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Very few people know that woks are versatile. They are particularly suitable for Asian cuisine, but also for many other dishes. Would you like to experiment with the possibilities a wok offers, but don’t really know which one to choose?
Then you’ve come to the right place. In our wok test 2022 we present you with detailed background information about woks. We also introduce you to different types of woks and explain what makes each of them different. We also explain which purchase criteria you can use to choose the right one for you.
- 1 Summary
- 2 The Best Wok in the United Kingdom: Our Choices
- 3 Guide: Questions you should ask yourself before buying a wok
- 4 Decision: What types of woks are there and which is the right one for you?
- 5 Buying criteria: Use these factors to compare and evaluate woks
- 6 Facts worth knowing about woks
- Woks are not only suitable for Asian dishes! You can use them to prepare all kinds of dishes and meals.
- Typical wok materials are: Stainless steel, cast iron, carbon steel and aluminium. As with pans, woks are available with or without a coating.
- If you are inexperienced with woks and are looking for a compromise between a wok and a pan, we recommend one of our tested wok pans.
The Best Wok in the United Kingdom: Our Choices
Guide: Questions you should ask yourself before buying a wok
What are the advantages and disadvantages of woks compared to pans?
Woks are suitable for all cooking methods, offer different heat zones due to their curved shape, are easy to handle, allow stir-frying, short cooking times and give your dishes that typical Asian style. The disadvantages of woks compared to pans are their size, the associated bulkiness and problems when cooking on electric cookers. The wok is not only for stir-frying, it is also suitable for all other cooking methods, such as frying, stewing, braising, deep-frying or grilling. Conventional pans, on the other hand, are limited in their function. Coated pans are not suitable for searing, but they are suitable for delicate foods such as fish. The high curved edge allows the food to be seared either in the hot centre on the bottom or pushed to the cooler edge.
This heat distribution can be very helpful, especially with Asian dishes, which are known to consist of many individual components. After a short familiarisation period, even beginners can very quickly produce tasty and healthy Chinese food with woks. It also enables the stir-frying typical of woks. Due to its large volume, the wok allows large quantities to be prepared in a short time.
The short cooking times not only save you time and money, they also preserve important vitamins and nutrients in your food! A frying pan has a much smaller volume and is therefore not suitable for cooking large quantities at the same time and evenly. However, the curved shape of the wok is both a curse and a blessing, because although more volume is available, this volume makes the wok very unwieldy to store.
Many cupboards lack space to store it. Pans can easily be stacked on top of each other and stored in drawers, but the wok’s high rim makes it difficult to store. In addition, the wok needs a very strong heat source in order to be able to call on its full potential.
A conventional electric cooker does not provide the necessary heat output to be able to heat the wok sufficiently. This problem does not occur with gas cookers. Only cast-iron woks and woks made of carbon steel can store the heat needed to reach the required temperature even on an electric cooker.
Which cooker types are woks suitable for?
Woks are suitable for all electric and gas cookers. If they are magnetic, you can also use your wok on an induction cooker. There are also woks for grills and open fires.
This is because iron allows a conduction of electricity that heats the pot. Hold a magnet to the bottom. If it sticks, the wok pot is suitable for the induction cooker.
You can also buy an electric wok, which has an integrated heating plate and can therefore be used independently of a cooker, for example on a table. This is ideal for cooking outdoors and is definitely a real highlight for any barbecue party.
How do I use a wok?
As mentioned above, you can use your wok for all cooking methods. So it can be used universally. Just try it out yourself and you will be amazed at what your wok can do. Now for the quick guide:
If you have already used your wok several times, you can skip the first step.
If you are using your cast iron wok or carbon steel wok for the first time, you should burn it in first. To do this, heat it with a heat-resistant oil and let it cool down slowly. Then rinse the cold wok with water and, if necessary, clean it with a cloth to remove any small metal residues. If you have a coated wok or an aluminium wok, heat a little water in it and wait until it boils. Then you can rinse it and it is ready for cooking!
Choose a large enough stovetop for your wok and add about enough oil to your wok so that the bottom is completely covered with oil. Heat the oil until it is really hot. You can easily test the optimum oil temperature with a wooden spoon. Hold it in the fat and when small bubbles form on the spoon, your oil has reached the optimal temperature and you can now start cooking.
Now the cooking begins with your wok! It is up to you whether you want to cook your ingredients individually or together in the wok. Make sure that you use enough oil, that the temperature does not drop too much due to too much food being cooked and that you stir your dish constantly (stirring the pan). This will prevent your food from caking or sticking.
After you have prepared your food, you should let the wok cool down and then clean it with water and a cloth or brush. We do not recommend using aggressive detergents for cleaning. If your wok is very dirty, you can use a mild detergent and rinse it very well afterwards, otherwise soap residue may remain. Avoid abrasive cleaners and do not scrape off frying residues with a steel sponge, knives or similar tools. This could destroy the coating of the wok and make it unusable.
It is often easier to remove stubborn residues if you fill the wok with a little water and bring it to the boil.
To avoid rust and waterlogging, always allow your wok to dry thoroughly. Keep it in a dry place. This will prevent rust and increase its lifespan!
How much does a wok cost?
Entry-level models start at €13, while professional models cost €70 and up. As with many cooking utensils and pans, there are different price ranges for woks and wok pans. These depend on what material your wok is made of. The cheapest entry-level models start at around 13 euros. High-quality professional woks easily cost over 150-200 euros.
Some suppliers sell the woks as a set with the matching wok burners. With these special appliances, a sufficiently high heat output can be guaranteed. However, these are really only suitable for commercial use or for very well-heeled clientele. Of course, it is up to you how much money you want to spend, but you should know that a low price does not necessarily mean poor quality. You can get a very good wok for around 30 euros.
|Cast iron wok||from €25|
|Stainless steel wok||from €13|
|Carbon steel wok||from €13|
|Aluminium wok||from €15|
Decision: What types of woks are there and which is the right one for you?
Woks are made from a wide variety of materials:
- Cast iron wok
- Carbon steel wok
- Aluminium wok
- Stainless steel wok
These materials offer different advantages and disadvantages and can have a strong influence on the taste of your wok dishes. In principle, each of the materials listed above is suitable for creating a tasty Asian dish. In the following section, we would like to introduce these to you and help you find the right wok for you personally!
Cast iron wok
The traditional wok is made of cast iron and is suitable for all types of cookers. It is also suitable for the grill or an open fire. In the past, these woks were heated on coal cookers and still enjoy great popularity today due to their durability and robustness. In addition, cast iron is an excellent heat accumulator and the heat distribution during cooking is also very even.
Unfortunately, cast iron woks are comparatively very heavy and therefore take a long time to reach the right temperature. Also note that these woks cool down very slowly and still give off heat for a long time. When using a cast iron wok for the first time, it should be baked with a little oil. This process helps to close its pores and prevents the ingredients from sticking or caking.
When it comes to cleaning and care, we recommend that you clean your cast-iron wok only with water and a clean cloth or brush. This will preserve the natural patina of the wok and it will thank you with a long life. From time to time, you should rub it with a high-heat oil (e.g. wok oil, peanut oil or toasted sesame oil) to protect your wok from rust.
If you are looking for a sturdy and durable wok that you can take to a barbecue, and if you don’t mind a heavy weight and slower heating, then the cast iron wok is the right choice for you.
Carbon steel wok
If you are looking for a very heat-resistant wok that can retain heat for a long time and is relatively light at the same time, then a wok made of carbon steel or carbon steel is best suited for you. Just don’t forget to bake your new carbon steel wok before using it for the first time, just like cast iron woks. Burning in the wok also removes any metal residue that may be present.
Cheap single-layer steel woks can be deformed by high heat and they usually have a concentrated heat point. This means that the heat decreases considerably towards the edge of the wok. It is better to invest a few euros more in a high-quality, multi-layered carbon steel wok.
There are also lighter woks made of aluminium for better handling.
These are ideal for beginners because their light weight and non-stick coatings make them very easy to handle. In addition, these woks are completely rustproof. Unfortunately, they cannot be heated as much and their heat retention properties are also worse than those of cast-iron woks.
However, if you want to cook delicate ingredients such as fish or vegetables in an Asian style, an aluminium wok is very suitable for you. Please also make sure that you do not damage the coating of the wok and therefore only use wooden or plastic cooking utensils.
Stainless steel wok
These woks are further divided into two categories: coated and uncoated stainless steel woks. Coated stainless steel woks share their general advantages and disadvantages with aluminium woks. When using them, you should never scratch or damage the coating.
Uncoated stainless steel woks can be heated to high temperatures, but you should already have experience with uncoated pans, as your food can burn very easily. You should also use much more oil to prevent burning.
If you are allergic to nickel, you should avoid uncoated stainless steel woks altogether, as they can release small amounts of the transition metal. If you are looking for a light but robust wok and an alternative to one made of aluminium, then you should choose a stainless steel wok.
Stainless steel woks are available coated or recoated. Non-coated woks can be heated to high temperatures, but food burns more easily. Coated woks cannot be heated as high.
Buying criteria: Use these factors to compare and evaluate woks
In the following, we will show you which criteria you can use to compare and evaluate woks. This will make it easier for you to get an overview and decide on a suitable wok. In summary, these are the following criteria:
- Intended use
In the following, you can read about the respective criteria and find out why it makes sense for you to purchase a wok under these aspects or not.
Price is probably the most important criterion when buying a wok. Generally speaking, you can get a decent starter wok for little money. However, advanced cooks should also consider the higher-priced models, as these not only have better cooking properties, but are also much better made.
Woks, for example, are available on amazon.de from €13. As is often the case, there are almost no upper limits. For a professional appliance from a renowned manufacturer, you will quickly have to spend more than 150 €. Of course, you are free to decide how much money you want to spend on your wok, but beginners should go for a cheaper model first. Tests show that you can get an excellent wok for as little as 40 euros.
If you enjoy cooking with a wok, you can always buy a more expensive appliance. The same principle applies to woks: “You get what you pay for”. The more a wok costs, the better it is made, offers more accessories and is usually more durable. Renowned brand models, for example, offer better non-stick coatings, better heat distribution and are constructed from several layers of light or stainless steel.
Of course, cheaper single-layer woks are also suitable for cooking, but you should never overheat them. Otherwise they could deform! In summary, you can get a decent starter model for little money. If you already have some experience with woks, then you should look for a slightly more expensive model.
The quality of a wok increases with its price. Beginners can get a wok for as little as 13€ and can gradually move up to the higher-priced models over time.
Another purchase criterion is the weight. There are big differences in weight depending on the material. Woks made of light metal and stainless steel are relatively light, whereas cast aluminium woks can weigh around 4 kilos.
Cast iron woks are heavyweights due to their material and processing. The weight of a wok should not be underestimated. Especially when stir-frying, a few kilos can make all the difference. Lighter woks are much easier to handle and allow even inexperienced cooks to cook and stir wok dishes evenly. Here, too, experience plays an important role. If you have already cooked with woks, then you certainly know how strenuous it can be to move a five-kilo cooking utensil quickly.
When it comes to size, there are also some significant differences. Woks with a larger diameter generally have more volume, but they also take longer to heat up and are comparatively heavier. There are round and flat woks. Round woks are particularly suitable for high heat. Only a small part of the wok is heated.
A flat-bottomed wok is therefore particularly suitable for electric cookers, as they do not emit and distribute as much heat. Woks allow you to cook your dishes all at once, i.e. with all the ingredients together in one pan. If you are cooking for yourself or for two, smaller woks are perfectly adequate. However, if you want to cook large quantities at the same time, a wok with a large diameter (< 30 cm) is ideal. The larger the wok, the longer it takes to reach its optimum cooking temperature. In addition, a large wok not only requires a lot of storage space, but also space on the cooker.
On small cookers, you can just fit a small pot (for rice, for example) next to the wok. So always consider the size of your kitchen, drawers, shelves and cooker. Sometimes it just makes more sense to use a smaller wok and divide the dish into several portions.
Larger woks are heavier and not as easy to clean. Even a few centimetres can make dishwasher cleaning impossible. The rule here is: bigger is not better or size is not everything.
Woks can be made of a wide variety of materials. However, there is a further distinction: Woks and wok pans. Wok pans offer a continuous flat pan bottom and are versatile. However, you can’t easily place your ingredients on the edge of the pan and it lacks the different heat zones characteristic of a wok.
|Round bottom||Flat pan bottom|
|Different heat zones||No different heat zones|
|Good for more experienced (hobby) cooks||Good for beginners|
As mentioned above, woks are available in a wide variety of materials. You can find out what advantages and disadvantages they have in our decision block. If you are looking for a universal cooking utensil but don’t want to use a wok yet, then a wok pan is ideal for you. These are pans that resemble a wok with their high edges.
Their large volume allows you to prepare several portions at the same time. The flat bottom of the pan allows them to heat up quickly. Coated pans are ideal for a variety of cooking methods. You should just not heat them too much. Although the wok also offers a whole range of cooking methods and can therefore be used universally, its shape and handling restrict beginners and inexperienced cooks in particular.
The intended use is also a criterion for buying woks. Are you a professional user or an ambitious hobby cook? Professionals should generally opt for high-quality cast-iron woks, while lighter and cheaper models are perfectly adequate for hobby cooks.
If you use woks commercially, more expensive cast iron woks are suitable for you, as they have a much longer life and can be used more often due to their material. Non-stick woks can quickly lose their coating if used too intensively and extensively and become almost unusable. However, if you do not use your wok every day, these woks will suffice.
Always make sure not to heat the coating too much, as this can produce toxic fumes! Also, do not scratch the wok with sharp-edged utensils!
Depending on the model, there are many different accessories. Usually, the lid, draining rack and chopsticks are included. If you are looking for a wok, the wok is what counts most. Some models come with a lid. A lid allows you to use even more cooking methods and is also incredibly practical for keeping your dishes warm.
Draining grids help you to enjoy your dishes as grease-free as possible. You can also store meat or fish separately, for example. Matching chopsticks are included with some woks. Chopsticks are an essential part of an authentic wok dish and help you to immerse yourself in Far Eastern cuisine. We recommend that you buy a wok with a lid, as this is extremely useful.
Woks are mainly available in black, silver / metallic, but well-known manufacturers such as Le Creuset offer a crimson wok, among others. As we all know, there is no accounting for taste, but there is no accounting for colour. There are certainly more important buying criteria than the colour of your wok.
Our research revealed the following main colours of woks: black, silver / metallic. Generally, these colours are found on almost all cooking utensils and kitchen utensils, so you can colour-coordinate your wok with the rest of your kitchen. Some manufacturers even offer special colours such as red or blue.
Cleaning & care
There are big differences when it comes to care. Some woks can be washed in the dishwasher without hesitation, while others should only be cleaned with water and by hand and must be oiled regularly.
Please follow the manufacturer’s instructions! The type of cleaning and care differs from wok to wok. In general, cast iron woks should be oiled regularly. This process protects their unique patina and prevents rust. When cleaning, you should only use water.
Aggressive cleaning agents could cause it to rust more quickly. You should also pay special attention to woks with coatings. Some coatings can be damaged by sponges and cleaning agents.
You should always check in advance whether you can clean your wok in the dishwasher on the respective product manufacturer’s website. Sometimes there are also care and cleaning instructions on the packaging. Coated woks do not usually need to be oiled regularly.
Facts worth knowing about woks
Where does the name wok come from?
The Chinese name is 炒锅 or 炒鍋 and translates as cooking utensil (Cantonese). Its importance for Far Eastern cuisine is also reflected in the term “Wok Hei”, which describes the special aroma of wok dishes. The wok or wok pan originated in Asia and is still one of the most commonly used cooking utensils in the Chinese, South and South-Eastern cooking world.
How long have woks been around?
Woks are generally considered to be among the oldest cooking utensils in the world and have been around for more than 3000 years. Over the years, its material has changed from clay to basic metal components, but its original curved shape has changed only partially.
What are woks used for alternatively?
The fact that woks are not only used for cooking was impressively demonstrated by Stefan Raab, who raced down the bobsleigh and toboggan run in Winterberg on 6 November 2003 with a wok because he had lost a bet. This bet led to the so-called Wok World Cup, which was held from 2003-2015. Participants raced alone or in teams of four down ice channels at speeds of up to 115 km/h in standard steel woks.
The record winner in the single wok is the German Georg Hackl, who won gold 9 times and silver 3 times. In the four-man wok, Stefan Raab is the undisputed champion. He won 4 gold medals, 2 silver medals and 1 bronze medal. In the national ranking, Germany leads with 4 gold medals and 2 silver medals, ahead of Ireland and Italy.
The history of the wok
After all these facts, we would now like to present the “westernisation” of the wok. In Asia, woks are used for many different dishes. Depending on the accessories, dishes can be cooked, deep-fried, fried and steamed in it. In Western cuisine, woks are mainly used for so-called “wok dishes” and are therefore limited exclusively to Asian dishes.
Nevertheless, your wok can do much more. Try deep-frying chicken nuggets or vegetable chips in your wok. There are no limits to your imagination when it comes to applications, so feel free to use your wok for other dishes and meals. You will be amazed at the range of applications this Asian all-rounder has to offer.
If you need to burn in your wok, we would like to present you with a step-by-step guide for burning in your wok:
- First you should make sure that all packaging residues of your wok are removed (ideally you should burn your wok outside with a gas burner, alternatively you should ventilate the room well during and after burning)
- Then you need to clean your wok with water (inside & outside)
- Then put a small amount of high-heat oil in your wok (so that the bottom is just covered) and heat this oil until it starts to smoke
- Then let the wok cool down and clean it thoroughly with hot water
This process removes any anti-rust coating or metal residue and dirt. The oil also forms a natural non-stick coating and protects your wok from rust.
Image source: unsplash.com / Clem Onojeghuo