A Beginner’s Guide To Purchasing And Cleaning Woks 

 January 13, 2020

By  Axel Kloch

For those who don’t already know, woks are round-bottomed, deep, Asian cooking pans which are great for everything – from steaming vegetables to stir frying shrimps, woks can be used for creating a variety of dishes. Similar to any other kitchen implement, you will find inexpensive, economical and pricey woks in the market.

However, it’s worth mentioning that the best brands tend to be costly. Woks have been used in China for many years and are in fact the only cooking pan used by many Chinese families. This handy guide will teach you everything you need to know about selecting the right wok.

Wok Varieties You Need To Know About

Woks are typically available in two different types: electric and cooker tops. Depending on the model and brand, you can find both cooker top and electric woks in round-bottomed and flat-bottomed varieties.

Electric Woks

Choosing between a traditional wok versus and electric one can be challenging. Not to mention, there are several factors you should keep in mind. Electric woks generate heat which is needed for cooking and offer additional functions not found in other woks.


Some electric models include legs that elevate the heated bottom of the wok, preventing it from making contact with the worktop or tabletop. Some electric models also feature a heating element, these accessories are undoubtedly more expensive than the basic types available in the market.

Why Should I Purchase An Electric Wok?

Simply plug in this wok to an electric socket and you will be able to use it for a variety of different situations. This is also makes it great for tabletop cooking, allowing your family to cook and enjoy a delicious meal outdoors.

Cooker Top Woks

In contrast to electric models, cooker top woks aren’t as versatile and do not feature an built in heating system. However, they are much easier to clean since you don’t have to worry about damaging electrical components in the sink.

Choosing between an electrical and a traditional model depends entirely on your personal preference. Both types can be used for a variety of cooking applications, such as steaming, poaching, searing, steaming, braising and boiling. However, woks are primarily used for stir-frying meat and vegetables.

Why Should I Purchase A Cooker Top Wok?

If you want to experience traditional Chinese cooking then a cooker top wok is the best option for you. 


Traditional woks are not only used in China but all around the world, including East Asia and South East Asia.

Wok Materials

While western style pots and pans are available in an endless array of materials but in contrast, woks and other Asian oriented cooking pots and pans are made using only a few metals. The two most popular types are carbon steel and cast iron. You will also find aluminum woks in the market but they are not as commonly used as the other two materials. Here’s everything you need to know about the different types of woks:

Carbon Steel Woks

Carbon steel is perhaps the most widely used material when it comes to manufacturing woks. This is primarily because the material is inexpensive, lightweight and durable. Thanks to its rapid heat conduction, you can use carbon steel woks to sear meats and other foot items, which is essential for proper stir-frying techniques.

Despite its popularity, the material does have a few downsides which cannot be undermined. For instance, carbon steel woks must be seasoned with oil to create a non-stick surface that will also resist rust.


Additionally, the seasoning process is more complicated to accomplish when working with a carbon steel wok. Seasoning is the process of carbonizing the interior surface of the wok so that the metallic odor and taste does not seep into the cooked foods. Here are a few types of stamped carbon steel:

Stamped Carbon Steel

This is the most inexpensive type of wok made using carbon steel. These cooking vessels are manufactured using a stamping process in which a thin sheet of carbon steel is stamped to form the shape of a wok using physical pressure.

However, this type of wok is relatively low quality and cannot withstand high heat. Additionally, stamped carbon steel woks tends to distribute heat unevenly, affecting the way you cook. This can affect the taste and quality of your meals, causing portions of them to form “hot spots.”

Alternatives To Stamping

Years ago, woks were hammered into desired shape using manual labor. However, today, this process is done with the help of a machine that hammers heavy gauge steel. The metal steel has a thickness of at least 14 gauge which is relatively much stronger compared to traditionally hammering the wok.


This type of cooking vessel resists deformation better than its other counterparts. Alternatively, you can also consider spinning steel into shape to produce a better quality wok.

However, many people prefer investing in woks that have been manufactured using traditional methods. Opt for carbon steel woks which have been manually hammered multiple times. Traditionally, these layers are forged by hand, resulting in a better quality product.

Cast Iron Woks

Cast iron woks are the second most popular metal used for manufacturing modern woks. The most important types of cast iron woks include:

Chinese Cast Iron Woks

Chinese woks are made using thin cast iron walls. This material heats up quickly, allowing you to save money on fuel. In fact, this type of wok was manufactured to help people cope with the shortage of burnable fuels over large regions of the country.


However, these cast iron woks are thinner and tend to be quite lightweight. These woks also tend to be relatively inexpensive as fewer materials are used for manufacturing it. The only downside is that they are prone to damage.

Western Cast Iron Woks

Western cast iron woks are approximately three times thicker when compared to their Chinese counterparts. This makes these woks much tougher and sturdier, not to mention, they are resistant to breakage. However, due to the added thickness, it takes a considerably longer time for these woks to reach the desired temperature.

Seasoning Issues

One of the most notable advantages of cast iron is that it forms a much more stable and permanent layer of carbonization when it is seasoned with oil. Additionally, cast iron also distributes heat better and more evenly as compared to carbon steel.

However, you may have to make several cooking adjustments when using cast iron woks. For example, expert chefs know that cooked food must be immediately removed from the wok to stop the cooking process and prevent the food from burning.

Non-Stick Surfaces

Thanks to advancements in technology, like other cooking utensils, woks now also offer non-stick surfaces made using PFA, teflon and other high tech coating options. However, this type of wok should be used with utensils that are made of wood, silicone and plastic rather than metal to prevent the surface from becoming scratched.


However, you are likely to experience a difference in taste when preparing food in non-stick woks as compared to those prepared in a traditional wok. However, true chefs may shy away from this wok as it inhibits true browning. Additionally, the low carbon content also affects the overall flavor profile of the final dish.

How To Season A Carbon Steel Wok

So, you have just purchased a brand new carbon steel wok and can’t wait to sauté vegetables and prepare a hot pot of Chinese goodness? Well, before you get started, you need to season the wok to perfection. Rest assured, in this section, we will provide you a step-by-step guide on how to season a wok and care for it so that remains as good as new! Here’s everything you will need:


  • 1 unseasoned carbon steel wok
  • Liquid dish soap


  • ½ cup ginger, unpeeled, sliced
  • ½ tablespoon peanut oil


Follow these simple step by step directions:

  • Wash the Wok Thoroughly: First things first, you need to wash the vessel thoroughly. Unseasoned woks are coated using factory oils to prevent the metal from rusting and deteriorating until it is finally sold to a customer. Therefore, you must thoroughly scrub the wok from the inside to ensure all the chemicals have been rinsed off. Use a sponge and some dish soap to clean the wok. You may rinse it with hot water afterwards.
  • Dry the Wok: Once the wok has been cleaned properly, set it on low heat and allow it to dry for a minute or two until all the water droplets have dried off. Do not allow the wok to air dry otherwise it can and will rust. Use this method whenever you need to dry the wok.
  • Prepare the Space: Seasoning the wok will require you to open up the windows and switch on the exhaust fan. While the wok is clean, some oil residue from the chemicals will remain so ensure your kitchen is properly ventilated. Place the bowls with ginger, oil, and scallions near the stove. It is also a good idea to place a small bowl of water in front of the stove.
  • Heat the Wok: Now, it is time for you to switch on the stove burner, allowing it to go as high as it will go. Set the wok on top of the burner on high heat. To ensure the vessel is warm enough, sprinkle droplets of water onto the pan after 30 seconds. When the beads of water start to evaporate within 1 or 2 seconds, it means the wok is ready for stir-frying. For some woks, the water may roll around instead of evaporating immediately. Rest assured, this is perfectly normal and is common with some new woks. Let the wok heat up for about a minute and then add oil.
  • Take the Wok off the Heat and Add Oil: Take the wok off the heat and add about 2 tablespoons of oil. Carefully, lift the pan and swirl it around to coat the sides and bottom. If the oil reacts wildly and causes the wok to smoke, you have probably over-heated the vessel. Take the wok off the heat and allow it to cool for a couple of minutes. Once the pan is cool enough, wipe the oil using a paper towel, wash the wok and start all over again.
  • Time to Add the Aromatics: Place the wok back on the flame again. Add the ginger and scallions.
  • Turn down Heat and Stir-Fry: Reduce the flame to medium heat and stir-fry the spices for about 15 to 20 minutes. Smear the spices to the sides of the wall and all the way to the edge. If the aromatics are too dry, try adding a tablespoon of oil.
  • Lookout for Color Change: Now, wait for a color change. The color of the wok should change from a silvery shade to yellow-brown. Don’t worry if you see other colors, such as black, blue and bright yellow. The pan will feature a smoother appearance.
  • Allow the Wok to Cool and Remove it from the Heat: Remove the wok from the flame and allow it to cool down. Toss away the aromatics and use hot water to wash the wok. Don’t use any dish soap, though!
  • Wipe the Wok Dry: Place the wok over low heat and allow it to dry for a couple of minutes. Your work here is done as the wok is now seasoned. You may now use this utensil for cooking.

How To Clean An Uncoated Wok

A well-seasoned and well-cared for wok can be one of the most versatile tools in your kitchen. If properly cared for, stainless steel and carbon steel woks will last for generations to come. If you have recently purchased a wok, follow the above-mentioned steps to season it properly.


Once you have started using the wok regularly, it is time you learn how to clean it properly. Adopt a habit to immediately clean and dry the wok after each use. Proper maintenance will preserve and help retain the natural protective coating that covers the vessel. Here are a few important tips you should keep in mind:

Wash The Vessel After Every Use

This may sound obvious but you need to be diligent. In fact, thoroughly wash the wok before using it for the first time. Some soapy water and a good scrub will do the trick. Rinse the wok using hot water and wipe it clean using a soft cloth. Place the wok on the stove and turn on the heat until it starts producing smoke. Be careful not to burn yourself in the process.

Soak a paper cloth in oil and hold it by using a pair of tongs. Use it to rub the oil over the wok. Some uncoated carbon steel woks in the market have a light coat oil that protects it from rusting and tarnishing. Use a sponge to scrub of the coating before you are ready to use it.

Soak The Wok In Hot Water

Soak the wok in a sink of hot water after you have let it cool for a while. Allow the wok to soak for a couple of minutes to loosen any food debris. This will make it easier for you to scrub off the residue. Avoiding using extreme heat when cleaning the wok as it may result in damage. For instance, don’t place a hot wok directly in a sink of cold water. Allow it to cool down for a couple minutes.

Scrub The Wok Using A Sponge

Use a kitchen scrub or a special wok-cleaning brush to wipe away the remaining remnants and food debris. We suggest you only use hot water but you can use a small amount of dish soap too.


Avoid using an abrasive sponge that could damage the preventive layers of coating on the wok.

Rinse The Wok Using Hot Water

Once you are done scrubbing, it is time to completely rinse the wok using hot water. This will help you remove any food particles you have missed. At this point, you may have to rinse the wok twice if necessary.

Allow The Wok To Dry

Before you store the wok back in the cupboard again, you must ensure it has been dried properly. Wipe it clean to remove all moisture or else it could cause the wok to rust. Put the wok back on the stove over low or medium heat to speed up the process. Don’t forget to allow the wok to cool before you handle it again.

For better results, consider lightly coating the wok using vegetable oil before storing it back. This will prevent rusting. However, if the wok does end up rusting, you will have to re-season it again.

Amazing Wok Recipes You Need To Try

So, what are you waiting for, it’s time you start cooking. Use your new kitchen utensil to prepare delicious, healthy meals that your family will enjoy. Whether you are craving for some fried rice or some healthy veggies, a wok will help you prepare it all.


Here’s a healthy yet easy broccoli and chicken stir-fry recipe you should try.

Broccoli And Chicken Stir-Fry


  • 3 scallions whites, thinly sliced
  • 1 pound chicken, cubed
  • 1 piece fresh ginger
  • 2 tbsp. sugar
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 tbsp. dry sherry
  • 1 ¼ tsp. salt
  • 1 tbsp., plus 1 tsp. corn starch
  • 1/3 cup water
  • 1 tbsp. dark sesame oil
  • 3 tbsp. vegetable oil
  • 1 tbsp. hoisin sauce
  • 5 to 6 cups of broccoli, trimmed and sliced (keep the stems and florets separate)
  • 1 teaspoon chili flakes
  • 2 tbsp. vegetable oil


  • Toss the scallion whites and chicken in a medium sized bowl
  • Add about half the ginger and garlic, 1 tsp. of salt, sesame oil, the sherry, soy sauce, sugar and 1 tsp. of cornstarch. Marinate the chicken cubes at room temperature for about 20 minutes.
  • In a separate bowl, mix the left over cornstarch with 1/3 water
  • Heat the wok over high heat and add a tbsp. of oil
  • Stir-fry the broccoli steams for 30 seconds. Add the remaining ginger and garlic along with the florets.
  • Add 2 tbsp. of water to the wok and season it with salt and pepper
  • Stir-fry the ingredients until the broccoli is crisp. Be careful not to ruin the texture
  • Once the broccoli is done, transfer it to a clean plate
  • Heat up the wok again, adding 2 tbsp. of oil
  • Toss in the chicken cubes and the chili flakes. Stir-fry the chicken until the color changes to brown.
  • Add the hoisin sauce and the broccoli in the pan.
  • Stir in the leftover cornstarch mixture, bringing the chicken to a boil.
  • Consider adding more water if the sauce is too thin. You can also add more salt and pepper depending on your taste
  • Serve the stir-fry on a serving dish, or plate it up in 4 separately dishes for your family to enjoy. Garnish the veggies using sesame seed and serve with jasmine rice.
  • Enjoy!


Hopefully, this helpful guide has provided you all the information you need regarding purchasing and taking care of a wok. This versatile kitchen utensil can be found in almost all Asian homes and will allow you to cook more flavorful meals. 

Axel Kloch

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