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Over 2,000 years ago, during China’s Han Dynasty, cast iron was smelt into a unique form, one where a curved bottom flared out into an expansive width ending in high walls designed to retain both heat and ingredients. The name it was given was simple: wok. In the Cantonese spoken in its region of origin, wok literally means “cooking pot.” Not particularly specific, perhaps, but neither are its uses. Because as time has shown, the wok's design is that of a workhorse—a multi-cooking wonder with infinite capabilities.
A wok can do it all, but only a wok can turn out stir-fry as it's meant to be: with vegetables that are vibrant, blissfully blistered, yet tender-crisp; meat that captures a little browning without drying out; and dishes with little oil but a lot of naturally extruded flavor. Not only does a wok allow you to cook high-volume ingredients—like the vegetable-heavy dishes Asian cuisine is known for—by virtue of its tall sides, but its sloping sides also catch heat in a blooming pattern, creating different zones. Where the flames hug the bowl is where you sear; up toward the edge is where you keep warm and dry.
Today, many global manufacturers have created their own contemporary adaptations of the classic wok’s ingenious design, like flat bottoms in various diameters that will sit solidly and balance well on gas, electric burner, glass top, or induction ranges, and even outdoor grills.
Here, the best woks you can buy.
Best Overall: Calphalon Premier Flat-Bottom Wok with Helper Handle
No seasoning or special maintenance required
Specially textured surface for searing
Triple-coated nonstick finish
Oven-safe to 500 degrees
Not compatible with induction cooktops
Helper handle can get very hot
This exemplary modern wok is a fantastic bridge for those trying to master wok cooking techniques, bolstered by the peace of mind of working with a nonstick surface. With this model by Calphalon, you get all of the familiarity, ease, and quality of hard-anodized cookware—and then some. Its triple-layer interior is a significant upgrade from its already excellent other lines; it’s remarkable for being able to bear the use of metal spatulas, whisks, and spoons (but not knives or forks), which is typically a no-no for nonstick. Plus, this wok boasts a specially textured surface designed to sear, which can imitate the coveted wok hei effect of char-kissed food.
Another technical, tradition-minded aspect that makes this wok such a winner is the relatively small size of the flat bottom paired with the wide 13-inch overall diameter. This dramatic expansion means your food is less likely to sit at the bottom and burn, nor pile up and steam, collecting crisp-killing moisture. You’ll have plenty of side-area cooking surface to cook your ingredients on without any risk of veggies getting soaked from the bottom. But if your goal is to steam, more good news: This version comes with a low-profile tempered glass lid, which allows you to peek without losing any heat. Plus, a long, ergonomic riveted handle allows you to toss this 6.5-pound pan with ease if you’re feeling ambitious about showmanship.
Material: Hard-anodized aluminum | Max Heat Capacity: 450 degrees | Induction Ready: No
The common and poetic definition for wok hei is "breath of the wok." You’ve seen it in action if you’ve ever watched traditional wok cooking, the moment clearly identifiable as small flare-ups burst up like quick kisses and small celebrations in and around the dish. Most importantly, it’s the vital, critical difference between limply sautéed and briskly wok-fried—an immeasurable quality that adds unplaceable depth and gorgeous warmth to stir-fried dishes.
Best Budget: T-fal Specialty Nonstick Jumbo Wok Cookware
Handles stay cool to the touch
May be too large for small living spaces
Only oven-safe to 350 degrees
This bargain is a solid choice for those just getting into the art of woking. Its nonstick interior impressed our tester, who commented that "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 feature, in addition to its lightweight aluminum composition, might be just the boost a home cook needs to stir, flip, and steam with confidence.
Our reviewer liked the generous 14-inch diameter of this wok, allowing you to cook several portions at once. A long handle and stay-cool silicone helper loop provide yet another failsafe, and a flat base means anyone with a gas or electric stove can get cooking.
Material: Nonstick with aluminum base | Max Heat Capacity: 350 degrees | Induction Ready: No
"It’s ideal for feeding families, prepping for parties, and batch-cooking your weekly lunches." — Caroline Goldstein, Product Tester
Best Splurge: ZhenSanHuan Hand-Hammered Flat-Bottom Iron Wok
Made by traditional methods
Metal, wood, and silicone utensil-safe
Suitable for induction cooktops
Not dishwasher safe or submergible
Hand-hammered and forged, there’s no mistaking this wok for anything but authentic. Made by a real Chinese brand featured in the food documentary A Bite of China, the artisans at ZhenSanHuan use 100 percent iron, 36,000 hammer strokes, and 12 critical steps to make their heirloom-quality, smooth-surfaced woks.
Like cast iron, no coating is used for its nonstick finish; rather, this higher-priced version takes care of the initial seasoning for you to build upon with use and oil treatment. Also, similarly, it holds onto heat extraordinarily, and won’t be affected by the use of metal utensils, including traditional metal wok spatulas. However, unlike cast iron, this thinly beaten metal is relatively light, weighing in at under 5 pounds. All in all, this model is considered among the top of the line because of its seasoning, handsome wood handle, which will stay cooler longer, iron helper handle, and a flat bottom suitable for all cooktops, since its material is also induction-compatible.
Material: Hand-hammered iron | Max Heat Capacity: 500+ degrees | Induction Ready: Yes
Best Starter Set: Joyce Chen 10-Piece Wok Set
Included accessories go beyond bare basics
Pre-seasoned, naturally nonstick carbon steel
25-year warranty on the nonstick coating
Not dishwasher safe
Handle attachments need regular tightening
The Joyce Chen wok has always been a top pick, but it has gotten an upgrade with a whole kit that goes beyond the bare basics. This set comes with a tempura rack, bamboo utensils, chopsticks, a steaming rack, bamboo tongs, a rice paddle, and a heat-retaining solid metal lid—essentially everything you need to stir-fry, steam, or deep-fry right away. The wok itself is made of carbon steel, the material of choice for many professionals who specialize in wok cooking. "[Carbon steel] is durable, conducts heat quickly and evenly," says George Chen, founder, and executive chef at China Live San Francisco.
Heavy and sturdy on its flat bottom, there are also some delicate elements to it. It does require hand washing, but its nonstick coating can stand up to the use of metal utensils. However, the included bamboo tools are recommended if you don’t want to have to tap into the brand’s 25-year nonstick surface warranty.
Material: Nonstick coated carbon steel | Max Heat Capacity: 350 degrees | Induction Ready: Yes
Best Nonstick: Zwilling Forte 12-inch Wok with Turner
Cold-forged aluminum body heats up quickly
Includes a wok turner/spatula
Food can get stuck on exposed rivets
The Achilles heel of most nonstick pans is fragile coatings that flake off at even a glimpse of a metal cooking tool. That's not the case with this one, despite coming with a recommended silicone wok spatula, which has a unique shape that hugs the curve of the wok’s walls. Its advanced nonstick coating is comprised of five layers for a cooking surface that’s been tested to be 20 times more durable than standard nonstick finishes and to last 60 percent longer, according to the manufacturer.
Plus, its design is focused around using even less oil than its competitors, ramping up cooking speed on any stove type, including induction. Its slightly smaller size will help you keep your portions just right. And, when you’re done, you can toss it in the dishwasher with no problem.
Material: Cold-forged aluminum | Max Heat Capacity: 500 degrees | Induction Ready: Yes
Best Stainless Steel: Anolon Tri-Ply Clad Stainless Steel Stir-Fry Wok Pan
Very high rims
Broiler- and oven-safe to 500 degrees
Need to use more cooking oil to avoid sticking
Discolors over time
Stainless steel is beloved for a lot of reasons: its durability, resistance to stains and damage, ability to withstand metal tools, nonreactive properties, and easy maintenance. This smaller, flat-bottomed (for gas, electric, or induction stoves) stir-fry pan ups the ante with three-ply construction around an aluminum core for the quick heat conductivity you want in a wok. And, even more important, particularly for a smaller wok—as this one is under 11-inches—are high heat-retaining walls to keep your veggies from going on the lam. Standing tall at 4.75 inches, that’s more than enough to keep your meal-to-be contained between its sloped sides and flat bottom.
Material: Stainless steel | Max Heat Capacity: 500 degrees | Induction Ready: Yes
Best Carbon Steel: Mammafong Pre-seasoned Blue Carbon Steel Flat Bottom Wok
Double-baked oil seasoning
Lightweight at only 3 pounds
Can use metal utensils
Improves with use and age
Requires stovetop drying and oil rubbing
Cannot use soap to clean
Real deal, fresh-forged carbon steel woks are a challenge to get up to seasoning speed. This wok takes months of work out of it for you, as it’s ready right out of the box, thanks to an intensive seasoning process. Mammafong eschews the spray-coating shortcuts and instead, seals natural oils in at an intense heat possible only with industrial ovens, baking in the oil that gives the well-polished surface a smooth, nonstick quality that won’t flake off. Another way they focus on quality is through the use of heavy, 16-gauge carbon steel. Finally, its flat-bottom design and highly responsive material make it suitable for all cooking range types.
According to Chen, the process of scrubbing, rinsing, and heating your carbon steel wok really is the best way to keep it clean—no soap is necessary. It does require stovetop drying and oil rubbing after every use, but this meticulous care ensures it continues to get better with use.
Material: Carbon steel | Max Heat Capacity: 500+ degrees | Induction Ready: Yes
Although plain carbon steel has traditionally been the wok material of choice for Asian chefs for its affordability, durability, and light weight, it’s not ideal for home cooks. Use of a wok over a kitchen’s open flame helps unseasoned woks mature more quickly, turning that dull pewter or silver into a deep, patina-ed black. Also, in commercial spaces, special cooking ranges designed with wok rings make it less of a hassle to get them to that point, especially as a low-level flame is maintained even when none are visible.
But at home, the metallic odor will take more time and use before fading; you have to remove the protective coating and season the carbon steel before your first use; it requires a lot of maintenance, including hand-washing, thorough drying, and lots of oiling; and the rounded-bottom models are only suitable for gas stoves with a wok ring. In all, when woking at home already works against you, take advantage of the benefits of convenience.
Best Electric: Breville Hot Wok Pro
Gets hot enough for searing
Large enough for family meals
Takes up a lot of storage space
Heat cycles on and off at lower temps
For true, exceptional wok cooking, the magic lies in the fingers of flames that lick up the sides of the pan. Enter this electric wok, which has a butterfly-shaped heating pattern designed specifically to imitate exactly that. An excellent standalone solution to those frustrated with the unevenness of electric stovetop woking, this powerhouse is fueled by 1800 watts of energy that ramps up to 425 degrees. That’s just the right temperature to help you sear and seal, but 15 other heat settings make this appliance just as functional as a wok over a fire. You can warm, slow cook, deep-fry, or steam with ease within this range, especially since the tempered glass lid has an adjustable vent that gives you better control over covered cooking.
This Pro model is a serious upgrade from the standard Breville Hot Wok, offering an additional boost of energy that allows this model to cooker hotter and faster than before. Best of all, whatever cooking method you use, you can do it in bulk with this die-cast wok’s 8-quart capacity—that's two whole quarts larger than the previous model. Our tester recommended it for stir-fry, fajitas, and steaming. Plus, you can use it to make 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. In terms of contemporary upgrades, there are plenty of those, too. The QuanTanium coating on the aluminum bowl is not only nonstick, but it’s also durable and scratch-resistant. And once the bowl is released by a convenient one-touch slide bar, it’s dishwasher-safe, too.
Material: Nonstick coated aluminum | Max Heat Capacity: 425 degrees | Induction Ready: N/A
"It doesn’t take up a burner, it has an easy-to-clean nonstick surface, and it can handle acidic foods that would be bad for cast iron." — Donna Currie, Product Tester
Best Cast Iron: Bruntmor Pre-Seasoned Cast Iron Wok with 14-Inch Loop Handles
Oven- and grill-safe
Oversized for heavy-duty, big batch cooking
Cast iron will last forever with care
Very heavy at over 13 pounds
Short handles can get very hot
If you’re woking with cast iron, chances are, you’re not going to be flipping anything. Save space, then, with this loop-handled model, which is also our pick for heavy-duty batch cooking, because you don’t need the long handle, and can’t use it with something of this heft anyway. Like all cast iron cookware, it becomes even more nonstick with continued use. It holds onto heat for a long time, allowing your food to blister and char to flame-kissed levels, and it will last forever if cared for properly.
This pre-seasoned jumbo wok by Bruntmor improves upon the basics with extra-wide handles and a wide flat-bottomed, but still slightly curved, base that provides stability without sacrificing sloped surface area. Complete it with a wide metal wok spatula and ladle set—you’ll need both since you won’t be able to lift the wok while cooking, and the curve of the turner will mimic the wok sides enough that you won’t miss that ability.
Material: Cast iron | Max Heat Capacity: 500+ degrees | Induction Ready: Yes
For the most authentic wok-cooking experience, splurge for the Breville Hot Wok Pro (view at Williams Sonoma), which includes an entire kit that is priced competitively against our Best Overall pick, the Calphalon Premier Nonstick Wok (view at Amazon), which has undergone an impressive proprietary upgrade, including a metal utensil-resistant, sear-geared finish. But if you’re not trying to splurge and care about basic function over form, the affordable T-fal Easy Care Jumbo Wok also performed very well in our tests.
What to Look for When Buying a Wok
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. However, raw carbon steel requires a lot of seasoning, and all carbon steel is higher maintenance than other materials, as it must be hand-washed, kept dry, and oiled frequently.
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. 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. This material is great for big-batch stir-fries; however, hot handles and heavy weight make it unsuitable for tossing if that’s your wok style.
As with nonstick skillets, foods cooked in nonstick woks release easily thanks to the slippery coating, and any debris leftover from cooking is easily removed. Nonstick coatings can come in a few forms, from cutting-edge ceramic to hard-anodized aluminum. However, nonstick coatings are more delicate than uncoated metals, and are prone to scratches and flaking, and historically 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 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. 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—and a gas stove. 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, 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.
Traditional carbon steel 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.
What can you cook in a wok?
"Woks are incredibly versatile," says Chen. "Stir-frys are easy because you can toss the vegetables easily in the conical shape of a wok as it creates more even cooking. One can deep fry, steam, poach as the shape allows for more efficient use of liquids like water and oil."
What is the best way to prepare your wok for cooking?
Since heat is the most important element for successful wok cooking, you'll want to make sure your pan is preheated before adding any of your ingredients, particularly before you stir-fry. "Always heat the wok first before a dash of oil to prevent any food from sticking," says Chen. Once the oil is smoking hot, add your ingredients—you're more likely to achieve something close to wok hei this way.
Is a gas or electric stove better for cooking with a wok?
A gas stove, while still not ideal at residential safety levels, is an improvement over electric, and a significant one if yours is equipped with a turbo burner. As regulated as they are, they still offer the dynamism of flame cooking, which travels up the wok’s walls faster and differently due to a broader emittance range. It also frees up your options to include round-bottomed woks as well—you’d just have to purchase a wok ring to hold it in place.
What are the pitfalls of woking on an electric stove?
High heat that climbs at a steady rate up the walls of a wok is critical to this cookware’s ingenuity. With an electric range, whether it’s coil, glass, or induction, a flat bottom is your only option, so it takes longer for the sides to heat up. Unfortunately, this puts the sides’ readiness for cooking at odds with the base, which is in direct contact with the element; some ingredients may then scorch while others may never reach the browning you desire.
What are the downsides of wok-cooking on a gas stove?
Gas burners have a dead zone in the middle, which means that although the sides of your wok will get hellaciously hot, the base will have several inches of indirect heat right in the spot you want to sear.
What is a wok ring?
Typically, a wok ring is a piece of metal that cradles the base of a round wok, keeping it in place above your gas burner and concentrating the heat around the curve of it. It’s not recommended for electric stoves and serves no purpose for induction ranges since it can’t channel emitted heat the way it can flames, and may also scratch your cooktop. It is also called a wok stand and can be used to place your round-bottomed wok on a counter or table for serving.
What’s the difference between a flat- and round-bottomed wok?
Flat bottoms are an evolutionary allowance for flat cooktops. However, there’s a reason round-bottomed woks have been in use for centuries. For these, heat conducts more evenly as it blossoms from the base, and round-bottomed woks typically have bigger, more sloping walls since they don’t have to worry about a small fulcrum for balance, generating more dynamic surface area. On the other hand, flat bottoms center the hot point on the surface that touches the burner, taking a longer time for the sides to capture and keep higher temperatures.
What should I look out for when cooking in a flat-bottom wok?
Although flat-bottomed woks provide more direct-contact surface area for moisture to evaporate, it also creates a larger pool for it, too, which often collects faster than it can vaporize, resulting in boiled, not stir-fried, dishes. To avoid this, seek out smaller bases and higher walls for best performance.
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.