The 2 Best Woks of 2023


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Oct 07, 2023

The 2 Best Woks of 2023

A Wok Shop owner told us they had a production stoppage, but will resume

A Wok Shop owner told us they had a production stoppage, but will resume shipping their woks at the beginning of April. We're also testing the Sur La Table Professional Carbon Steel Wok.

Woks are versatile and made to last, so shopping for one can be a once-in-a-lifetime task. To find the best options, we spoke with experts and then got to work sautéing, frying, and steaming. One clear winner stood out: The Wok Shop 14-inch Carbon Steel Wok With Metal Side Handle. Due to its softly curved angles, it performs a lot like a professional, round-bottom wok. And its comfortable-to-hold wooden handle and light weight make this wok easier to lift, toss, and pour from.

We tested both unseasoned and pre-seasoned carbon-steel woks, plus one nonstick wok, noting what it took to get them ready for cooking.

Almost all of the woks we tested delivered tasty, char-kissed veggies and tender seared chicken, but some were much easier to use.

Even our unseasoned woks, well-oiled from a few sautée rounds, released eggs well. But we found that the bowl shape really mattered.

Savory egg custard and crispy tofu cubes showed us the full range of what woks can do. We checked especially for stability.

This is the best all-around wok. It is simple to grip, lightweight, and stable on the stovetop, yet it's rounded for easy frying. This model requires seasoning, but the payoff is worth it. Note that shipping costs an additional $15-$25.

shipping not included

The Wok Shop 14-inch Carbon Steel Wok With Metal Side Handle outperformed the others in pretty much every way: It was the easiest to grip and one of the lightest we tested. The bottom is just flat enough to stay stable on the stovetop, yet it's rounded enough for unobstructed stir-frying. The trickiest part was seasoning the wok—a necessary first step for any unseasoned carbon-steel pan and an ongoing process that's achieved through cooking with the pan. But just as advertised, this wok became more evenly seasoned with each use. And for cookware that could last you decades, this wok is also a great value—even when factoring in the shipping costs. (The Wok Shop also makes the wok with a wooden side handle instead of metal. That handle is more comfortable to grip, but it takes up more space and may get scorched by a gas flame.)


This lovely pre-seasoned wok provides a shortcut to a slick surface (though it still requires some prep). This one is stable but heavy, so lifting it requires some strength (and likely both hands).

Some manufacturers have woks that promise to take the seasoning step out of your hands. The Yosukata 14-inch Pre-Seasoned Blue Carbon Steel Wok is one of them—although it still requires some minimal seasoning and cleaning before use. This wok has a smooth, hand-hammered bowl with a teal tint from the blue steel. It is technically a round-bottom wok (Yosukata's similar, flat-bottom wok is a little smaller, and we haven't tested it yet). But the bottom is so wide and nearly flat that it's very stable on the stovetop and requires no wok ring. However, since the Yosukata wok is nearly 5 pounds, we found it difficult to lift (so others may too). We recommend this wok for folks who are willing to spend more for style and convenience, and for those who have the strength and mobility to maneuver a heavier wok.

This is the best all-around wok. It is simple to grip, lightweight, and stable on the stovetop, yet it's rounded for easy frying. This model requires seasoning, but the payoff is worth it. Note that shipping costs an additional $15-$25.

shipping not included

This lovely pre-seasoned wok provides a shortcut to a slick surface (though it still requires some prep). This one is stable but heavy, so lifting it requires some strength (and likely both hands).

This guide's writer, Cathy Erway, is a cookbook author and James Beard Award–winning food writer who's covered Chinese food and home cooking extensively. Her cookbook, The Food of Taiwan, was one of the first English-language cookbooks on the cuisine of Taiwan, her mother's homeland. Cathy is the co-author of the upcoming Win Son Presents: A Taiwanese American Cookbook and host of the Asian American storytelling podcast Self Evident.

For this guide, we interviewed wok-cooking experts, including the cookbook authors Hsiao-Ching Chou and J. Kenji López-Alt; cooking video star Jon Kung; the Made With Lau family (Chung Sun Lau, Jenny Lau, and Randy Lau); and Grace Young, author of the wok-cooking manifesto The Breath of a Wok.

We scoured cooking sites such as Serious Eats, The Kitchn, and Food52, as well as retailers like Amazon, The Restaurant Store, and Williams-Sonoma, looking for best-selling or highly recommended woks. After determining our criteria for what makes a good wok, we narrowed our pool to six finalists, and we put them through a series of cooking tests.

A proper wok is a great addition to any kitchen. This cooking vessel's deep, wide bowl is ideal for everything from quickly sautéing vegetables with garlic to gently braising meats, like for this Three-Cup Chicken recipe. A wok responds to heat quickly and chars ingredients beautifully, imbuing them with wok hei (a smoky essence, the je ne sais quoi of wok cooking). Use a wok to blister green beans or shishito peppers. Make delicious fried rice with little more than the leftovers in your fridge. And, of course, a wok is perfect for cooking a classic protein and vegetable stir-fry, such as beef with broccoli.

The wok's graduated depth also makes it great for deep-frying, steaming, and boiling. You might find yourself pulling it out to make fried chicken, steamed veggies, or one-pot pasta meals. Trendy cookware pieces like the Always pan or the multipurpose "chef's pan" aim for that everyday versatility too, but this is not a particularly new idea: Their shape and size are similar to that of a traditional wok.

We think everyone could benefit from owning a good wok. But answering the question of who should get one really comes down to having realistic expectations about what a wok can accomplish and how much care is required. This guide is aimed at home cooks looking for ease and everyday utility without sacrificing function.

A classic round-bottom wok is the workhorse of Chinese restaurants, where stir-fries are rapidly tossed and kissed with flame over roaring industrial ranges. When it comes to wok cooking, this is the imagery that many conjure. But a typical home kitchen's gas range puts out about 2,000 BTU, compared with a professional restaurant's range of 100,000 BTU or more. Some might chase that restaurant-style heat with high-BTU backyard burner setups or by using a wok ring directly on their burners, but we don't think that's very practical for weeknight dinners. That's why we decided early on to test mostly flat-bottom-style woks, which are likely to work well on most home kitchens’ gas, electric, or induction stovetops without too much tinkering. (We tested our picks on both a gas stovetop and a portable induction cooktop, to ensure that they worked with induction technology and were stable on a slick, flat surface.)

We also recognize that learning to season a wok can present a barrier for some. Carbon steel (the classic wok material) has many advantages. But since it requires seasoning before use, we also considered alternatives in the form of pre-seasoned carbon steel or nonstick coatings, so we could weigh the pros of those conveniences against any cons.

Woks may seem pretty standard—a big, round pot with a handle attached. This feels especially true when you control for such standard elements as carbon steel and a flat-bottom shape. But as we researched and tested, we found that details like the weight of a wok or the angle of a handle can have a big impact on a wok's user-friendliness. We narrowed down what to test and made our picks based on a few main criteria:

If you’re going to own one wok, all of the experts we spoke with cited this as the ideal size. A smaller, 12-inch wok might be suitable for one- or two-person cooking or for someone with less hand or upper-body strength. But a 14-inch wok allows for larger portions and provides more room to stir-fry without losing ingredients. Anything larger and it starts to become unwieldy. (Note that some woks can measure a half-inch to an inch smaller or larger than 14 inches, which is fine.)

Though we also looked at woks made of cast iron, tri-ply stainless steel, and other metals with nonstick coatings, it was clear after all of our research and speaking with experts that most experienced wok users prefer carbon steel. It conducts heat quickly and efficiently, is light and easy to maneuver, and over time acquires a patina of seasoning mimicking that of nonstick coatings (minus the environmental and public health concerns). This seasoning only gets better and more nonstick-like the more you use the wok. We also made sure to include a couple of pre-seasoned carbon-steel woks in our testing, to see whether they could really provide a shortcut to a nice, slick patina.

Nonstick coatings aren't a great fit because woks are meant to be used at high temperatures: Often, the first step is to heat the wok until it smokes, which will break down a nonstick coating pretty quickly. Wok surfaces also tend to take a beating from the spatula. As cookbook author Hsiao-Ching Chou put it, "The whole point of stir-frying is you keep stirring it around, so you’re gonna scrape the heck out of it." Still, we understand that some people are attached to nonstick surfaces. So we tested one—the popular Joyce Chen Pro Wok with Excalibur Nonstick Coating—based on a recommendation from cookbook author Andrea Nguyen. (You can read our notes on it in the Competition.)

The Lodge Cast-Iron Wok has a strong fanbase, but cast-iron woks tend to heat very slowly and are often too heavy to lift, making it hard to toss as you stir. As J. Kenji López-Alt explained, tossing is great when you’re cooking on a gas range, because the flame can reach ingredients at the edge of the wok or kiss aerosols that fly up, therefore imbuing your food with wok hei (that signature wok flavor, which cookbook author and wok expert Grace Young coined "the breath of the wok").

Tri-ply stainless steel woks are also quite heavy. And the material is somewhat antithetical to stir-frying, wok-cooking video creator Jon Kung said, because of how "grippy" it is. Ingredients will lock onto its surface and get a good sear but not release immediately.

We opted to test mostly flat-bottom woks—an elegant, decades-old modification to the traditionally rounded wok—since flat bottoms provide better stability on a home stovetop. But not all woks with flat bottoms are equal, and we found that those with smaller surfaces made stir-frying precarious. We also found that the 14-inch Yosukata wok, which is technically a round-bottom wok, had such a wide and flat shape that it offered enough stability without a wok ring. (Yosukata also makes a smaller, 13½-inch flat-bottom wok, but we were unable to test it in this round and will do so in future testing.)

Some might choose to use a wok ring, which can securely support a rounded bottom on top of a gas range. However, a wok ring is one more thing you have to store and take out when you cook, and in some cases using one may involve removing your burner grate. A wok-ring setup also won't work with electric radiant or induction stovetops.

We tested all of our woks on a gas range and on a portable induction stovetop, to gauge the stability and ease of use on both surfaces. While we hope in the future to do more-thorough testing on full induction and electric ranges, for now we’re satisfied that our picks are stable and heat up well, even on a portable induction cooker (which is significantly less powerful than a full induction range).

There are different traditional wok styles, such as a pow wok with just a stick handle or a Canton-style wok with two small side handles. But we decided to test woks with both a stick handle (for tossing and maneuvering) and a helper handle (for lifting and pouring). This combination seemed to offer the greatest comfort and convenience for the modern home cook. The more we tested, the more pronounced the pros and cons of small tweaks in the stick handle designs became. Most of the woks we tested had a thick, chubby wooden stick handle, with an inch or two of carbon steel wrapped around it where it was attached to the bowl. And that bit of steel gets very hot while you’re cooking. Some of the woks we tested were so heavy that we really needed to move our hands closer to the wok's bowl for leverage when lifting. When I didn't cover that metal portion of the handle with a thick towel first, I’d sometimes forget it was there and burn my hand. Only our top pick, The Wok Shop's wok, had an ergonomic, comfortable-to-hold fully wooden handle bolted to a thick, curved piece of metal, which was welded to the wok's bowl. That design made gripping the handle and lifting the wok much easier. (This wok was also among the lightest of those we tested, and that made tossing and pouring ingredients out much easier.)

We didn't see a huge difference in how well the pans developed seasoning (in our experience, the shape of the pan had a larger effect on ingredients sticking). But we liked that some of the woks we tested included cardboard sleeves with seasoning instructions or links to how-tos or videos on the company's website. The seasoning methods ultimately didn't differ significantly, but the quality of communication did. Our top pick, from The Wok Shop, came with its own pamphlet of seasoning methods and care instructions; this set of instructions was the most well-organized and helpful among the woks we tested. And Grace Young said The Wok Shop's owner, Tane Chen, responds to customers (via email) who have queries about the company's woks.

Once we determined the six woks we would be testing, we started by prepping and seasoning them. All of them—including the nonstick or pre-seasoned woks—called for a good wash and at least some treatment with oil. To get a proper seasoning started, the unseasoned carbon-steel woks required a few more steps. Some manufacturers’ instructions were more clear than others, so we defaulted to Grace Young's basic oil method, from The Breath of a Wok, across all of the models we tested. Then we took our woks to task on a number of everyday cooking trials:

Sautéing: For our first test, we sautéed a clutch of baby bok choy with garlic. The woks all heated rapidly and lent char to the vegetables as we tossed. Though all of the woks turned out a similar product in the end—crisp-tender bok choy, lightly kissed with wok hei—I began to notice how small details could help or hinder cooking. For instance, some handles were secured with large rivets on the inside of the wok bowl, and those rivets clanged noisily and interrupted my flow whenever I hit one with the metal spatula. Some woks (including our picks) didn't have rivets. And some woks had much sharper angles where the flat bottom met the sides, making them clunkier to stir-fry in when we were using the classic broad, rectangular wok spatula.

Stir-frying: The next task was stir-frying a classic combo: chicken with broccoli. We started by searing the marinated chicken (sliced breast meat, lean and prone to sticking), which was a challenge for fairly new woks. Again, they all performed similarly, except for the nonstick wok, which didn't sear as well. (To be fair, we didn't heat the nonstick wok as high as the others, partly due to conventional nonstick-pan wisdom and partly because I was detecting a strange plasticky smell.)

By this stage, it was becoming much more noticeable how the contours of the bottoms could change the cooking experience. One wok had a much smaller base, which made for precarious stir-frying. I didn't want to let go of the handle for one second, for fear the wok would tip over. The woks with a larger-diameter base felt much more stable. In the woks with a sharper angle between the sides and bottom, chicken tended to get stuck in those crevices and tear rather than release cleanly. Per our recipe, once the chicken was seared, we scooped it out into a dish and added broccoli to the wok next. In any woks where torn bits of chicken remained stuck in those crevices, we had to rinse them out before adding the broccoli so the leftover food wouldn't burn. This was a pain, and it also made us lose out on layering the chicken-y flavor in the pan with the broccoli we were stir-frying next.

Fried eggs: When frying an egg in each model, I once again found that woks with sharp angles (where the flat bottom met the sides) were problematic. For one, they limited the number of eggs that could be fried at a time. And if the egg was not centered perfectly in the wok's flat bottom, without touching those steep ridges around the sides, then its shape would be oddly molded to the circular rim (see the third photo, below).

Deep-frying: We skipped the nonstick wok for this round because the standard temperature for deep-frying (375 degrees Fahrenheit) already surpassed the nonstick wok's 350-degree oven-safe limit. We also skipped testing the wok with the too-small base, since a large, wobbly pan full of bubbling oil seemed like a bad idea. Carbon-steel cookware is great for deep-frying because it responds to changes in heat much more quickly than, say, cast-iron cookware does. When we dropped cold tofu cubes into the hot oil, we looked for the oil to come back up to its original temperature in good time. The bowl-like shape of a wok also lets you use less oil to fry up a smaller batch of ingredients; this makes deep-frying on a weeknight more approachable and efficient than if you had to heat gallons of oil in a large pot. So we also observed how the shape of each wok's bowl allowed for a spectrum of cooking volumes.

Steaming: For our last experiment, we steamed a bowl of egg custard, testing the fit and efficacy of a lid with each wok. Since most woks don't come with a lid, you’ll likely have to buy one separately. We purchased an unfussy aluminum domed wok lid designed to fit 14-inch woks. (Unlike the lids of straight-sided pots and pans, which require an exact fit to function well, a wok lid can rest inside the pan's edges and still work perfectly fine. A tall, domed lid provides adequate head space for whatever you’re steaming inside.) Each of the final woks worked well with the lid while steaming the egg custard (though it was a close call for the Yosukata Pre-Seasoned Blue Carbon Steel Wok, whose wide, rounded bottom had the lid sitting much deeper in the pan, allowing less clearance over the bowl of custard).

Steaming with these fairly new carbon-steel woks also gave us a chance to observe how their burgeoning patinas held up to boiling liquids (this typically causes seasoning to lift off the pan's surface). Naturally, most of the woks’ patinas began to slough off in spots. (I put them to use soon after with an oily sautéed dish, just to reinforce those areas.) However, the pre-seasoned wok withstood the boiling test better than the others, since its patina had been baked on by the manufacturer.

As we cooked, we made detailed observations about all of our criteria: handle design and heat retention; the woks’ weight; bowl shape and angle of incline; and the presence and position of metal rivets that might disrupt stir-frying.

This is the best all-around wok. It is simple to grip, lightweight, and stable on the stovetop, yet it's rounded for easy frying. This model requires seasoning, but the payoff is worth it. Note that shipping costs an additional $15-$25.

shipping not included

The Wok Shop 14-inch Carbon Steel Wok With Metal Side Handle stood out from the others for many reasons. This classic wok has a stable yet rounded shape that's ideal for stir-frying. It feels sturdy and solidly built, yet we also found it was comfortable to lift. Weighing less than 4 pounds, this wok was one of the lightest we tested, and it had a uniquely shaped handle that provided extra leverage.

Some other woks felt wobbly, but The Wok Shop's pan has a flat, wide bottom. So it provides stability on a flat surface, like an induction cooktop. And, importantly, it has smooth, rounded edges circling that flat bottom. So when you swirl a metal spatula around the whole surface, it doesn't get stuck in any crevices; rather, food releases easily from every part of the wok. And there were no rivets to interfere with the spatula.

A major factor differentiating this wok from others we tested was its wooden handle, which has a contoured shape that helps you get a good grip. And instead of that wooden handle being wrapped with metal, as on other woks we tested, it's attached to the bowl via a unique, L-shaped metal piece. So it's safer to grasp the handle closer to the bowl, providing extra leverage. That L-shaped piece is welded to the wok bowl, but you can screw the wooden handle on and off, which is great for portability. You can also hang the wok by a loop at the end of the handle (something most other pans we tested lacked).

The care and seasoning instructions that came with this wok were also helpful: Everything you need to know is included in one detailed and thorough pamphlet. Other companies had us searching online for videos or instructions. (The actual development of seasoning was about the same with all of the woks we tested. This process takes time, but it's absolutely worth it.)

This wok comes in a variety of sizes and with multiple combinations of features. You can choose the same wok in 12- and 16-inch versions, with a round bottom, or with a wide wooden helper handle (instead of a metal, ear-shaped helper handle). While we think the 14-inch flat-bottom wok is the most practical and versatile, you might have particular needs that would benefit from a bigger or smaller wok, or you may have a setup that suits a round-bottom wok. The Wok Shop also sells many wok accessories, from spatulas to lids to wok rings.

Tane Chen has been selling woks at The Wok Shop, an independent business in the heart of San Francisco's Chinatown, for over 40 years. If you’re in the area, you can drop in and ask any wok-related questions. (For those who are not local, there is an extensive FAQ on The Wok Shop's website.) The store truly is an institution of both wok cookery and Chinese culture in America. This background did not play into our decision to name The Wok Shop wok our top pick. But we do appreciate that buying from this woman-owned small business helps to preserve a vital part of San Francisco's Chinatown.

As with any non-pre-seasoned carbon-steel wok, it takes a while for the seasoning and patina to really work its magic; that's not a flaw of this wok in particular but of any carbon-steel wok without a manufacturer-applied pre-seasoning. (Note that the images of The Wok Shop wok in this guide were taken after it had been used in our series of tests, showing a patina that is very much a work in progress; the original product out of the box is a smooth silver.) Owning, seasoning, and maintaining the seasoning on a carbon-steel wok is a long game, but people have been doing it in their homes for centuries. Though it may seem an intimidating process at first, once you get the hang of it, it's really not so hard.

The Wok Shop's wok costs an extra $15-$25 to ship, but we still find that a great value for a piece of cookware that could, with proper care, last a lifetime or more. We’ve also heard feedback that shipping times for this wok can sometimes be delayed. While there are benefits to buying from small independent businesses (whose owners are extremely knowledgeable about the product), we recognize that shipping times can be one of the tradeoffs. We recommend ordering well ahead of time, and contacting the shop for more precise shipping estimates.

This lovely pre-seasoned wok provides a shortcut to a slick surface (though it still requires some prep). This one is stable but heavy, so lifting it requires some strength (and likely both hands).

For those looking to jump the turnstile on seasoning by buying a wok with a ready-made patina, the Yosukata 14-inch Pre-Seasoned Blue Carbon Steel Wok is a great option. Yosukata doesn't make it entirely clear how the wok has been pre-seasoned (the website describes it as having been "seasoned at high heat using special techniques"). But the outcome is a slicker, more nonstick surface right off the bat. This wok is also very beautiful, thanks to its hand-hammered bowl and a dark teal hue, achieved through a "bluing" process that makes its carbon steel more resistant to rust and corrosion. The trade-offs: It's heavier than our top pick, and the chunky handle is less ergonomic and easier to burn yourself on.

Not only is this wok slicker to start with, its seasoning also resisted flaking better when we boiled water inside it. During our steaming tests, other woks’ seasonings sloughed off in spots, but we saw less of that in the Yosukata wok.

This wok's shape also has a lot going for it. Though the Yosukata is labeled as a round-bottom wok, it has an extra-wide basin, so it's a true marriage of a flat-bottom and a round-bottom wok. (Measuring conservatively, the absolute flattest part of the Yosukata's bottom is 6½ inches across, whereas the bottom of our top pick, The Wok Shop 14-inch Carbon Steel Wok, is 6 inches wide.) Because there's so much surface area across the bottom, the Yosukata wok is one of the most stable ones we tested, alongside our top pick. It worked great on a gas range. And on the super-flat surface of a portable induction burner, there was still minimal wobbling compared with other woks we tested. Meanwhile, its curved shape (no angles here) still allows for smooth stir-frying.

(Yosukata also makes a pre-seasoned 13½-inch flat-bottom wok. It features slight angles and is a little smaller overall. We were unable to test that version this time, but we plan to do so in a future round. If you’re interested in the extra stability that a flat bottom might provide—especially when you’re cooking on a flat cooktop—and you think the smaller size might benefit you, we imagine the surface would work similarly to that of our Yosukata pick. In our observation, though, the bottom is ever so slightly concave, so oil may pool in a ring around the bottom of the wok.)

Due to the Yosukata wok's very wide base, a standard wok lid sits nearly at the bottom of the bowl—unlike in most other woks, where the lid settles along the sloped sides much higher up. You’ll need to get a large lid with a lot of clearance (like this domed lid we used during testing) to ensure that it works for steaming.

That wider, flatter bottom also means that when you are deep-frying, you have to use more oil to fully submerge your ingredients. Of course, it also means there's more surface area to fry larger amounts of food at once. But in most other woks (like our pick from The Wok Shop), you can take advantage of that bowl shape to cook smaller amounts of food when you want to.

The biggest drawback to this wok is its weight. At just under 5 pounds, it's the heaviest one we tested, and it's about a pound heavier than our top pick. Its straight, chunky handle also offers less leverage than the L-shaped handle on our top pick, and this handle is wrapped with metal for a couple of inches at the base. You’ll need to cover that metal with a thick towel when you’re handling it while it's hot. At least the metal juts out from the wooden handle, so you know that it's there (unlike on some woks where the metal part blended in more seamlessly with the wood, making it easier to accidentally touch when hot).

Before it's ready to use, an unseasoned carbon-steel wok requires a few steps of preparation. (The ones you see in this guide have begun developing a patina after a few rounds of seasoning and cooking, but any unseasoned wok you order should arrive looking silver and shiny.) First you need to wash the wok thoroughly, to remove the oily finish manufacturers apply to protect the cookware from rusting before it reaches your door. Then you’ll need to season the wok following one of many methods.

Though a simple oil seasoning takes only about 15 minutes, the process can be stressful for the uninitiated, as can the idea of building and maintaining a wok's patina over time. In reality, the seasoning process is not so much a one-and-done step as it is a gradual process achieved simply by using the wok over time. As Chung Sun Lau told us, "If you’re using [your wok] a lot, like every day, then you don't have to do as much seasoning." And as Grace Young writes in The Breath of a Wok, the evolution of a carbon-steel wok is slow and graceful: "Years may pass before the patina ultimately develops a color ranging from a deep rich brown to ebony." This may be nonintuitive, but the older a wok is, the better the food tastes, Young said.

However, to break in a new wok, it's essential to start it off with an initial seasoning. And each of the woks that we purchased came with instructions on how to do so—although some were easier to follow than others. We relied on the basic oil method of seasoning in Grace Young's The Breath of a Wok to season all of the woks we tested. This involves using paper towels to rub a thin coat of oil onto the washed and scrubbed wok; then you slowly rotate the pan over the flame of a gas stove until the carbon steel turns bluish then brownish all over. You’ll need to repeat the process at least twice. Steer clear of cooking acidic foods, like sweet and sour sauces, or boiling with your new wok for the first few uses; this can strip the patina and set the process back. The metal spatula may also scrape some of the developing patina off a newer wok; this is completely fine, and the gaps will fill in.

No, your wok will not be uniformly colored after the first or second heating—or even the eighth or ninth time you’ve used it to stir-fry food. It may take years for that to happen. Meanwhile, as Young says, "Every wok ages differently, just like people do, and it's beautiful to see how the imperfections work out." Your wok is a living, evolving instrument.

We tested these woks on both a gas range and a portable induction cooktop. With the completely flat, slippery-smooth surface of an induction burner, it was even more important that our final picks felt stable. A smaller-diameter flat bottom would prove tricky—and be potentially dangerous. A roly-poly round-bottom wok wouldn't work, either: Apart from also being dangerous, it would barely make contact with the induction coils. So it wouldn't allow much heat to distribute throughout the wok—if it even activated the induction coil in the first place.

(If you already own an induction cooktop, you might want to shop for a wok whose base perfectly fits the electromagnetic coil on your burner, usually outlined with a circle on the cooktop's surface. This helps maximize your wok's contact with the heat source.)

We tested our picks on the Duxtop 9600LS (the top pick in our portable induction cooktop guide), which delivers up to 1,800 W of power and up to 460 degrees Fahrenheit of heat. (Full home induction ranges can get quite a bit hotter than this.) Overall, we observed little difference between using induction and gas when it came to the woks’ performance. The induction burner heated the woks quickly, and it got them very hot and smoky on the highest heat setting. The only drawback to using an induction versus a gas stove is the absence of fire; when tossing a wok on a gas burner, the flames can lick the ingredients and aerosols from your wok, imparting that unmistakable smoky aroma. This doesn't happen with induction. But then again, not everyone who's using a wok over a gas flame is necessarily tossing their food.

If you don't already have a home induction range but want to cook in a wok using induction, you might also consider the NuWave Mosaic Induction Wok. Chef Jon Kung recommends this set; it includes both a curved induction burner and a wok that nestles perfectly inside. The burner goes up to 575 degrees Fahrenheit, and since the wok fits into the burner snugly, you don't have to worry about any wobbling. Plus, the wok's bottom achieves full contact with the heat source. (We did not perform any hands-on testing of the NuWave set for this guide, but we hope to in the future.)

A carbon-steel wok is made to last, so it's a great choice if shopping sustainably for cookware is important to you. Some families hand down woks for several generations. And a good carbon-steel wok tends to perform better over time, not worse, as long as you care for it well. If you have trouble maintaining the seasoning, even a completely rusty carbon-steel wok can still be salvaged and seasoned anew (much like cast-iron pans). So it really has potential to be an heirloom item.

If you’re trying to make sustainable choices while shopping for a wok, we’d suggest avoiding a nonstick one. Even though eating food made in PTFE-coated cookware is safe as far as we know, the process of producing PTFE nonstick coatings requires some pretty serious environmental pollutants. And any nonstick coating, even PTFE-free ceramic coatings, will degrade over the course of a few years. So while woks with a nonstick coating can provide the instant satisfaction of a slick surface (whereas carbon-steel woks require time and attention before they behave that way), they’ll pretty quickly lose that slickness, especially with the high cooking temperatures and rigorous stirring and scraping that wok cooking tends to involve.

One of our kitchen editors, Marilyn Ong, has been using the Sur La Table Professional Carbon Steel Wok at home for the last 8 years. Its shape is similar to the Wok Shop wok we recommend, though it lacks that unique angled handle that makes the Wok Shop one so great for lifting and tossing. We're curious if this would be a good option for a similar wok with more predictable supply and shipping.

The Babish Carbon Steel Wok, 14-inch is a nice-looking wok, with a dark-stained wood handle and a handy hook on the end for hanging. It has a fairly deep bowl compared with others we tested, so it's easy to fit a lid on top and get excellent clearance. However, we wish there weren't such large rivets inside the bowl and that its flat bottom were more rounded where it meets the sides, rather than forming a sharp angle that interferes with the motions of stir-frying.

The Mamma Fong Pre-Seasoned Blue Carbon Steel Flat Bottom Wok was one of the more beautiful woks we looked at, thanks to its hammered sides. (Hand-hammering is a traditional technique used for wok-making, and it gives woks a distinct, almost faceted look.) Its pre-seasoned surface was a breeze to stir-fry on without as much sticking, and we loved how smoothly rounded the wok's shape was. But the diameter of the flat bottom was comparably smaller, making the wok feel unstable on a flat stovetop.

The Craft Wok Traditional Hand Hammered Carbon Steel Pow Wok is a great, classic carbon-steel wok option. However, like the Yosukata wok, this one is heavy compared with the other woks we tested, and we found it difficult to lift. Unlike the Yosukata, this wok was less of a pleasure to cook with. Where the wooden handle connects with the pan, there are at least a couple of inches of smooth metal; this got very hot when we were cooking, but it offered no tactile signal for the transition from wood to metal. We needed to lift it with a thick towel to avoid getting burned, which wasn't very practical. Also, where the flat bottom meets the sides of the wok, there's a very sharp angle; this interfered with the motions of stir-frying and created crevices where food would get stuck and burn.

The Honey-Can-Do Joyce Chen Pro Flat Bottom Wok with Excalibur Non-Stick Coating is an impressive nonstick pan. But in the end, we thought nonstick coatings and wok cooking didn't mix very well. On the plus side, its Excalibur nonstick coating has an interesting grainy texture that seared ingredients well; it was grippy, rather than expelling ingredients immediately, as with some nonstick surfaces. But the black plastic handle and helper handle seem like a poor material choice to be near a hot gas flame. We smelled burning plastic at times when cooking. According to the manufacturer, this wok is oven-safe up to 350 degrees Fahrenheit (not that oven use is common for wok cooking). Like any nonstick pan, this one is clearly not meant for the super-high temperatures needed for stir-frying or deep-frying (two very common wok-cooking techniques).

We didn't test the Newquist Forge Hand Hammered Wok, but this wok-maker comes recommended by Grace Young. Each wok is a one-of-a-kind piece of craftsmanship made to order. Having sold out for 2022, they are available for pre-ordering in 2023.

For a fully portable wok and induction-burner setup, or an addition to your home stovetop, Jon Kung recommended the NuWave Mosaic Induction Wok. The wok nestles into an included, portable induction stove that is curved to fit it snugly. We didn't test this set yet, because it didn't seem like the best bet for those seeking a wok to use on their stovetop at home. But we hope to try it out for future updates.

We looked at the Made In Blue Carbon Steel Wok, but we decided not to test it for two main reasons: It comes in a 12-inch size only, and it lacks a helper handle. It also seems quite heavy—especially for a small wok—with a listed weight of over 4 pounds 6 ounces. All of this suggests that this wok is significantly less comfortable to use than our top pick, and it's nearly three times the price.

This article was edited by Marilyn Ong and Marguerite Preston.

Hsiao-Hsing Chou, author of Chinese Soul Food and Vegetarian Chinese Soul Food, phone interview, May 3, 2022

J. Kenji López-Alt, author of The Food Lab and The Wok, phone interview, May 4, 2022

Chung Sun Lau, Jenny Lau, and Randy Lau, creators of the blog and video series Made With Lau, phone interview, May 19, 2022

Jon Kung, cooking content creator and chef of Kung Food, phone interview, May 19, 2022

Grace Young, cookbook author and self-named "wok therapist", phone interview, November 20, 2022

Cathy Erway

Cathy Erway is a James Beard Award–winning freelance food writer. She is the author of the cookbooks The Food of Taiwan and Sheet Pan Chicken, as well as the memoir The Art of Eating In: How I Learned to Stop Spending and Love the Stove. She hosts the podcast Self Evident, which explores the Asian American experience.

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Sautéing: Stir-frying: Fried eggs: Deep-frying: Steaming: