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Best Carbon Steel Wok 2017: Top 5

Updated on January 16, 2017
The Helen Chan is an excellent wok for beginners.  This traditional carbon steel wok is available in 12 and 14 inch sizes.  Note that this style of pan has one long handle and one loop handle.  Others sometimes have two loop handles.
The Helen Chan is an excellent wok for beginners. This traditional carbon steel wok is available in 12 and 14 inch sizes. Note that this style of pan has one long handle and one loop handle. Others sometimes have two loop handles.

Chinese and Asian cookery provides the world with some of the tastiest and healthiest dishes around.

At the center of Chinese and Asian cuisine is the wok, one of the most practical and versatile culinary utensils ever designed and made.

Although mainly used for stir frying, it can also be employed for wider duties in the kitchen when required, including steaming, deep frying, poaching, boiling, braising, searing, stewing, and smoking.

In my search for the best carbon steel wok 2017, I take a look at the different types of pan that you are likely to encounter, offer advice on how to season them, and give my suggestions for 5 of the best pans available currently.

A shrimp and rice stir-fry.  Woks are ideal for Asian cookery, they are versatile, hard-wearing, and affordable.  You can use your pan to fry, boil, and even steam (provided that you have a lid for it).  You should clean your pan without washing soap
A shrimp and rice stir-fry. Woks are ideal for Asian cookery, they are versatile, hard-wearing, and affordable. You can use your pan to fry, boil, and even steam (provided that you have a lid for it). You should clean your pan without washing soap | Source
The Joyce Chen 22-0060 Pro Chef 14-Inch Flat Bottom is constructed of heavy gauge carbon steel.  There is a loop handle and a long handle that has been ergonomically designed to fit comfortably and remain cool.
The Joyce Chen 22-0060 Pro Chef 14-Inch Flat Bottom is constructed of heavy gauge carbon steel. There is a loop handle and a long handle that has been ergonomically designed to fit comfortably and remain cool.

#1 Best Carbon Steel Wok! - Durable Enough to Last You a Lifetime!

An excellent wok for the general user, or the beginner, the Joyce Chen 22-0060, Pro Chef 14-Inch Flat Bottom is a very well made product for those who, like me, prefer their carbon steel to be uncoated. That means that you will have to do your own seasoning and ensure that the wok is hand cleaned and cared for, but it is well worth the effort.

This pan is durable enough to last a lifetime - a high quality wok for a very reasonable price.

The Different Types of Wok Available

There are many different sizes and types of wok.

  • One important distinguishing factor is whether it has a round or a flat bottom. The traditional round bottomed pans sit on a ring above the heat source, while the more modern flat-bottomed types sit directly on top of the stove.
  • There are pros and cons for both sorts of wok and each has their avid fans and critics, although the type of heating source you have is also an important factor, of course, when considering suitability (for example, gas flames work better with round bottomed pans than electric elements).
  • Another important factor that distinguishes the different types of wok is the material that the pan is made of. This article is concerned with those made from cast iron, but there are those made from other materials such as metallic alloy.
  • Some modern woks also come with stainless coatings to make them easier to clean. Others have a nonstick inner coating for cleaning purposes.
  • Handles also vary. Pans generally either have one long handle and one smaller loop handle, or two loop handles and no long handle. Some come with a lid when you buy them and some don't. Sizes also vary, but the majority of models are between 12 and 14 inches in diameter.
  • One modern innovation has been the electric wok. This utensil comes with its own element, which spreads heat evenly across the surface of the pan.

Joyce Chen 33-2018, 3-Piece Burnished Bamboo Stir-Fry Set.  Wooden spoons are traditionally used with woks.  You don't want to undo any of the work done with seasoning your pan.
Joyce Chen 33-2018, 3-Piece Burnished Bamboo Stir-Fry Set. Wooden spoons are traditionally used with woks. You don't want to undo any of the work done with seasoning your pan.

Carbon Steel Pans

Carbon steel is the most common material used for making modern woks - the main reasons being that it conducts heat quickly, it is lightweight, durable, and relatively inexpensive compared to other materials.

The lighter weight also makes them easier to pick up and move around, especially when compared to cast iron pans which are much heavier and sometimes unwieldy, especially for beginners.

Carbon steel woks are a little more difficult to season, but I would not let that put you off. Seasoning is essentially very easy, and although time-consuming, it is not a procedure that you will be required to carry out regularly.

Woks are great for whipping together quick vegetable dishes.  Within ten minutes you can have a meal prepared that is super healthy.  You can get away with a small amount of oil, provided you heat it to a high enough temperature.
Woks are great for whipping together quick vegetable dishes. Within ten minutes you can have a meal prepared that is super healthy. You can get away with a small amount of oil, provided you heat it to a high enough temperature.

Seasoning Methods

Some woks come pre-seasoned, but most of them you will need to season yourself. Seasoning isn't too difficult and is done mainly to eliminate any metallic taste and odors, plus it stops food sticking to the sides when you are frying.

One seasoning method involves washing out the pan, coating it with cooking oil and baking it. Another method involves stir frying an ingredient such as chives at high heat until charred to get rid of any metallic taste.

A combination of both methods is generally the best way in my experience. See this great video below by The Wok Shop in San Francisco for a walk through.

More Top-Rated Woks

Below are 4 more good woks that are top-rated and recommended. As stated earlier, the wok you choose should be selected according to your needs and taste. These Asian pans are generally very affordable, so price is not generally a factor for most people.

This 14 inch Carbon Steel Pan has been made using the traditional hand hammered method. It is round bottomed, so not suitable for an electric stove.  An advantage of carbon steel is that it heats up very quickly.
This 14 inch Carbon Steel Pan has been made using the traditional hand hammered method. It is round bottomed, so not suitable for an electric stove. An advantage of carbon steel is that it heats up very quickly.

Great Value and Hand Hammered!

A traditional round-bottomed wok made from carbon steel, shaped by the Chinese hand-hammered method (the cheaper pans are usually stamped by machine and have a greater tendency to deform and misshape).

Light but strong, this pan will cook all the healthy Asian-style recipes that you want and do it like a dream. Great value for a product of this quality.

Great for Frying When Camping: The Eastman Outdoors!

As its name suggests, the Eastman Outdoors pan has been designed with the outdoors in mind. It can be used in conjunction with the "Big Kahuna" burner or another similar burner.

As well as Asian stir fries, large outdoor woks are also excellent for frying up large amounts of breakfast food, such as scrambled eggs and bacon.

Stir fried noodles, peas, peppers, corn, and mushrooms.  Stir-fried food is tasty and healthy and there are many recipes that you can follow to create beautiful food.
Stir fried noodles, peas, peppers, corn, and mushrooms. Stir-fried food is tasty and healthy and there are many recipes that you can follow to create beautiful food. | Source

Handsome and Affordable by Helen Chen!

This handsome Helen Chen wok is a well made wok at an affordable price and ideal for someone who is new to Asian cookery.

This flat-bottomed pan, designed to go directly onto the stove, is made from traditional carbon steel and has a durable bamboo long handle and loop handle. The Helen Chen is excellent for making authentic stir-fries, curries, and other Asian-style recipes.

The Helen Chen is available in 12 inch and 14 inch sizes.

A collection of delicious Chinese dishes.  Pans are used in Chinese cookery for frying, boiling, and steaming. Traditionally the food is then eaten with chopsticks, although Westerners sometimes prefer knives, forks, or spoons.
A collection of delicious Chinese dishes. Pans are used in Chinese cookery for frying, boiling, and steaming. Traditionally the food is then eaten with chopsticks, although Westerners sometimes prefer knives, forks, or spoons. | Source
With a flat bottom, enabling it to sit directly on either electric stove or grills, this 16 inch wok is versatile, durable, and great for beginners and experienced chefs alike.  This heavy wok is also available in a round-bottomed version.
With a flat bottom, enabling it to sit directly on either electric stove or grills, this 16 inch wok is versatile, durable, and great for beginners and experienced chefs alike. This heavy wok is also available in a round-bottomed version.

Helper Handle for Excellent Control!

This heavy, 16 inch carbon steel wok is another excellent wok. Flat bottomed, so that it can sit directly on the stove, this USA made pan has an extra helper handle to make lifting and moving easier.

You will need to season it yourself (see video by The Wok Shop in San Francisco above). This model is also available as a round bottom.

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