Which carbon steel wok is best?
Woks cook food quickly and are great for stir-frying at high temperatures. Typically, they can use stainless steel, aluminum or cast iron. However, many professional chefs and food experts agree that a carbon steel wok is the best as it heats up quickly, stays hot for longer and is lightweight and highly durable.
Carbon steel woks range significantly in size, thickness and design. The Craft Wok Traditional Hand Hammered Pow Wok is an excellent example with a wooden handle and a non-slip base. Alternatively, there are plenty of other options to suit most cooking styles and budgets.
What to know before you buy a carbon steel wok
Are carbon steel woks safe?
Carbon steel is a mixture of iron and carbon. It is incredibly durable, and you can heat to extreme temperatures without giving off any toxic fumes. This makes it an excellent choice for cooking utensils, frying pans and woks alike.
Round vs. flat bottom
Deciding between a flat bottom wok and a round bottom wok will depend primarily on your heat source. A round bottom wok is better for gas stoves and allows the heat to focus for intense frying. Flat bottom woks are more stable on electric hobs but tend to heat food unevenly.
You will need to season a carbon steel wok before using and periodically after that. This creates an impervious surface and stops food from sticking. To season a wok, you first need to clean it thoroughly with dish soap. Heat the wok to a high temperature for around 15 minutes, then cover the surface with a layer of high-temperature oil. Finally, heat the wok again until the oil starts to smoke and leave it to cool naturally.
What to look for in a quality carbon steel wok
Carbon steel woks can last a lifetime if looked after properly. However, non-stick surfaces can be toxic and usually have a lower heat threshold. This means it cannot handle the high heat necessary for a proper stir-fry and may peel off or leach into the food. A well-seasoned wok is more versatile and hardwearing than one with a non-stick surface.
Look for a wok made from 14-gauge carbon steel as a minimum, about 1.6 millimeters thick. This balance prevents the metal from bending under heat yet still keeps the wok relatively lightweight.
Woks can range in size from under 8 inches to over 3 feet in diameter. Deciding what size wok to buy will depend on how many people you usually cook for, with 12 to 14-inch being a good size for a family of four. Larger woks may not sit well on a regular kitchen gas burner and are more difficult to store.
How much you can expect to spend on a carbon steel wok
Carbon steel is not particularly expensive. Therefore, a high-quality wok should cost somewhere within the $20-$100 range, depending on its size and the handle’s material.
Carbon steel wok FAQ
Will a carbon steel wok rust?
A. Since carbon steel primarily uses iron, yes. If your wok starts to show signs of rust, it is usually time to re-season it. First, you should completely remove the old layer of seasoning using a wire scourer and dish soap.
How do I clean a carbon steel wok?
A. After a seasoning wok, it is crucial to protect its surface. Therefore, avoid washing it with soap or abrasive materials. Instead, soak it in warm water after use, clean it with a soft cloth and ensure it is completely dry before putting it away.
Is there anything I shouldn’t cook in a carbon steel wok?
A. Highly acidic foods and sauces such as tomatoes, vinegar or wine can strip away the protective seasoning, so you should avoid these if possible. For the same reason, carbon steel woks are not the best choice for simmering liquids for a long time.
What’s the best carbon steel wok to buy?
Top carbon steel wok
What you need to know: This 14-inch wok is hand-made in China and has a rounded bottom and a wooden handle.
What you’ll love: It is durably made from 15-gauge carbon steel and has a secondary steel handle that remains cool even in high heat.
What you should consider: The screws that hold the wooden handle secure may come loose over time.
Where to buy: Sold by Amazon
Top carbon steel wok for the money
What you need to know: Ideal for novice cooks, this budget-friendly wok is 12 inches in diameter and has a removable handle for using in an oven.
What you’ll love: It has received a double-oxidizing treatment that makes it rust, corrosion and scratch-resistant.
What you should consider: Its flat bottom can cause food to cook unevenly.
Where to buy: Sold by Amazon
Worth checking out
What you need to know: It has birch wood, stay-cool handles and uses 1.5-millimeter carbon steel.
What you’ll love: It is part of a set that includes a domed lid, a bamboo spatula and a recipe booklet.
What you should consider: It comes with a protective factory coating, which you must remove before first use.
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Chris Gillespie writes for BestReviews. BestReviews has helped millions of consumers simplify their purchasing decisions, saving them time and money.
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