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Woks from Souped Up Recipes and Joyce Chen yielded the tastiest results
With their definitive curved shape and high-sloping sides, woks are a cookware essential in Chinese cooking. While most often used for stir-fries, the ever-versatile wok can be used to cook a wide variety of foods quickly and on very high heat, making it a beloved staple in kitchens around the globe.
When shopping for your own wok, the vast possibilities can seem overwhelming. Flat or rounded bottom? Carbon Steel or cast Iron? Pre-seasoned or not? Not to worry, we’re here to guide you through. Tim Chin, a professional cook and writer at Serious Eats, has some simple advice: “You definitely want to buy the wok that you're going to use. It sounds kind of silly, but it's a big piece of equipment, and it's going to take up a lot of space in your kitchen.” Chin finds that many of these options can be subjective, and it's best to find the wok that’ll fit your lifestyle and you’ll get the most use out of. He has one other piece of advice — avoid non-stick woks at all costs. “At these very high temperatures, like 450 degrees, the coating actually starts to degrade,” explains Chin.
We tested 18 different woks over the course of 24 total hours to find which were made from the highest quality materials and were the easiest to use, maneuver, and clean.
Read on for the best woks PEOPLE Tested.
Best Overall: Souped Up Recipes Carbon Steel Wok
During testing, food cooked quickly and evenly in this wok thanks to ample cooking space.
Very little food stuck to the pan and what was left cleaned up easily.
Its large size felt heavier when tossing food than others we tested.
This flat-bottom, carbon steel wok from Souped Up Recipes impressed us with its appealing design and high performance for a great price. The singular handle looks and feels great for effective maneuverability when cooking. The metal connection where the handle met the wok did get slightly hot (but not overly so). The small indentations throughout the cooking surface offer a nice hand-worked metal aesthetic and help prevent food from sticking during cooking.
We found the large flat base very sturdy when cooking: The size provides not only stability but ample cooking surface. Important to note: the sturdy, larger size contributed to this wok feeling heavier than others we tested. Tossing (a.k.a. flipping and dispersing food without utensils) and swirling rice and beef felt easy in this wok. We found food cooked quickly and evenly with hardly any leftovers stuck on the cooking surface. It also heated up fairly quickly, reaching almost boiling temperature in about 13 minutes. After cooking multiple dishes in the wok, clean-up was super easy, and afterward, the wok looked brand-new. It also includes an attractive wooden lid and a chuan (metal wok spatula) so it is an incredible deal.
Price at time of publish: $39.99 (orig. $64.99)
Size: 12.5 x 12.5 x 3.74 inches | Material: Wok: Carbon steel, chuan: stainless steel, lid: wood | Capacity: Not listed | Compatible Heat Sources: Gas, electric, induction | Care: Hand wash only
Best Overall Runner-Up: Joyce Chen Carbon Steel Wok
We found this wok retained heat well throughout cooking multiple dishes.
The two handles made serving food after cooking easy and convenient.
This wok felt quite heavy when tossing food.
Another standout was this carbon steel wok from Joyce Chen. This wok also has a flat bottom that works great for balancing on stovetops. It features two wooden handles which made maneuvering while cooking quite easy. The two handles also made transferring our cooked dishes from wok to plate seamless. We did find this wok pretty heavy for tossing food consecutive times, so using a chuan or large metal spatula is the best way to maneuver food in this wok.
This wok’s cooking area is very spacious, with plenty of room to work with a lot of products. Throughout testing, it remained incredibly stable and felt similar to a lighter cast iron pan with a wooden handle. The wok heated reasonably quickly, reaching close to boiling in around 14 minutes. We found it retained heat especially well throughout the cooking process. Moving food around with a spatula easily remedied any initial sticking inside the wok, and we were able to achieve ideal textures during cooking, like crispy grains in our fried rice and crusty edges on our fried beef. It was incredibly easy to clean and still looked great after testing. This wok is super durable and long-lasting for a great price.
Price at time of publish: $45.57
Size: 23.5 x 14 x 5.5 inches | Material: Carbon steel | Capacity: Not listed | Compatible Heat Sources: Induction, gas, electric coil | Care: Hand wash only
Best Budget: Cuisinart Pre-Seasoned Cast Iron Grilling Wok
This wok yielded some of the best-tasting fried beef we cooked in the test kitchen.
The cast iron material retained heat extremely well throughout our testing process.
This wok is heavier than other woks we tested and we found it necessary to maneuver with two hands during cooking.
The non-traditional wok shape and lower sides weren’t great for tossing.
The handles on this wok got very hot during cooking and we had to use pot holders.
While not the traditional wok shape, this Cast Iron Grilling “Wok” worked great throughout our cooking tests. It also comes in at a great price for those wanting to try wok recipes on a budget. This cast iron wok is very sturdy, durable, and heavier than other materials we tested. It comes with two handles of similar shape and size, unlike other woks that traditionally come with one long handle for maneuvering. We found it easier to move with two hands for increased stability, but it’s important to note that since the handles are the same material as the wok, they got very hot during testing — like 400 degrees hot. So be sure to use oven mitts or protective gloves when cooking with this one.
This wok heated up quickly and retained heat extremely well throughout our cooking tests. At 10 inches in size, it is smaller than others we tested, so we found it best not to overcrowd the pan or toss too vigorously. Despite the small size, we found it easy to maneuver food around in the pan. Despite some minor sticking, we were very satisfied with the results of our cook tests: Both recipes came out with great crispy textures, caramelization, and browning. The fried beef we made in this wok was some of the best from our tests. In traditional cast-iron style, this wok required no scrubbing and was very easy to wipe clean. And you can't beat the low price.
Price at time of publish: $32.99
Size: 13 x 10 x 3.6 inches | Material: Cast iron | Capacity: 5 quarts | Compatible Heat Sources: Electric, gas, oven | Care: Wipe clean with coarse salt and warm water, towel dry
Best Durability: Craft Wok Flat Hand-Hammered Carbon Steel Pow Wok
The wok provided some of the most evenly cooked food in our testing process.
This was one of the most stable woks we tested.
We found this wok heavier than others we tested.
The secondary handle gets very hot during cooking.
The hand-hammered look of the Craft Wok Carbon Steel Wok is really appealing and overall it felt very durable, sturdy, and stable. It was heavier than the others we tried, especially with food in it. (Tossing food would be best reserved for stronger chefs.) The second handle is helpful for stabilizing and maneuvering, but be aware that the secondary handle gets very hot during cooking.
This wok is a little wider and shorter on the sides than other woks we tested, but this actually helped to move around and toss the food, especially the rice. The pan was not overcrowded because of the angle of the sides, and we were able to push food aside to cook other things. This wok yielded some of the most evenly cooked food throughout our testing process. Barely any food stuck during cooking, and whatever remained was easily cleaned with water and a towel. This wok is well-priced for such a sturdy product that will last a long time.
Price at time of publish: $69.75
Size: 22.83 x 13.78 x 4.33 inches | Material: Carbon steel, wood handles | Capacity: 2.12 quarts | Compatible Heat Sources: Gas, induction, electric coil | Care: Hand wash
Best User-Friendly: Imusa USA Non-Coated Wok with Wooden Handles
We found maneuvering food in this wok easy and our recipes came out great.
This wok cooled down quickly after cooking, making clean-up fast and simple.
Some food stuck during cooking, but we were able to clean it with no scrubbing.
While mostly comfortable to handle, this wok felt a little heavy after multiple food tosses.
We found the Imusa Wok very easy to use in every aspect of our tests. The handles were helpful for maneuvering and tossing food. We found the wok comfortable to work with but did find it heavy after multiple tosses. The wood protected our hands from the heat, but the metal attachments got hot during cooking. This wok took a little longer to heat up, but it retained heat very well once hot. We also like how it cooled off quickly, making it easier to handle after cooking.
Movement around the wok was smooth and easy, and no product, aside from the egg, stuck. The recipes came out tasty, with nice coloring and texture. Cleaning was simple and straightforward, and any food bits that remained were very easily removed. From start to finish, this wok was incredibly simple to use, and it is quite affordable.
Price at time of publish: $24.99 (orig. $34.99)
Size: 23.62 x 14 x 5.31 inches | Material: Carbon steel, wood handles | Capacity: 3.16 quarts | Compatible Heat Sources: Gas | Care: Hand wash
Best for Large Portions: Cuisinart Carbon Steel Wok
This wok is well-balanced and stable on cooking surfaces.
This wok heated up quickly in testing.
Some food stuck while cooking, but was easy to clean up.
Some of the pre-seasoning came off in testing.
The Cuisinart Pre-Seasoned Wok is the ideal cookware to prepare food for a larger group of people. Stir fry and dumplings party, anyone? We were impressed with the capacity of this wok — 6.5 quarts — which is larger than any of our other top picks. Even at this size, it had great balance and the flat base made it very stable on the gas range during testing. The shorter handle was easy to move around while cooking without jeopardizing the balance.
Considering the size of this wok, it was not too heavy to toss food. We needed two hands to maneuver because of its large capacity but felt really comfortable handling this wok even with two pounds of beef. The very wide diameter was ideal to have an even layer of food without crowding the wok. It was also able to boil water in under 10 minutes, which was impressive compared to other woks we tested. We also achieved the ideal color and texture in our recipes. However, we found some of the pre-seasoning came off during testing, so this wok should be reseasoned after the first use. While some food became stuck while cooking, it was easily cleaned up with a little soap and water. For the quality, this wok is well-priced, and your friends will thank you the next time you host.
Price at time of publish: $44.95
Size: 14.25 x 5.5 inches | Material: Carbon steel, wood handles | Capacity: 6.5 quarts | Compatible Heat Sources: Gas, electric, induction | Care: Hand wash
Best Pre-Seasoned: Mammafong Pre-Seasoned Blue Carbon Steel Flat-Bottom Pow Wok
This wok came pre-seasoned so we could start cooking without prior steps.
We found this pan lightweight enough for easy maneuvering and tossing.
Some food became stuck during testing.
The handle angle felt slightly awkward for underhanded use while cooking.
If you’re new to woks, rest easy. This flat-bottom carbon steel wok from Mamma Fong is for you. If the idea of seasoning your work seems intimidating, this wok comes pre-seasoned to cut down on your prep work before using it. In most of our cooking tests, we were able to cook the food quickly, easily, and without any sticking. We did have some sticking while cooking our fried rice, so we’d recommend layering up on seasoning with this wok for the long run. The two handles are helpful for maneuvering, though the smaller secondary handle doesn’t have a protective wood covering. The angle of the main handle felt a little steep and hard to maneuver underhand when tossing food.
The shape of the wok was ideal for stirring and redistributing food: Even with a full pan, it was easy to keep an even distribution. The size of the cooking surface was excellent and efficient for cooking around the intentional hot spots on the sides of the wok. It’s even oven safe, which is a plus. Cleaning was a breeze, and with some more seasoning over time, this wok will have you cooking like a pro.
Price at time of publish: $80 (orig. $94.99)
Size: 7.5 x 14 x 22.5 inches | Material: Carbon steel | Capacity: 2.96 quarts | Compatible Heat Sources: Gas, electric, coil, oven | Care: Hand wash only
Best Lightweight: Yosukata Carbon Steel Wok Pan
This wok both heated up and cooled down fairly quickly.
Due to the convenient shape and long handle, we were able to toss food with one hand easily in this wok.
The parts of the handle that contain metal got very hot during cooking.
This Flat Bottom Wok from Yosukata was a favorite during testing for its lightweight design. We were impressed with its maneuverability while cooking multiple dishes, and tossing food with one hand was much easier than with any other wok we tested. We loved how quickly this one heated up; it reached boiling temperature in about 11 minutes. (We think this wok would also be great for deep frying.) It cooled down quickly between dishes, making it easier to handle, but it’s important to note while the handle remained cool to the touch, the metal portion connecting the wooden handle to the wok did get very hot during cooking.
We found cooking with this wok very simple and were able to push around the ingredients without any hindrances. The dishes we cooked exhibited great flavor and texture. Some food stuck behind after cooking but was easily wiped clean with a damp paper towel. Overall, this pick is durable and stable throughout cooking and would be a great, affordable option for small to medium-sized families.
Price at time of publish: $69.99
Size: 13.5 x 3.8 inches | Material: Steel carbon base, wood handle | Capacity: 1.4 gallons | Compatible Heat Sources: Induction, gas, grill, open fire | Care: Hand wash
Best Wok Set: Helen's Asian Kitchen Flat Bottom Carbon Steel Wok Set
The wide angle of the sides made mixing and tossing food very easy.
This wok was quite lightweight and easy to maneuver.
It cooled down quickly after cooking so it was easy to handle.
During our cooking tests, the handle became a little unsteady as a screw had become loose.
This wok took a little longer to heat up than the other ones we tested.
This wok set from Helen Chen is all you need to start cooking. It comes with a domed lid, a bamboo spatula, and a recipe booklet. Two wooden handles make for easy maneuvering and serving, though one of the handle screws did become a little loose during testing. However, we were still able to continue the full testing process, and we noted that the metal attachments for the handles did get hot during cooking.
It was incredibly easy to make space for cooking in this wok: The width and angle of the sides lend to easy tossing and distributing of the food. It felt quite lightweight, too, making tossing the food really easy. We found it took a little longer to heat up and didn’t get as hot as other woks to achieve our beef recipe's desired crispy, fried textures. It did cool down quickly, making it easy to handle after cooking. However, our fried rice tests came out with great textures and flavors. This set is a great value for such a quality wok, and it’s an ideal option for those building their cookware collection.
Price at time of publish: $48.99
Size: 14 x 5.25 x 14 inches | Material: Steel carbon, wood handles, bamboo spatula | Capacity: Not listed | Compatible Heat Sources: Smooth surface induction, gas, electric coil | Care: Hand wash
Best for Outdoor Cooking: Lodge Bold Cast Iron Wok
This wok felt sturdy and stable throughout testing.
The wide base allowed for easy stirring of the ingredients in our cook tests.
The handles on this wok got very hot during cooking.
We found it difficult to maneuver the wok with one hand.
This cast iron wok from Lodge is a great option for outdoor cooking. Its sturdy and durable cast iron material is ideal for open fires. We loved the wider profile of this wok that made stirring the ingredients while cooking simple and easy. It has two smaller handles, which is different than most of the woks we tested. We found it very stable while cooking, but it was difficult to maneuver with one hand, and we found more success when using both hands. It’s important to note that the handles on this wok are also made of cast iron and got very hot during our tests. Be sure to have quality thick oven mitts or towels on hand when handling this one.
Our food came out excellent with the desired texture. Some ingredients stuck to the pan during cooking, but with proper and repeated seasoning, this wok’s nonstick qualities will increase over time. This wok’s cast iron is so durable it could last a lifetime and will surely be a favorite at many BBQs and campfires.
Price at time of publish: $90
Size: 16.81 x 4.75 x 14.31 inches | Material: Cast iron | Capacity: 3.17 quarts | Compatible Heat Sources: Induction, open fire, oven | Care: Hand wash
Best Handles: Milk Street 3-Piece 13-Inch Hammered Carbon Steel Wok
This wok is extremely stable, so tossing and maneuvering while cooking is easy.
Its hammered surface is attractive and prevents food from sticking.
Some of our food didn’t get as crispy as we’d hoped.
The two stainless steel handles on this Milk Streek wok were our favorite for their sturdy construction and functionality. Tossing, swirling, and handling this wok throughout our testing process felt stable, easy, and comfortable. The alternate handle was fairly hot to the touch during cook tests, but didn't heat as quickly nor get as hot as the pan, and using an oven mitt for that handle was enough to make it functional and available while cooking.
In our cook tests, we noticed that the food tended to steam as opposed to fry. We weren’t able to get some of the crispier textures when cooking like with other woks we tested. We like the hammered surface on this wok for its visual appeal and nonstick quality, and it comes with a tempered glass lid, a steam vent, and a metal steamer rack. These are great additions if you like multifunctional implements in your kitchen. The overall quality of the materials used in this wok and the increased functionality of the handles make it an excellent pick for home chefs willing to invest a bit more in their cooking experience.
Price at time of publish: $155.95
Size: 13 x 3.74 inches | Material: Carbon steel, stainless steel handles, tempered glass lid | Capacity: Not listed | Compatible Heat Sources: Gas, electric, induction stovetops | Care: Hand wash
Best Splurge: Smithey Ironware Co. Hand-Forged Carbon Steel Wok
We found maneuvering this wok and tossing food very easy while cooking.
We were impressed with the taste and texture of the food cooked in this wok during testing.
It felt unbalanced when cooking on a flat range top, and so a wok ring was added to support and stabilize it during testing.
It worked best with smaller amounts of food.
More than just a piece of high-quality cookware, this Smithey wok is a conversation starter. It’s hand-forged by a blacksmith, and that’s sure to impress your dinner party guests along with whatever yummy dish you’ve cooked in the Smithey Ironware Hand-Forged Wok. This flat-bottom wok also comes pre-seasoned for added convenience.
The handles on this wok are carbon steel as well and felt sturdier than others we’ve tested. (Use pot holders when cooking as the handles become extremely hot.) We learned through testing that this wok works best when paired with a wok ring to stabilize it on your cooktop, and we found it also worked best with smaller amounts of food, so it’s ideal for preparing meals for a few people. We found tossing food in it quite easy compared to some other woks we tested.
While this wok took a little longer than others to reach a boiling temperature, it retained heat extremely well throughout the entire cooking process. We were impressed by the taste and texture of the food prepared in the wok and appreciated that everything cooked quickly without any sticking or residue left behind. Even though this price tag is steeper than others we tested, we were won over by the flavor and textures of the dishes we cooked in this one.
Price at time of publish: $325
Size: 23 x 13 x 8 inches | Material: Hand-Forged carbon steel | Capacity: Not listed | Compatible Heat Sources: Gas, electric, induction, glass top, grill, open flame | Care: Hand wash
Others Woks We Tried
Joyce Chen Cast Iron Wok: This Cast Iron Wok from Joyce Chen is an overall well-performing wok for a great price of $33. It was lighter and easier to handle than other cast iron woks we tested. The wood handles also added more functionality while cooking. Some food stuck during our cook tests but was fairly easily cleaned up. Our dishes came out well in our cook tests but this wok was slow to heat up compared to others, so it didn't quite make our list.
Zhen SanHuan Hand-Hammered Carbon Steel Blue Wok: The Zhen SanHuan Carbon Steel wok proved durable and sturdy during our tests. The large cooking surface was easy to stir and maneuver ingredients in, but the weight of this wok was a bit of an issue during testing. It was heavier than others we tested, and maneuvering the wok during cooking and clean-up was difficult. While it produced decent food, this $259 price was much steeper than other similar woks we tested.
Food52 Ultimate Carbon Steel Wok: While we enjoyed using this $120 wok during our cook tests, the design differs from that of a traditional wok. The lower sides are similar to a large skillet. The steel handles were easy to use and comfortable during tests, and while tossing and cooking with this wok was a breeze, we weren’t able to achieve the desired fried texture in our recipes like with other woks we tested.
Things to Consider Before Buying a Wok
Traditional woks are designed with a flat or rounded base and tall, sloping sides. The high sides are crucial to the cooking process and help when tossing and frying food. Finding a wok with this classic shape is a great place to start if you’re looking to cook foods traditionally made in woks. Consider features like wooden or stainless steel handles that’ll make cooking easier. Some woks, like the Craft Wok Carbon Steel Wok, come with hammered surfaces to help prevent food from sticking and add an interesting aesthetic. Woks can be made with different materials, such as cast iron or carbon steel; your preference may be something lighter or easier to hold. Also, consider choosing an appropriately sized wok for the portions you often cook.
Woks are beloved by chefs because they can cook food at very high temperatures quickly. Your ideal wok will be able to heat up relatively quickly and retain that heat. Another feature of a good wok is its nonstick nature which is achieved through seasoning. Seasoning a wok involves applying and baking on a protective coating of oil which will keep food from sticking to the cooking surface. Some woks come pre-seasoned but sometimes seasoning a wok yourself can yield better results.
Also consider how easy the wok is to use: Is stirring and tossing ingredients simple and efficient? Another important factor to consider is cleanup. Ideally, a wok is easy to clean with water and a little mild dish soap.
When well taken care of, a good wok can last a lifetime. Carbon steel and cast iron are some of the most durable materials available for this type of cookware. On top of that, consider how the handles are attached and if they feel secure. Also, the gauge of the metal (thickness) can help determine the durability of a wok over time.
The woks we tested ranged in price from $29.95 to $325 with an average price of $96. Different materials or features can affect the price of a wok. You can get a quality wok for an affordable price — like the Cuisinart Pre-Seasoned Cast Iron Grilling Wok — and extend its durability and performance with good care.
How We Tested
Our PEOPLE Tested team researched the most popular woks and rounded up 18 for this test. We spoke to professional cook and writer Tim Chin to get some expert insight on appropriate tests we could perform in our lab, and we gathered a group of professional chefs to put these woks to work. We observed and cooked with each wok to evaluate them in four categories:
Ease of use: To test each wok's user-friendliness, we tossed dried rice in each of them before beginning the cooking process. This helped us get a sense of the weight and design of the wok, as well as note any maneuverability issues.
Performance: We tested the wok's heat responsiveness by boiling water, and we then made fried rice (with eggs) to test how simple it was to toss, stir-fry, and batch cook in the wok. After that, we cooked dried beef to test each wok's performance at high heat. Of course, we also tasted our cooked food to make note of any lack of crispiness or texture inconsistencies.
Durability: Throughout testing, our chefs made note of any quality issues and observed any changes in the wok from unboxing to our final test batches. They also used their industry knowledge to comment on whether or note the wok seems like it will last over time.
Ease of cleaning: Once finished, we cleaned the woks and took note of any stuck food that resisted removal.
Our testers recorded their observations and rated each wok on a scale from one to five, with one being the poorest performer and five being the best. The woks with the highest averages were selected for this article.
Frequently Asked Questions
What are the different types of woks?
In terms of types of construction, there are hand-hammered, stamped, and spun woks. “Most woks these days are spun, because it's simply easy to manufacture and they're a bit cheaper, “ says Chin. He appreciates the concentric circles on machine-made spun woks that mimic the non-stick texture of hand-hammered woks — but at a more affordable price.
Woks can be categorized by materials, such as carbon steel or cast iron. Woks can also be divided by the style of handles. Cantonese-style woks have two smaller handles, while Northern-style woks have one long handle (similar to a Western skillet).
What material should a wok be made from?
There are pros and cons to all materials but Chin recommends carbon steel. “It’s inexpensive, usually spun, and it has a pretty good gauge, usually 14 gauge or 2 mm. In terms of heat responsiveness and retention, it performs really well and is very durable.”
Beginners may want to choose a carbon steel wok like the Mammafong Pre-Seasoned Blue Carbon Steel Flat Bottom Wok. Cast iron woks are very traditional and also have their benefits, but Chin warns they can be “fickle” and “brittle” at thinner gauges.
What is the most popular wok size?
Almost all of our top picks mentioned in this article were between 13 to 14 inches in diameter. Our testers found these easiest to use and maneuver while cooking. We also selected both smaller and larger woks for our top picks, which are best for those cooking very small or very large portions. Our top pick for a large wok, the Cuisinart Pre-Seasoned Wok, can hold up to 6.5 quarts of food, so it’s ideal for larger gatherings.
Why Trust PEOPLE
L.A Hubilla is a freelance commerce writer for PEOPLE specializing in home and lifestyle content. She also tests products for a variety of digital outlets including Travel + Leisure, People, Byrdie, and InStyle, among others.
For this article, she consulted the test results and observations for the best woks gathered by the PEOPLE Tested team. She compared them with in-depth expert insight from Tim Chin, a professional cook and writer at Serious Eats. Chin cooked for years at restaurants in New York and Boston, working at Rouge Tomate, Northern Spy, and most recently, BiSq. He also spent three years at America’s Test Kitchen, creating and testing recipes.
What Is People Tested?
We created the PEOPLE Tested seal of approval to help you find the very best products for your life. We use our unique methodology to test products in three labs across the country and with our network of home testers to determine their effectiveness, durability, ease of use, and so much more. Based on the results, we rate and recommend products so you can find the right one for your needs.
But we don’t stop there: We also regularly re-review the categories in which we’ve awarded the PEOPLE Tested seal of approval — because the best product of today might not be the best of tomorrow. And by the way, companies can never buy our recommendation: Their products must earn it, fair and square.
In short, PEOPLE Tested provides recommendations you can trust — every day, every purchase.
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