8 Best Woks for More Than Just Stir-Frying

A large, shiny, and well-worn wok is a staple in Chinese restaurants and homes around the world. Many consider the wok to be the most important piece of equipment in a Chinese kitchen. The iconic round, high-sided skillet has a history that extends to the Han dynasty, which reigned from 202 BC to 220 AD. And to this day, cooks reach for this essential pan every day.

The best woks are designed to reach and maintain high temperatures quickly. They easily put a crispy sear on bite-sized pieces of chicken or pork and produce delightfully crisp-tender diced vegetables. But a wok isn’t just for stir-frying—its high sides make it the perfect place to deep-fry tempura, steam vegetables, even cook noodles.

The Expert: I am a trained chef, recipe developer, and writer for a variety of digital and print publications including Real Simple, Simply Recipes, and Insider. After traveling throughout China and living in Hangzhou, the capital of China’s Zhejiang province, where I studied the local cuisine and ate some of the best food of my life, I’m a firm believer that every home cook can benefit from the fast-paced fun of wok cooking.

If you’re interested in exploring the vast and delicious world of Chinese cooking, or you’re looking to upgrade your current wok, it’s important to choose the right pan for your needs. From selecting the best shape for your stovetop to finding the right size to fit into your kitchen, there’s plenty to consider before buying a new wok. Answer the questions below to find the right one for your needs.

What to Consider When Shopping for a Wok

What Shape Is Best for Your Stovetop?

The shape of a wok is fairly standard (high sides, narrow base, dome-shaped), with one notable feature that changes from brand to brand. Traditional woks have a completely rounded bottom. This allows the very bottom of the wok to come into direct contact with a gas heating element, a feature that descends from the original woks, which were designed to sit over an open fire in ancient China.

More modern woks, especially those sold in the West, have flat bottoms. This allows the pans to sit securely on an electric or induction burner. If you don’t have a gas stove with grates to secure your wok, buy a wok with a flat bottom.

Which Material Should You Choose?

The first woks were hand-hammered out of cast iron. You can still find excellent cast-iron woks today, which are heavy-duty, heat evenly, and maintain heat well. You’ll also find popular carbon-steel woks, which are lighter than cast iron and heat even faster. Both are great options, though both types require a bit more maintenance—they need to be hand-washed and kept seasoned—than modern metal woks, like the ones made from stainless steel or aluminum.

Metal woks tend to be lighter, induction stove–compatible, and in some cases, dishwasher-safe. However, stainless and aluminum may not distribute heat as evenly as denser cast iron and carbon steel. Some metal woks are treated with a nonstick coating, which can be helpful when it comes to cleaning and means you won’t have to use as much fat to cook. The drawback of nonstick is that it’s not always oven- or broiler-safe, so be sure to check the manufacturer’s recommendations.

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How Many Handles—One or Two?

The very first woks had two small handles—one on either side—which were easy to grip and made transporting the heavy cast-iron pan more manageable. These days, it’s more common to find woks with one long handle, and sometimes a smaller helper handle on the opposite side.

If you’re getting a pan made from a heavier material like cast iron, the helper handle can be very useful. In general, these pots get very hot, so it’s nice to have a handle made from a stay-cool material like wood to prevent burns.

Is a Lid Necessary?

While woks are not necessarily designed to have lids (the fast, high-heat cooking of stir-frying doesn’t require a cover), many modern woks come with one. This can expand on the versatility of your pan, allowing you to steam, boil, and even braise (if the pan is oven-safe). The most helpful lids are made from clear tempered glass, which is heat-proof and allows you to keep an eye on your food as it cooks.

How We Evaluated

As a professional chef and lifelong lover of Chinese food, I appreciate the unique characteristics that make woks perfect for efficient cooking: They’re high-sided, fast-heating, and comfortable to maneuver over an open flame. I love how quickly a meal can come together in a great wok and think that every household can benefit from this time-saving skillet. Of course, we don’t all need the highest-end cookware to enjoy delicious Chinese food at home. So I’ve selected high-value, well-made, budget-friendly woks that home cooks of all skill levels can use and enjoy. My recommendations are based on personal experience as well as online user reviews.

Best All-Around Wok

Craft Wok Traditional Hand Hammered Carbon Steel Pow Wok

Craft Wok
amazon.com

$59.75

Key Specs

  • Handle Material: Wood
  • Diameter: 14 in.
  • Material: Carbon steel
  • Weight: 4.6 lb.

If you’re looking for a wok that’s designed for fast, high-heat cooking, this carbon-steel pan from Craft Wok is your best bet. It has a sturdy wooden handle that stays cool for comfortable and controlled cooking, as well as a small helping handle for added leverage. The wok is incredibly lightweight and easy to maneuver.

  • Stay-cool handles
  • Traditional rounded bottom
  • No lid
  • Carbon steel requires more maintenance

Best Wok with a Lid

Cuisinart Chef’s Classic Nonstick Wok

Cuisinart
amazon.com

$55.73

Key Specs

  • Handle Material: Stainless steel
  • Diameter: 12.5 in.
  • Material: Hard-anodized aluminum
  • Weight: 8.15 lb.

A clear glass lid makes your wok even more versatile by trapping in heat for simmering, steaming, and braising. This medium-sized wok has two handles that don’t conduct heat and a slick nonstick coating that keeps your food moving fast without excess oil. It has a flat bottom that stays in place on any stovetop.

  • Flared edge for drip-free pouring
  • Clear glass lid
  • Not induction-compatible
  • Nonstick coating may not be oven-safe

Best Two-Handled Wok

NutriChef Pre-Seasoned Wok

NutriChef
walmart.com

$64.99

Key Specs

  • Handle Material: Cast iron
  • Diameter: 17 in.
  • Material: Cast iron
  • Weight: 12.85 lb.

The two handles on this heavy-duty cast iron pan offer a secure grip, even when the pot is full. It also comes with a unique wooden lid that sits inside the rim of the wok to trap heat inside. The cast iron has a nonstick coating that makes things easy to clean and reduces the need for cooking fat.

  • Comes pre-seasoned
  • Stylish
  • Wooden lid is not see-through
  • Heavy

Best Stainless Steel Wok

Cuisinart Non-Stick Stainless Steel Wok

Cuisinart
wayfair.com

$41.40

Key Specs

  • Handle Material: Stainless steel
  • Diameter: 14 in.
  • Material: Stainless steel
  • Weight: 7.4 lb.

Stainless steel is a great cookware material that conducts heat quickly and evenly. This all-stainless wok comes with a domed tempered-glass lid and is induction- and oven-safe. It can even go under the broiler. A small helper handle opposite the longer stay-cool handle makes it easy to move without risk of spilling.

  • Freezer safe
  • Broiler-safe

Best Round-Bottom Wok

Bielmeier Carbon Steel Wok

Bielmeier
walmart.com

$55.10

Key Specs

  • Handle Material: Stainless steel and wood
  • Diameter: 14 in.
  • Material: Carbon steel
  • Weight: 4.4 lb.

This wok has a traditional Chinese shape with a rounded bottom and comes with a ring for support. It works on gas stoves with a grate and provides excellent high-heat distribution for fast cooking. As long as it’s properly cared for and seasoned before use, this wok will last for years.

  • Comes with a wok ring for support
  • The iron may rust if not properly cleaned after use

Best Budget Wok

Nordic Ware Rangeware 12-inch Wok

Nordic Ware
wayfair.com

$32.99

Key Specs

  • Handle Material: Aluminum
  • Diameter: 12 in.
  • Material: Aluminum
  • Weight: 3.45 lb.

This is a budget-friendly option that will get the job done quickly and without fuss. It’s induction-friendly and oven-safe. The wok has a nonstick finish that makes cooking and cleaning a breeze (though this pan does need to be washed by hand). Plus, this environmentally friendly pan is made entirely from recycled materials.

  • Two cool-touch handles
  • Made from recycled materials
  • Metal utensils may scratch the nonstick finish

Best Wok With a Rack

Food52 Five Two Ultimate Carbon Steel Wok

Key Specs

  • Handle Material: Aluminum
  • Diameter: 12 in.
  • Material: Carbon steel
  • Weight: 5 lb. (w/rack and lid)

This beautiful wok is incredibly lightweight and easy to maneuver. It comes with a foldable stainless-steel tempura rack that rests on the edge of the pan to hold food while you sear or fry. It also doubles as a steaming rack when the glass lid is on. The pre-seasoned pan has a long stay-cool handle as well as a helper handle, and the nonstick finish means you can use minimal oil without a cooked-on mess to clean up.

  • Doubles as a steamer or casserole pan
  • Comes pre-seasoned
  • More expensive than other options

Best Enameled Cast Iron Wok

Staub Cast Iron Wok

Staub
wayfair.com

$149.95

Key Specs

  • Handle Material: Cast Iron
  • Diameter: 12 in.
  • Material: Cast Iron
  • Weight: 13 lb., 3 oz. (w/lid)

This enameled cast-iron wok is a heavy-duty option with dual handles for comfortable, safe maneuvering around the kitchen. Cast iron is beloved for its ability to heat evenly and maintain heat well, which makes this oven-safe pan great for much more than stir-fries (try it for braises or casseroles). It also comes with a clear tempered-glass lid to keep an eye on things inside.

  • Dishwasher-safe
  • Comes is six colors
  • Some users noticed discoloration after multiple uses
  • Heavy

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