Wok and Stir Fry Pan Reviews:
You may think that buying a wok makes you inclined to cook Chinese foods, but that is simply not true. Many Americans that use standard frying pans to stir fry vegetables would find using a wok to be much easier, especially when the food is cooked in larger batches. Woks
have been used in China and other Southeastern Asian countries for centuries and many immigrants actually brought their family wok with them when they came to the United States. Woks have many advantages over traditional frying pans, one of which is that it spreads heat much more evenly. Other benefits to using a wok are that they use less oil compared to a deep fat fryer when deep frying and the rounded bottom woks let you toss the food around without it falling all over your floor. Woks are made with carbon steel (the best), stainless steel line aluminum, anodized aluminum, cast iron and copper. Carbon steel is what chefs prefer because it heats up quickly and evenly as well as it's lightweight and sturdy. Another factor which makes carbon steel the wok material of choice is because it's inexpensive to create.
- Woks take on 2 shape types - round and flat bottoms. Which one is best? Flat bottom woks work better on electric stoves and the round bottom woks are best when cooking on gas stoves. Experts say the round bottom woks reflect the heat back to the elements on an electric stove and this can actually damage it. There are wok rings which many Asian chefs use when cooking their woks. The wok rings come in two varieties - one with more of enclosed metal and a few vents on the sides and the other is made with thicker wire but open on the sides. Professionals say use a wok ring with open sides on a gas burner and the enclosed metal wok ring on electric burners. The size of your wok will depend on what type of food you prepare, your stove type, and the size of your meals. Wok sizes
range from 10 inches to about 16 inches with the 12" and 14" woks being the most popular. There are even electric woks
or frying pans that plug into the wall and allow you to cook on your countertops and not over the stove. They have temperature controls on them, much like an electric skillet, that let you go from warm up to 400 degrees. The West Bend 79586 6-Quart Capacity Electric Wok
is a top rated electric wok. Look for an electric wok with a longer cord so you have more options when plugging it in. Also, an electric wok should have a good lid (made of glass) with a handle. A good handle on the wok itself is necessary as you may find yourself cooking like an expert chef and lifting the wok in the air and flinging the food around. As for non-stick woks, cooking sites say you should consider an aluminum wok for the best results since carbon steel woks don't do well with non-stick coating. One other thing that some consumers say deters them from buying a wok is that they need to season it before using it. Yes, seasoning a wok requires a little work, but it's not that hard. Rhonda Parkinson (a Chinese Food Guide on About.com) has posted an instruction sheet online for seasoning your wok if it's made from carbon steel, see HERE
for details. The top names in woks are Lodge, Cuisinart, Calphalon, Joyce Chen, Le Creuset, Swiss Diamond, Circulon, All-Clad, and West Bend. The hand hammered woks made from carbon steel are fairly cheap at around $30 and the mid-range cast iron woks are $50 to $80 while the high priced cast iron woks like the Le Creuset Enameled Cast-Iron 14-1/4-Inch Wok
go for $200. Expensive doesn't necessarily equate into great food as we read countless reviews online in cooking forums that said the cheaper carbon steel woks did a great job of cooking up fresh Thai and Chinese foods. We relied more on the posted reviews at Cooking.com and Amazon since they were done by actually product owners. Comments on Chowhound.chow.com in their forums are really helpful with feedback on all types of woks and which ones perform the best. Consumer Reports has not done any reviews or in house tests on woks, so we could not draw on their unbiased opinions. Epinions.com does have some owner reviews as well, but most are dated and not relevant to the current line of products. You can browse the top selling woks & stir fry pans online here
Best Wok/Stir Fry Pan:
It's hard to say which wok is truly the best since everyone has their own preference for materials, size, etc. The Lodge Pro-Logic 14-Inch Cast-Iron Wok with Loop Handles
($65) is very popular on Amazon and reviews back up this rating. The Lodge wok is large enough at 14 inches to feed 3 people or more. Another huge bonus is that the wok comes pre-seasoned with a vegetable oil formula so you are ready to cook on it once it arrives in the mail. Since it's 1/3 the price of the Le Creuset (see below), many owners say you can't beat the price considering the solid performance that the Lodge Pro-Logic delivers. Owners are overwhelmingly happy with the cooking you get on this wok and the only drawback we could find was that the loop handles tend to get a little hot. In our recent reviews on skillets, the Lodge brand was highly ranked as well. The Joyce Chen 14-Inch Wok
available on both Amazon.com and Cooking.com gets pretty good reviews as well considering it's cheaper than $50. Works great on either electric or gas stovetops and the heat-resistant, wood handle makes it easy to lift up off the cooking surface when ready to serve. The Joyce Chen wok is made with a carbon steel body and has a nonstick interior.
Cast Iron Wok:
The Le Creuset Cast-Iron Wok with Glass Lid
sells for around $200 and you may think that's a bit much, but reviews support the price tag and say it's superior to their previous carbon steel wok experiences. The Le Creuset wok retains heat and the flat bottom provides even cooking. The glass lid will seal in any flavors from the food and owners say it's great for dishes like chicken chow mein and gingered beef. We found it listed on Cooking.com for over $200 and Amazon had it for slightly under. Do your research and get the best price since it's already pretty expensive to begin with. One reviewer mentions in a cooking forum website that her old cast iron wok lasted nearly 2 decades and served up 1000's of meals.
Top Rated Elecric Wok:
Electric woks can be more versatile than traditional woks and the West Bend 79586 6-Quart Capacity Electric Wok
($80) is the most popular of the bunch. The 1500 watt wok heats up quickly the non-stick interior makes it dishwasher safe. The temperature control on the side is easy to adjust and the heat resistant handles make for easy transport and lifting. Owners say the non-stick coating will eventually wear out over time, but several posts we found say their West Bend woks lasted them a decade or more. Most reviews mention that the electric wok is easy to clean and they find themselves cooking more often with it because of the simple clean up. If you are open to spending $100 on an electric wok, then go with the Breville EW30XL Electric Gourmet Wok
($99.99) which features 15 heat settings that includes a "high sear". The heavy glass lid on the Breville electric wok is one thing that is superior to the lid on the West Bend that doesn't allow you to see into the cooking area. Almost 90% of the reviews for the Breville wok give it a 5 out of 5 stars. Comments from owners include "hottest wok I've ever used", "easy to use and wash", and "ultimate bachelor cooking appliance". We found both of these models on Amazon.com.
Flat Bottom Wok:
Want a bargain priced flat bottom wok, check out the Calphalon NonStick Flat Bottom Wok
on Amazon.com. It sells for $39.99 and offers up cooking with limited amounts of butter or oils. hard anodized aluminum pan will give any chef the control they want over cooking temperatures. The capacity size of 10 inches is a little small for some, serving only 2 people. If you have a larger family, the consider buying a bigger capacity wok (14 to 16 inches). Otherwise, the performance on this wok lives up to the price and most agree it's a "good value" compared to other models in this price range.
Hand Hammered Wok:
The best Hand Hammered Wok ($14.95) is available in a wok shop in San Francisco. This Chinatown favorite sells 1000's of woks each year and we found several articles online from happy customers that say their wok is still cooking great Chinese meals decades later. You can find this same wok available online here
. Their custom hand hammered woks that start at $14.95 for the 10 inch and 12 inch models. The 14" wok will run you $19.95 and the larger 16" wok goes for $24.95. Another popular one is the 14 inch Carbon Steel Hand Hammered Wok we found on Amazon.com for under $15. It comes directly from China (in this case that's a good thing) since you want an authentic cooking wok. The size of ample at 14 inches to make stir fry dinners and meals for 3 people. Made with carbon steel, the wok comes with a wok ring. You'll have to season it yourself, but there are instructions which owners say are easy to follow.