Best carbon steel wok, accessories, and buying guide
All the way from China, woks have been slowly crawling to our kitchens and with good reason. For those who don’t know what we are talking about, a wok is a bowl-like cooking utensil that can be used for different dishes preparation. They can be flat or round bottomed but that does not limit their versatility. You can cook tasty meals fast enough all in one dish and create a variety of textures.
What can you do with a wok? Let’s see: steaming, boiling, poaching, stir-frying, braising, roasting nuts, stewing and the list goes on. There are various materials used to make a wok, but we will be focusing on the carbon steel type. Choosing the best carbon steel wok means you get a lightweight item that is affordable, durable and will heat quickly.
The Carbon Steel Construction
The Chinese tradition on woks is based on carbon steel which makes it a favorite among the many who have purchased it. It is one of the few metals that can transfer the delicacy into your food when proper care and maintenance is followed. That calls for adequate seasoning before and after use. Since it is the cheapest version that you will find in the market, going for the carbon steel wok has proved to be a winner when buyers scrutinize the various options at their disposal.
Cooking with this wok type renders better temperature changes which is an essential feature in controlling the heat and precise cooking. When properly seasoned, it will last for years with continued heavy usage. There are challenges to meet if you want the best taste in your food and they can compromise the flavor if seasoning and the right storage procedure protocols are not achieved. You can check on how to season the woks after the product reviews.
Rusting risks come along if you don’t clean the wok thoroughly or leave it in humid conditions. Make sure that your wok is dry and free of water molecules by letting it heat after cleaning.
Benefits of owning a carbon steel wok
Whatever you are doing with your wok, this ‘cooking pan’ will give you the following benefits:
- You can perform various cooking methods which include frying. Woks are great for deep frying.
- They are cheap hence very affordable
- When properly maintained, they last for long.
- It is easy to toss foods since they can quickly land back in the wok. Doing that with another pan is next to impossible.
- A carbon steel wok is light – another advantage of the tossing ability. It also makes it light to lift and move.
What to consider when buying a carbon steel wok
Since the carbon steel is a popular choice for the chefs, those who know what they are looking for will consider the following:
Flat or round-bottomed shape
Both shapes will work on a gas stove top if that is what you use. For the electric types or the induction range, consider the flat-bottomed. It will sit comfortably without wobbling or appearing to bend sideways.
Height and diameter
When considering the dimensions, check the concave properties of the wok. Extreme measurements, i.e., too deep or too narrow has their disadvantages. Too deep means that the heat will only serve the bottom and the sides will not get much of it which will result to uneven cooking.
On the other hand, a shallow wok will make difficult to move and toss the food on the sides. Suitable measurements go to a 14-inch pan with a minimum of 5 inches if you buy the flat-bottomed type. The depth should be about 4 inches which is considerate to hold enough food for cooking.
All the handles on the wok are meant for one purpose: to lift it up. They come in different handles with some having a long one on one end and a looped handle on the other end. Others will have looped handles opposite each other while the rest will have one long handle only. Choose what you prefer and the technique you like when lifting the wok.
Other supporting utensils might come in handy depending on what you use the wok for. Some are sold solo while others will have a lid, spatula, ladle, and burner ring steamer tray among other accoutrements. First, check on why you need the wok before you decide on what else to add to the shopping list for successful cookery.
A carbon steel wok is made to be durable and survive wear and tear when adequately seasoned during the period of use. Despite the will to stay longer, replace your wok after each decade.
Carbon Steel Wok Reviews
The 22-0060 wok model was developed by Joyce Chen hence the name in a bid to improve the standards of Chinese cookware. Its shape comprises of a flat bottom wok that is 14 inches in diameter. So it is a suitable cooking tool to be used on electric and gas options. The massive carbon steel that defines the wok is 2mm thick which makes it heavy but great for heat distribution.
Handling is made easy by the ergonomic Phenolic handle that fits comfortably and is cool while on the heat. However, be careful to expose it to too much heat since the handle might melt. The other handle poses as the helper to offer stability and make it easy for you to transport. Loop handles help in storing the wok by hanging.
If the temperature is too high (above 350 degrees), you can remove the handles. Use a screwdriver for the small one and turn the metal ring at the end of the handle for the larger one. Before and after using the wok, initial cleaning, seasoning, and primary care are essential. Initial cleaning involves removing the protective coating placed by the manufacturer before using it for the first time. Seasoning is also important if you want the wok serving you for a long time.
The inspiration of Helen Chen to cook using traditional Chinese methods gave birth to the Helen Chen’s Asian Kitchen 14-inch Carbon Steel wok. It is a wok that features heavy gauge carbon steel with a thickness of 1.8mm. Though not thicker than the first one reviewed, you still experience quick heat up and cool down. The heavy yet lightweight material provides room for easy lifting as you are cooking. The concentric grooves offer faster and consistent heating ability with quick heat recovery optimizing the cooking venture. For a traditional wok to render superiority in cooking performance, it means that it is extremely durable and should serve you for as long as you need if proper care is adhered to.
Handling of the wok involves durable and good looking bamboo handles and a helper handle to aid in lifting the wok as you move it. For those of us looking for safe woks whose handles will not melt, here is a suitable option considering the bamboo. It has a flat-bottom design implying compatibility with gas and electric stoves.
You might find many negative reviews relating to how fast the wok rusts. Treating it just like cast iron will keep you away from having the same outrageous comments. It is recommendable that you use your hand to wash it and the simple initial seasoning serving as a vital requirement.
Accessories to use with the Carbon Steel woks
Well, did you receive a wok with no lid or did you misplace the one that you were using? Both questions are answered by acquiring the Joyce Chen 31-0066 Steel Dome lid that suits a 14-inch carbon steel wok. The dome lid was inspired by Joyce Chen’s slogan, “Eastern Cookware for the Western Kitchen” and thereby made it possible to deliver high-quality covers for the westerners.
It features nonstick exterior and interior and a bird wood knob for holding purposes. The wok is 13.5 inches wide which makes it a suitable option for the 14-inch wok. An addition to the specifications includes having rolled edges. Confirm from the manufacturer’s site that the lid can work when you are using the wok to melt on the grill. It becomes a probability case on whether it can hold the direct flames from the grate. The same applies to use with a campfire.
Something to fetch from or stir the food in the carbon steel woks goes to TableCraft 32405M Bamboo Handle Wok Spatula that is 14.5 inches long. If you want a cooking tool that helps remove food without much splatter, the TableCraft matches your expectations. It has a long handle to keep your hands away from the steam and hot air from the cooking food while the preparation is in progress. The lightness makes it convenient to use since fetching the food is the only thing that adds weight making it an ideal item that saves you food access hassle.
The wooden handle makes a perfect holding position when using the spatula. If you are concerned about the handle coming off, this one is super sturdy and does not give any signal of falling off eventually. It can also be used on other wok types other than the carbon steel ones which renders the ‘small spade’ as a versatile tool regardless of the material used to construct the wok. However, it is advisable that you use it carefully since it can scratch the wok when too much force is used on the interior surface of the ‘large cooking pan.’
Usability is extended to easy use especially due to the light feature and easy cleaning. When used lightly, you will not experience bending of the metal at the thinnest part where the turner meets the handle’s bridge.
Apart from the wok, Helen Chen has another surprise for you – an Asian Kitchen Stainless Steel Spider Strainer. They say the name ‘spider’ came from the web-like design on the hollow part of the strainer enabling you to scoop up foods that need draining of hot fluids. If you are looking for something restrained from rusting and discoloring in the process, this one won’t mix up the metal pieces with your food or a feeling of metallic taste in your mouth.
Handling the strainer makes use of the bamboo handle that is around 9.5 inches long. So you don’t have to worry when things get heated up since you are looking forward to finishing cooking. The 1.5-inch depth allows food to sit in the basket and prevent splashes among other messes. You can use it to drain pasta, noodles and other deep-fried foods including fish. Another feature that makes this tool a favorite is the angled handle which makes it easy to get into the pots and fetch a substantial amount of the ready food.
The weight of the strainer plus the food inside is bearable so using it is no stress. After cleaning, it hangs for simple and easy storage, but if you put it in the closet among other items, there will be no trouble as long as space is large enough to accommodate the strainer.
Care and maintenance of carbon steel woks
Initial and after seasoning is vital for the durability of any wok, and the carbon steel materials are no exception. You have probably seen this as you are buying which meaning that for you to optimize the surface for deep frying among other uses, seasoning is a must. Initial seasoning gets rid of the manufacturer’s coating that protects the metal from rusting before purchase. Use of oils here is essential to make sure the process goes on smoothly.
If you don’t use it often, then you need to clean and season it before storing. When cleaning, do not use any soap. Instead, soak it in hot water or heat some in the pan for about 5 minutes to get the stuck foods out. Then go for a soft sponge to clean inside and also to protect the interior patina. Cleaning on the outside calls for hot water and a mild scrubber sponge which is enough. After you are done with the cleaning, dry it over low heat before storing. Why is this done? So that the remaining water particles can evaporate and leave the metal clean and water free. After, that, the wok is ready for storing.
Woks have come to ease the frying task among other uses and provide better venues to do the cooking. Since they are available, the question to answer is which one suits you better? All the considerations that we have looked at should give you the right information before going for a carbon steel wok hunt. Also, the accessories that we have reviewed come in handy when the wok is in use. Have a look at them to see how worthy they will be as they try to ease the job. After that, shopping will be a more relaxed adventure since you know what you want.