Calphalon or plain steel wok?
Williams Sonoma has the Calphalon 13" sear nonstick wok for only $100. Is it worth it, or should I just get a regular steel wok? Thanks!
Depends. If you are new to stir-fry, then it is not a bad idea to learn from a nonstick wok, but even then $100 is a pretty high mark. I won't spend more than $50 for a nonstick wok.
If you are pretty good with stir-fry technique, then I would try to learn to season a carbon steel wok (or thin cast iron wok) and take advantage of the high-temperature cooking.
Sometime it is too much for a newcomer to learn stir-fry and to learn seasoning a wok at the same time. When something goes wrong, you wonder if it is the cooking technique or if it is the wok itself.
A non-stick wok is a complete wast of money. Don't bother with it. Get a (or 2) carbon steel woks. One of my woks is about 35 years old, my other 2 are about 20+ years old. They get frequent work outs and with time have seasoned beautifully. You can bet that NON-STICK wok will not last that long. A plain carbon steel wok is going to be around for a long time. 2 of my woks have stick handles with an assist (loop) handle for easy lifting. My 1st. wok was round bottomed with loop handles on both sides. If you are trying to learn stir frying and also the shaking and flipping motions the stick handle is a great help, the wok with the 2 loop handles is a bit more difficult to manipulate in that manner. If you have a gas cooktop either flat or round bottom woks are fine. If you are working on a electric cooktop then a flat bottom is desirable. The flat bottom gives you better contact with the heat.
I would also recommend a plain carbon steel wok. I use regular non-stick pans frequently, but I think carbon steel is best for wok cooking. Basically, wok cooking is done at high heat, but I'm pretty sure non-stick is not recommended for high heat cooking, so I just don't think non-stick is the right application for this use. Also, I don't mind heating the heck out of a $20 carbon wok, whereas I might be more concerned with a $100 pan.
I got my carbon steel wok at wokshop.com. They also have good recommendations for seasoning it. The trick with seasoning is that you need to do it at very high heat in the oven, otherwise the coating gets sticky. I also liked the book 'The Breath of a Wok' by Grace Young. I think it gives a good understanding of the techniques.
Steel wok - they are cheap and virtually indestructible. I can't imagine you'd learn wok cooking too well with a non-stick because high fast heat is required. You'd have to lower that for a non-stick which seems like a recipe for bad wok cooking to me
Add me to the steel wok chorus...treat it right, and it is hands-down the best nonstick stirfry surface there is. I got mine as a gift in 1973, and it has had constant use ever since. If I were forced to have only one cooking vessel in my house, it would be this wok.