Updated on April 2023
Types of Wok & the Best Type
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There are mainly two types of wok based on handle type. One is the Cantonese wok having 'U' shaped handles and the other is the Mandarin wok having one long handle. Other than that woks come in a variety of material, popularly carbon steel and two types of bottom - flat and round.
There are so many different types of woks, that beginners get overwhelmed easily while picking one. Here, in this article, we will discuss all about the different types of woks based on base type, handle type, stovetop compatibility type, and material type. And we will also learn about the best type of wok material in the market.
What is a Wok?
Woks are most probably the greatest and most versatile invention in the sphere of cooking tools. From delicious stir fry to searing and roasting items, you can do it all. A wok can easily replace a frying pan and to some extent any cooking tool in your kitchen due to its versatile cooking ability. You can use a wok for 11 types of cooking techniques and more.
Types of Wok - Based on Features
You can divide the types of a wok based on their features.
A) Types of handles:
Two of the most widely used types of wok handles are Cantonese and Mandarin. A brief difference between the two is given below:
The Cantonese woks have a very distinctive feature of two U-shaped handles that are actually riveted on both sides of the wok. Larger wok with more than 14” of diameter comes with Cantonese, as it is mostly suitable for serving a larger group of people. The only drawback to these handles is that, due to their odd positioning, it is very difficult to actually toss foods on these woks.
The mandarin-style woks have long metal or wooden handles, that can be found on either of their sides. Unlike Cantonese woks, they are mainly found on smaller woks. This, in turn, also makes it quite easy to flip dishes.
B) Types of Bottom
One of the most common ways to categorize wok, is based on their bottom. While some of them have round-bottoms, its counterpart has a flat-bottom design.
Which is better flat or round bottom wok?
Buying a wok comes with choices. One of the first queries a buyer has- is whether to go with a round or flat bottom wok.
Below are some advantages and disadvantages of both the base type. This will be enough to make a decision or to choose the right one for you.
Advantages of Round-Bottom Wok
- Stir-frying is far easier with round-bottoms. This is mainly because of better heat concentration with the round-shaped bottom as compared to that of a flat one. The circular shape also makes it easier for the ingredients to be tossed around the wok.
- It is next to impossible to warp on round-bottomed woks.
- Spatulas and wok ladles can be readily used on round-bottom woks. Neither less to say, the majority of the wok accessories work better with round-bottom.
We have a list of Reviewed top 10 Round Bottom Woks of this year. You may find it useful.
Disadvantages of Round-Bottom Wok
- Round-bottom woks are generally smaller in size.
- Not at all suitable for cooking on a glass-top stove. Either you have to use a wok ring or hold it firmly during the entire cooking period.
Advantages of Flat-Bottom Wok
- Flat-bottom woks are better suited for induction cookers or stoves. This is mainly because the entire bottom of the wok touches with that of the induction stove. Just keep in mind, to use an induction stove, which can attain a higher temperature for the wok.
- Glass-top stoves, in particular, work more effectively with flat-bottom woks. Comparing the same surface, with round-bottom woks, it can actually provide a better heat distribution.
Disadvantages of Flat-bottom Wok
- Not suitable for stir-frying.
- Generally, it comes with Mandarin handles (below we have discussed handle types in detail), which have durability issues.
C) Types Of Material
Evolution of Wok Material
Previously, Chinese woks were made of iron. Soon, to beat the corrosion, cast iron was introduced into the market, and woks made of cast iron became a phenomenon. But after the invention of carbon steel woks, it became clear that there was nothing like a carbon steel wok.
But frequent seasoning of a carbon steel wok is a hassle for many, so the market then comes up with stainless steel woks and nonstick woks which are easy to maintain and do not need seasoning. If you want a traditional wok, then carbon steel is ideal, and for a modern version of a wok, stainless steel is the best choice.
1. Cast Iron Woks
It is one of the most commonly used materials for wok in the past.
Cast iron woks are known for their durability and heat retention, which allows them to maintain a consistent temperature even when ingredients are added. They also develop a natural non-stick surface over time as they are seasoned with oil and used frequently.
In order to use a cast iron wok, it is important to properly season it before first use and to avoid using acidic ingredients that can damage the seasoning. They can also be quite heavy, so it is important to use proper lifting techniques to avoid injury.
Also, cast iron wok tends to get better as they age. This is one of the unique abilities, for which you can’t say no to a cast iron wok. But they are like babies and you have to spend considerable time to maintain them.
2. Carbon Steel Woks
One of the popular material for the construction of wok is carbon steel. It is also one of the most reliable of the lot. Carbon steel has extreme durability as well as great heat distribution capability. Further including, one can actually find varieties of carbon steel under different price ranges.
The hand-hammered carbon steel woks are made from a single sheet of carbon steel without any joints. Hence are very durable and popular choices when it comes to cooking on a high BTU wok burner. Mammafong manufactures the best hand-hammered carbon steel woks on the market. To know more about the best hand hammered carbon steel woks on the market read this.
3. Stainless Steel Woks
Woks made of stainless steel are durable yet have poor heat conductivity. But super easy to clean, maintain and store. For the same reason, beginners want to buy stainless steel made wok. However popular brands offer stainless steel woks with an aluminum core that increases the heat conductivity efficiency of the wok.
They also look stunning and pleasing to the eyes. On the contrary, finding a quality stainless steel wok can also get tedious at times. Due to its higher price bracket, wok enthusiasts often tend to avoid stainless steel wok. Read our review of the top 5 stainless steel woks of this year.
4. Nonstick Woks
Nonstick woks are usually made of aluminum or stainless steel with a nonstick coating made from materials such as PTFE (commonly known as Teflon) or ceramic.
Nonstick woks are popular for their ease of use and clean-up, as they require little to no oil for cooking and can be quickly wiped clean with a soft sponge or cloth. They are also typically lighter than cast iron woks, making them easier to maneuver in the kitchen.
However, nonstick woks may not be as durable as cast iron woks and can scratch or chip easily if not used and cared for properly. Additionally, high heat and metal utensils should be avoided when using a nonstick wok to prevent damage to the coating.
It is important to note that some concerns have been raised about the safety of nonstick coatings, particularly with regard to PTFE. While the FDA has deemed PTFE safe for use in cookware, some individuals may prefer to use alternative materials for health or environmental reasons.
What is the best type of Wok?
The best wok material is carbon steel and the best type of wok is the round bottom hand hammered premium carbon steel wok with long handles. Because this is the most preferred version of wok among the chefs and the best for making Chinese Cuisines mainly stir-fry.
The Mammafong 14 inch round bottom hand hammered carbon steel wok is the best wok in the market right now. It has a pure construction, durable body, good brand support and suitable for any stovetop.
Types of Wok Based on Manufacturing Technique
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 around 6 – 8 inches is referred to as Pow wok because of its immense popularity in Peking among the 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 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 “Cantonese style” wok.
Hand hammered Wok
Hand-hammered woks are the most traditional of all woks. As the name suggests these woks are made from complete hand hammering from a single sheet of material.
This makes the wok sturdy and durable. Hand-hammered woks are mainly found in cast iron, iron, or carbon steel materials.
Professional chefs prefer these woks as these woks are compatible with extreme heat cooking conditions. These great woks are manufactured from a single sheet of material. Sometimes they even go through 12 processes, and up to 36,000 times of hand-hammering just to get the perfect even finish.
D) Types of Wok Based on Stovetop Compatibility
Best Type of Wok for Electric
It is no brainer that electric stoves be it coil stove or the glass-ceramic ones you need a flat bottom wok.
Round bottom woks with a wok ring are meant for open fires. So, the flat bottom wok is the only compatible design for electric stoves.
However it is not only about a suitable bottom, it is also about the perfect material. Flat bottom carbon steel wok is the best type of wok for electric stove as it reacts well with the heat and compensate the high flame that you need for stir frying.
One such wok is from Mammafong which manufactures the best flat bottom carbon steel woks ideal for your electric and induction stovetop.
Best Type Of Wok for Gas Stove
Gas stoves produce a low flame as compared to what you need for a wok stir fry.
That’s why carbon steel is the best material to go for in a wok when you want a wok pan for your kitchen stove. So the best type of wok for gas stove is carbon steel wok.
For example, Yosukata 14 inch round bottom carbon steel wok is the best wok for gas stoves. Because it has a uniform thickness and the perfect round shape for your gas flame to heat the wok evenly and make your stir fry crispy.
The wok comes preseasoned and is dishwasher-safe. Also, Yousukata has great customer service and the wok pan is highly rated on Amazon.
Best Carbon Steel Wok Recommended by Wokware
Mammafong 14 inch Traditional Hand Hammered Round Bottom Carbon Steel Pow Wok Set
Woks come in more than two types. But the two most popular wok types are the cast iron and carbon steel wok. Both of which are great at heat distribution hence good for various Chinese cuisines.
Carbon steel woks are good for health because they have a pure construction, safe on high heat and after seasoning this type of wok needs very little oil to cook your food.
Carbon steel wok is the best type of wok for frying because carbon steel is lightweight, flexible and adapts to heat almost instantly and on high heat it performs better than any other material.
Professional chefs use carbon steel wok for its great heat conductivity, lightweight, and durability over high heat. After seasoning, a carbon steel wok becomes the perfect tool to make delicious stir fry and more.
There are mainly two types of wok based on handle type. One is the Cantonese wok having 'U' shaped handles and the other is the Mandarin wok having one long handle. Other than that woks come in a variety of material popularly carbon steel and two types of bottom - flat and round.
For beginners who don't like the frequent seasoning, a nonstick wok is good but to get the authentic stir fry flavor or Chinese touch in your food, a carbon steel wok is a must-have.
Editor at Wokware
She is an expert in the niche of kitchenware for 10 years now. She has given readers fact based, well researched, to the point answers of their valuable questions. Her goal is to simplify kitchen products and their utilities.