I recently purchased a 16 inch Traditional Cast Iron Wok from The Wok Shop and absolutely love it. However, I didn’t realize how many choices there were when deciding to buy a wok — cast iron vs. stainless steel, flat bottom vs. round bottom, long handle vs. side handles, nonstick vs. no coating … and the list goes on.
For me, I wanted a wok that would be functional and as authentic to the traditional wok as possible. I did most of my research online to understand the pros and cons of each wok element, then visited a local and well-known wok shop (i.e. The Wok Shop) located in San Francisco’s China Town. In retrospect I could have skipped much of my research and just visited The Wok Shop as they are the professionals when it comes to woks and can answer any question.
Woks are all about cooking food quickly and extremely high heat, so choosing a wok depends greatly on what sort of range you are using. I use a gas range and therefore a round bottom wok worked best, especially since I could purchase a wok ring attachment for my rangetop. The attachment replaces one my burners with a ring that the wok sets into, stabilizing the wok but also allowing the fire to have more contact with the wok. Flat bottom woks are primarily used on electric stoves to provide as much surface contact with the burner.
I decided to get a cast iron wok instead of a stainless steel or hammered steel version. I love cast iron and think it’s so much more functional that very expensive alternatives. The cast iron wok is surprisingly not heavy and the metal is actually quite thin (hmmm, like 1/8″ thick). The Wok Shop noted that the cast iron round bottom wok is also the most traditional. Other woks with longer handles or nonstick surfaces were available, but these were not features with the cast iron wok.
I’ve had the wok for a few months now and find myself using several times a week. It is easy to use — it heats up very quickly and allows me to make a killer fried rice or stir-fry dish. Clean-up is simple — hot water and a good scrub. I purchased a stiff bristled brush that makes easy work of any bits that stick to the wok, however the surface becomes naturally nonstick within a matter of a few uses. I find that hardly anything sticks to the surface and clean up is often much easier than other cookware.
Of course, I forgot to mention the biggest criteria for selecting a wok … the cost! When I visited stores like Macy’s, I found woks ranging from $100-200 and they weren’t very authentic. The wok I purchased was about $20 and I love it.