The Best Carbon Steel Woks of 2022

Elevate your stir-fry game with a versatile carbon steel wok.

By Stacey L Nash | Updated May 13, 2022 2:50 PM

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The Best Carbon Steel Wok Options

Photo: amazon.com

A wok seems like a specialized piece of cookware that’s only good for stir-frying, but it’s a versatile pan that can also be used to sear meat, simmer a stew, or steam fish. Woks come in a variety of metal designs, but professionals consistently prefer those made of carbon steel. This material heats quickly and retains that heat, so it’s great for searing ingredients.

Stir-frying is less about stirring the food and more about shaking the wok, so maneuverability is key. Lids, while not traditionally a wok feature, make the pans more versatile. Keep reading to learn more about this traditional Asian cookware and how to choose the best carbon steel wok for your kitchen. The list of top picks below was assembled based on an in-depth review of the market and thorough product vetting.

  1. BEST OVERALL: Craft Wok Traditional Hand Hammered Carbon Steel Wok
  2. BEST VALUE: Homeries Carbon Steel Wok Pan, Stir Fry Wok Set
  3. BEST HIGH-END: Made In Blue Carbon Steel Wok
  4. BEST LARGE: Craft Wok Big 16 Inch Heavy Hand Hammered Wok
  5. BEST WITH WOODEN HANDLES: Yosukata Carbon Steel Wok Pan 
  6. BEST FLAT BOTTOM: Souped Up Recipes Carbon Steel Wok 
  7. HONORABLE MENTION: Joyce Chen Carbon Steel Wok Set 14 in.
The Best Carbon Steel Wok Options

Photo: amazon.com

Types of Carbon Steel Woks

Carbon steel woks come in two shapes: round bottom and flat bottom. Shape choice should be based on the type of stovetop or heat source on which the pan will cook. All carbon steel woks will need to be seasoned before first use to make sure food doesn’t stick.

Round Bottom 

Traditional carbon steel woks have a round bottom. They’re designed for traditional Asian cooking, which takes place over an open fire. The round bottom pulls food toward the center of the wok where the steel is the hottest, so meat and vegetables cook quickly and get a light smoky flavor. The round bottom resists warping under high temperatures.

This design makes it the best wok for gas stove cooking or for cooking over open fires, but it doesn’t work on electric, induction, or ceramic stovetops. To counter this, some woks come with a ring that holds the wok level on electric stoves.

Flat Bottom

Modern stovetop designs led to the development of the flat-bottom wok. The bottoms of these woks are flat, making them a good option for use atop electric, ceramic, or induction stoves. The flat bottom is relatively small so heat concentrates in the wok’s center.

If you’re new to wok cooking, a flat-bottom wok might be your best bet because you won’t need any additional accessories.

What to Consider When Choosing the Best Carbon Steel Wok

There are a few considerations to keep in mind when shopping for a carbon steel wok.

Size and Thickness 

Woks are measured by their diameter and range in size from 10 inches to 16 inches. A 12-inch wok can cook enough food for two to four people, while professionals who cook for a crowd may prefer a 16-inch wok. For household use, 12- and 14-inch pans are most common.

The carbon steel’s thickness (or gauge) plays a part in its ability to disperse heat and resist warping. It’s a fine line between too thick—which takes longer to heat and disperse heat—and too thin, which warps due to the high temperatures used for Asian cooking.

When looking at the wok’s gauge, the higher the gauge, the thinner the metal. Generally, a wok at (around) 14-gauge or higher offers the right balance of thickness and durability.

Handle Style

Traditional Cantonese woks had a small handle on each side that made it easy to remove the wok from an open flame. Most contemporary woks have a small handle on one side and a long handle on the other for maneuvering them on stovetops.

Wok handles are made of carbon steel, wood, and stainless steel. Many chefs prefer wood handles because they don’t get as hot, making it easier to use and move the wok. However, wood is heavier than steel and adds a slight (yet still noticeable) weight to the pan.

Additional Features

Woks can include a few extra features that may or may not be helpful to you, depending on your cooking style.

  • Lid: Traditionally, woks were not used with a lid. Woks with lids became popular when the pans moved into mainstream Western use and became common when cooking dishes other than traditional Asian fare. A lid turns a wok into a multipurpose pan that works for a wide variety of dishes, ranging from popped corn to steamed rice.
  • Nonstick coating: Polytetrafluoroethylene or Teflon (PTFE), silicone, and sol-gel are the three major nonstick coatings.PTFE or Teflon is the most well known of the coatings and is usually used on cookware that reaches higher temperatures, like woks. Of the three types, it’s the safest for high-temperature cooking.
  • Wok ring: A wok ring sits atop a gas or electric stove burner so that a round-bottomed wok can sit in the ring over the burner. Woks are traditionally used over an open flame, but a wok ring allows them to be used on a modern stove.
  • Cooking utensils: Some wok sets come with extra cooking utensils like spatulas, chopsticks, and pasta forks. A cooking set often offers a better bang for your buck, so if you’ll use the utensils, you’ll save money by buying a set.

Care and Maintenance

Treat a wok like cast iron. That is to say, care for it gently and nix the dish soap. Do not use soap, harsh cleaners, or a metal scrubber. These materials can remove the carbon steel’s patina/seasoning and cause sticking. Scrub the inside of a wok using a wok brush or kitchen sponge with hot water.

Dry the wok with a kitchen towel before placing it on the stove over heat to completely dry. It needs to be completely dry before storing to prevent rust.

You might need to season a new wok, which involves heating the entire wok to burn off any industrial resins. Then, add a tablespoon of vegetable oil while the wok is on low heat, and tilt the wok until it’s completely coated by the oil. Use a paper towel to wipe off the cooking oil while the wok is still over the heat. Continue to wipe and heat until all the oil and water are gone.

Our Top Picks

Featured below are some of the best carbon steel woks with varied designs and features to suit different cooks’ needs.

Best Overall

The Best Carbon Steel Wok Option: Craft Wok Traditional Hand Hammered Carbon Steel Wok
Photo: amazon.com

The Craft Wok Traditional Hand Hammered Carbon Steel Wok combines traditional wok design with a modern handle. It’s made of 15-gauge, commercial-grade carbon steel that has been hammered by hand into a traditional round-bottom shape, so it heats quickly. It has a small metal handle on one side and a long wooden handle on the other, so it’s easy to toss food around using just one hand.

This traditional wok measures 14 inches in diameter, enabling you to cook enough food for three to five people. It’s built to last for years. You’ll need a wok ring, sold separately, to use it on an electric or induction cooktop.

Product Specs

  • Size: 14 inches
  • Gauge/thickness: 15 gauge
  • Bottom shape: Round

Pros

  • High-quality carbon steel
  • Seasons well and gets better with use
  • Round bottom and wood handle support traditional-style cooking

Cons

  • Heavy
  • Rusts easily without proper care

Get the Craft Wok carbon steel wok on Amazon.

Best Value

The Best Carbon Steel Wok Option: Homeries Carbon Steel Wok Pan, Stir Fry Wok Set
Photo: Amazon.com

The Homeries Carbon Steel Wok Pan Stir Fry Wok Set comes with a lot more than a wok. The 12-inch, noncoated carbon steel wok offers versatile cooking options with a wooden lid that opens the door to cooking dishes that go well beyond stir-fries, like rice or noodles. The set also includes a wok spatula that helps those just learning how to manage stir fry to flip meat and vegetables in the wok. The final piece of the set is a pasta spatula.

The carbon steel has a nonstick coating, which is easy to use and clean. A flat bottom also makes this model easier to use on traditional stovetops, including electric, induction, and gas.

Product Specs

  • Size: 12 inches
  • Gauge/thickness: N/A
  • Bottom shape: Flat

Pros

  • Extra accessories—lid and two spatulas
  • Coating and flat bottom work well on modern stoves
  • Spatula easily moves food around rounded sides

Cons

  • Nonstick coating breaks down over time

Get the Homeries carbon steel wok on Amazon.

Best High-End

The Best Carbon Steel Wok Option: Made In Blue Carbon Steel Wo
Photo: madeincookware.com

The Made In Blue Carbon Steel Wok is made of high-quality carbon steel that can withstand heavy, frequent use in temperatures up to 1,200 degrees Fahrenheit. The steel withstands high heat for the serious chef who wants the perfect sear. One of the best flat bottom carbon steel wok options, it works on electric, gas, glass, and induction stovetops.

The flat bottom offers a 5.5-inch cooking surface, but the rounded 5-inch sides make it easy to flip and stir ingredients. A curved handle helps chefs maintain the right motion when preparing stir-fries and other dishes.

Product Specs

  • Size: 12 inches
  • Gauge/thickness: 2 mm
  • Bottom shape: Flat

Pros

  • High-quality carbon steel
  • Flat bottom works on most stovetops, including glass
  • Withstands temperatures up to 1,200 degrees Fahrenheit

Cons

  • Requires seasoning before first use

Get the Made In carbon steel wok at Made In.

Best Large

The Best Carbon Steel Wok Option: Craft Wok Big 16 Inch Heavy Hand Hammered Wok
Photo: Amazon.com

The Craft Wok Big 16 Inch Heavy Hand Hammered Carbon Steel Wok has room to prepare enough food for a crowd. It has a traditional round bottom, so it concentrates high temperatures to give food delicious smoky flavors. It’s made of 15-gauge steel that’s been hand-hammered into shape in China.

This wok has two handles, a short steel one on one side and a long wooden one on the other, so it can work on an open flame or a traditional stovetop. You’ll need a wok ring, sold separately, to use it on an electric cooktop. Note that this option is heavy, weighing 5.4 pounds, so it will take some muscle power to move it around as you sear food.

Product Specs

  • Size: 16 inches
  • Gauge/thickness: 15 gauge
  • Bottom shape: Round

Pros

  • Two handles for easier use and movement
  • Hand-hammered, highly durable design
  • Gets hot quickly

Cons

  • Requires a high-output stovetop to reach temperatures
  • Might be too heavy for some users

Get the Craft Wok carbon steel wok on Amazon.

Best with Wooden Handles

The Best Carbon Steel Wok Option: YOSUKATA Pre-Seasoned Carbon Steel Wok Pan
Photo: amazon.com

The ergonomic wood handle on the Yosukata carbon steel wok resists heat and feels comfortable in hand, so it is easy to maneuver while you cook. The pan also has a small steel handle on the other side for two-handed use. In all, it weighs nearly 4 pounds.

This wok is preseasoned, meaning you don’t need to preheat it and add oil before the first use. It’s designed to distribute heat evenly throughout the pan instead of just in the center. Beginners may like the fact that it works more like traditional cookware and is ready to use right out of the box.

Product Specs

  • Size: 14 inches
  • Gauge: 16 gauge
  • Bottom shape: Round

Pros

  • Arrives preseasoned
  • Distributes heat more evenly for versatile cooking uses
  • Easier for beginners to use

Cons

  • Heavier than some

Get the Yosukata carbon steel wok on Amazon and at Walmart.

Best Flat Bottom

The Best Carbon Steel Wok Option: Souped Up Recipes Carbon Steel Wok
Photo: amazon.com

For those who want to make traditional Asian meals on a modern stovetop, the Carbon Steel Wok by Souped Up Recipes may be the best wok for electric stove use. Its flat bottom sits evenly on electric or induction cooktops (no wok ring required), and its long handle keeps the user’s hands out of the heat while offering maneuverability.

This model also includes a wood lid that gives it a rustic look and feel while also adding to the pan’s versatility. As a bonus, it comes with a metal spatula that’s designed to work with the rounded sides and flat bottom.

Product Specs

  • Size: 12.5 inches
  • Gauge/thickness: N/A
  • Bottom shape: Flat

Pros

  • Long handle keeps hands away from the heat
  • Works on induction stovetops
  • Includes wok spatula

Cons

  • Can be difficult to use for beginners

Get the Souped Up Recipes carbon steel wok on Amazon.

Honorable Mention

The Best Carbon Steel Wok Option: Joyce Chen Carbon Steel Wok Set 14 in.
Photo: Walmart.com

The Joyce Chen Carbon Steel Wok comes with a 14-inch domed lid and a bamboo wok spatula. With its domed lid, the Joyce Chen wok can be used for deep frying, cooking rice, and sauteing vegetables. The wood spatula works well at high temperatures because it doesn’t transfer heat to the user’s hand.

This wok also includes two birchwood handles to resist heat. The affordable Joyce Chen wok comes in quality carbon steel; however, it requires seasoning after arrival and before the first use.

Product Specs

  • Size: 14 inches
  • Gauge/thickness: 1.5 mm
  • Bottom shape: Flat

Pros

  • Large, nonstick lid and wooden wok spatula
  • Flat bottom works on modern stovetops
  • Carbon steel becomes more nonstick with use
  • Lightweight

Cons

  • Difficult for beginners

Get the Joyce Chen carbon steel wok on Amazon and at Walmart.

Our Verdict

For those who want hand-crafted quality, the Craft Wok Traditional Hand Hammered Carbon Steel Wok offers the right blend of craftsmanship and functionality in a traditional wok. Hand-hammered with a round bottom, it’s ready to take the heat for authentic dishes. The Homeries Carbon Steel Wok Pan, Stir Fry Wok Set, on the other hand, provides a great value for the price. The wok cooks beautifully and comes with accessories to expand its uses and the dishes you can make.

How We Chose the Best Carbon Steel Woks

Choosing the best carbon steel woks required examining a blend of features ranging from the materials and manufacturing to the accessories included with the wok. We looked at more than 50 woks from various manufacturers to find the best of the best.

Manufacturing/construction: Traditional woks are hand-hammered, so we wanted to make sure to include models made in the traditional style for a truly authentic cooking experience. However, machine manufacturing doesn’t lag behind. We also looked for high-quality machine-made woks with precision in the design.

Handle design: A wok’s handle plays a vital role in the cooking experience because of the tossing motion used in traditional Asian cooking. Long, heat-resistant handles that balance the wok made the list. We also looked for models with two handles to make it easier for cooks to move the wok.

Accessories and extras: Nonstick coatings, spatulas, and lids can all broaden the wok’s uses and make cooking easier.

FAQs

Still have questions about carbon steel woks? Here’s a little more information to help you decide on the best carbon steel wok for you.

Q: What is the best type of wok?

The best woks for traditional Asian cooking are round-bottom, carbon steel woks with a long wooden handle. Hand-hammered woks made in China are popular because you can see the individual hammer marks in the steel, which gives them an authentic appearance.

Hand-hammered and machine-made woks have similar cooking performance. Choosing a handmade wok is more about the cooking experience and feel.

Q: Is a carbon steel wok better than a cast-iron wok?

Professional chefs generally prefer carbon steel woks to cast-iron ones because carbon steel weighs less and maneuvers more easily. Cooking stir-fries requires moving, lifting, and shifting the pan to toss vegetables and meats for even cooking; it can be tough to do that with a heavy cast-iron wok.

The two materials have a lot in common. Both absorb and hold heat well, are durable, and resist warping. But, if not properly seasoned and cared for, both materials are also prone to rust.

Q: Is it safe to use a carbon steel wok?

Yes. A carbon steel wok gets its nonstick properties from oil residue left by cooking, so there’s no chemical coating to chip or flake into food. You need to season a carbon steel wok before its first use. Over time and with regular seasoning, carbon steel builds up a nonstick surface, becoming easier to clean the more you use it.