Best Carbon Steel Wok

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best carbon steel wok

For those of you who hate suspense, my top pick is the Mammafong Chinese Pow Wok. High-quality construction and great value makes this wok my personal favorite.

Before I had a genuine love of cooking, I never thought I would need a wok. I changed my mind after seeing how cooking with a wok provides faster cooking with needing less oil. To get that quality you need the best carbon steel wok you can find.

Fortunately, you can find a lot of suitable carbon steel woks, so let’s talk about why carbon steel is a great choice.

Here are the woks I’ll be reviewing:

Why Carbon Steel?

A common question is: which is better carbon steel or a cast iron wok? I prefer carbon steel because not only is the steel lighter than cast iron, carbon steel comes up to temperature more quickly.  However, they both need to be seasoned properly in order to develop good non-stick properties without fear of any PFAS. See our Cast Iron Seasoning Guide (carbon steel is seasoned using the same process) to learn more.

Carbon steel is also the best for the price. You can purchase a high-quality wok for a low price without the synthetic coatings found in other types of woks. It also has the benefits of a cast iron wok and a stainless steel pan. It can sear well, holds flavor, and it heats up evenly. 

Here are just a few of the benefits of carbon steel:

  • Conducts heat evenly
  • Affordable
  • Versatile (frying steaming, or smoking)
  • Authentic
  • Scratch-resistant
  • Durable

When you’re looking for the perfect wok, you’ll find chefs often use the most expensive options, but in this case, a carbon steel wok is also budget-friendly. You rarely get the chance to have the most authentic tool for a great price.

How Do I Choose a Carbon Steel Wok?

When shopping for a carbon steel wok, there are factors to consider to ensure it’s a high-quality tool. A high-quality carbon steel wok will come with 14-gauge (2 mm thick) steel that doesn’t bend on the sides.

As with any choice, it comes down to what you need at home. Ask yourself how many people you will be cooking for and how often. How big is your stove? It will play a role in deciding not only what size wok you need, but what type as well.

You may want something small with accessories if you are new to cooking or you don’t cook much. However, if you have a big family, then look for something large and easy to maintain.

Carbon steel fire 1

What Size Wok Do I Need?

The different wok sizes can be confusing to newbies, and in this case, bigger is not always better. When choosing the size of your wok, consider how many people you’re cooking for.

  • 12″ for up to 5 people
  • 14″ for 6 to 12 people
  • 16″ for over 12 people.

Try to avoid using anything over 16 inches because it won’t heat your food evenly. Think quality, not quantity; it’s hard to move a lot of food around in a giant heavy wok. Especially if it doesn’t have a great handle. 

Does My Wok Need a Handle?

Did you know that woks had handles for traditional wood stoves? You should pay attention to the handles on your wok. Even if you aren’t lifting your wok out of a traditional Chinese oven moving your wok around will be essential to get a good sear on your stir fry.

The handles on the side are called helper handles, and they do just that. They give you a good grip for tossing your food to redistribute the heat quickly.

The long wooden handles you find on some woks are made of bamboo and other materials that resist heat. You use a wok on such high temperature it’s important to choose a material that won’t burn in an open fire.

Difference Between a Flat and Round Bottom?

The difference between a flat bottom and round bottom wok is in the way they cook. While both heat evenly, the rounded bottom releases more heat back down onto the stove. A flat bottom reduces the heat reflection, so it doesn’t damage an electric stove’s flat top.

Carbon steel cooking 1

Unless you’re a chef or have a chef’s kitchen, a flat bottom is what you need. They are the most versatile and will work with gas, electric, or induction stoves.

Round bottoms are great for boiling and steaming as well as frying. You can even add in more accessories. A wok ring helps place the wok on a flat surface and a half rack allows you to steam and fry food at the same time. 

As an added bonus, you’ll want to choose a wok with a lid to help you steam and simmer food after it’s fried.

How to Care for a Carbon Steel Wok?

To care for a carbon steel wok, you will have to season it, which means being sure that it stays oiled. Carbon steel can rust if you’re not careful. 

Once it’s seasoned, you shouldn’t use soap to clean it, just water and a brush, and then dry it with heat. You should never leave water sitting in the pan for too long.

The best way to maintain your wok comes from Mammafong, a wok manufacturer. Follow a few simple steps after each use, and your wok will provide you years of service.

  • Rinse warm wok with water
  • Don’t use detergent or soap
  • Use a soft scrub brush on stuck-on food
  • Rinse and wipe dry
  • Heat on low to get rid of excess moisture
  • Rub in light oil

The very first time you use a wok, you will need to season it. This may mean getting rid of the nonstick coating that already came on the pan. To do that, you will break all the rules the first time you season and clean the pan with steel wool and even soap.

Our Top Picks for Best Carbon Steel Woks

Now that you know why you need a wok and why it should absolutely be carbon steel, you’re ready to choose your model.

Here are our favorites:

Craft Wok Traditional

Our first choice gives you the most authentic experience if you have the right kind of stove to use it. It’s important to note that the Craft Wok will only work best on a gas range. It’s a traditional, hand-hammered, 15 gauge wok with a round bottom designed by Craft Wok. This is a great option when cooking to impress at a dinner party; it makes you look and feel like you have a professional cooking tool.

Pros

  • With a size of 14 inches, this wok gives you good-sized meals for a family or to entertain guests.
  • Chinese chefs in Guangzhou use it, so you know you’re getting an authentic product.
  • The Steel and wooden handle won’t burn or slip.  
  • It includes a steel helper handle so you can hold it on both sides.

Cons

  • This pan needs to be seasoned before use; it doesn’t have a nonstick coating.
  • You can’t use a round bottom pan on electric or induction stoves.
  • This wok doesn’t come with a lid or any other accessories.

Souped Up Recipes Carbon Steel Wok

This carbon steel wok is for all kinds of stoves. If you aren’t sure what kind of wok you need, this may be the one. It comes with accessories, including a spatula and wooden lid. If you’re unsure how to take care of a wok, don’t worry, it comes with a video guide. It’s the most complete purchase you can make. The creator is on YouTube so you can watch her videos, try her recipes, and enjoy the amazing wok.

Pros

  • Accessories are included: a spatula, wooden lid.
  • It has a flat bottom, so it works with all kinds of stoves. 
  • The wooden handle won’t overheat. 
  • The wooden lid is useful for steaming and gorgeous to look at. 
  • If you’re a beginner, it comes with 190 recipes and a video guide on how to season the pan.

Cons

  • It’s 12.5 diameters may be too small for you if you want to cook large meals.  
  • No helper handle, but it’s smaller in size, so you may not need it. 
  • This pan needs to be seasoned before use; it doesn’t have a nonstick coating.

Mammafong Chinese Pow Wok

This flat bottom wok gives you everything you need from an authentic wok, but offers the flexibility to use it on all stovetops. Professional quality construction using 16 gauge steel should provide years of use.  

Pros

  • The flat bottom works on any kind of stove.
  • The factory provides an initial nonstick coating of 100% vegetable oil. 
  • The wooden handle will keep it secure when you’re using it. 
  • It also has a helper handle on the other side for moving the wok around when you saute. 
  • It’s 14 inches giving you the option of big meals for your family when you need them.

Cons

  • Nonstick coating will wear over time because it’s not synthetic, so you will have to season it eventually.  
  • It doesn’t come with any other accessories such as a lid or spatula.

Mammafong Traditional Round Pow Wok

If you want to feel like a chef, you probably crave a traditional wok with a round bottom. This model is similar to the Mammafong Chinese Pow Wok but without the flat bottom. Definitely the way to go if you have a gas stove.

Pros

  • The factory provides an initial nonstick coating of 100% vegetable oil. 
  • It comes with an extra-long wooden handle that will keep it from slipping out of your hand. 
  • It also has a helper handle.

Cons

  •  A round bottom won’t work on electric and induction stovetops.
  • This nonstick coating will wear off after time because it’s all-natural and will need to be reseasoned.
  • This wok doesn’t come with a lid.

M.V. Trading Flat Bottom Wok

This 14 gauge wok is made in the USA. This is the only wok on the list that comes with two helper handles and no long wooden handle. This wok is available in either 12 or 14 inches. It’s one of the most affordable woks, so it’s great for a first time wok purchase.

Pros

  • The flat bottom can be used on any type of stove.
  • It has two metal handles for highly controlled flipping.
  • Inexpensive
  • Various sizes

Cons

  • This wok isn’t nonstick; it needs to be seasoned before the first use.
  • There is no long wooden handle
  • It doesn’t come with any other accessories.

Our Top Pick

With so many excellent options, it’s hard to choose a clear winner. The best part about a wok is its versatility, so that’s why our top pick edged out the competition. While we loved everything the Souped Up Wok had to offer in terms of accessories, our winner is the Mammafong Chinese Pow Wok.

Fourteen inches is the perfect size for just one or a family, so it works well for anyone. We find that versatility is crucial; after all, that’s why we love woks. Hand-hammered quality, good heat distribution, and great value for the money make this the wok to beat. Choose your wok and get ready for some amazing dinners using your new favorite kitchen tool.

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Josh Green

Josh Green

Josh is a freelance food writer and certified kitchen gearhead. He has a background in engineering with extensive product testing experience and enjoys helping his readers find their inner Wolfgang Puck. When not writing, he can be found spending time with his family, hiking the local trails, and continuing his quest to find the perfect cheesesteak. He lives in the Philadelphia ‘burbs with his wife and two children.

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