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There’s something special about cooking on a rip-roaring fire. Whether it’s grilling meat outside in the heat of the summer or even just firing up a gas stove with some serious BTUs, it imparts a primitive element to your cooking and enhances it. When it comes to stir-fry, there is no equal substitute to a commercial wok burner, a gas-controlled fire pit that belches flame up into the whirring exhaust above at up to nine times the power of even the most powerful burner on a residential gas range.
However, just because we can’t technically have this experience at home doesn’t mean that we will stop trying. Enter the electric wok, a relatively new invention brought to the public’s attention in 1983 and only patented in 1992. Legally, according to this patent, an electric wok is a small appliance that “includes a bowl-shaped pan which has a bottom side with a receiving space and a support frame.” This frame should then have a heating coil within the insulated base, powered by an external power source.
A wok needs a lot of firepower, which means at least 1500 watts—roughly 5,000 BTUs—so that your stir-fry sears and cooks without letting your greens get soggy. This lets you at least stand a chance of capturing that elusive element called wok hei, the quality that makes all the difference between a fiery stir-fry and a meh sauté. Woks also must have a curved base and high, flared walls—as close to a splaying bowl shape as possible—to create different temperature zones, which allows some foods to keep warm and others to sear all in one amazing pan. This is why the straight rims, large flat bottoms, and typically square shape of an electric skillet are a no-go for woking.
With these criteria in mind, we researched and tested the best electric woks on the market, and these are the ones most ready to bring the heat.
Best Overall: NuWave Mosaic 14-Inch Induction Wok
Reaches high temperatures quickly
Traditional round bottom, long handle, and carbon steel material
Can be removed from the base while cooking
Includes lid, draining rack, and wok stand
Carbon steel requires seasoning and extra care
The NuWave Mosaic induction wok set is unlike anything else we’ve seen, offering versatility, precision, heat patterns, and control that far surpass any other technology out there. With an ability to reach 575 searing degrees Fahrenheit in just a minute, a digital dial panel that adjusts to 5-degree increments as well as time, and three wattage settings to choose from, no other competitor comes close to that level of temperature control.
The other major differentiator, and the one that puts it over the top, is the round-bottomed, stick-handled carbon steel wok itself. These three key features of this 4-quart wok make it capable of emulating real wok cooking like nothing else on the market. Traditional woks all have round bottoms that project heat around the basin; contemporary for-home woks lose that with their necessary flat-bottom designs. Also, most electric woks have small side handles and locked-in bases, which makes flipping impossible—but not this one. A long silicone handle allows you to remove it easily off the heater completely and independently mid-cook to toss like a pro. And the use of traditional carbon steel makes it the first of its kind in electric woks.
On top of that, the induction technology is impressive. The cooktop is designed to wrap around the curves of the wok, just like real-life flames. However, the magnetic coils are concentrated on the lower portion of the cookware, which preserves the disparate heat zones so crucial to woking. And it’s fast—quick to warm up, to heat, and to cool down to wipe clean.
Dimensions: 21 x 19.5 x 5 inches | Capacity: 4 quarts | Power: 1500 watts | Material: carbon steel
There are two ways to cook in a wok: tumble- and flip-tossing. When you buy a long- or stick-handled wok, you have the option of both cooking techniques. Most electric woks, however, must remain in contact with their bases to function, and can’t be removed while in use. Therefore, the typical handle design is short ones on both sides, which eliminates toss-cooking from your possibilities. Instead, everything you make will need to be tumbled, which is to stir and flip simultaneously along the walls of the wok in order to distribute sauce and mix ingredients.
Best General Purpose: Presto 5900 Stainless Steel Electric Wok
Easy to set up
Side loop handles stay cool
Heat control plug gets hot
Not recommended for deep frying
This all-stainless flat-bottomed electric wok performed admirably in a recent in-depth product review, with our tester raving after all experimentation was done that “the heat control throughout was magnificent.”
The output is controlled by a regulator that is set by degrees, the maximum of which is 400 for this unit. Our reviewer noted that the base heated quickly but the sides took a few minutes. Once hot, however, it effectively retained the temperature. The regulator automatically shuts off when it reaches the desired temperature and then restarts when it lowers, which makes the wok safe and steady for all types of cooking at different temperatures, or even in-unit soaking for the food that gets stuck on at high temperatures. This also makes it easier to clean than most stainless steel cookware, as our tester found since she was able to scrape the bottom of the pan with the included wooden spatula as the water boiled and the residue came off easily.
Dimensions: 17.6 x 8.87 x 14.06 inches | Power: 1500 watts | Material: stainless steel
"As a 'one wok to do it all,' it did not disappoint with either vegetable korma, vegetable fried rice, or making a stir-fry Japchae with 'Dang-myeon' (sweet potato noodles)." — Renu Dhar, Product Tester
Best for Batch Cooking: Breville Hot Wok Pro
Gets hot enough for searing
Butterfly-shaped heating element imitates the pattern of live flame cooking
High walls to keep food in and increase cooking surface
Includes steaming rack
Large for storing
Heat cycles on and off at lower temps
Not recommended for deep frying
Steaming rack can tilt
This designer electric wok by prestige manufacturer Breville is one sleek powerhouse, utilizing 1800 watts of energy to heat the wok from a beautifully rounded floor all the way to its extended nonstick-coated edges. The point of this design is to emulate the way fire climbs up the walls of a wok, engulfing its sides. This increases your cooking surface area and also creates various heat zones for greater flexibility in your one-pot cooking. Fifteen heat settings help you gain control of it, though, with a max searing temperature that hits up to 425 degrees Fahrenheit—and our tester confirmed that at the highest setting "the heat stays on, cooking everything quickly."
Alternatively, you can pop the steaming rack in to switch up your method; the tempered glass lid, vented as it is, should keep enough vapor under wraps. Our reviewer successfully steamed asparagus, corn on the cob, tamales, and artichokes.
However you’re cooking, you can do it in bulk with this die-cast wok’s 8-quart capacity. Our tester found it to be a great way to cook wings for a crowd. At 15 inches across with the cool-grip handles, this modern wok channels the tribal cooking roots of its ancient predecessors while adding on other modern improvements: a durable, scratch-resistant QuanTanium nonstick coating on the aluminum bowl, an easy-to-maneuver slide bar lock/unlocking mechanism, and dishwasher readiness. Last but not least, it’s just a beautiful instrument, with its brushed metal exterior, satisfyingly robust handles, and squat hourglass shape.
If you aren't interested in such a large capacity, Breville's original Hot Wok is only 14 inches across with a 6-quart capacity and 1500 watts of energy.
Dimensions: 5.3 x 9 x 7.4 inches | Capacity: 8 quarts | Power: 1800 watts | Material: stainless steel base, die-cast bowl
"No matter what I cooked (or burned), the residue didn’t cling." — Donna Currie, Product Tester
Best Budget: Oster DiamondForce 4.7-Quart Electric Wok
Detachable power cord
Heat settings are set to temperatures, not just numbers
Traditional round bottom
Not recommended for deep frying
Temperature control inconveniently placed and hard to see
Slightly smaller than its competitors, this electric wok is still no slouch with a 4.7-quart capacity. Nor is it a slouch in terms of performance, with a max temperature of 420 degrees Fahrenheit according to the temperature control panel; good heat conduction from the round bottom all the way up the sides; and the brand’s “longest-lasting nonstick.”
Oster calls it Diamondforce, a coating that is infused with diamond particles for longevity, durability, and scratch resistance. This also makes for effortless cleanup, which is further supported by the fact that the temperature probe plug is fully detachable. Other safety features to go along with that include cool-touch, broad handles, and a tempered-glass lid with a knob that also promises to keep from getting too hot to handle. Perhaps the cheapest diamond you’ll ever buy, this small and affordable machine is one in a rough.
Dimensions: 15 x 6.9 x 15.1 inches | Capacity: 4.7 quarts | Power: 1200 watts | Material: DiamondForce™ nonstick coating
Invest in a good wok turner. Everyone has a favorite all-purpose spatula, one that picks up and scrapes effortlessly and slides under food from the side of the frying pan like it was made for it. Unfortunately, your favorite will let you down in a wok. Woks have curved walls, and the straight edges, borderless drop-offs, and angle of the head of a regular spatula will leave bites in the bowl. Wok turners—also called wok chuan—are designed with a slight curve that wraps around the wok, which is necessary in an electric wok since you have no choice but to tumble-cook. They also have raised edges that turn it into a more efficient shovel, which is exactly what you need for an electric wok since you can’t pour the food out onto a bowl or plate, but must scoop it out instead.
Best Value: Aroma Housewares AEW-306 Electric Wok
Detachable power cord
Entire unit is dishwasher-safe
Adjustable steam vent to allow for steaming or simmering
Safe for deep-frying
Basin is on the shallower side
Aroma Housewares is a brand that does well with Asian kitchen-geared small appliances. After all, it cut its teeth on rice cookers and now leads in that category. So it came as no surprise that its electric woks are also highly regarded. Aroma Housewares' basic model is a best seller in this category, but for a little bit more, it’s well worth it to get the Professional Model we recommend here, 2 quarts smaller as it may be.
The upgrade can’t be beaten for value, coming as a full set that includes a fully dishwasher-safe wok and base; steamer platform; frying rack, cooking chopsticks; and a steam-control tempered glass, high-dome lid. The temperature control probe offers a dial that goes up to 10 and a quick-release trigger for easy disassembly and cleanup. It’s also nonstick-coated to simplify things even further. Finally, elements of authenticity add further checkmarks in the pro column, from cast metal construction to a fully rounded basin for closer-to-authentic results.
Dimensions: 14.2 x 15.5 x 8 inches | Capacity: 5 quarts | Power: 1500 watts | Material: cast metal
If what you’re going for is that true wok cooking experience, you simply can’t do better than the NuWave Mosaic Induction Wok (view at Amazon). It may not be the most powerful (that title belongs to the Cadillac of electric woks, the high-capacity Breville Hot Wok Pro, but it’s fast, precise, and made with authenticity in mind. For those who are feeling less than confident about getting into carbon steel but sure-footed around Western favorite stainless steel, the Presto Stainless Steel Electric Wok remains a popular pick of the people.
What to Look for in an Electric Wok
Stovetop woks come in a variety of shapes, sizes, and just as important, material. However, your selection gets vastly limited with electric woks. Certain materials, such as heavy cast iron, are just not practical for a portable unit. Carbon steel is the traditional material, but until the NuWave Induction Wok was introduced, no one was making electric woks with it since they require lots of love and use (aka, constant seasoning). So consider your choices curated, not limited: mostly narrowed down to classic stainless steel and nonstick finished coatings on highly conductive metals like aluminum.
Choosing between the two are a matter of preference, since most electric wok sets have detachable components that make the kind of scrubbing you have to do with stainless possible. Nonstick is easier to clean and cook with, but can wear down faster at the high temperatures woking will put it through. With one, you can use metal utensils, and with the other, you can’t. Neither are “traditional” nor “authentic,” so it comes down to convenience and comfort.
When buying an electric wok, it’s important to consider more than just the inner vessel material. Thick sauces, stuck-on meat, and lots of searing mean cleanup must be considered in your purchase, so you want to make sure that the drudgery is as minimal as possible. The best electric woks have detachable components that allow you to soak, scrub, or just throw the whole cooking part in the dishwasher.
Look for models with a removable power cord, too—this will mean you can clean the base safely as well. And while you’re looking at power cord function, think about their lengths and where the controls are to make sure both work for your kitchen. There’s nothing more annoying than getting an appliance and having to read knobs and indicators backward, or as pointed out in our review of the Presto Stainless Steel Electric Wok, needing to get an extension cable just to use the appliance!
Electric woks typically come in family sizes, with wide mouths, high walls, and rounded, bowl-shaped interiors. All of these features give them a distinct advantage over stovetop woks, which need to have flat bottoms and dimensions conducive to a balanced center of gravity so that they don’t topple over. Because the powered kits sit on a stand, they can be made with higher walls than pan-types, giving you more cooking real estate and barrier enough to tumble with abandon without worrying about having to call “meat overboard!”
Additionally, while stovetop woks may come in 10-inch diameters, freestanding units usually offer cooking space a foot across or more, making them ideal for batch cooking or making dinner for the whole family. Those two inches make a big difference! A 12- to 14-inch wok is a good size to make a meal for three to four people, giving you enough room to stir-fry a generous amount of food without crowding.
The one theme that continues to carry through with all wok references is heat, heat, heat. It’s important to consider that all restaurants that specialize in wok cooking use big open flames, achieving temperatures far higher than you can achieve on a home stove. Needless to say, you want as much firepower as you can get, then, when it comes to your electric wok.
Most electric woks come in around 1500 watts, which is the same as the top end for electric skillets. You need at least that to stand a chance at achieving even a pale imitation of that coveted wok hei. If you can get more power, then literally, the more power to you! Some, like the Breville Hot Wok Pro, hit 1800.
Also important is heating stability. You need a unit with good temperature control that will get hot fast and respond quickly when you need it to simmer down. Precision is not as important as responsiveness for electric woks. For proof, just take a look next time you’re in a wok-kitchen restaurant. Those dials that control the flames? There’s nary a mark on them.
The cost of woks can run the gamut, and honestly, there’s not much of a consistency to the whys and wherefores. Entry-level woks can cost as little as $35 while high-end woks can catapult up to $400 and change. Luckily, electric wok costs are a little more stable, and top-notch ones hover around the $200 mark, give or take—not bad, considering it’s a whole appliance, and many woks average in the upper hundred for just the cookware.
What’s the difference between an electric skillet and an electric wok?
Wattage is incredibly important. Although electric skillets fall between 1000-1500 watts, electric woks shoot for that high end as a baseline. But the most obvious differentiator between an electric skillet and an electric wok is their shapes. As any pasta aficionado will tell you, changing a shape changes everything, and square skillets and round, bowl-like woks are no different. This curvature of woks is the distinguishing sign of this type of cookware, affecting the chemistry and technique of how your food reacts and is treated, respectively. The high, sloping walls create varied heat zones that are used as additional cooking surfaces as well as barriers to keep errant bites in as you stir, tumble, and toss with the vigor needed to spark up the breath of the wok.
How does an electric wok work?
An electric wok is powered by, well, electricity. Like all other non-battery-operated small appliances, you can plug it into any regular outlet to draw power to the base. This base contains a heating element—typically a coil one—that cradles your wok and transmits heat throughout it. How fast and how hot it gets depends on the size and pattern of the heating element and the material the cookware is made of.
How do you clean an electric wok?
Cleaning practices depend on the electric wok you buy. Typically, the cooking vessel is removable from the base, which is where the heating element usually is. Often, the plug is detachable as well, so that you can clean the base more thoroughly, too. This allows you to soak and wash the wok itself however you would a skillet made of that material. Some are also fully dishwasher safe, from base to basin to lid.
Can you deep fry in an electric wok?
Technically, you can, up to the temperature that it’s capable of reaching. However, whether it’s recommended is a different matter entirely. It’s best to defer to the manufacturer of your electric wok to be the deciding factor. The best indicator, if you don’t want to find your answer in the manual, is to see if it comes with a fry rack.
What is wok hei?
More than just a semi-tangible buzzword, wok hei is translated as the “breath of the wok.” To put more of a finger on it, it’s a flavor-infusing reaction created by the combination of the caramelization of sugar, Maillard reactions, smoking oil, vaporizing water molecules, and extremely high heat. Creating this perfect firestorm is like chasing one—it’s not guaranteed, which is part of why woking is an art form. The moment it happens can be clearly identified as small flare-ups of flame burst up like quick kisses and little celebrations in and around the food in the wok. This burst of fire blasts away any excess moisture for quick, sudden surface caramelization while leaving the center of your ingredients moist if meat and crisp if vegetal.
Why Trust The Spruce Eats?
Food is in Su-Jit Lin’s blood—particularly Chinese-American food, a unique regionalization of cross-cultural cuisine only just beginning to receive its due. The product of two generations of immigrant restaurateurs, she literally grew up in a commercial restaurant kitchen, surrounded by woks and the roar of the open fires that gave them their magical breath. Her dream home kitchen includes a range (or even just a burner!) capable of channeling that kind of wok-encompassing heat. Despite that, her theatrical skills in Chinese cooking are lacking: she still can’t flip a thing in any wok…or pan, for that matter.