Our editors independently research, test, and recommend the best products; you can learn more about our review process here. We may receive commissions on purchases made from our chosen links.
You can certainly cook up a stir-fry in any skillet, but if you’re looking for that special essence known to Chinese chefs as wok hei—sometimes translated as “breath of the wok”—you might need, well, an actual wok. This special piece of cookware has a unique shape that creates a hot spot at the bottom and sends heat up the sides, allowing food to cook quickly at high heat, which helps preserve nutrients and allows vegetables, proteins, and noodles to maintain their texture.
It is believed that woks were invented in China over 2,000 years ago, during the Han Dynasty. There are a few theories as to why the wok came to be: one is that it was created to be portable for the nomadic tribes who would travel the country; another is that due to an oil shortage, the wok was made to allow people to cook with very little oil. Today, this piece of cookware is quite possibly the single most important tool in a Chinese kitchen, though it can certainly be used outside of that cuisine.
Here, our top woks for your kitchen.
Oven safe to 450 degrees
Easy to maintain nonstick coating
Not compatible with induction
While traditionalists might be wary of a nonstick wok, this contemporary model from Calphalon performs brilliantly without requiring special care to maintain its seasoning. This wok features a heavy-gauge hard-anodized aluminum exterior paired with a triple-coated nonstick interior that is 40 percent more durable than Calphalon's Classic line. Measuring 13 inches in diameter, this generously sized wok is large enough to stir-fry for a crowd, but not so massive that it is impossible to store.
The aluminum body allows the pan to heat quickly and evenly, and the nonstick coating ensures that food won't get stuck and burn over higher heat. You can take this pan from stovetop to oven (it's oven-safe to 450 degrees), and it is compatible with most cooktops, except for induction. The wok is dishwasher safe, but as with most nonstick coated cookware, it will last longer if you wash it by hand.
Big enough to cook several portions at once
Dishwasher and oven safe
Handle stays cool to the touch
May be too large for small living spaces
Not as attractive as other woks on the market
Woks are not typically expensive pieces of equipment, but this one is particularly wallet-friendly. The large 14-inch wok is great for cooking large family meals, while the nonstick cooking surface makes it easy to use and clean since food won’t stick. According to our tester, "even the most stubborn ingredients—like thinly sliced mushrooms, diced onions, and grated garlic—slid right off without leaving any residue or burn marks."
This wok is made from aluminum, so it’s lighter in weight than steel woks. It’s oven safe to 350 degrees, and it’s also dishwasher safe for easy cleaning. A large wok can be a bit difficult to fit into a dishwasher, but this is nonstick inside and out, so it’s easy to wash by hand, too.
Since this is made from aluminum, it can’t be used on an induction cooktop, but since it has a flat bottom, it can be used on any gas or electric stove. It has a long handle, and a helper handle that makes it easy to use and move, and the handles are covered with silicone for a stay-cool comfortable grip. The inside bottom has a flat cooking surface that’s more typical in modern woks.
"It’s ideal for feeding families, prepping for parties, and batch-cooking your weekly lunches." — Caroline Goldstein, Product Tester
Great for making large meals
Lots of maintenance required
Difficult to store
Carbon steel is a very traditional material for woks, but it has some downsides that a home cook needs to be aware of. Like cast iron, carbon steel needs to be seasoned to keep it from rusting and it can’t be washed in a dishwasher. When this wok is hand-washed, it needs to be dried immediately and oiled before storing to prevent rust. A well-used carbon steel wok will turn black from use and will become more and more nonstick over time.
When carbon steel is heated, it emits a metallic odor that some cooks find objectionable. This odor becomes less noticeable as the wok is used and seasoned over time. Carbon steel woks are often sold with a protective coating that must be removed before the wok is seasoned before its first use. It’s important to read the specific instructions included with the wok for the proper way to remove the coating.
This wok is made from cold-forged carbon steel with two riveted loop handles and a very traditional round bottom. You’ll need to use a wok ring to hold it on your gas stove. It won’t work well with other stovetops since the round bottom won’t make contact with the heat.
While carbon steel is one of the most traditional wok materials, casual home cooks might find the care and seasoning to be more than they want to deal with unless they’re passionate about wok cooking. At 16 inches, this is also a large wok that will take quite a bit of storage space.
Heats quickly and evenly
Nonstick surface adds convenience
Includes 25 year warranty on nonstick coating
Handles can become loose over time
This 14-inch wok combines traditional carbon steel construction with a premium nonstick surface that’s safe for metal utensils, so it doesn’t require the finicky care of an uncoated wok. However, wood, nylon, or silicone utensils will help extend the life of the nonstick surface.
The wok has a long phenolic handle and a helper handle that look attractive and stay cool during cooking. This is great for a first-time wok user since it is extremely user-friendly thanks to its durable nonstick coating. This pan should be hand washed without any abrasive pads or cleaners and should not be washed in the dishwasher.
Easy to clean
Nonstick surface deteriorates over time
This pre-seasoned cast iron wok offers the benefits of cast iron cooking combined with lightweight construction. It’s large enough to cook dinner in a single batch, whether you’re making fried rice, stir-fry, or fajitas, yet it’s much lighter than traditional cast iron woks so it’s easy to lift, move, and store. This model has stainless steel handles but is also available with Bakelite or wooden handles as well.
Since it comes pre-seasoned, you can start using this wok right away, but the surface gets even more nonstick with additional seasoning and use. This should be hand washed.
Heavy duty construction
Pre-seasoned and ready to use out of the box
Flat bottom does not require an adapter
Lodge is known for its long-lasting cast iron pieces, and this wok is no exception. This is a sturdily-built, heavy pan that retains heat beautifully and will help you achieve the restaurant-quality sear that is hard to achieve without a high-BTU flame. It has a flat bottom that allows it to sit on top of a gas burner without the adapter ring needed for round-bottom woks. With a 14-inch diameter, this wok is large enough to quickly cook your favorite stir-fry dishes for a crowd. Since cast iron requires seasoning to protect its surface, this model comes pre-seasoned with 100% vegetable oil—all you'll have to do is maintain it.
The large handles make it easy to transport and maneuver, but since they are also cast iron, you'll have to be mindful of their temperature at all times. It is also quite heavy, weighing in at nearly 11 pounds, so it might be a bit cumbersome to bring out and put away if you plan on using it often. That being said, Lodge pans are fairly inexpensive and deliver quality way above its price point.
What To Look For When Buying a Wok
Carbon steel: Traditional woks are constructed out of carbon steel, an alloy made of iron and carbon. It has many similar properties to cast iron: it holds heat well, can be used on any sort of cooktop (including open flame and induction), and is extremely durable. Carbon steel is lighter and less brittle than cast iron and is also more responsive to changes in heat. The malleability of carbon steel also lends itself well to shaping and pressing, so the surface of a carbon steel pan will be smooth in comparison to the rougher surface of a cast iron pan.
Cast iron: This heavy-duty material is the top choice for high-heat cooking because of its ability to maintain heat—this makes it the perfect choice for searing and deep-frying, and also for keeping foods warm for a long time. Cooking with cast iron also releases small, beneficial amounts of iron into food. Because it is naturally chemical-free, it is a great choice for those worried about PFOA, PTFE (Teflon), and BPA toxicity. While cast iron requires a little bit of special care to maintain its seasoning, cookware made from this material has a very long lifespan and can be used on virtually any cooktop.
Nonstick: Woks made from nonstick finishes allow users to cook with little to no oil, which is ideal for those who are looking to reduce their fat intake. As with nonstick skillets, foods cooked in nonstick woks release easily thanks to the slippery coating, and any debris left over from cooking is easily removed. Nonstick coatings can come in a few forms, from traditional PTFE to cutting-edge ceramic and hard-anodized aluminum. However, nonstick coatings are more delicate than uncoated metals and are prone to scratches and flaking, and can’t be used with metal or sharp utensils. The maximum cooking temperature for nonstick pans is usually lower than that of other materials, so if you’re looking to get the char that a traditional wok would give, you may want to opt for another version.
Stainless steel: Stainless steel is a top choice for quality cookware because it is durable and resistant to stains and other damage. A wok made of this material will typically have a heat-conducting aluminum core surrounded by layers of 18/10 stainless steel, giving it some heft and thickness. Because stainless steel is non-reactive, it’s a great choice for cooking acidic foods, like orange chicken or sweet and sour pork. These types of pans are not only beautiful to look at but will also stand up against sharp or metal cooking utensils without getting scratched. Plus, they are generally easy to care for.
Home woks come in a wide range of sizes, from small, 8-inch versions that are ideal for singles, all the way to 36 inches for feeding a party. A good average size to have is a 12- or 14-inch wok, which fits well on a standard stove and can typically feed three to four people depending on their appetites. It will give you enough room to stir-fry a generous amount of food without worrying you might accidentally toss some of it out of the wok.
Round or Flat Bottom
Traditional, round-bottomed woks are meant to be used with a special stove featuring a burner that is fitted to cradle a wok. This setup creates a hotspot at the bottom while sending heat up the sides of the wok, and also allows for a smooth scooping motion to stir ingredients around. If you opt for a round-bottomed wok, you’ll be more likely to create restaurant-style results, but you’ll also need a special ring to allow your burner to hold the wok. If that sounds like a hassle, opt for a flat-bottomed wok—this style will sit directly on your existing cooktop without needing any special accommodations.
Restaurants that specialize in wok cooking often cook at temperatures higher than you can achieve on a home stove, so a traditional carbon steel wok will easily stand up to the highest heat on your range. Cast iron and stainless steel can also withstand high temperatures—double-check with the manufacturer to verify the cooking range of your wok. Nonstick pans generally do not do well with very high heat (for example, anything over 450 degrees will start to break down Teflon), so if you’re looking to achieve a restaurant-quality stir-fry, you should choose a pan with a higher temperature threshold.
As with most cookware, woks can vary greatly in price. Because woks are a specialty pan that not all manufacturers make, you may not find as many options as you would for other pans, but there are some great budget-friendly options in cast iron and carbon steel that shouldn’t be overlooked.
Larger manufacturers like Calphalon and T-fal will typically offer a warranty on their woks, protecting you against defects in workmanship or material. Some companies may limit their warranty to a specific number of years and may note that it does not protect against normal wear and tear or improper use. Be sure to always check the manufacturer’s warranty to see if it fits your needs before purchasing.
This French cookware brand, sometimes marketed as Tefal, takes its name from the combination of the words “Teflon” and “aluminum.” It is best known for making affordable yet high-quality nonstick cookware that can be used for years. Its product line includes full sets of nonstick cookware, individual pans, and specialty pieces such as grill pans and woks.
Based in Ohio, Calphalon has been a leading producer of premium-quality cookware since 1963. It is responsible for the invention of hard-anodized aluminum cookware using a technique adapted from the aerospace industry. The brand’s midrange price points make it a popular and attainable choice for dedicated home cooks.
Founded in Colombia, IMUSA is a leading supplier of Latin and ethnic cookware across South, Central, and North America, with a primary focus on preparing Hispanic foods. Its line of kitchenware also includes cast iron, stainless steel, ceramic, and carbon steel cookware, as well as a large assortment of cooks’ tools and small appliances, all at very affordable price points.
This company is the oldest and longest-running cast iron manufacturer in the USA, and it has built its reputation on well-made cast iron and carbon steel cookware that can be used in and outdoors. It has two foundries located in South Pittsburg, Tennessee, and continues to craft heirloom-quality pieces that last for generations.
Traditional carbon steel and woks can be cared for very similarly: use a non-abrasive scrubber and water to remove any debris, wipe the surface dry with a paper towel, then follow this guide to maintain its seasoning. Stainless steel woks can often go in the dishwasher, but double-check the manufacturer’s guide to ensure it is not handwash-only. For nonstick woks, you’ll want to use a nylon scrubber along with gentle dishwashing soap and avoid using metal utensils or sharp implements that could damage the coating.
Why Trust The Spruce Eats?
Donna Currie is a food writer and product tester for The Spruce Eats, specializing in all the latest cookware and kitchen gadgets.
Caroline Goldstein, a lifestyle writer and product tester for The Spruce Eats, personally tested three of the woks on this list, putting them through the paces in her NYC apartment to evaluate their functionality, design, and ease of cleaning and storage.