South-east Asian cuisine and cooking have found takers in most parts of the world. No wonder, cooking utensils from countries like China have been in demand, and that’s exactly where a wok comes in the picture. A wok is a big, round utensil that’s typically used for making stir-fry meals and recipes, often at a high temperature. From searing your regular meats to making stir-fried veggies and making an easy stew, woks are ideal for quick cooking.
Traditionally, woks were made of cast iron, which made these utensils hard to handle and use at home. The newer options are made of carbon steel, which as the name suggests, is made from a mix of carbon and steel. These are much lighter, and therefore, making stir-fry recipes are easier than ever. If you want to buy the best carbon steel wok, we have a quick guide below for your help.
Do I need a carbon steel wok?
In all fairness, you will do just fine with a regular cast iron wok, but carbon steel woks do have a few benefits. Firstly, these are much lighter, so you don’t really have to exert pressure or force for tossing the food or making a pack of quick noodles. Secondly, with the use of carbon and steel, the heating process is much more uniform and quick. Also, these are more durable in the long run and don’t cost a bomb.
What to check?
In case of utensils, functionality should always dominate style and other things. Carbon-steel woks are extremely popular these days and work better than stainless-steel options. In fact, many chefs are completely against stainless steel when it comes to wok and would rather prefer a cast iron one, if carbon-steel models are not available. Before you look for options, do not miss these factors to find the best carbon steel wok.
- Some woks may have a round bottom, while others have a flat one. Consider the purpose of the wok before you make a choice. The round bottom woks actually sit right on the heat source, so these are great for stir-frying, while the flat bottom ones can be used to make sauces and for steaming, as well.
- Today, you can find woks with diverse kind of handles. Some have a long handle- typically used to make quick fries and noodles, while others have regular loop handles, which are designed to be held from both sides. A long handle is most ideal for regular use, but again, the type of recipes you regularly prefer also matter. Find something that has strong handles.
- The size of the wok is another aspect to consider. Woks can be really big in size, but for home requirements, a 12-inch diameter wok is probably enough. Of course, you can go for a big one, especially when you have a bigger household.
- Woks, much like saucepans, may or may not have a lid. This is a complete personal choice and depends on the product and brand. Nevertheless, having a lid is always handy, because you never know when you are in mood to cook a curry.
- Carbon steel woks can come with a warranty, but it depends on the brand, as well. It is always best to go for a wok that’s backed brand quality, even if that means paying a tad more for the same product.
Some people do complain that seasoning is a bit tough with carbon steel woks, but all it takes is some good practice. Accessories are also added in the package by some brands, so expect a spatula at the minimum.
Top three choices
Since finding the best carbon steel wok can be confusing, we have shortlisted three top-rated choices for you.
- Joyce Chen 21-9971, Classic Series Carbon-Steel Nonstick Wok Set, 4-Piece
Joyce Chen is a known brand for woks, and this one is a 14-inch 1-1/2 mm gauge carbon steel model that comes with a recipe booklet and a spatula. The handles are made of birch-wood for assured durability, and you get a long handle with a helper handle on the other side. The lid, which is included in the box, is a non-stick one with knob. You can use this Joyce Chen work on electric cooktops too. Price: About $40, but discounts are available.
- Helen Chen’s Asian Kitchen Flat Bottom Wok, Carbon Steel with Lid and Stir Fry Spatula
Made in collaboration with Helen Chen, this 14-inch wok is made of 1.6 mm carbon steel for added durability. You get a 13-inch bamboo spatula and a metal lid in the pack, with a recipe book. The handles are made of wood, with one side being a long handle. Priced at about $40, this one works for gas and electric stoves alike.
- Traditional Hand Hammered Carbon Steel Pow Wok with Wooden and Steel Helper Handle by Craft Wok
If you don’t mind shelling about $50, this wok by Craft Wok is a good investment. Made of 1.8mm carbon steel, the wok is meant to be durable, and before the first use, it must be seasoned. What makes this special is the production technique – Chinese professionals in Guangzhou have hand-hammered every wok. The long handle is made of wood, while steel helper handle ensures that high-heat cooking is done with ease.
With the best carbon steel wok, you can do anything from steaming to deep frying without a second utensil. Woks can double up as frying pans, are affordable and are meant for long use. Woks made of carbon steel are ideal for stir-frying as we mentioned earlier, and with reduced weight, you can actually do more with tossing food. Just make sure that you select the right brand and check the weight of the product. The lid and additional accessories only make the product more likeable. If you love cooking, always go for a slightly bigger wok, so that you cook more when there are guests at home.