Are you a fan of stir-fries and Asian food? Read the BBC Good Food review of woks to discover the pans you should be buying to sizzle your way to perfection.
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Best for cooking on gas
Wing Yip 13in stainless steel deep round wok
Traditional steel woks are some of the cheapest around. This is on the larger end of the scale (so do consider where you will keep it), which makes it the ideal size for a stir-fry for four people. It does require pre-seasoning, by heating and rubbing with oil, plus regular oiling to build up a protective coating and preventing rust. The handle is really sturdy and the deep domed shape means you can really get stuck in and toss the food quickly. However, it isn't as sturdy as some we tested, though it heats up fast (especially on a gas hob – it took less than 20 seconds) and for the traditional wok experience you can't beat it on price.
Available from Wing Yip (£7.38)
Cadac 30cm carbon steel wok
If you are anything like us, every time you stir-fry more beansprouts end up on the floor than in the pan. The body of the wok has large sloped sides that allows food to be tossed and stirred easily. The idea being the high sides 'catch' the contents and minimise any spillages. We were skeptical at first but it really works! Our main concern was whether it would be stable. But we found it to have great balance – even on the barbecue. Being made of carbon-steel it can go up to very high heats too. Although you do need to season it to maintain the natural non-stick. The handle looks spindly but was very easy to hold, although it does get hot, fast, so you need to use a handle cover to avoid burnt fingers.
Buy from the Cadac Barbecues website
You don't absolutely need a wok to create satisfying Chinese meals. Nonetheless, the bowl-shaped utensil has several advantages - it spreads heat evenly, uses less oil for deep-frying than a traditional deep-fat fryer, and ensures that food tossed during stir-frying lands back in the pan. It also can double up as a frying pan.
What should I buy?
The key things to consider are shape and material used. Shape-wise, if your best option is to use a flat bottom wok. Round bottom woks can reflect heat back on the element, damaging it. Round is good for gas, but make sure you use a heat diffuser. The material is also important. Carbon-steel is the traditional choice, primarily because it is durable, lightweight, and inexpensive, yet still provides rapid heat conduction so that food can be quickly seared - an essential task in proper stir-frying technique. However, without regular seasoning (coating with oil) they rust, so cast iron is a good alternative. Non-stick is another option, but it's worth noting results will not be quite the same as when using a traditional, metal-only wok. This is because the non-stick surface inhibits true browning, which means that foods will tend to retain more of their own juices. They also can't get up to searing high heats (180C is the normal top temperature). Having said that, if you are looking for something to gently stir-fry veg on a gentle heat and is easy to clean, go for this.
What we looked for:
Size: Anything under 35cm is the best choice for most home cooks. A larger wok becomes unwieldy in the kitchen (not to mention where would you store it) and a very small wok (around 16cm in size) doesn't always hold all the ingredients, causing overcrowding and making it hard to cook food evenly.
Handles: We wanted a wok that was easy to hold and, more importantly, kept your hand away from the flames. It had to be sturdy too.
Cost: Woks take a battering, and for that reason, even though they can last a lifetime, if you do care for them realistically they are a once-a-decade purchase. For this reason our choices all come in under £35.
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This review was last updated in March 2018. If you have any questions, suggestions for future reviews or spot anything that has changed in price or availability please get in touch at email@example.com.
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