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Wok recomendations

I have a nice NS Wearever flat bottom wok that has given excellant service for about 15 years now. The NS coating is now starting to chip away. Time for my old wok to go. Any thoughts be be welcomed. Don't need a NS again, but do want to stick with a flat bottom.

Thanks!

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  1. "The Wok Shop" seems to be the main online source - http://www.wokshop.com/.

    They sell flat and round bottom woks - I recommend this one:
    http://www.wokshop.com/HTML/products/...

    Carbon steel works great and seasons quickly. If you have a gas stove, they include a wok ring with the round bottom wok - so you might think about going the round bottom way - you'll get a lot of heat since you can get the bottom pretty close to the gas.

    1. Thanks will47, what do you think about the pre-seasoned one? It comes with a cover which I like. I've never had any cookware that was pre-seasoned. All my cast iron cookware is nickle plated and just goes in the dishwasher. I know you would hand wash the pre-seasoned wok, but do you ever have to re-season it?

      Thanks again

      1 Reply
      1. re: Stack8

        I guess it couldn't hurt, but I wouldn't get the pre-seasoned one - my understanding and experience is that carbon steel seasons more quickly / easily than cast iron, but it needs to be continuously used or re-seasoned more. In other words, unless you're using it all the time, you may need to do some minor re-seasoning anyway.

        You really won't need to do that much seasoning... don't bother with the outside, just heat it on the stove and use a little crisco to season it. Then you can fry some green onions and regular onions in there with oil and you should be good to go. There's also a salt-seasoning method. My gf bought one, and it's cooked fine with only a little bit of seasoning. Then just make sure you use a lot of oil when you cook.

        You can buy the same lid for any of their woks, btw.

        I would recommend getting a wok brush and a spatula. If you don't have an asian market nearby (which should carry them, possibly at slightly lower prices), the wok shop carries them too.
        http://www.wokshop.com/HTML/products/...
        http://www.wokshop.com/HTML/products/...

      2. I have the calphalon all anodized aluminum flat bottom wok, gas stove, seems ok, no ring to fiddle with, not that much better than my old steel "hand hammered " wok but looks nicer and a breeze to clean. Has a plastic top for sweating your veggies. I see a lot of non stick woks but I am not interested.

        2 Replies
        1. re: dijon

          To me, the advantage of cast iron or carbon steel is that they actually improve the flavor of things cooked in them as the seasoning builds up.

          1. re: will47

            That improvement due to a seasoned cooking surface is kind of subjective, but i do think being able to expose the ingredients to high heat for caramelization and to be able to deglaze that with liquid is key to tasty wok cooking. I think the anodized surface does that pretty well and you prefer the patina surface. Non stick probably doesn't do that well. I never got that black patina all the way to the bottom of my steel wok because i was always washing it in the sink and some would invariably come off.

        2. I have the Le Crueset 14inch cast iron wok. Is has a flat bottom but a rounded interior. I like it because once I get it good and hot, it will really hold the heat. It is heavy (which is good when stiry frying because it doesn't move at all), it doesn't hold a ton, but I'm almost always cooking for 2 and it works out fine.

          1. Atlas Carbon Steel. I have 3 and would not trade them for any other.

            1. Iron or carbon steel only, made in China and you must spend less than $18! The Wok Shop, already mentioned above is a great choice for online shopping if you don't have a good local source and San Francisco locals as the prices are fair and the woks are good quality, some nice quality ones imported directly by the owner. The owner is very knowlegeable and helpful/friendly.

              I have large Chinese restaurant supply stores not too far away that carry woks in sizes from way too small up to large enough to stir fry a large pig. I use a 14" which is about right on my Wolf burner but plan on buying one of the 'Jet Burners' that they sell so I can stir fry with even more BTU's!

              I do not like the 'upscale' brands sold at places like Sur La Table/Williams Sonoma. They are awful! They are expensive and do not work as well. Expensive is fine when you get a tool that does a better job but in the case of woks you will just waste $!

              Non stick woks also are less durable and do not produce the tasty food that is possible from an iron or carbon steel one. The best reference that I would offer is 'The Breath of a Wok' by Grace Young.

              6 Replies
              1. re: sel

                Second the recommendation for 'Breath of a Wok', it is one of the rare cookbooks that gives you an appreciation for ''why'' things are the way they are, rather than just ''how'' to do something.

                A Taiwanese friend clued me in to the real way to get things done with a home wok: Buy a King Kooker on eBay for about $25. The heat output from that thing dwarfs any burner on our range (in fact it outclasses all of them put together). If I wreck a $10 carbon steel wok, big deal, I just go to 99 Ranch and get another. (Actually, I'm cheap enough to hammer the thing back into shape at my workbench once it cools down, but you get the idea.) At least the meal isn't ruined! The only downside is that you have to use it outside, unless your house is made of asbestos. A small price to pay for the power of the Dark Side.

                The indoors alternative (IMHO) is to use a thick saute pan, get it screaming hot, and stir-fry small batches of parboiled vegetables and patted-dry protein, with a little bit of grapeseed or peanut oil. Something like thick stainless-lined aluminum or copper strikes the right balance between heat capacity and thermal diffusivity, so that you flash-fry the goods upon contact with the pan. This seems to be the key to the magical Flying Maillard Reaction dynamics of a good stirfry. Downside to this, of course, is that you get to fire up the salad spinner for your parboiled green beans and pat all your meat dry. (But you ought to do that for the King Kooker as well, for the very best results, so, natch.)

                It is MUCH HARDER to get a proper 'wok hee' than most appreciate. But once you get it, you will never, ever settle for anything less. A rising tide, as it were. Here is a link to Bittman and Phan's discussion of the same...

                http://www.nytimes.com/2004/04/21/din...

                I like what Phan says about the common conception of a wok:

                > "People think a wok is a big salad bowl with a flame under it," Mr. Phan said. "They
                > think you can throw all the ingredients in, toss them around, and you've got a stir-fry.
                > "But that's ridiculous. When you cook in a wok, you're not just looking to cook things —
                > you want to give them what we call `the breath of the wok,' the special taste that comes
                > from being cooked over intensely high heat."

                Phan is one of those guys whose credentials are not up for debate, so he's worth noting.

                If you've been using nonstick, it is extremely challenging to get that special taste. It is worth pursuing, and step one is to pick up a copy of Ms. Young's book. Once you digest her suggestions, you can pretty much piece the rest of it together unassisted. Good stuff.

                Have fun (to the OP).

                1. re: ttriche

                  Thanks for all the info. I enjoyed looking at everything The Wok Shop has to offer. We don't have a store like that here in Myrtle Beach, SC. I have to buy a lot of supplies from sites on the web.

                  I'm going to buy a plain carbon steel wok from the Wok Shop and I have a friend that sells cookware such as skillets and griddles. So I'm also going to buy a cast iron wok and my friend nickle plate it so I don't have to season it and I can put in the dish washer. If I do that I'll have a product 1/3 the price of LC and far superior.
                  I sometimes could use two going at one time anyway. Thanks again. I'm going to look at that book "Breath of a Wok" as well.

                  1. re: Stack8

                    The nickel plating idea is genius. I wish I had a friend who could do that :-)

                    Also, see this Wikipedia article for more on what (chemically and physically) creates "wok hee" or "wok qi" or "that good taste in a well-executed stir fry":

                    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wok_hei

                    Grace Young herself wrote a similar article for the Times, more interesting and readable but perhaps less objective:

                    http://www.nytimes.com/2005/02/09/din...

                    And, while searching, I discovered that some clever entrepreneur type had already started selling King Kooker look-a-likes (cook-a-likes?) specifically for getting the ever-elusive "wok hee" in a more convenient and usable fashion.

                    http://www.outdoorstirfry.com/Product...

                    God bless America... and other countries full of capitalist running dogs, too.

                    nb. I made some spinach with garlic in a big-ass copper saute pan this morning (breakfast, with soft-boiled eggs) and by the time the eggs were done, we had our 'wok hei'. I used about a half a tablespoon of grapeseed oil, just below smoking, and next time I'm going to use even less. The fun part is when you start to know what taste you're aiming for, and can optimize for other aspects of the flavor (light, non-oily taste; right balance of caramelization and char; etc.). Enjoy!

                    1. re: ttriche

                      Hi ttriche,

                      The nickel plating of cast iron has been around for a long time. Griswold (sp) did it in the 1920's. But, my friend has been in the plating business for a long time. For the most part, he plates race car parts. One day I had this plain Jane cast iron 10" fry pan and I asked him since nickel will not rust, could we plate this thing. Yep, you can. The FDA approves a process which he follows, heck nickel is is one of the metals thats makes stainless steel STAINLESS. So, he started this side line business called olvidacookware.com Check out the site. I don't know how to give you a direct link, but if you check out the site let me know what you think. I'm still going for the carbon steel wok, but I'll have the other as well.

                      Thanks for the reply, I'm no genius. I just like to cook and HATE hand washing anything.

                      Good Nite from Myrtle Beach, SC

                      1. re: Stack8

                        You don't need to "wash" a seasoned wok most of the time - just wipe it down and heat it with a little oil. Maybe use a little hot water or a wok brush if it gets bits of stuff on it.

                        I don't really see the point of using cast iron if you're going to coat it with nickel... you can find lighter, easier to clean stuff that still has good heat dispersion.

                  2. re: ttriche

                    Nice post, ttriche. I love "The Breath of a Wok". It taught me a lot that I have never seen elsewhere.

                2. I just go to Chinatown. You can get a great wok there for $5. While you're at it, pick up a wok cleaner for $1, a wok spatula for $2, a cleaver for $10, some Chinese spoons for 25 cents, and some bowls for 50 cents.

                  4 Replies
                  1. re: Shazam

                    I'm happy with my little Joyce Chen flat-bottomed wok, but it is only big enough to stir-fry for one or two people - I have a much larger one from Chinatown, but use the little one more. Alas I have an electric stove, so I really need the flat bottom to get enough heat. I think I'll work up the courage to buy one of those little gas catering stoves East and Southeast Asian shops sell - a friend uses those to get the real intense wok heat. The plain carbon steel Joyce Chen wok was cheap - no more than approx $15 Canadian. I don't have a Wok Shop here and don't order online.

                    1. re: lagatta

                      The Wok Shop does a lot of telephone orders so ordering online is not necessary.

                      http://www.wokshop.com/ordering_info....

                      1. re: sel

                        the wok shop is great. i have their lightweight cast iron wok from china and love it.

                      2. re: lagatta

                        Nothing wrong at all with Joyce Chen stuff. It varies widely in price depending on where you go, so look around.

                        I've seen lots of flat bottomed woks in Chinatown. Not all Asians have gas :)

                    2. FWIW, the testers at Cook's Illustrated rated the 14-inch Joyce Chen Original Stir Fry Pan ($25, nonstick) as tops. But because woks are designed to work with a different heat source than is found in American kitchens, they prefer a regular flat-bottom, non-stick frying pan for stir-frying (me, too).

                      1 Reply
                      1. re: mpalmer6c

                        Yep. If you're going to use a wok at home, either buy a King Kooker or get a dedicated wok burner, no joke. Otherwise stick with a big heavy skillet or saute pan.

                        Went through this whole rigamarole myself and eventually ended up using both a carbon steel wok (seasoned with yellow chieves) and a discada (sort of like an enormous cast iron contact lens) on a King Kooker, and also, more frequently, a heavy copper saute pan preheated on the "nucular" setting. Either one seems to work OK, and neither one appreciates the introduction of too much cold or wet food at one time.

                        The Cooks Illustrated folks generally tell it like it is.