In this day and age, everything is in abundance. We are so spoilt for choices. Just look at the number of options we have for cooking woks. There are non-stick, cast iron, stainless steel, carbon steel and aluminium cooking woks.
And that’s just the materials.
After narrowing down on a particular material for the cooking wok, you still have to decide on the brand. With so many options presented to us, we often become torn from having to make a choice.
That is why we have come up with an ultimate guide to choosing the right cooking wok!
2 Things to Consider Before Getting A Cooking Wok
Before buying a cooking wok, there are two essential things you need to consider. These are the factors that may influence your final choice of a cooking wok.
A big family size directly implies a need for a bigger wok. You tend to cook more, and will need one that can hold a lot more food at once when cooking. A bigger wok also ensures food stays where it is supposed to be instead of your kitchen countertops.
The Type of Stovetop You Have at Home
Depending on the type of cooktop you have at home, it could affect your decision in getting a particular cooking wok. You will definitely want to look for one that is compatible with the cooktop you currently have. The more common ones most Singaporean families have are gas, electric and induction.
Gas cooktops are the most common cooktop in most families. They essentially heat food up with flames. The benefit of owning a gas cooktop is you don’t have to fuss over the material of the cooking wok. Pretty much all types of cooking woks can be used on gas cooktops.
Electric cooktops have spiral-shaped burners that convert electricity into heat to cook your food. Cookware materials that are compatible with this type of cooktop are cast-iron, copper, stainless steel and aluminium.
Induction cooktops use the power of electromagnetism to transfer currents to heat up your cookware. This means only magnetic cookware like cast-iron, enameled cast-iron and most stainless-steel cookware are compatible with induction cooktops.
4 Things to Look Out For When Choosing the Right Cooking Wok
With the above considerations in mind, here are four things to look out for when you are choosing the right cooking wok for yourself.
As mentioned earlier, the type of cooktops you have at home will influence the material of cooking wok you should get. Here, we share some of the common types of cooking woks, and their pros and cons.
Non-stick cooking woks are by far the most commonly used cookware in Singaporean households. Many people love that the non-stick coating eliminates the use of oil, makes clean-up easier and food comes right of the cooking wok smoothly.
However, it does come with some drawbacks.
Non-stick cooking woks are not suited for high-temperature cooking like deep frying. Depending on the brand of non-stick cooking wok you plan to get/are using currently, the maximum temperature you can go varies.
However, most of them will advise not to go over 350 degrees. This is because the high heat will eventually damage the non-stick coating on your cooking wok, shortening its lifespan.
We previously wrote an article on all the things you need to know about non-stick cookware, head over to check it out if you’re interested in finding out more!
Stainless steel cooking woks are a must-have in kitchens. They are easy to maintain, unbreakable, do not rust, and most importantly, non-reactive. This means that you can cook vinegary dishes like Pig’s Trotter in Black Vinegar (one of our favourite dishes of all time) and Black Vinegar Chicken.
However, one thing to take note when using stainless steel cooking woks is that it heats up really quickly. You have to be on the watch to prevent scorching of food. When this happens, you might see some black spots formed due to the high heat. All you have to do is scrub it clean, and that should do the trick!
Cast-iron woks date all the way back into the Han Dynasty in China around 220 A.D. They came to prominence sometime in the 19th century when casting techniques became really popular in Europe.
Today, it is still one of the favourites of many households despite the rise of non-stick and stainless steel cookware. Cast-iron cookware gets better with age, unlike the other materials.
The greatest gift from a cast-iron wok is the natural non-stick coating it develops with constant seasoning. How cool is that! Besides, heat is distributed evenly throughout the wok, and heat can also be retained longer than any other materials, thereby keeping your food warmer.
But they can be very heavy too. A lot of effort and time has to be put into regularly seasoning the wok to maintain its non-stick properties.
You can find carbon steel woks in most restaurants. Chefs love them because they can withstand high heat, and is also the reason for the “wok-hei” smell that many of us die for!
Besides, carbon steel woks are far lighter and inexpensive than cast-iron. It can develop a natural non-stick surface after a period of seasoning.
Many, however, do not recommend cooking acidic foods with carbon steel woks as the material is relatively reactive, and will break down the non-stick coating that has already developed.
But this definitely did not deter some people as others said its possible to protect the non-stick coating by refraining from highly acidic dishes. Even if you have whipped up a dish that is highly acidic, you can easily clean and re-season the wok to get back the non-stick property.
For easier referencing and planning, we have summarized all the information into a table below!
|Non-stick||· No need to use oil|
· Clean-up is easier
· Food slides off easily
|· Not suited for high-temperature cooking like deep frying|
· Non-stick coating may be damaged after pro-long use under high-heat
|Stainless Steel||· Easy to main|
· Do not rust
|· Heats up really quickly and might scorch food if not careful|
|Cast-Iron||· Improves with age|
· Constant seasoning develops a non-stick coating
· Distributes evenly
· Retains heat effectively
· Requires constant seasoning to maintain non-stick properties
|Carbon Steel||· Lighter than cast-iron woks|
· Constant seasoning, care and maintenance build an excellent non-stick surface
· Gives off “wok-hei” flavour
|· Requires constant seasoning to maintain non-stick properties|
Traditionally, cooking woks have two handles, one on each side to allow people to lift it easily and steadily because of their weight. Now, we have woks with one long handle, and some with an additional small handle on the other end to make it easy to lift. Depending on what you like, either one would work well!
#3: Round or Flat Bottom
Traditional Chinese cooking woks have a round bottom. Restaurants usually use these round bottom woks that are known to give off a “wok-hei” smell many Chinese people love. It creates a nice hot spot at the bottom of the wok and also allows even heat distribution on the sides of it.
Essentially, this type of cooking wok gives restaurant-quality results, but the trade-off is a smokey kitchen that requires a thorough clean-up afterwards.
Furthermore, not all cooktops are suitable for a round bottom wok. If you have a gas cooktop, you can easily purchase a wok ring to put the round bottom wok on when cooking. Otherwise, you are better off getting a flat bottom cooking wok.
Flat bottom cooking woks are more commonly used in household kitchens. One of its most significant advantages is its versatility. Its flat bottom allows it to be used on all types of cooktops, provided the material is compatible. You can easily switch between an induction and gas cooktop, something you may not be able to enjoy with a round bottom cooking wok.
If you are a seasoned cook, you’ll know that most cooking woks do not come with lids. But that does not mean you should forgo it either! In fact, lids are rather crucial when it comes to braising or simmering your food in a cooking wok.
Therefore, if possible, find a wok that comes with a lid. Otherwise, you can easily purchase a separate lid from hardware stores. The standard lids are made of metal, but there are also glass ones that allow you to monitor your cooking.
But if you think purchasing a lid is unnecessary, and you can use items you have at home to act like one, you do you!
The Bottom Line
Buying a cooking wok can be considered something massive as you have to commit to it after purchase. Remember to take into consideration family size, and the existing cooktop you have at home as they play a huge role in your decision to choosing the right cooking wok!
If you decide to get a non-stick cooking wok, check out our article on Zenez – The New Gamer Changer for Ceramic Cookware. We share the benefits Zenez offers that you cannot get from any other non-stick cooking woks.
We hope that this guide will be helpful in your decision-making process. Please take as much time as you need to digest the information here and do not hesitate to drop us a comment below or contact us if you have any questions!