After testing six new woks, our new pick for the best wok is the HexClad 12-inch Hybrid Stainless Steel Nonstick Wok and our best upgrade pick is the ZhenSanHuan Hand-hammered Iron Wok.
Traditional woks are not exactly compatible with modern kitchens: Their round, wobbly bottoms beg for traditional Chinese burners. Even the wok rings designed to support these types of pans elevate the surface too high above the heating element, defeating the purpose of this high-heat, flash-searing cookware. Luckily, there are now flat-bottomed woks which work perfectly with electric, induction, and gas ranges.
Still, you might be wondering why you should even bother buying a wok when your cookware set came with a perfectly good skillet. These pans, like our favorite, HexClad 12-inch Hybrid Stainless Steel Nonstick Wok(available at Amazon) and best upgrade pick, the ZhenSanHuan Hand-hammered Iron Wok (available at Amazon), are designed with stir-frying in mind. Their concave shape concentrates the heat to the bottom of the pan, creating a super-hot area that cooks your food more quickly. Furthermore, the steep sides prevent splatter while giving you space to push cooked food up the sides as you go. Plus, woks are great for tasks beyond stir-frying. They can deep fry with less oil, and covering them with a domed lid creates ideal conditions for steaming, smoking, or popping popcorn.
You’ll find that good woks come in a dizzying array of shapes and sizes, all with different handle types and construction materials. Without trying them out, it’s hard to know which one is right for your kitchen, so we took the guesswork out of it. We tested a dozen woks made from carbon steel, cast iron, and stainless steel. Some came with nonstick coating while others could be seasoned to create a nonstick patina. We didn’t hate any of the pans—and they all made delicious bowls of stir-fried noodles—but the ease and comfort of a few definitely made them stand out as our favorites.
Here are the best woks we tested ranked, in order:
HexClad 12-inch Hybrid
ZhenSanHuan Hand-Hammered Iron Wok
Cooks Standard 13-Inch Multi-Ply Clad Stainless Steel Wok
The HexClad 12-inch wok is exceptionally light and easy to maneuver—we had no problem tossing vegetables and stir frying denser ingredients such as noodles. This flat-bottom wok is on the shallow end of the woks we’ve tried, but it’s still roomy enough to hold large amounts of food.
It’s made of a hybrid of two materials: stainless steel for the exterior and hard anodized nonstick coating for the interior. This wok has a laser-etched design with raised hex and dot ridges to sear cuts of meat, which proved to produce some of the best stir-fried beef during testing.
When it comes to cleaning, a gentle rinse under warm, soapy water is sufficient. Easy clean-up is key if you’re buying a wok for daily cooking.
We also tested a 14-inch version of this wok. Instead of one long handle, it has two hollow metal handles on either side, which is similar to a commercial-style. We liked how spacious it was and how much more depth it provided for deep frying and steaming, but we don’t recommend opting for this larger model because of its significant heft.
ZhenSanHuan Hand Hammered Iron Wok with Wooden Handle
As far as traditional hand-hammered wok goes, the ZhenSanHuan is a true standout as we were mesmerized by the patina-like, glossy nonstick surface with a blue-ish undertone. The brand claims that each wok goes through 30,000 strokes of hand hammering—whether it’s true or not, the hand-hammered effect is certainly visible and appealing.
During testing, we were impressed with how quickly it heated up and how the smooth surface helped toss vegetables and cuts of meat with ease. While cooking a stir-fried beef dish, the strips of marinated beef immediately started to bubble around the edges, a clear sign of sufficiently high heat. Then, we flipped the beef and it didn’t stick to the pot, flexing its nonstick property.
But it isn’t without flaws. First, the base model doesn’t come with a lid, which means you won’t be able to use it as a steamer unless you buy the lid à la carte. And second, its carbon steel construction entails more maintenance than the nonstick woks we’ve tested.
A final major caveat is its relatively circular bottom, which means it’ll not work as well on electric or gas cooktops without modifications. When we tested it on a gas stove with grates, we had to tilt it a little to make sure it could rest snugly. However, if your stove is fitted with a wok burner, you won’t have any trouble using this hand-crafted wok.
I’m Valerie, Senior Staff Writer on the Kitchen & Cooking team. From coffee makers to cake pans, I’ve tested plenty of tools and appliances. A wok is a piece of cookware that means a lot to me personally, both as a practical cooking vessel(I use one everyday) and a sentimental item, as I grew up watching my dad cook dinner using his carbon steel wok.
And I’m Lindsay Mattison, a trained professional chef and a vegetable lover. It’s not uncommon to find veggies taking up half of my dinner plate, which is hilarious because I was the pickiest eater as a kid! While I’m all about cooking up a sheet pan dinner or grilling my vegetables, high-heat searing is my favorite way to cook these gems. Using a wok to stir-fry vegetables is a nutritious, colorful, and delicious way to put dinner on the table–fast!
We chose eight highly-rated woks made from carbon steel, cast iron, and stainless steel. We picked a good mix of non-stick and seasoned woks to see if any particular design or construction stood out from the rest. In the second round of testing, we sought out additional six woks from popular direct-to-consumer brands, as well as handmade woks that emphasize on craftsmanship.
To test their searing ability, overall ease of use, and durability, we stir-fried chicken, vegetables, and noodles before tossing them all together to create a deliciously saucy bowl. We also heated the empty pans and measured for hot spots with an infrared thermometer and deep-fried potato chips to see how well the woks would retain their heat.
In the end, we were surprised to find that the woks were all on a relatively even playing field when it came to overall cooking ability. That’s actually great news: All the pans not only cooked beautiful food, but they were all easy to clean, too! So where did the top pans pull away from the pack? They had lightweight construction and comfortable helper handles. We also awarded bonus points if it was easy to remove the food from the pan, too. It doesn't matter if the wok is a joy to use while cooking if the pan is poorly balanced and you sprain your wrist when serving it up!
What Kind of Wok Should I Buy?
Woks are famous for high-heat searing in stir-fry dishes, but these pans are incredibly versatile. They’re great for cooking down bulky vegetables like spinach, and you can deep-fry foods with a fraction of the oil required in a straight-edged pan. And, if you have a dome-shaped lid for the wok, you can also use steamer baskets to make dumplings, smoke whole chickens, or pop popcorn without any splatter.
To accomplish all these tasks with ease, you’ll need a pan with a large cooking surface that’s lightweight enough to toss vegetables but heavy-duty enough to avoid warping at high heats. Because the pans get so hot, a long helper handle also makes a smart choice. There are a few different pan materials to consider: carbon steel, cast iron, and stainless steel.
Carbon steel is the traditional wok material. It’s a light-weight metal that’s effective at conducting heat. It heats evenly and retains heat well, but it requires a time-consuming seasoning process to prevent it from rusting. Once it's seasoned, though, it will develop a nonstick coating over time.
Cast iron is another excellent choice for heat retention, although its heft makes it nearly impossible to use for tossing vegetables. Most cast iron comes pre-seasoned, and that seasoning will continue to improve over time.
Today's stainless steel pans are an ideal mix between the two. They have more heft than carbon steel but they're lighter than cast iron. Like cast iron, these pans take longer to heat up, but they end up retaining that heat better than carbon steel. And since these pans don't have any coating, they're usually dishwasher safe, too.
Finally, you’ll find woks with nonstick coating or pans made from hard-anodized aluminum. These pans are ideal for ease of cleaning, but the same coating that keeps food from sticking makes it hard to get a high-heat sear.
How Do I Season a Wok?
Most cast iron and nonstick woks come pre-seasoned, but you’ll need to season any carbon steel wok before its first use. The process is relatively straightforward, albeit time-consuming. Start by scrubbing the pan with hot, soapy water to remove the manufacturer’s coating. Then, dry it thoroughly and set it over high heat. The wok will start to turn a blueish-blackish color.
When the wok is hot, coat it with a teaspoon or two of neutral cooking oil (such as canola, vegetable, or peanut oil). Hold a wadded-up paper towel with a set of tongs and rub the oil over the interior of the wok. Heat over medium-low heat for 10 minutes and wipe off the oil with a new paper towel. Let the pan cool before repeating the oil-and-heating steps until the paper towel does not have any black residue (it usually takes about three or four times in total).
Once the pan is seasoned, you don’t want to use any detergents to clean the wok—that will remove the seasoning, and you’d have to go through the seasoning process again. Treat these carbon-steel woks like your favorite cast iron pan and rinse them with hot water before drying them thoroughly. After each use, rub them with a thin layer of cooking oil before storing to prevent rusting.
Other Woks We Tested
Cooks Standard 13-Inch Wok
There’s nothing traditional about the Cooks Standard 13-Inch Wok, but it was our favorite in our first round of testing. It had more surface area on the bottom as compared to the other woks, making it a true hybrid between our favorite skillet and a wok. The rounded, sloped sides were effective at holding cooked food as we went, and it was light enough to toss the vegetables while we stir-fried. This pan was also our favorite for deep-frying potato chips, creating minimal splatter and perfectly browning the chips on all sides.
It’s worth noting that traditionalists don’t like stainless steel woks because they take longer to heat up and don't usually heat as evenly as carbon steel pans, which is why we dethroned this one when we revisited the round-up this year. While it was definitely true that it took longer to heat up the Cooks Standard, we were impressed at how much more effectively it retained that heat once it got there. The aluminum core and multi-clad metal construction was a game changer, making the pan light enough to use comfortably while also creating even heating with little to no hot spots.
Calphalon Signature Hard-Anodized Nonstick 12-Inch Flat-Bottom Wok with Cover
The Calphalon Signature 12-inch Wok is simple and practical, featuring a smooth nonstick finish with hard-anodized construction, making it durable and relatively lightweight. It comes with a glass lid, which fits snugly on top.
Thanks to its PTFE nonstick coating, using and cleaning this Calphalon was a breeze. And the second stainless steel handle on the opposite side helped us lift up and transport the wok easily during and after cooking.
Overall, the Signature shares many characteristics with the Calphalon Contemporary but is a bit larger in diameter, which makes it more ideal when it comes to cooking for a crowd. The edges of this wok are slightly curved outwards—a small detail that encourages easy pouring of the foods once cooking is done.
The downside is that this wok took more than five minutes to heat up. Additionally, the heat retention was rather disappointing—we saw dramatic temperature fluctuations during the deep frying test. Conversely, the lid gets hot quickly during cooking, so we recommend wearing oven mitts when handling it.
Another drawback is the steep side of the wok, which made it hard to fit a ton of food when deep frying, unless we added extra oil, which defeated the purpose of using a wok for deep frying in order to conserve oil.
The pre-seasoned Souped Up Carbon Steel Wok is gorgeous, featuring a dimpled flat bottom and a wooden lid that resembles that of a traditional Chinese wok. The addition of a spout on the side helps pour the cooked food effortlessly. It took two rinses to take off the protective coating and the helpful user manual guided us through the process. The manual also has plenty of tips for later uses, how to build seasoning, and recipe suggestions.
We were impressed by how quickly this wok brought oil to frying temperature—it only took us three minutes to go from 75°F to 280°F. But temperature consistency was a constant struggle as we started to fry potatoes in the pan. This wok either dropped temperature more dramatically than needed for deep frying or couldn’t stop from overheating.
Another minor quibble we had was with the wooden lid. Though it’s beautiful and great for retaining the heat when simmering and steaming, we prefer a domed glass lid so we can better monitor the cooking process.
This 14-inch wok doesn’t come cheap, but it's constructed from American-made steel and it also comes with a lifetime warranty. If you do a lot of stir-frying, it might be worth the price tag: The All-Clad Stainless Open Stir Fry is the only pan we tested that didn’t have a single hot spot. Although it took longer to heat than any of the other pans, the tri-ply bonded steel heated evenly once it got there and retained that heat just as well. While it was a contender for our top pick, a few little things dropped it out of contention. Beyond its pricey cost, the contoured handle was too uncomfortable to flip vegetables with ease and its flat, wide slope made it difficult to remove the potato chips as we fried.
There was a lot to love about the American-made Lodge 14-Inch Cast Iron Wok, but one major flaw dropped it down a few notches on our list. Cast iron is heavy, and this pan weighs more than 10 pounds! The Cantonese-style handles on each side made it easy enough to lift, but between the pan’s heft and lack of a long handle, it was impossible to toss the vegetables. On the plus side, the Lodge wok created beautifully seared food, and it didn’t budge on the stovetop as we used it (even when we really tried). That stability makes it ideal for deep frying, and the beautiful pan can double as a serving dish if you bring it straight to the table. Just make sure to grip the handles with oven mitts, because they got super hot.
Joyce Chen Pro Chef 14-Inch Excalibur Nonstick Wok
As compared to the other pans, the Joyce Chen Pro Chef 14-Inch Excalibur Nonstick Wok was heavier than we expected! Most nonstick pans are relatively light, but this one definitely had some heft (especially when it was full of food). We weren’t impressed with the evenness of heating, and it had hot spots all over the place. While we loved the traditional shape, we found the slopes too slippery to move food around effectively.
You might be attracted to the budget price of the T-fal 14-Inch Nonstick Jumbo Wok, but it definitely wouldn’t be our first choice. The PFOA-free nonstick coating made the pan easy to clean, and on the plus-side it was one of the lightest pans we tested. It was fun to flip vegetables, but it was nearly impossible to get a hard sear on the food. This type of coating is not ideal for use in high-heat cooking as it can break down quickly over time. Since that's kind of what woks are all about, it's a bit of a deal-breaker.
Craft Wok Traditional Hand Hammered Carbon Steel Pow Wok
Overall, we were pretty happy with the performance of the Craft Wok Traditional Hand Hammered Carbon Steel Pow wok. It looks absolutely gorgeous, too, with it hand-hammered carbon steel and a wooden handle. Unfortunately, the rounded bottom means this wok isn’t for everyone. If you own an electric stove, you’ll need to pick up a wok ring so the cookware can balance above the element. And while we love the quick-and-even heating of carbon steel, keep in mind that the seasoning process requires some patience. It was easy enough to season, but time-consuming nonetheless.
The Yousukata has a more rounded bottom than the other woks, but it didn’t negatively impact its performance. When our tester tilted the wok slightly towards her on the grated gas stovetop, it worked out fine. However, this wok may just be less suitable for an electric or induction cooktop.
This pre-seasoned carbon steel wok heats up quickly and is relatively easy to re-season and care for. If you’re looking for some restaurant-quality stir fry, this wok won’t disappoint.
However, when it comes to ease of use, the wooden handle wasn’t the most comfortable to hold and the pan was heavy to carry around. We also noticed hot spots in the middle during testing, which prevented food from getting cooked evenly.
We were less than impressed with the Joyce Chen Pro Chef 14-Inch Carbon Steel Wok. Like the other carbon steel wok we tested, it heated up quickly and didn’t have many observable hot spots. However, we had a hard time seasoning this wok, and it left us with a burnt base and nearly clean sides. Overall, it did a nice job at stir-frying our vegetables and deep-frying potatoes, but it was too heavy and the back handle got in the way as we tossed food. All in all, we prefer some of the other woks better than this one.
While we’ve been impressed by Made In cookware’s durability and heavy-duty construction in the past, it’s a different story when it comes to woks. Despite being able to sear beef perfectly, the Made In Carbon Steel Wok was the least user-friendly one we’ve tested. It’s on the heavier side of the woks in this list, which made tossing vegetables feel like an arm workout.
The heft also made pouring out cooked food hard. Typically, a wok features a second handle on the opposite side so you can easily lift up the pot using both hands.
Among the unseasoned woks we’ve covered in this round-up, most came with a user manual explaining how to season it, except the Made In one. After a little internet research, we eventually figured it out. During the pre-wash, we had a difficult time thoroughly washing off the black protective coating and it took us six times to run them off under soapy water. In comparison, the other woks required three washes in soapy water, tops.
This wok could be good for searing large pieces of meat, but generally speaking, we think there are much better models out there.
Valerie Li Stack is a senior staff writer for Kitchen & Cooking. She is an experienced home cook with a passion for experimenting with the cuisines of countries she's visited. Driven by an interest in food science, Valerie approaches the culinary scene with a firm grasp of cooking processes and extensive knowledge of ingredients. She believes food speaks to all people regardless of language and cultural background.
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