Best Wok Material To Buy

For Stir Fry - Preferred By Chefs

By Wokware Experts

best chinese wok for cooking

The best wok material for stir fry is carbon steel. Arguably cast iron is thought to be the best. But given the weight a cast iron wok comes with it is not ideal for tossing and turning - which is required for wok stir fry. That's why chefs prefer carbon steel over cast iron, as a carbon steel wok reacts to heat quickly and cook all the ingredients uniformly.

Top 3 wok materials are carbon steel, cast iron and stainless steel. Each of them comes with its own advantages and disadvantages. But a carbon steel wok can't be replaced with any wok if your goal is to make the perfect stir fry.

Along with the material, a wok needs to have the perfectly curved sidewalls and depth. The combination of a good quality carbon steel and balanced design make the wok best for stir fry. For example the 14 inch carbon steel wok by Yousukata has a very rare design which is very balanced to its core. The round bottom is well crafted and the sidewalls are just apt for cooking the perfect stir fry. Also it is a pow wok.

Also read: 10 types of Wok Material

What is a Pow Wok?

In northern China, there is a place called Peking from where the name “pao” or “pow” or “Peking pans” has originated. A carbon steel wok with a long handle of around 6 – 8 inches is referred to as a Pow wok because of its immense popularity in Peking among Chinese Chefs due to the ease of flipping over high heat while stir-frying. This process helps in bringing the iconic wok-hei flavor into your food. From there, this pow wok spread across the globe and was popularized by other chefs. This handle style is also referred to as the “Mandarin style” wok. And the wok with two U-shaped handles is known as a “Cantonese style” wok.

Is Carbon Steel better than Cast Iron?

If you only compare cast iron and carbon steel for the purpose of stir fry only and not in as a wholesome experience then cast iron is the better one here. But if you factor in heat source, cooking simplicity, ease of maintenance, storage, etc., for a beginner the best wok material is Carbon steel for stir fry.

Let me explain it to you further.

For a beginner it is difficult to manage the high heat and the ingredients in the wok. Wok needs high heat and fast cooking movements. The more time you give the ingredients to seat on heat the stiffer your stir fry will get. You need to keep moving, tossing and turning your food.  

Two Minutes Flat! - - Fast Thai Wok Cooking. . . . Shrimp with Ginger
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For first timers, often stir fry gets over-fried if cooked on a high heat gas hob (wok burner). Cast iron wok makes it worse. Why? Because cast iron has high heat retention ability which means it retains heat even after you turn off the gas. The retained heat in a cast iron wok will overwhelm a beginner while trying stir fry for the first time. That's why carbon steel which is a good heat distributor and poor heat retainer is a better option for beginners. Even on medium heat (kitchen gas hobs) you wok stir fry will come out juicy and crispy.

But if you look at cast iron woks from the angle of an experienced and seasoned cook, then cast iron woks are always better at cooking stir fry than carbon steel woks. Cast iron has better thermal conductivity than carbon steel wok. Because of the well heat retention, even if the temperature of your gas hob fluctuates it will hold the heat for a longer period and does not turn your stir fry soggy as compared to a carbon steel wok. Carbon steel wok is a good distributor of heat but not a great retainer. And here cast iron beats carbon steel wok in efficiency.

How to buy a good cast iron wok?

While buying a cast iron wok make sure it is hand punched and made with heavy-duty cast iron. As cast iron is more fragile than carbon steel. A sturdy cast iron wok with a round bottom, commercial-grade handle, and manufactured with the technique of hand punching or hand hammering is the best wok to buy. One such wok is offered by HOUSHIYU in many different sizes and they guarantee complete satisfaction which is very rare for a brand to offer.

Stainless Steel Wok - Good Material With Easy Maintenance

The main USP of a stainless steel wok is the easy cleaning and maintenance process. If cast iron or carbon steel woks are not seasoned and maintained properly they will rust soon. But a stainless steel wok is invincible- a true value for money. For those who do not prefer the seasoning and caring process of a wok stainless steel as a wok material is the best option for them.

Stainless steel woks look beautiful in the kitchen too. However, please keep in mind stainless steel alone is not a good material. Always buy a stainless steel wok with aluminum core.

Here's why: 

Aluminum woks need continuous heating to make great stir-fries, and even taking them off the stove for a few seconds can affect the taste. On the other hand, stainless steel woks have better heat capacity, so they don’t need as much energy as aluminum woks. However, in distributing the heat throughout the wok pan aluminum is far better.

If you want both features of heat distribution and faster heating ability I suggest you go with the stainless steel woks with aluminum input - where a multi-element alloy aluminum core is sandwiched between 18-10 high-grade stainless steel sheets like this stainless steel wok by Cooks standard.

It is safe on high heat and does not give food toxicity on high heat because of the upper quality stainless steel. It is the best combined material for wok to have.

What is the best material for non-stick wok?

Nonstick woks are affordable, need less oil, and demand no seasoning or extra care like their carbon steel and cast-iron counterparts. These benefits make a nonstick wok worthy to invest in.

However, some nonstick woks are fragile. On high heat, they get warped, chipped, or broken. Other than warping, the safety of the nonstick coating is a huge concern.

The best material for non stick wok is hard anodized aluminum because it does not come with any coating that will chip for come off, rather aluminum has been oxidized and made nonstick which is known as the hard anodized aluminum. It is safe on high heat and has great heat distribution ability. All other nonstick woks like carbon steel, ceramic, teflon etc come with coating hence there are chances of chipping and mixing of the coating with the food.

A hard anodized aluminum wok on the other hand avoids food toxicity, durable and easy to clean. Check out the nonstick wok by Calphalon made with hard anodized aluminum; it is the best.

Sum Up:

When it comes to finding the perfect wok, material is everything. A good wok needs to be able to withstand high temperatures without warping or rusting, and it should have a smooth surface that prevents sticking. While there are a variety of materials on the market, the best woks are made of carbon steel. Carbon steel is an excellent conductor of heat, meaning that it heats evenly and quickly. It is also lightweight and durable, making it easy to maneuver when cooking. In addition, carbon steel woks develop a natural patina over time that helps to prevent sticking. For these reasons, carbon steel is the ideal material for a wok. When shopping for a wok, be sure to choose one that is made of high-quality carbon steel for the best results.

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