From traditional carbon steel and wood, to cutting edge non-stick technology – read the BBC Good Food review of top wok pans for flash-cooking speedy dishes like stir-fry.
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The wok is a bowl-shaped utensil that 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.
Traditional woks are made from carbon steel, which require regular seasoning with oil to stop them from rusting. Modern woks can come with a non-stick coating, plus you can choosen between a round or flat bottom wok depending on your preference and hob type.
Read on to discover the best woks to buy. For more, visit our review section and find over 200 practical buyer's guides offering unbiased advice on what equipment is worth investing in, including reviews of non-stick frying pans, cast iron skillets and saucepans.
The best woks to buy
The best traditional carbon steel wok
School of Wok Wok & Roll 33cm round bottom wok
From the School of Wok cookery school in London’s Covent Garden, this was the best traditional-style wok we tested. Round bottomed and made of carbon steel, this wok requires a gas hob and does need a bit of prep before use.
First, the protective layer of lacquer (that stops the wok rusting in the shop) needs to be scoured off and then the metal needs to be seasoned with two ‘burns’ over a hot hob or with a blow torch. Seasoning keeps the metal in good condition and prevents sticking. There are helpful instructions on how to do this and online videos if you get stuck.
Though a little time consuming, the prep is worth it for the searing and flavour produced by a traditional carbonised wok. Reasonably priced, this wok has a comfortable bamboo handle, heats fast, is light and well-balanced.
The best wok for families
Ultimum high-density forged 36cm wok
This large capacity wok is ideal for feeding large families or a crowd of friends. Its large flat base keeps good contact with an induction hob and works equally well on gas and electric. It does require some storage space but thankfully has two cast stainless steel handles rather than a long stick.
The handles do get hot so keep your oven gloves close to hand. The wok heats evenly and fast. Circulon’s signature ridged surface together with a hard-wearing non-stick coating means stir-fry glides around the pan. Impressively, the non-stick is oven proof to 260C and it comes with a large domed lid making it a versatile pan for steaming and poaching. A solid, durable wok that’s easy to clean too.
The best all-round wok
Ken Hom Performance 32cm non-stick stainless steel wok
A comfortable stay-cool handle and the multi-layered non-stick coating make this wok feel reassuringly solid. Though it can be used on gas, its 16cm-flat base works best on electric and induction. We found the wok heated very quickly and evenly with no unwanted hotspots.
The inside is easy to clean and the steep curved sides prevented our veggies from escaping. There is a small handle on the front of the work to help lift it – particularly useful for lifting from the hob to the table to serve. It comes with a glass lid so you can watch covered food as it steams or simmers. A good reliable option.
The best compact wok
Tefal Everest Stone 28cm wok
With one of the most comfortable stick handles in our test, this neat 28cm wok is well balanced and enjoyable to cook with. Though relatively small, the wok’s deep sides mean it’s still large enough to cook three to four servings.
Temperatures didn’t reach as high as some other models but the heat was even and the Tefal thermospot in the centre glows to let you know when to start cooking. This wok works well on all hob types and has an unusual stone-effect finish with an effective non-stick coating. The walls of the wok are curved to keep the food in the pan and cleaning after use is easy.
How we tested woks
In the test we concentrated on stir-frying. We tossed, stirred, tilted and shimmied to see how much food might escape from the pan. A variety of utensils were used to test convenience of shape and durability of surface.
What we looked for in a wok
Balance and weight: We looked for wok’s that could be lifted easily by the handle without drastic tilting. Some long-handled woks have a small second handle to help with balance.
Handles: We looked for handles that were comfortable and safe to hold. Long-stick handles are better suited to tossing stir-frys and keeping your hand away from the heat. Short handles either side of the wok are more convenient for storage and can also be used for tossing – just remember to use your oven gloves.
Shape: Woks with deep curved sides that kept food in the pan were preferred.
Temperature: We considered how fast and evenly the wok heated and how well the food seared. We rejected those that stewed rather than browned the veg, and those with uneven hotspots that resulted in burnt food.
Sticking: Whether seasoned carbon steel or non-stick coated, we looked for ease of movement in the wok. Woks are subject to vigorous activity so non-stick coatings need to be hard wearing and scratch-resistant.
What wok to buy?
Round or flat?
If your hob is gas a traditional round-bottomed wok is a great option but bear in mind you will need a wok ring to keep it steady. For electric, flat is best as round woks can reflect heat back on the element damaging it. Similarly for induction you need a broad, flat base for decent contact between hob and wok.
Traditional carbon steel woks are durable, lightweight and inexpensive. They provide rapid heat conduction to quickly sear food, which is essential for stir-frying. However, they do require more maintenance as without regular seasoning (coating with oil) they will rust.
Similar to carbon steel, cast iron needs to be seasoned. It takes longer to reach a high heat but then maintains temperature well. Cast iron is very heavy so not the best option if you like to toss your stir-frys.
Non-stick coatings have developed over the years to withstand the higher temperatures needed for stir-frying. They still don’t sear the food in quite the same way as carbon steel, but they do a good job and are certainly easier to clean and maintain.
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This review was last updated in December 2019. If you have any questions, suggestions for future reviews or spot anything that has changed in price or availability please get in touch at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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