Long standing in China and the Southeast Asian kitchen, the wok has survived centuries and traveled across many continents and oceans into the kitchens of every land. You can always stir fry in a large frying pan. But, if you do a lot of fast sauteing or stir frying, you may want to invest in a great wok, as it is more efficient to do large batches in this.
Discover how to select the best wok with our wok reviews and wok comparison tips. Kitchen appliance reviews tend to only focus on one type or model. This buying guide shows you exactly what checkpoints to watch so you end up buying the best wok for your needs!
A good Electric Wok or fry pan will have variable temperature setting. Generally it will range from Warm to 400 degrees Fahrenheit. It is important to be able to make moderate adjustments to the temperature as you cook in order to adjust to various ingredients as you enter them into the Wok or fry pan.
Woks come in a variety of sizes. The size of wok you choose will depend on several factors, including your own preferences, the type of stove you have, the size of meals you plan on preparing, and the depth of the wok. The Wok or stir fry pan must be large enough to accommodate a large stir fry - at least one big enough to serve six or seven people.
If you use your rounded wok on a flat surface be sure to get a ring to hold it secure (see below). Also the sides should be very high as it keeps down the mess when cooking. If you are cooking with a western electric range your best option is to use a flat bottom wok. Round bottom woks can reflect heat back on the element, damaging it. A flat bottomed wok can also be used on a gas burner.
There are two kinds of wok rings: one that is made of thick wire with open sides and the other of enclosed metal with small holes for venting. The former is best suited for use on gas burners where flames can leap up the sides of the wok and good air circulation can be maintained for the flames to burn hot, while the latter works well on electric burners as it concentrates and conducts heat upwards.
Some electric Woks or fry pans come with extremely short cords, which can be a problem for older kitchens that are not equipped with many electrical outlets. A good length is at least three feet of cord, but more is better to increase your flexibility to move from the kitchen to the dining room or even out on the patio for outdoor entertaining.
The lid should have a handle on top of sufficient size to allow it to be lifted without touching the fingers to the hot surface of the lid. The lid should be made out of glass, so that the cook can keep an eye on the meal without having to repeatedly lift the lid an, thereby, losing some moisture from the wok.
Woks come with handles of all sorts, from extensions of the metal itself, to bakelite, hardwood, bamboo, and phenolics. The plastics are available in varieties of colors, the all-metal handles usually have rings or holes for hanging. The wooden handles usually transmit the least amount of heat to the cooks hand.
The best electric wok or fry pan is one that stands alone on the countertop. This allows the flexibility of moving the Wok or fry pan to other locations for cooking or serving without being tied to the stove. It also heats the food much more evenly and does not call for as much stirring and agitation during cooking.
With the current interest in low-fat cooking, many manufacturers now offer woks with a non-stick coating. The non-stick surface needs to be really high quality as stir frying and sautéing means there is a lot of contact with the wok surface.
Before you go out to buy a good Stir Fry Pan or Wok, figure out how much you want to spend. Buy the best quality that fits in your budget, you will not regret it. Aluminum, Stainless Steel and Carbon Steel can come in very low cost versions while Cast Iron is usually a bit more expensive.
Cleaning & Coatings
You might consider the amount of washing up needed after your cooking is done. The thinner-walled woks cook hotter, are more likely to get burned or crusted areas (for less experienced cooks, anyway) and seem to resist an easy cleanup more than their thick-bottomed siblings.
Check that the metal the wok/stir-fry pan is made of appears strong enough to withstand the high temperatures that it will be subjected to. Most of the woks damage comes from the contact with fire (gas stoves) and contact with metal utensils.
Lastly, when you buy a new cooking appliance a cookery book/pamphlet is useful to help you get to know your new product. Complimentary utensils, such as non scratch lifters and spoons for nonstick wok/stir-fry pans, are very useful.
A great Wok or Stir Fry Pan will be made of good heat conducting material. Carbon Steel is one of the more popular materials; it heats up quickly, is quite durable and lightweight and can be relatively inexpensive. Stainless steel lined aluminum or Anodized aluminum work quite well in today's modern kitchen.
Ever used your wok for some other clever purpose? Or have you bought a horribly bad one? Or simply have the best wok we should know about? Let us know.. we'd love to hear about it.
We want to hear about your crazy, wacky, funny, interesting, useful stories, tips, ideas. Anything that you might have about woks would be so cool if you share it.
Click below to see contributions from other visitors to this page...