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I want to buy a wok, can you help me pick one?

Hi All,

I've been doing without a wok fairly well, but I think it is time to go ahead and take the plunge. I've seen other posts that say 14 inches is as small as I should really go. I want something easy to clean. I have gas stove and the burner gives off lots of flame. I would like it to last, I'd like it to be fairly maintenance free, and I want it to cook well. Any thoughts?

many thanks,
LulusMom

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  1. For most Americans with a gas or electric indoor range, a first wok would be one like this, carbon steel with a flat bottom:

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

    Depending on how your range top is configured, you might do well with a more traditional round-bottom wok, whether carbon steel or cast iron (but get Chinese cast iron, rather than the thicker American cast iron). If you do not have a good Asian grocer or supply store nearby, I suggest you call up the Wok Shop in CA and have them advise you. Ms. Chan there is awesome.

    Whatever you do, avoid non-stick woks (which cannot take high heat) and also stainless steel (which lacks conductivity).

    Edit: I agree that 14" is the smallest size to start with. I made do with one for many years before adding a 16" (cast iron) wok from the Wok Shop.

    1. Do you have any experience with seasoning cast iron or carbon steel?

      1 Reply
      1. re: paulj

        Absolutely none. And frankly, I'm somewhat nervous about it.

      2. Hi LLM,

        I was a big naysayer on the necessity of a wok for two reasons:

        1. my mom never, ever used one cooking when I was growing up and

        2. I could never figure out if making the space for a wok in my smallish kitchen was ever worth it.

        And, the wok is totally worth it.

        So, my wok came from my mother's basement (where is probably sat for close to 35 years). It was still in the box and never used. She was going to donate it so C grabbed it. I threw out an old non stick pan and in the wok went. But, it rarely makes it into the cabinet and I use it at least 5x a week.

        I do have some problems with my wok though. It has also has two small handles on the side, which isn't that much of an issue. But, I've almost burned through one of my oven mitts. My handles are smaller then the ones pictured here.

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

        The biggest issue is size. It's a 12 inch wok and just a tad bit too small, even for two people. I've found that I can't go over 1 lbs of meat otherwise I get the steaming effect. 3/4 lbs is actually the right amount of protein to go into the wok.

        One advantage of not having the wooden handle is that you can use the wok in the oven. You can use the wooden ones as well, but you have to either take off the handle or wrap it up.

        My wok, now that it is seasoned, is really easy to clean. I barely rinse it out, mostly I just wipe it down. I do go through more paper towels though, since I use the Dunlop way of pre-seasoning before the stir fry (heat until wok smokes, add a tad of peanut oil, watch it smoke, wipe it down and then re-add the oil before cooking). I find that that this method not only really seasons the pan well, gets the wok really, really hot before you throw the food in.

        Lastly, I've read on these boards that the Wok Shop is really helpful if you call them with questions.

        3 Replies
        1. re: beetlebug

          Thanks beetlebug. I have spent the last few years using your mother's method of going with my dutch oven, and I have to say, it has worked wonderfully well for me. But I've gotten to the point where I feel like maybe I should be branching out, and hearing it from you makes me feel I've made the right decision.

          How tough was seasoning it? How long did it take? Thanks to you and everyone else for the input. Greatly appreciated.

          1. re: LulusMom

            Seasoning it was super easy. I was nervous as well since C had seasoned all the cast iron skillets. But, I first did it in the oven and then I seasoned it on the stove using a boat load of ginger and scallions. I think just doing the second method would have been enough. Plus, all the ginger and scallions smelled so good. I don't remember how long it took, but the oven took longer (maybe an hour bc you are high temperature baking the seasoning on). The scallion/ginger stir fry took maybe, 15 minutes?

            After that, I popped corn in it a couple of times, just to check it out. But, I prefer my whirly pop so that stopped.

            Lastly, I use my wok for everything, scrambled eggs, and COTM on non-asian months. I would use caution on cooking with lemon juice or vinegars. For a newer wok, it could take some of the seasoning off. But, a quick Dunlop seasoning puts it back on.

            1. re: beetlebug

              You know what? Any excuse for popcorn ...

              thanks for the info. I'm feeling stronger just reading the posts here.

        2. Finally going to join the wokers, hmmm? Great...!

          I don't have much to add to Beetlebug's excellent post except to say that I've had my 14" steel Joyce Chen flat bottom wok for at least 35 years and use it for many fry applications apart from the heavy use it gets for stir-frys. The more it's used the better it becomes. It's only been used on a gas stove, came with a cover and a variety of wooden spatulas. G would rather use the wok than any other sauté or fry pan we have.

          You probably remember the Grace Young month when she and others discussed the care and seasoning of the wok. It might be worth it to troll through those threads again. Also, she gives tips on her web site.

          http://www.graceyoung.com/

          Here's a demonstration...

          http://www.culinate.com/articles/feat...

          Have fun and Happy Wokking

          4 Replies
          1. re: Gio

            I was out of the country and had Lulu full time during that month, so I saw very few of the posts (getting time to be on the internet was a luxury). I will check out the graceyoung site, and if I can find the time go through the main monthly link for her month. Thanks!

            1. re: LulusMom

              LLM..please don't be intimidated by either the seasoning or cleaning of a wok. It's very easy. Really it is. If and when you have time glance through that second link.. the demonstration one. Young explains everything you need to know in a few short paragraphs. I have every confidence you'll be fine and will enjoy your new skill.

              BTW, I forgot you were out of the country that month...

              1. re: Gio

                Thanks Gio. It is the seasoning that really scares me, for whatever reason. I will watch that link, and gain strength. I mean, I can do a lot of stuff, so surely I can season a wok, right? And there is no reason in the world you should remember my schedule for this year. It has been beyond insane - I can barely remember it.

                1. re: LulusMom

                  I think the key to seasoning is to choose the method and don't second guess. There are a kajillion threads and links on the internet that talk about seasoning. It gets overwhelming.

                  The one that Gio links is excellent.

                  http://www.culinate.com/articles/feat...

          2. "I've seen other posts that say 14 inches is as small as I should really go"

            I have a 12 inch. I started off with a 16" inch, then 14", then 12". So I do not share the idea that bigger is better. That is incorect. Get the size you think you need.

            " I want something easy to clean. I have gas stove and the burner gives off lots of flame. I would like it to last, I'd like it to be fairly maintenance free, and I want it to cook well."

            It really depend what you mean by fairly maintenance free. The best woks are carbon steel or cast iron in my opinion as well as majority of people's. However, it is not maintenance free. You need to able to season to cookware and to clean it by hand (not with dishwasher).

            If you have a seasoned cookware, then you know what to expect.

            If you have never owned a seasoned cookare, then you have a real choice to make. Either get a carbon steel wok and learn to maintain it, or get a Teflon nonstick wok. Unfortunately, a Teflon wok just does not work very well.

            47 Replies
            1. re: Chemicalkinetics

              I wash all my pots and pans by hand, so that part doesn't bother me, but I have to admit to being somewhat nervous about the seasoning aspect. Any consensus on which is a better bet: carbon steel or cast iron? I'm *guessing* carbon steel would be somewhat easier for me, but at the same time, maybe not so easy to clean? I really feel out of my element on this one, and appreciate the input.

              1. re: LulusMom

                "but I have to admit to being somewhat nervous about the seasoning aspect."

                A lot of folks here say it is super easy. I don't think it is super hard, but I don't think it is super easy. If it is super easy, then we won't have articles after articles how to season a cookware. Nevertheless, seasoning is not extremely difficult and it is worth a try. A carbon steel wok will only cost you about $15-20.

                "I'm *guessing* carbon steel would be somewhat easier for me,"

                Both cast iron and carbon steel are easy to season and both require the same level of attention like hand washing and keep the cookware dry. A carbon steel wok is easier because it is physically more flexible. Cast iron is much more brittle. So if you are drop or bang and carbon steel wok, it will survive.

                There are many older threads here about "seasoning wok".

                1. re: Chemicalkinetics

                  Thanks chemic. I think I'm going with carbon steel. I don't *plan* on banging or dropping, but things happen. And I appreciate the honesty about the seasoning process.

                  1. re: LulusMom

                    LulusMom,

                    Your welcome. By the way, seasoning a cookware can be very personal. The general idea is the same, but the details are different for different people. For example, I prefer stovetop seasoning over oven seasoning. I thought you may find the following youtube video from Ching He Huang helpful.

                    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nDp_2x...

                    It is not exactly the method I use, but it is similar and I know her method works because I have tried it before. The reason I picked her video for you because her presentation is very clear and belief and precise. Moreover, I always think a video is easier to understand due to its visual demonstration. There are also many other good youtube video on wok seasoning. Let us know if you have any questions.

                  2. re: Chemicalkinetics

                    I respectfully disagree that both steel and cast iron woks are easy to season. I've used both and it's true that the initial process of seasoning is pretty much the same for both, but once seasoned, the cast iron wok is more resilient and easier to maintain. The seasoned layer on a steel wok is prone to flaking off during cleaning, or worse, while cooking . Cast iron is much more forgiving. The porous surface really holds onto the seasoning.

                    As for flat vs round bottoms, if flat bottoms are so good for use on open flames, why did they not exist before the invention of the electric stove? I made the mistake of buying a flat bottomed wok to use on a gas stove (without a ring) and found the sides got too hot while the bottom stayed too cool. And if you use a ring, why do you need a flat bottom?

                    If you decide to go with cast iron, as far as I know, wok shop is the only source. But they are way cheap. They do only come with two loop handles, so if having a long handle is really important, your only option is steel.

                    1. re: Zeldog

                      I'm pretty set on the long handle, but I'd love to hear how others feel about both the handle choice and this carbon steel vs. cast iron thing. And I'm also pretty set on a round bottom.

                      1. re: LulusMom

                        Can’t comment on cast iron because I never had one. I have had two carbon steel woks, one with a round bottom and one with a flat. I never had the flaking problem Zeldog describes, either during cleaning or cooking.

                        I inherited my round-bottom wok and had it for about 10 years. No idea how long it had been in use before that. The only reason I needed to replace it was that the handle broke. I used that wok on a gas stove with a ring. The ring created a hot circle around the sides of the wok that made pushing foods up the sides to slow cooking problematic. When I needed to replace it, I went with a flat bottom for stability and to avoid having to use the ring. Perhaps it depends on your gas stove, but the bottom of my wok is definitely not cool compared to the sides when I’m cooking. I like the stability without having another piece of equipment to deal with. In fact, I like the flat-bottom wok so much, I eventually threw out the ring knowing I'd never need it again.

                        A couple of quotes from the owner of The Wok Shop via Grace Young: “The round bottom requires a gas flame, but most residential gas ranges are not powerful enough to adequately heat a round-bottomed wok.” “A flat-bottomed wok has all the same attributes of a traditional wok, but with a few adaptations that make it better for a Western stove: the small flat bottom sits securely on the range and closer to the heat source; and the wood handle is more comfortable to grasp than the non-heat resistant metal or ear-shaped handles.” That is why she generally recommends her best-selling wok, a 14-inch flat-bottom carbon steel wok with a long wood handle and a small helper handle also made of wood.

                        1. re: LulusMom

                          I like having the long handle on my carbon steel wok. Meanwhile, my cast iron wok (a thin Chinese one, not the heavy American type that some people have here), has two small loop handles, and you need to use a mitt or a washcloth wrapped around your hand in order to shake the pan or flip things. Not a big problem, but not as easy as a long handle.

                          About round bottom woks: a wok ring does not make for a stable surface on my particular stovetop. I have four individual burners with non-continuous grates. If I remove the grates, the ring wobbles in the metal contouring that holds the grates in place. And the ring is too large to sit atop a grate (plus I think that would put the wok too far from the flame anyway). If you can remove a grate and lay a ring flat around your burner, then you would not have my problem.

                          I got my round-bottomed wok mainly for outside use with a high-power propane burner, also available at Wok Shop:

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

                          Seems as if that route might be overkill for your current purposes.

                          1. re: Bada Bing

                            OK, so JoanN and Bada Bing have convinced me that what I really want is a flat bottomed wok; I also think, hearing that JoanN had no problem with the carbon steel coming off, that I will go that direction, and (even though I don't throw my food in the air - although I'm now tempted to do it with non-asian cooking just for the fun of it) a long handled one. Should I buy from the wok shop so many of you have mentioned, from Grace Young's site, or is it available on amazon (I have priority shipping, and love the almost instant gratification that brings)?

                            Again, thanks so much to all of you for the help. I feel much more comfortable about it, and once I get a chance to watch the videos, etc. about seasoning the wok, I'll be on my way.

                            1. re: LulusMom

                              Just took a quick look and prices are fairly similar on all three sites. I think the main advantage in buying at The Wok Shop is that you can call and talk to them and they can tell you just what you're going to need and will ship it all in one package. I recall a thread not too long ago where someone on the board said they'd spoken to salespeople at The Wok Shop before making a decision and that they were extraordinarily helpful.

                              In addition to the wok and the spatula, you might also want to consider buying a lid and a stainless perforated steaming rack. Knowing how much you like fish, both of these are really good to have. If you shop at Amazon, you'll have to put the package together yourself. The Wok Shop can do it for you and make sure all the pieces are compatible. You lose out on the free shipping, but it might be worth it for the convenience.

                              1. re: JoanN

                                Definitely get the lid: you'll need it to make popcorn! Plus, if you buy the lid at the time you buy the wok, you'll know that it fits. If you try to buy it later, it might be hard to know you have the right size, etc.

                                I have more or less the same wok as JoanN. I bought it and all of my wok stuff off of Amazon in preparation for Grace Young month. Funnily enough, most of the utensils I bought off of Amazon --including my spatula and spider--came from the Wok shop anyway... A part of me regretted not buying the whole works from the wok shop. I don't know why, but I just thought that all of the items I got from the wok shop were of really excellent quality and I've this nagging feeling that I might have have received a more superior--even if only slightly-- wok had I purchased it from the Wok Shop. I'm not saying there's anything wrong with my (Joyce Chen) 14'' flat bottomed carbon-steel wok with the helper handle, but I've always kind of wondered. I was in such a hurry to get it, but maybe I should have waited a few more days since I'll probably have this for the next 30 years.

                                I was nervous about seasoning, too, but it was really no big deal at all. Popping popcorn defintely speeds up the seasoning. Both of GY's BoaW and SFTTSE have terrific directions on seasoning.

                                I will say that my wok does NOT bead water when it reaches temp the way Grace Young describes in her book and I burned a lot of food at first. (She said occasionally there are woks that don't bead and I guess I got one of those). I too, have an old gas stove and during GY month I actually determined that the main "power plus" burner on "high" was too high! Even GY agreed with me in one of her posts in the COTM threads. So, if your gas stove puts out a lot of heat you might not need it on full blast if you find you're constantly burning stuff.

                                Even though I didn't find seasoning to be a hassle, I will say I do find the clean-up off-putting. I know it's not a ton of effort, but I usually like to do clean up before I even sit down to eat so I don't have any chores to do after my meal, and you can't do that with a wok because it needs time to cool, etc. And, you have to get to it pretty much right away because it can't soak. I regret to admit that this small amount of extra effort/attention does prevent me from using my wok as often as I should. Basically, I haven't used it since GY month (though, to be fair, there have been extenuating circumstances in my life that might account for that, too). I don't mean to come across as lazy as much as someone who frets about using her wok for fear that any amount of maintenance less than the perfect amount of maintenance will ruin the equipment and, therefore, the equipment sits unused. But, I'm sure that's just me.

                                ~TDQ

                                1. re: The Dairy Queen

                                  About clean up, Dairy Queen: pardon me if you already tried this, but it works for me. If you want to clean to wok before letting it cool, it is usually possible to place the just-emptied wok over high heat, let it get good and hot, and then splash in half-cup or so of water. With all the sizzling action, it's usually a snap with a metal spoon or wok brush to scrape away loosened food residues.

                                  The only downside is that this process can possibly diminish some of the seasoning, but if the wok is seasoned decently, then it will be fine for the next cooking.

                                  Also, to LulusMom: note that carbon steel and cast iron are both prone to rust if stored moist or even in high humidity. Some people feel that coating the wok in oil (for an air/moisture barrier) is the thing to do. I find that to be too greasy, and if you overdo it, the wok can develop a useless gummy layer of oil. Better after cleaning the wok to return it to a burner and put it on heat long enough for the wok to go BONE-DRY. Then just store it. It won't rust in that condition unless you leave it in a basement for half a year or more. (That said, I can't speak for those who live in the South; maybe humidity is more an all-year problem than in the midwest.) The good side of all this: even if the wok rusts, it's completely recoverable, but that's for another thread.

                                  1. re: Bada Bing

                                    Bada Bing, so it is perfectly fine to use metal spoons on the stainless? I'm always nervous about that, and tend to use wood, but it is good to know. And what is a wok brush (seriously, I'm a newbie at this)? I will have the shop throw one of those into my package. I do live in the humid south (North Carolina) but I'm not worried about the cleaning. I assume steel wool is out of the question, right? That would get rid of the seasoning.

                                    I wash as I go while making dinner, but I do leave the pots and pans. Two reasons: husband likes his food HOT, and we usually make enough for leftovers or seconds, so I normally just leave the stuff on the stove with the heat off but the lid on. Then it is just the pots and pans that need to be cleaned (dishes can go in the d/w).

                                    TDQ, my gas stove is fairly new - 6 years, I think? Viking, but really, not a very good piece of equipment. One of the burners is much much hotter than the others (not labeled super burner or anything), so I will experiment and see which burner seems to work best for the wok. But thanks for the warning, and again, the lid/popcorn tip!

                                    OK, so I think I've decided on the 14 inch carbon steel, flat bottom wok with a long handle. Accessories will be the lid, spatula to fit (should I get more than one?), a stainless perforated steaming rack and a wok brush. Anything I've left out? This is my end of summer treat to myself.

                                    1. re: LulusMom

                                      I don't think you need more than one spatula. I bought several of the vegetable slicing devices recommended by GY at the time I bought my wok and have seldom used them. Again, I'm not a power user, though. The lid, spatula, wok brush, and the spider are all I found essential. I'll look at the Wok Shop's website and see if there's anything else. They had some really clever aprons...not essential of course, but while you're paying for shipping anyway...

                                      ~TDQ

                                      1. re: The Dairy Queen

                                        OK, I looked the TWS website and I didn't see anything else I thought was essential. ChemicalKinetics makes a good point about needing a skimmer (and perhaps even one of those fry screens, though I'm not speaking from experience) if you plan to use your wok for frying... I have a baby fry-daddy kind of thing, so this isn't of interest to me...

                                        ~TDQ

                                        1. re: The Dairy Queen

                                          I have one of those fryers too, although I think it has been in the box unopened for almost 2 years (hanging head in shame). Skimmer will be added to list. Thank you.

                                      2. re: LulusMom

                                        The Wok Shop website sells all the equipment you'd need, maybe with some kit discount, as well. If you have a nearby Asian supply store, though, you can find lots of accessories and maybe pay less shipping for your wok. Wire mesh strainers, lids, spatulas, etc., are pretty much interchangeable. Finding a good wok is a bit iffier unless you go to a good store. The Wok Shop does sell a better wok brush than I've seen on shelves:

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

                                        It is fine to use metal spoons or scoops with a carbon (not stainless) steel wok. In fact, it will probably leave some marks where the scraping has been heavy, but that's normal and seems somehow not to have a detrimental effect, except for those who really like their pans to look shiny and new. Those people might find a well used and well seasoned wok ugly, but I think they're a thing of beauty! Notice the scrapes in Grace Young's dark wok:

                                        http://www.culinate.com/articles/feat...

                                        It's funny how the wok shop markets their stainless woks, which are not their favorite: "For those who prefer not to season a wok or dislike the seasoned, blackened look of traditional woks...":

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

                                        Translation: "For those who really want a wok in shape only, without regard to function...."

                                        I would prefer a clad stainless skillet over a stainless wok for any imaginable application.

                                    2. re: The Dairy Queen

                                      That's funny about cleanup. I'm the opposite as you but love the easy clean up of the wok. Usually, I clean as I go but then when the food is ready, I leave the pots for later. But, with the wok, I don't wait for the wok to cool I dump all the food into a bowl and then just wipe it out. I usually end with a vegetable so clean up is a snap. If I just cooked a meat dish, where there is a bit of sauce, I get the sink water really hot and do a quick rinse and dry with the paper towel. Then I dry it on the stove on low heat as I serve the meal. To me, it's much easier then other pots, which I won't clean until post dinner.

                                      The other night I made a bunch of stuff from Slater. And, I used three pots, one for mashed potatoes, one for chicken and the wok for the vegetables. The wok was the only one cleaned pre-dinner.

                                      1. re: beetlebug

                                        Interesting, badabing and beetlebug. You aren't afraid the water in the hot wok will cause the wok to crack or warp or whatever?

                                        JoanN, does it work with brown rice, too?

                                        ~TDQ

                                        1. re: The Dairy Queen

                                          Yes, it does. But with some rice better than others. Recently, I've been cooking mostly with Trader Joe's brown Jasmine rice and the resulting rice water cleans as well as when I use regular white Jasmine.

                                      2. re: The Dairy Queen

                                        Also re: clean up. No longer sure which author wrote about this, but I now rinse my rice over a bowl, put the rice water aside while I'm cooking, empty the wok contents as soon as I'm finished cooking, pour in the rice water and let it sit until I'm ready to clean up. That small amount of soaking has never had a negative affect on my seasoning and the rice water almost magically cuts whatever grease may be in the pan. Not sure why this works, but it does. Like a charm.

                                          1. re: LulusMom

                                            I know! Weird, right?

                                            Thanks for the info, JoanN. I need all of the tips I can get!

                                            ~TDQ

                                      3. re: JoanN

                                        Sold. I'll be calling wok shop. And I'll definitely ask for a lid (good point, TDQ, about the popcorn) and the various other things you've suggested. In for a nickle, in for a dime, right? No use doing this half you know what. Thanks again.

                                        1. re: LulusMom

                                          While I still have my sales hat on, and as long as you're in for a dime anyway, one more utensil I use a lot is a spider: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Spider_%...

                                          So many recipes call for stir-frying the protein for a minute or so and removing it to a plate before stir-frying other things and then adding the protein back in. This is the best utensil for doing that since you can pick of a lot more than you can with something like a slotted spoon and because of the large mesh, it drains more quickly and thoroughly. Especially great for scooping things out when you deep fry.

                                          1. re: JoanN

                                            Spider has been added to the list!

                                            1. re: JoanN

                                              I strongly second the spider suggestion.

                                              1. re: JoanN

                                                I don't have a wok, and I don't deep fry, but still I find a spider/skimmer so useful. My most frequent use is probably for blanching vegetables and such in batches, where the spider makes it simple to scoop one set of veggies out of a pot of boiling water and add another without losing the water or its heat.

                                              2. re: LulusMom

                                                Free feel to contact Ms. Tane Chan from the wokshop. She is very friendly and very responsive. If you have any question, send her an email and she will usually reply back to you within 24 hour (during work day).

                                                It doesn't really hurt to leave the wok on the stove. It may become slightly harder to clean when residue dried on the wok, but it is not the end of the world. What you don't want to do to any cast iron or carbon steel cookware (wok included) is to soak it in water for an extensive period of time. For example, leaving it in the sink with water for several hours is a bad idea.

                                                1. re: Chemicalkinetics

                                                  "For example, leaving it in the sink with water for several hours is a bad idea."

                                                  Which, of course, I do with lots of other cookware when it has dried on foods - leave it overnight in the hottest water I can, then another hot dose in the morning before I exercise, and then clean it. There will be a slight mental adjustment with this, but I'm up to it.

                                                  1. re: LulusMom

                                                    Soaking a seasoned wok in water for a few minutes is fine and it helps loosen the food dried-on food residue. Leaving it longer than 10-15 minutes is not good for a carbon steel cookware as it can oxidized and rust...etc.

                                                    1. re: Chemicalkinetics

                                                      I always believed that to be true and never put it to the test. But for various reasons too boring to go into, I've left soaking water in my wok overnight twice in the past month with no oxidation, no rust, no ill effect that I could discern. The water didn't come up beyond the parts of the wok that are very well seasoned, so that might have had something to do with it. But I'm beginning to wonder if "don't soak the wok" is in the same category with "never use soap." Took me years, and again, a very well seasoned wok, to realize that just wasn't necessarily universally true.

                                                      1. re: JoanN

                                                        Thank goodness, since I can see me, in the midst of the usual post-dinner chaos that is my kitchen, accidentally soaping it once in a while. Will do my best not to, but ...

                                                        1. re: LulusMom

                                                          Mild soap is likely fine, and many people do wash it with detergent once a while. You probably don't want to use harsh detergent every time. For a new wok which has not been extensively seasoned, try to avoid washing it with harsh detergent or soak it in water for extensive period of time. Once you have used it for a long time (say a month of daily use), then the seasoning surface becomes much more stable.

                                                          1. re: LulusMom

                                                            P.S.: I love the following video on fried rice. The guy has skill and was using a beat up wok. More importantly, I do want to illustrate out two points for a carbon steel wok. A carbon steel wok when properly seasoned can be nearly as nonstick as a Teflon pan. A carbon steel wok can handle very high temperature and abusive which Teflon nonstick cookware cannot. These two attributes are the reasons why a wok made of carbon steel is better.

                                                            Now. Practice tossing the food from the wok to the ladle. See 2:50 min time mark.

                                                            http://youtu.be/ehgnv3lNg5E

                                                            1. re: Chemicalkinetics

                                                              Thanks ck, both for the video, and for the soap discussion. I am guessing that when I first get it I should/can go ahead and wash it before staring the seasoning process. Getting very excited.

                                                              1. re: LulusMom

                                                                Oh yes, depending who and where you buy the wok from, you will need to prepare it differently. Traditionally, carbon steel woks are coated with machine oil to prevent rust. So you will need to wash it with detergent and possibly boil water in it to remove all the oil. You will need to wash fast and dry fast (using papertowel or cloth towel) to minimize rusting. However, some newer woks are lacquer coated.

                                                                http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/6762...

                                                                Lacquer coated woks require more extensive process in removing them. Simply washing in detergent is not going to do.

                                                                If you are buying from the Wokshop from SF Chinatown, then don't worry about the lacquer woks. Tane Chan sells only the more traditional oil coated woks.

                                                                1. re: LulusMom

                                                                  If I can season a wok without stress, so can you (and you have a lot more cooking experience!!)

                                                                  You definitely should scrub is well with dishwashing liquid when you FIRST get it. I've got Grace Young's book (it explains the seasoning process in detail) but if you buy from the Wok Shop, they include a little booklet with a few recipes and seasoning instructions.

                                                                  I went to the Wok Shop and they sold me the flat bottomed 14" with long wooden handle and small wooded thing at opposite end. You take an old towel and rip pieces that will fit the handles. First wet them, then wrap around handles, then wrap lots of foil around the wet towel pieces (be more careful with this than I was -- my wood burned a tiny bit -- no biggie).

                                                                  Then follow instructions for seasoning in the oven. After I did this, I even tried the stove top method of using Chinese chives -- don't know if this was really necessary.

                                                                  I got a lid, spider, spatula, side strainer thing to put fried food to drain on in the wok, bamboo cleaner thing and a pretty blue bowl -- all came to about $80.

                                                                  Mine does not stick and I'm totally satisfied with it.

                                                2. re: LulusMom

                                                  I agree. I think a flat bottom wok is probably better for most people unless you have a specialized wok burner. The Wokshop is a great place to buy your Chinese cookware. The products are good. I would just add that you may want to consider buying some other wok utensils while at it. For one, you will probably need them. Two, it won't add much to the shipping fee.

                                                  For example, buy a wok lid if the wok does not come with one:

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

                                                  A bamboo whisk is great for cleaning cast iron/carbon steel cookware:

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

                                                  A wok ladle or a wok spatula is great:

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

                                                  Other lower priority goods such as:

                                                  steam rack

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

                                                  Perforated scoop if you think you will deep fry a lot:

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

                                                  Skimmer:

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

                                            2. re: Zeldog

                                              To me, flat bottom wok = pot. The two loop handles wok is easier to store. If you like to throw your food in the air during stir fry then you will need a long handle.

                                            3. re: Chemicalkinetics

                                              Speaking of washing by hand, I seem to remember being told long ago that a seasoned cast iron pan (not a wok, just a regular pan) should never be washed with soap. Is the carbon steel wok going to have that same rule, or was this all balderdash in the first place?

                                              1. re: LulusMom

                                                GY says it is the rule, but she also says if she grabs a sponge to clean her wok and it happens to have a little residual soap on it, she doesn't feel bad.

                                                ~TDQ

                                                1. re: The Dairy Queen

                                                  So you don't use soap on it? Just hot water? Picture me being just slightly skeeved out.

                                                  1. re: LulusMom

                                                    Pretty much, yep. It does get really hot and you are rinsing it out and wiping it down right away... People aren't eating out of it (ie., contributing germs to it).

                                                    I do use a small amount of soap once in awhile. Plus there's the "wok facial" oil/salt scrub thing GY recommends you do once in awhile.

                                                    ~TDQ

                                                    1. re: The Dairy Queen

                                                      OK, I'll stop hyperventilating. But I hate to tell you - people DO eat walk by and eat out of my pots and pans in my house. Maybe I'll find another good use for those new spatulas...

                                                      1. re: LulusMom

                                                        I don't think they'd eat out of a sizzling hot wok!

                                                        ~TDQ

                                                        1. re: The Dairy Queen

                                                          I think they'd learn pretty quickly it wasn't the best idea. Hungry, but not stupid.

                                        2. The wok Bada Bing linked to is exactly the one you want: 14", flat bottom, one helper and one long wooden handle, in carbon steel. And when you buy it, buy a wok spatula made to fit the size of the wok.

                                          Don't worry too much about the seasoning. I can send you the Grace Young info if you'd like. But basically, after scrubbing off whatever coating the factory may have put on it (and if you buy your wok from a reputable store they'll know whether it's coated or not) just use common sense, don't try to cook eggs in it right out of the box, and do as much frying as your family (and waistline) can stand.

                                          1 Reply
                                          1. re: JoanN

                                            Thanks Joan. I may, indeed, call on you for help if things suddenly seem unobvious (non-word, obviously - which brings to mind my favorite Simpsons line: "Me fail English? Thats unpossible!"). Good advice about the spatula to fit the wok. I never would have thought of that.

                                          2. I am far from an expert on woks. But I've used the cheap Ikea and Target woks, and could never get them decently seasoned, or to keep that seasoning... Now I have a cast iron one — it was love at first sight.

                                            The cast iron one was easy to season, large enough for two, heats quickly and doesn't scorch (an additional problem with the predecessors). It lives on the stove in the winter because it's become my first choice for cooking greens, vegetable and saucy dishes. Plus it's heavy as hell, and with arthritic hands moving that sucker isn't for the faint of heart :0

                                            1 Reply
                                            1. re: odkaty

                                              I totally get it. My Le Creuset dutch oven lives on the stove year round because I use it so often, why bother putting it away.

                                            2. This may or may not help but here is a link with a video on using a wok.

                                              http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wUDEYZ...

                                              1. In the better late than never category, I only just got around to calling the Wok Shop. And it was everything you all told me it would be. The woman was fantastically helpful, and very quick in getting back to me. The order went in today, so I'm hoping to have my wok by early next week. Yay!

                                                Thanks again to all of you for the incredibly helpful advice.

                                                4 Replies
                                                1. re: LulusMom

                                                  "The order went in today, so I'm hoping to have my wok by early next week."

                                                  Probably, you will have it by the late of this week. Let us know how the wok works out for you. Don't forget, some of us can also guide you through any seasoning questions you may have. Although Tane Chan can also answer these questions for you as well.

                                                  1. re: Chemicalkinetics

                                                    Tane Chan was amazing - friendly, helpful, honest. And I really appreciate the offer on the help. Everyone has really been great. I hope you're right about it coming by the end of the week, although I'm not seeing any time in my schedule (yes, that is how insane it is right now) in which to start the seasoning. if i can figure out a time, then I can plan something wok-worthy for early next week.

                                                  2. re: LulusMom

                                                    WOOHOO! I"m so glad you had a good experience. Did you order any of the funny aprons?

                                                    ~TDQ

                                                    1. re: The Dairy Queen

                                                      Oh poo. I talked to her over the phone so didn't know about the funny aprons. Wish I had. But i have to say, it was the most wonderful retail therapy. I'm SO thrilled and excited about it, and have even figured out a great place to put everything.

                                                      I pretty much went hog wild and got everything everyone suggested (except the strainer, which she deemed unnecessary given what I already have in my kitchen). And still only $72 with shipping.

                                                      I kind of needed it, and it was the perfect day brightener. Thanks everyone. You have no idea how much your input helped (and how much less stressed i am about the seasoning).

                                                  3. OK, after reading all the comments, here is my question.

                                                    What wok do you recommend for an Induction top?
                                                    It's got to be a flat bottomed - right?
                                                    Cast or steel?

                                                    Any one have experience in this area?

                                                    3 Replies
                                                    1. re: subal

                                                      "Induction top"

                                                      Do you have an inducation wok burning? Like these:

                                                      http://kieffersappliances.files.wordp...

                                                      http://www.yeebiz.com/upimg/12/3931/f...

                                                      If not, you have to have a flat bottomed wok. A round bottom one will not work with the typical induction cook top.

                                                      In theory, either cast iron or carbon steel will work, but there aren't many flat bottom cast iron wok. Some, but not many.

                                                      1. re: Chemicalkinetics

                                                        The manual for my MaxBurton induction hotplate say that cookware with height more than 1.5" above the surface, and diameter less than 4" will not work It appears from the drawings that a wok, or other rounded bottom pan, where 4" diameter ring is within 1.5" of the bottom will work. So the center 4" of a large diameter wok might get hot on this burner. But a flat bottom one would be more stable, and probably get hotter. I have such a wok, but haven't used it much.

                                                        I have a deep stainless steel mixing bowl with a flat base less than 4" in diameter that works nicely on the induction burner - even heating water faster than regular pans.

                                                        Still, if you are serious about a wok and induction burner, one of those custom jobs would be worth considering, especially if your only alternative was a gas flame that can only be used outside. Bet your links are on the expensive side.

                                                        1. re: paulj

                                                          I have a DIVA induction top.
                                                          It will couple with a 4" dia steel mixing bowl.

                                                          I will probably go with a flat bottomed cast iron as it will loose less heat when food is added.

                                                          Thanks for your comments; the Kieffer's unit looked neat!!!