wok Set

Many woks such as this one must be seasoned BEFORE USE. Follow directions so you don't ruin your wok.
Joyce Chen 21-9972, Classic Series Carbon Steel Wok Set, 4-Piece
$33.80  $31.43

Tips for Cooking in a Wok

1. Let the pan get very hot before adding vegetables.  Heat the empty wok over medium-high heat, not high heat, until it gets hot enough for cooking.

2. Realize that food will cook differently and cook what takes longest first.  Food can be removed and other food added, then put it all together in the end to mix with sauce.

3. Have your food sliced and chopped and ready to go before you begin.  Don't cook too much at once - 2 servings max is recommended.  If food cannot easily move around the pan it will take longer to cook.

4. Season your wok well according to the directions that come with it.  DO SEASON IT or your wok won't cook correctly.  Some woks don't need seasoning before using.  (The cast iron needs rinsing with hot water and rubbed with oil.)

A round bottom wok may need a base piece if you use it on an electric oven (round ones go directly on a gas burner) or if you want to set the walk down on the counter. 

For Those Who Want a Wok Cookbook

Both of these stir-fry books get great reviews.
Stir-Frying to the Sky's Edge: The Ul...The Essential Wok Cookbook: A Simple ...

Use the Correct Oil For Frying

Stir fry oil must have a high smoke point.

Although I regularly use extra virgin olive oil for cooking and seasoning my cast iron, I use avocado oil or canola oil when stir-frying.

Oil has a "smoke point" which means that at a particular temperature the oil will begin to burn and smoke.  You don't want that to happen.

Because your vegetables will be cooked over a higher heat and the wok will be very hot, an oil with a high smoke point must be used.

Use Oil With a High Smoke Point When Frying

Two good oils for frying are Canola and Avocado.
La Tourangelle, Organic Canola Oil, 1...
$10.69  $10.49
La Tourangelle, Avocado Oil, 16.9 Fl....
Only $8.49

Cruciferous veggies are healthy and include cauliflower and broccoli

Cauliflower
Cauliflower
Pixabay

Get a Really Good Knife

Slicing vegetables is so much easier with a good quality knife.
J.A. Henckels International CLASSIC 8...
$52.95  $43.99
ZWILLING J.A. Henckels Professional "...
Only $99.95
Professional Chef Knife 8 Inch | Razo...
$69.99  $27.99

My Favorite Vegetables For Wok Stir Frying

Vegetables should be cooked for no longer than 2 minutes and be crisp and not soggy.

Break broccoli florets from the head, rinse and store in a plastic bag.  Do the same with cauliflower.  Use only what you need for each meal.  

Slice green and red pepper into strips just before cooking.  Also include hot pepper if you choose.

Slice Vidalia or sweet onions into strips or rings and store remainder in container in fridge.  Also leeks and scallions work well.

Shred or thinly slice carrots.

Buy a bag of bean sprouts.  These must be used shortly after buying so throw a few into the stir fry each time.

Eggplant chopped into cubes.

Asparagus

Fresh garlic, chopped parsley and spices can be added as you choose.  It is recommended that spices be added to the oil before the vegetables go in. Use larger sliced pieces so garlic doesn't burn. 

Throw in some kale, spinach and sliced cabbage to change things up.

I don't eat much meat, so usually my stir fry consists of vegetables only.  Shrimp or sliced roast beef is usually what I may add for meat, but many people cook strips of chicken or beef.

Vegetables ready to stir-fry

Chopped Veggies
Chopped Veggies
Pixabay
Updated: 06/14/2018, dustytoes
 
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What do you cook in your wok?

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dustytoes on 06/14/2018

My wok is cast iron so it only requires rinsing in hot water to remove any sediment, then apply a thin layer of oil for storing. I use olive oil as it's less expensive than avocado oil. The white veggie looks like sliced garlic. It's not my photo, but that is my best guess.

DerdriuMarriner on 06/14/2018

dustytoes, Hmm-mm good! Nice product lines and wonderful tips about avocado and canola oil. What kind of cleaning does a wok need? What is the white chopped veggie between the cabbage and the peppers on your plate?

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