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Recommend Wok?

  • k
  • Kriso Dec 11, 2007 09:21 AM

I'm looking to purchase a new wok and wondered if anyone had a brand that they recommended.

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  1. The best woks are made from inexpensive carbon steel that have no non-stick coating. The All-Clad chefs pan is very good for 1-2 people, but it is quite pricey.

    I bought my 16" wok at a Chinese grocery store for less than $20.

    1. The wok shop has a lot of woks to offer.

      http://www.wokshop.com/HTML/products/...

      1. I might hold off on buying a wok unless you have a wok burner or an incredibly powerful stove. Most home stoves don't have near enough power to effectively use the wok the way it is intended. You're better off just using a frying pan.

        10 Replies
        1. re: vanillagorilla

          I agree that most home stoves don't have enough oomph to do a proper (emphasis on proper) stir fry in a wok, but a wok is still better that a frying pan because of the high, steep sides. It's much more difficult to stir fry in a frying pan.

          1. re: rfneid

            There are 'stir fry pans' with high curved sides, and a flat bottom.
            paulj

            1. re: paulj

              jA wok by any other name.......

            2. re: rfneid

              Then get a bigger frying pan. I have a 12 inch and I have no problem at all doing stir-fry for four.

              1. re: rfneid

                I don't think you understand the point of the high deep sides in a wok. During stir frying the key is to heat the very bottom over super high heat until it's almost glowing. You cook in the bottom and push the ingredients up to the top to keep them from over cooking. Since most home stoves can't get the bottom that hot, you are better off using a frypan and doing it in batches.

                1. re: vanillagorilla

                  Of course I understand the point which is why is said you can't do a proper stir fry on the standard home stove. But I still say a wok easier & more convenient for stir frying than a frying pan. You can get the bottom of a wok just as hot as you can get the bottom of a frying pan - plus you have the high sides to avoid slopping over.

                  1. re: rfneid

                    You can certainly get the bottom of the wok equally as hot as the bottom of a skillet, but since the wok is completely round, there's much less bottom on the wok than there is on the skillet.

                2. re: rfneid

                  Using a real Wok on a home cooktop with a flat surface doesn't make a lot of sense, as there is very little surface of the wok actually in contact with the burner (unlike an actual wok burner, where the pan sits down in the flames). It is not how a wok is intended to be used. You are better off with a regular fry pan. But, as others have said, if you don't have the BTU's, doing a decent stir fry is problematic.

                3. re: vanillagorilla

                  I do my wok cooking on one of those inexpensive outdoor propane burners hooked up to a 20-lb. gas bottle. I've used hose clamps to secure a wok ring to the burner grid to make a stable setting for the wok. Cheap. This will get the wok plenty hot. Not recommended for indoor use, though.

                  Jim

                  1. re: Jim Washburn

                    I saw a similar setup used by Alton Brown on Good Eats when he did a show on stir frying. I believe he said the burner he was using came from a turkey fryer.

                4. If you need a name brand, try Atlas or Joyce Chen. Just make sure you get one that is very thin, cold rolled steel (i.e. old fashion carbon steel that, yes,indeed, does rust if you do not treat it with respect). Those nonstick or stainless steel woks are worse than useless (e.g. All Clad 'chefs pan' may look vaguely like a wok, but it is not even close, worse, I find this sort of pan to be worse than useless). I just go to Chinatown in SF and pick out a no-name wok for less than $10. The Wok Shop there also has a good website to buy one. For the home, get one that is 16 or 18 inches; it may look ridiculously huge on your home stove, but remember than only a small portion on the bottom of the pan is used for cooking.

                  1. I think you might have noticed from the previous replies that buying a wok is not a choice of brand instead a choice material. Carbon steel is thin and light while cast iron is heavier with better heat retention. You might find my previous post on Wok helpful:
                    http://www.chowhound.com/topics/451016

                    I think 14" or 16" wok is enough if you don't cook for an army. The standard wok size in China is 14". I have cooked in a 20" wok on a commercial range before, and the heat loss is too fast for the range to catch up. Using a 14" on a standard range, you can still get some decent 'fire power' from the heat without losing it too fast. If you use anything larger, be sure to couple it with a high BTU range.

                    1. I have a Le Creuset wok that I like; it's nothing like a traditional wok except for the shape, since it's heavy enameled cast iron, but I find that if I preheat it for quite a while (I have a 16000 btu burner and a wok ring) once all that cast iron gets hot it does a pretty decent job for stir-frying.

                      1. I had great success with a Joyce Chen wok. It had a flat bottom. That being said, my Taiwanese MiL uses a simple carbon work with a round bottom.
                        The jets on the stove get it far hotter than anything I have seen with an electric stove.

                        If I had to get a new wok, I'd get one with a nice hig domed lid. They make great steamers.

                        1. The cast iron wok i purchased from the WokShop is probably one of my favourite coooking utensils....It's seasoned well so that its virtually nonstick and looks GORGEOUS hanging from my rack

                           
                          1. I find that preheating my calphalon wok for a few minutes on high seems to give me enough heat...i had a steel wok that i bought from a chinese grocery store, but it was not stainless and never really got hot enough. threw it out after trying several times (unsuccessfully) to properly season it...

                            1. I totally agree with the "generic" carbon steel wok recommendation. Mine is a 16" hand hammered wok, made in China, in the traditional two wooden handle design,. I bought it at least 30 years ago when it was under ten bucks at a Chinese market. Probably not a whole lot more today. And I would fight fiercely if anyone tried to take it from me!

                              The important thing is for you to think through as much as possible how you will use your wok. For me, the major problem with cooking Asian in cast iron, whether or not it's enameled, is that it holds the heat and keeps cooking, even after you remove it from the burner. There are times, such as when I make lo mein for a crowd, when I don't have serving dishes large enough to hold the entire contents of my wok, so I serve from it. With a cast iron wok, any second helpings or leftovers would have grossly overcooked vegetables, not to mention rubber shrimp.

                              For accessories, I would recommend a lid (not all woks come with them). I find my domed lid does a great job. For example, I can steam vegetables without adding water because it gathers the steam cooking out of the veggies and returns it to the pan. Stacking bamboo steamer baskets are also an excellent investment. They're great for making all sorts of dim sum buns and purses, and can be used for steaming anything at all. Long cooking chopsticks are useful. And a round-tipped wok spatula is good, though I tend to use my bamboo rice paddles more than the spatula. And finally, if you don't already have some, cooking tongs are very useful.

                              Some people like the tempura draining racks that fit over the sides of a wok, but when it comes to hot oil for deep frying, I prefer either a solid bottomed saucepan or an electric fryer. Emptying oil (hot or cold) from a wok is an exercise in messiness, and you especially don't need that with hot oil!

                              If your budget isn't of the "anything my heart desires" variety, then all of the things I've mentioned above can be purchased for about the price of a Joyce Chen wok, and several times over for the price of Le Crueset!

                              hmmmm.,.. re-reading your post, you specify a "new wok." Does this mean you're replacing an old one, and knew all of this already? '-)

                              3 Replies
                              1. re: Caroline1

                                How about an electric one? I've had one for years, and it's great!

                                1. re: Mother of four

                                  All of the electric woks I've seen have three or four legs attached, and they stay in that horizontal position. In traditional wok cooking, with the wok sitting in a ring, you can cook practically anywhere in the wok by adjusting the angle it sits in the ring. For example, when I add a corn starch slurry at the end of a dish, I push the food up the side and then tilt the wok so the slurry has plenty of room to clarify in an open area, and I can monitor how thick it is before blending into the dish. In doing fried rice, where scrambled eggs are an important part of the dish, I push the rice up the side of the wok, then cook the egg in a thin batch or two that I "cut" into small pieces with the spatula before incorporating them into the fried rice.

                                  I have considered an electric wok or electric frying pan so I could do a traditional sukiyaki meal cooking at the table. But an electric frying pan would probably work best because it heats evenly across the entire cooking/boiling surface. But I'm not convinced that either one could reach the temperatures of an actual wok, and in stir fry extremely high heat is the key.

                                  Have you ever cooked in a true wok?

                                  1. re: Caroline1

                                    I have not. I really do not do a lot of wok cooking, so I am just throwing in my two cent's. It just seems to work for me!

                              2. I have three (Two at home, one at my father's) made out of cast iron. Two cost me $15 each. The Le Crueset was a gift and I leave it out for the uninitiated to admire. I mainly use the cheap ones. I have a couple of portable induction cooktops that surprisingly work well with them.

                                1. I have a cheap 16" carbon steel wok from a Chinatown store. It works great. I used to use it on the kitchen stove with a ring, but I've upgraded to a propane-fueled burner that I use outdoors. Still learning optimal cooking technique, but very happy with the wok itself.

                                  1. This is the one that I have:

                                    http://www.eastmanoutdoors.com/images...

                                    from http://www.eastmanoutdoors.com/ . Works great, but it is an 'outdoors only' proposition. But you can also use it for turkey frying, deep fat frying, fire roasting veggies, etc... and since I am in TX, there really never is a time that you CAN'T cook outdoors. Definately worth it if you have a back porch