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Feb 29, 2012 09:01 AM

Where to buy Asian 'Iron' wok(Not cast iron) with two handles(Southern style)?


Does anyone know where I can buy an iron wok?! Not cast iron but the Asian iron type. Not sure if they are hand-hammered but it's iron and yet light, thin and durable that can last for generations.

Also, is the Pow wok usually deeper than the Southern style wok?! And what's the difference between Steel, Carbon Steel and Wrought Iron? Which material distribute and heat evenly without 'hot spot'?!

Your help would be appreciated.

Thank you.

Esme - from Australia

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  1. It would help to know what continent you live on. Maybe even a region or city. Ace hardware has them in my area.

    1 Reply

      I'm from Australia so I guess, I'll be looking at purchasing online as I've trouble to find an 'iron' wok (the type that I'm after) with anything less than 14" here, where I am.

    2. Ok... there are many types of Asian woks from Chinese thin cast iron to wrought iron to carbon steel....etc.

      It sounds like you want the so call Cantonese style woks, and it sounds like you want a Chinese style thin cast iron wok.

      For Chinese thin cast iron woks, you are looking at something like this:

      Now, if you actually want a true hand made hand hammered wok, then I have recently purchased one and it is great:

      11 Replies
      1. re: Chemicalkinetics

        Continue from above

        "Also, is the Pow wok usually deeper than the Southern style wok?! And what's the difference between Steel, Carbon Steel and Wrought Iron? Which material distribute and heat evenly without 'hot spot'?!"

        Yes, usually.
        Difference in carbon content, in strength and in melting point...etc
        They can all have hot spots.

        "Hot spot" is not a very useful term for Chinese wok cooking. A wok is not meant to have even heat distribution from rim to rim, which is completely different from a flat bottom frying pan. The philosophies are completely different.

        1. re: Chemicalkinetics

          Thank you, Chemicalkinetics.

          I've been looking for a wok and I must say the more I look, the harder it is to decide as there are different ones out there with the questions of shape, sizes and materials that I'm having trouble with, especially the material. I guess, I would like to get a wok that gives good 'heat' for stir frying. I've decided that I'll get a round-bottom one with two handles.

          I've looked at the website you suggested - hand hammered wok, it looks like it is just what I'm looking for but I'm not sure if I want to spend $70 for a wok which is quite costly.

          1. re: EsmeMolina

            Do you have a price range which you are comfortable? To me $70 is not a lot, many people spend over $200 for a Le Cresuet Dutch Oven or $200 for an All Clad saute pan. That being said, a $70 is definitely on the higher end for a traditional wok.

            1. re: Chemicalkinetics

              I know what you mean and I totally agree with you - $70 is on the higher end for a traditional wok. The thing is that a good traditional wok itself doesn't really cost that much in comparison to western cookware but it's the shipping cost that comes with it, makes it costly and so the question is if it's worth it. As for budget, I probably prepare to pay a little less than $70, that'd be my max.

              Over here, I found a wok that seems pretty good and it costs around A$24 but unfortunately, it's a pow wok . It isn't what I want. At the same store, there's another one with two handles and it's steel. I don't know if that is different from carbon steel and if it's a good wok to get. These woks are from China and sometimes, I wonder how accurate they are in labelling the material because of the standards and language perhaps.

              1. re: EsmeMolina

                What's the price of the 2 handled steel wok - if the price is similar to to the pow wok I would guess it is carbon steel. Here in Canada, Calgary, all the steel woks, that I've seen, pow, or 2 handled are carbon steel. If you press the rim inward and it flexes, it's got to be carbon steel.

                1. re: rosetown

                  "If you press the rim inward and it flexes, it's got to be carbon steel."


                  Also, machined carbon steel wok should have very small smooth surface. Cast iron woks have rougher surface.

                  1. re: Chemicalkinetics


                    Is Carbon Steel wok as good as Wrought Iron wok?! I don't think I'll go for a Cast iron because I found that it contains aluminium which isn't good for health. From your experience and knowledge, what material is best?!

                    And does the thickness and size matter?! Yes, I've decided 12" because I think it's a good size to cook for 1 or 2 people.

                    I really like the ones that they use at the restaurant like this one here,

                    Do you know what kind of wok is used in the video?

                    1. re: EsmeMolina


                      I don't think it is as easy to encounter wrought iron woks these days anyway. There is certainly competition between those who like carbon steel woks and those who like cast iron woks, but I don't think cast iron woks have more aluminum than carbon steel woks. Maybe, but I don't think so.

                      Carbon steel woks are usually a bit easier to handle because it has more "give" and less brittle, so they don't easily break. Other people like cast iron woks because it is easier to get seasoned and hold on to the seasoned surface.

                      Thickness is tricky. There are advantages and disadvantages for both cases. A thicker wok responds better and is easier to handle. A thicker wok holds more heat and is more durable (less likely to get damaged). I say a 2 mm is good, but it can be different for everyone. A 12" wok is good. A 14" wok is good too.

                      From the video, it looks like a large carbon steel wok.

                      1. re: Chemicalkinetics


                        With the cast iron wok, I only knew it's a mixed of aluminum and Iron because it was stated on the packaging of a cast iron wok that I found at a store. I was surprised actually as I expected that it'd contain only carbon and steel.

                        I know Carbon Steel wok is the most common wok people use these days. I think what the woks are claimed to be, can be deceiving. After all, are they really what they say they are. The process of making is something that is quite complex and technical. (The science of it)

                        Yeah... it isn't easy to find a wrought iron woks these days but I like to think that It's still possible though because Japanese make a lot of their cookwares in wrought iron. Great stuff... :)

                        Thank you for your help, Chemicalkinetics.

                        1. re: EsmeMolina

                          I wonder if the aluminum was in the lid, not the wok itself.

                          Aluminum is used in some high tech steel alloys, mainly I think to provide high temperature corrosion resistance. Inclusion in cast iron is unlikely unless it was present in the recycled source. But even then I doubt if the percentage of aluminum would higher than other commonly used metals, such as chromium, magnesium and nickle.

                          I think people who worry about 'contamination' in iron forget that iron is the cheapest metal around. There's no financial incentive to add more expensive aluminum or lead to iron. Even recyclers have incentive to separate out the aluminum and lead because they can sell those at a higher price. Cast iron is, in a sense, one of cruder metal alloys (with a technology that goes back several centuries), but the foundry does not benefit from having a lot of contaminants in their iron. It just makes the casting process less reliable, and increases the likelihood of defects and rejects. That's just as true of modern day Chinese foundries as American ones a century ago.

                2. re: EsmeMolina

                  A carbon steel wok and a thin cast iron wok are at about the same price range. You can get good cast iron and carbon steel wok under $70. I would look at the restaurant supply stores (online and offline). They would offer real restaurant workhorse woks.

                  I think it is great that you have narrowed down the "size". Then, you need to be sure if you want a cast iron or carbon steel. Cantonese wok (two handles) and Peking wok (pow) are both great. They are different of course.

        2. Have you checked local Asian markets and restaurant supply stores? We got our carbon steel wok at the local restaurant supply but I'm not in Australia.

          1 Reply
          1. re: rasputina

            Yes, I have... I found a few restaurant supply stores in Australia that sell Wrought Iron work with good price but they don't come in smaller size like 12". Most woks sold at local stores here are carbon steel.

          2. You could check out The Wok Shop. It's in SF, but they have a website. Not sure the shipping costs, if they do ship to Australia, would make sense, but you can get an idea of what's available.

            2 Replies
            1. re: emily

              Here's a carbon steel wok from their site with 2 handles. Comes in sizes from 10" to 16":

              I have the cast iron one mentioned up thread and love it.

              1. re: emily

                Thanks Emily for the suggestion. Yes, I read some articles saying cast iron is the best to go for because it retains better and distributes heat evenly for a home stove.

              2. Esme,

                I've never heard of Asian iron, but wrought iron is just a low carbon iron alloy iron that is worked into a final shape while it is red hot. I've seen craftsmen work iron, and it involves repeated steps of heating and hammering the metal. I doubt very much that it's possible to to make a full sized wok, 2 or 3 mm thick, by hand. In short, Chem Kinetics might correct me if I'm wrong, but I doubt there is such a thing as a wrought iron wok. Maybe there is a problem translating from Australian to US English. Can you post a photo of a wrought iron wok?

                As for some of your specific questions, even distribution of heat and hot spots have more to do with the geometry of the wok than what it's made of. Uneven thickness will produce hot spots where the metal is thin. How fast the metal conducts heat also is a factor, but cast iron and steel are similar (steel is slightly faster). A wok that is overall thicker will be less prone to hot spots, but it will also be slower to heat up and less responsive to changes in cooking temperature. "Steel" is a generic term that includes many alloys, but most of the time means "carbon steel" or "mild steel", as compared to various types of stainless steel. Hammered steel is carbon steel that has been worked by beating it.


                With love and squalor,


                4 Replies
                1. re: Zeldog

                  I'm new to this and need your help regarding my carbon steel wok. Purchased Joyce Chen 14" model 2 months ago; am taking my time seasoning with grapeseed oil & chives/scallion bits and using it after every use to develop the "wok hee." The inside flat surface has some small 'chipping" of the black whereas the curve at the flat is developing a nice patina. Using hot water & bamboo brush for cleaning.
                  Question: Am I doing something wrong since the flat part has some small speck areas that aren't blackened? Should I start all over by removing the entire patina? Did I leave a trace of the manufacturing oil layer?
                  Any experience and help will be appreciated. Thanks.

                  1. re: normtoy

                    "Question: Am I doing something wrong since the flat part has some small speck areas that aren't blackened? "

                    A little bit is fine, especially if you are using metal utensils.

                    1. re: Chemicalkinetics

                      Thank you for your quick reply and sharing your expertise. I'm really enjoying stir-frying as it reminds me of my mom cooking four our family when I was a s kid growing up in SF Chinatown. I've changed to a bamboo utensil and it seems to lessen the speck chipping.
                      Last question (for now)- reading about smoking points and healthy neutral oils, do you recommend grapeseed, canola or something else? Also read that rice bran oil (if one can find it locally), other than cost, has a few more stir-fry and may have more health benefits than others. Your thoughts and experience? Thanks Ck.

                      1. re: normtoy

                        :) It is ok to use metal utensils too. I use a metal wok hoak or a wok ladle.


                        The seasoning process will constantly replenish the surface while the metal utensils will scarp a little bit off. For a brand new wok, it may be easier to work with the bamboo or wood utensils for now.

                        I use mostly grapeseed oil and sometime peanuts oil and even corn oil. The most important thing is make sure the smoke point of your oil is relatively high. While extra virgin olive oil is healthy as a dressing oil and finishing oil, it is has a very low smoke point, which means it will easily smoke for wok cooking. Once an oil reaches above its smoke point, all the health benefits can go out of the door as the oil starts to break down.

                        I would play around with the oil selection and see if the healthy ones can be heated up to your cooking temperature without excessive smoking.