HOME > Chowhound > Cookware >
Are you making a specialty food? Get great advice

Wok question

Emjay79 Jun 11, 2011 08:11 PM

Hi, I've been reading that carbon steel woks can be damaging to an electric stove, because the can reflect back the heat. I have a glass top range and a new flat bottom carbon steel wok, but the flat bottom is rather small.... So should I be using the larger of the elements or the smallest one? Even the smallest would leave extra surface area uncovered though... I want to use the larger one as I think it would heat up the wok better. Anyone have any advice?

Also, I was just trying to season it and now some of the bottom is chipping off, what did I do wrong? It definitely was carbon steel with no seasoning, and I did wash the factory coating off first... But maybe not good enough? Is the wok salvageable?


  1. ipsedixit Jun 11, 2011 08:24 PM

    Use a wok stand. Like this one. http://www.asianutensils.com/wokstand... A flat bottom wok won't reflect and with the wok stand you can use it on the larger ring on your range.

    Chipping? What do you mean? On the outside or inside? Inside, could be just food particles that you did not clean off after using it.

    3 Replies
    1. re: ipsedixit
      Emjay79 Jun 11, 2011 08:32 PM

      Wow, that was a quick reply, thanks!

      I was thinking that the round part of the wok would reflect on the big range even with a stand.

      As for the chipping, this was the first time I used the wok and all I was doing was trying to season it. I heated it on med-high first and the flat part got really black and I started to use some chives and oil to season. Then when I was done, and washed it, the black at the bottom started to bubble and peel off, reaveling the original carbon steel colour, before seasoning...

      1. re: Emjay79
        ipsedixit Jun 11, 2011 09:13 PM

        Season your wok again.

      2. re: ipsedixit
        Chemicalkinetics Jun 11, 2011 09:18 PM

        "Use a wok stand"

        How is using a wok stand make the wok less reflective? We are talking about the light/photon reflected from the wok exterior surface, right? Maybe I don't understand this, but having a wok ring/stand makes the reflection problem worse in my opinion.

        _"A flat bottom wok won't reflect "

        What do you mean by a flat bottom wok does not reflect? A flat bottom wok also reflects photons assuming I am not completely mistaken... Are you telling us that a flat mirror does not reflect light and only a curve mirror does?

      3. Chemicalkinetics Jun 11, 2011 09:15 PM

        "carbon steel woks can be damaging to an electric stove, because the can reflect back the heat"

        Not for long... most carbon steel woks will eventually turn from shiny to dull. They will absorb heat.

        I would use the larger element.

        Chipping the seasoning on the exterior surface or interior? If exterior, normal. Don't worry about it.

        1. j
          janniecooks Jun 12, 2011 05:08 AM

          Check the owner's manual before using a wok ring on a glass top range. The manual for my glass top range specifically states that a wok ring should not be used, it will damage the top. If the diameter of the bottom of the wok is rather small, you'll have better success in getting a larger diameter bottom wok than using the small bottom wok on a larger burner. The thing with glass top ranges is you need to match the diameter of the pan bottom to the diameter of the burner.

          1. e
            Emjay79 Jun 12, 2011 06:32 AM

            Thanks everyone. Sounds like what I need is a larger bottom diameter wok, not sure I've come across that anywhere yet, carbon steel wise. But I may try it on the medium sized element a few times... once I figure out the seasoning issue.

            Here's a photo of the chips I was asking about.

            7 Replies
            1. re: Emjay79
              Chemicalkinetics Jun 12, 2011 07:39 AM


              To be sure, the talk about a wok can harm an element is due to the theory that light can reflect back to the element. In short, the heat is not effectively absorbed to the wok and is bouncing back and forth between the wok exterior surface and the element, and eventually overheat the element. This is only true if (1) the exterior of the wok is still shiny and (2) if the wok is not directly touching the element. If the exterior of the wok has been darken over uses, then the light will get absorbed. If the wok is directly touching the element (like a flat bottom wok without a wok ring), then the heat will also get absorbed through conduction as opposed to only absorption.

              In short, if you are placing your flat bottom wok directly on top the element (without the wok ring), then you are fine. Feel free to use a wok ring when the wok has darken, but try to avoid the wok ring when the wok is still shiny new.

              It really depends how big your element is compared to the wok. If it is only a little bit bigger, I won't worry about it. The bigger element will produce more heat and is therefore better for your wok from that perspective. Can you tell us how much larger the element is compared to the wok bottom? Is it only the very outer round of coil not touching the wok? If so, I won't worry about it.

              As for the chipping you are talking about, I think you are refering to the very bottom of the interior surface. Those chips are fine and normal. You can always reseason the wok before cook with it. Season surface will come and go, so don't expect them to be super perfect.

              1. re: Chemicalkinetics
                Emjay79 Jun 12, 2011 08:13 AM

                So the diameter of the flat part of the wok is 5 inches. The element size for the largest one is 6 inches but it can expand to 9 inches. I wanted to use the 9 inches. My medium element is 8 inches. The flat part of the wok wobbles a little, so I'm thinking doesn't sit quite flat. I thought I got a good one because I purchased it at Williams Sonoma, although it was one of the cheapest things in the store....

                Thanks for the background on the light reflection, super informative.

                1. re: Emjay79
                  Chemicalkinetics Jun 12, 2011 08:46 AM


                  I think I know which wok you are talking about. I have seen it at Williams Sonoma and it is fairly inexpensive and is supposed to be hand-hammered.


                  I have never used it though.

                  A 5-inch flat bottom sounds about right for a wok. Technically, you can put it on the 9-inch, but I think you will be wasting a lot of energy using it -- much of the heat will escape to the surrounding and heating up the kitchen. The 6-inch and the 8-inch are better. Uses whicheverone has the greatest heat output. Wok cooking is better at high heat.

                  I went back and reread your original post and now I realize that you have a glass stovetop as opposed to a typical heating coil electrical stove. Because a glass stovetop is very flat, any small imperfection of the wok will be clearly felt. You probably won't notice the wok being wobbly had you put it on a typical electric resistive coil stove or a gas range. You can flatten the wok, but please do so carefully.

                  1. re: Chemicalkinetics
                    Emjay79 Jun 12, 2011 09:02 AM

                    Yes, that's exactly the one! Maybe my problem was that I tried other seasoning methods, not only the directions the wok came with... Ah well. I'm going to try it again, I don't want to give up on it yet. Good point about the wasted energy, I'll try it on the 6 inch element.

                    Really great help, much appreciated!

                    1. re: Chemicalkinetics
                      saluki Jul 2, 2011 07:01 PM

                      I too have a flat bottom wok I'm using on a glass stovetop and the bottom of my wok seems warped as well. I'm thinking of getting a portable induction burner so I imagine some areas of the wok won't make contact.
                      Can you give some suggestions as to how you would go about flattening the bottom of a warped wok? Any help would be much appreciated........

                      1. re: saluki
                        Chemicalkinetics Jul 2, 2011 07:26 PM

                        In all honesty, I used a hammer and pounded it a few times. I found using the handle of a hammer to be more useful as it is more gentle, but give you about the same surface area contact.

                        Usually, the wok is warp right in the very center/bottom of it. This is, of course, assuming it is a carbon steel wok. Alternatively, it may just be easily to buy a new carbon steel wok if the curvature is too much.

                        1. re: Chemicalkinetics
                          saluki Jul 3, 2011 09:24 AM

                          Yes my warp is in the center and yes it is carbon steel (pretty thin). I will try the handle of the hammer. thanks!

              2. e
                Emjay79 Jun 12, 2011 10:15 AM

                I tried seasoning the wok again and this time it worked much better. Thanks everyone for all your help.

                1 Reply
                1. re: Emjay79
                  Chemicalkinetics Jun 12, 2011 11:23 AM

                  Please let us know if you ever run into another question. Best luck.

                Show Hidden Posts