Selecting a Cast Iron Wok

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.

Wok on Foodista

Comments on this entry are closed.

  • Alisa@Foodista April 23, 2009, 1:51 pm

    Great post Allen.When I was a child,I remember watching a cooking show called “Wok with Yan”, and have always been fascinated by this really big “frying pan”.I also have a cast iron wok…and you can really “wok” wonders with it :)

  • syafi November 10, 2009, 12:55 am

    I bought my 1st cast iron wok today – a small 10″ wok. new in malaysia for about $6 usd. store owner told me to boil chinese tea in it, then dry fry coconut meat in it for a week to season it.

  • syafi November 10, 2009, 12:56 am

    Forgot to mention, I plan to use it with my 6 year old smokeless wood burning rocket stove :)

  • Mary Little March 1, 2010, 5:37 pm

    I loved my cast iron wok, but it got damaged during one of my various apartment moves – the thin metal is actually quite brittle. Ended up buying a carbon steel wok from woksfordinner.com (I think they are in SF too).

    Got the smallest 12″ wok, because I’m typically only cooking for myself and my boyfriend. I think it cost me $14 and I use it almost every week. Love it.

    Syafi – not sure about the chinese tea and dried coconut for seasoning. I just baked mine in the oven a couple of times with oil and salt.

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