Wok has a history! A pot highly versatile for handling different types of cooking recipes! You can unlock the cooking potential of this simple cookware by exploring different cooking methods such as boiling, braising, deep frying, pan frying and stir frying. As we know it is especially designed and engineered for stir frying but for other cooking styles it wouldn’t disappoint. Simple put it on your stovetop and see the magic! Like other kitchen pots and pans woks are also made of different types of material such as stainless, cast iron and carbon steel. In this post we will just focus on best carbon steel woks so you can buy a quality product for your kitchen for mastering stir frying like a Chef in Chinese Restaurant. China is the center of stir frying and hence a source of inspiration for this cooking style.
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Why Carbon Steel Wok?
In market you will find woks made of various materials such stainless steel, cast iron and nonstick. So the question is; why the carbon steel woks are so popular among cooking enthusiasts?
Carbon steel is the healthier alternative of health hazardous Teflon nonstick. It is safe because you are not exposed to risks associated with harmful toxins and chemicals found in nonstick coatings. Carbon steel offers the same natural nonstick attributes for stick free cooking.
So because of the natural nonstick cooking surface you can also reduce the fat or oil content of your food substantially.
Despite of lots of advantages carbon steel also has some cons so we will explore both in this section of article.
Carbon steel pots and pans share the similar properties as cast iron with some additional life easing additions.
Carbon steel is made of 99 percent iron and 1 percent carbon while cast iron consists of 98% iron and 2% carbon. The cookware made of this material is best for all cooking methods such as braising, deep frying, sautéing, searing and even grilling.
Carbon steel made pots and pans work excellently well for retaining heat. It ensures even distribution of heat and fast heat flow for succulent cooking results.
The robust construction formula makes it firm enough to withstand high temperature. This is the reason the pots and pans made of it are highly versatile as far as the heating surfaces are concerned. You can use it with confidence on all heat surfaces such as oven, electric, gas and even induction cooktops. If you kitchen is equipped with induction top stove you can buy a carbon steel wok with confidence. One thing you should keep in mind and that is the shape of your future. Flat bottom wok is the best for glass induction stovetops. As the fragile glass surface can easily be scratched when you use round bottom wok on it so the flat bottom is considered the best option.
The pots and pans made of this metal are lightweight and a bit thinner so it is a comfortable choice especially if your pot or pan is of large size.
Carbon steel leaches iron into your food that is a healthy substance we need in our food.
Pros and Cons of Carbon Steel Wok
Pros of Carbon Steel Cookware
One of the great features of carbon steel its dependable natural nonstick cooking surface. The pots and pans made of it are relatively nonstick when properly seasoned. This natural nonstick conversion wouldn’t work with one seasoning. So you might have to repeat the process until the surface behaves as nonstick satisfactorily.
The nonstick surface is durable and lifelong than nonstick cookware sets. In nonstick cookware sets the quality of coating wears away with passage of time. By contrast in carbon steel the natural nonstick cooking surface improves with passage of time.
Durable and Last Longer
Carbon steel is more durable and long lasting than nonstick cookware sets that are made of aluminum. Aluminum is a soft metal when compared to robust material such as carbon steel. Aluminum is a good conductor of heat but it is very reactive and soft. So aluminum made cookware sets easily warp. Furthermore they also can’t withstand high temperature.
Carbon steel is more robust than cast iron as well. Cast iron is one of the robust materials used for manufacturing of cookware sets. But it can’t compete with carbon steel. As already mentioned in this article carbon steel formula has 1% carbon and 99% iron while in case of cast iron the ratio is 98 percent iron and 2 percent carbon.
With proper care and use carbon steel made pots and pans will serve your kitchen for many years to come.
Without proper use and care your carbons steel made pots and pans can bend but they will not break.
Best for Thermal Conductivity
One of the best properties of any pot or pan is its even and fast heat distribution. If you cookware fails to pass this test that it can’t be considered a quality product. Carbon steel cookware comes with excellent thermal conductivity.
It comes with quick response time to temperature. So it is quicker in response to change in temperature than cast iron. Cast iron has poor response to change in temperature. For this reason it is not best option for heating surface with huge fluctuations in temperature.
When compared to cast iron made pots and pans carbon steel cookware heat up quickly and cools down quickly as well. In simple words it is the opposite of cast iron in this scenario. Cast iron heats up slowly and cools down slowly as well.
If you change the heat setting on your cooktop or burner the cookware will adopt to this change right away. This quick response to change in temperature makes it a perfect choice for stir frying cooking method. So it is one of the best materials for manufacturing woks.
Withstand High Temperature
Unlike aluminum made nonstick cookware sets carbon steel can withstand high temperature. It can tolerate high temperature making it a perfect material for manufacturing pots and pans for searing and stir frying such as woks.
Another benefit of carbon steel is that you exposed it to extreme temperature without fearing discoloration or go out of shape. Aluminum can warp when exposed to high temperature regularly while stainless steel made pots and pans can discolor.
It is safer at high temperature. There is no risk of releasing toxic fumes when exposed to high temperature (like a Teflon coated pan).
Affordable and Relatively Less Expensive
Carbon steel cookware sets are cheaper than copper, stainless steel and high-end nonstick cookware sets. Carbon steel cookware sets are cheaper and affordable. The pots and pans made of this material come with natural nonstick coating so there is no need for painting it with an expensive nonstick coating. So it is cheaper than high-end nonstick cookware.
Lightweight and Easy to Use
The pots and pans made of carbon steel are lightweight and easy to use. Compared to other metal such as cast iron, the pots and pans made of this material are lighter. This provides you with freedom to toss the food easily without too much strain. Being lightweight it makes your cooking job easier. So you can easily shake, lift or turn the pan without too much stress on your hand.
Carbon steel comes with swift response to change in temperature. Both the heating and cooling process is even so you can easily harness the cooking process especially for all those foods that require medium low temperature. You can easily regulate the temperature when it goes to the extreme.
Easy to Clean and Season
Cleaning of carbon steel made wok is easy than cast iron. The seasoning process of carbon steel is also easy than cast iron.
Cons of Carbon Steel Cookware
- It is not dishwasher safe; don’t use harsh detergent for its cleaning because it can damage its natural nonstick coating.
- React with high acidic foods; avoid using high acidic foods such as tomato sauce or vinegar because it could break down the natural nonstick seasoning. But it doesn’t mean that you are restricted from use for all types of acidic foods. You just need to avoid high acidic foods.
- It is more difficult to maintain than stainless steel cookware. Carbon steel wok is not nonstick. The natural nonstick coating is created after repeated seasonings. So you need to check the natural nonstick coatings regularly. And if needed you have to repeat the seasoning process again to make the wok or pan for stick free cooking.
- Bent to Warping: low price and thinner carbon steel cookware are bent to warping. A warped based cookware wouldn’t sit flat on the induction cooktop. If your kitchen is equipped with induction top stove then it is recommend to buy a premium quality carbon steel cookware.
Types of Wok: Traditional Round Bottom or Flat Bottom
As far as design is concerned there are two types of woks: round bottom and flat bottom. Round bottom is the common form of woks and you will get it in every shops and online stores. But some heating surfaces such as glass cooktops can’t find it a best option. Because the round bottom of these traditional woks is not stable on this fragile glass made stovetops. It can easily scratch the surface of glass top stove. Wok based cooking is known for its fast, more movement, shaking and tossing of food so the round bottom wok can easily scratch the cooking surface of the glass cooktop.
What’s the Best Options? Round Bottom or Flat Bottom Wok
Gas stovetop is very versatile; you can use pots and pans made of all materials as well as design without facing any results affecting problems. As know the round bottom wok is the authentic and historically deep rooted form of wok. The first wok was a round bottom pot and today it is also commonly found in this shape.
In past it was the one and best choice. The stir frying enthusiasts didn’t feel the need for any design change of this traditional round bottom wok. But with passage of time our kitchen also responds to changes in technology. Our kitchen is now having the same color and facilities of technological development as it is in other fields of life.
Technology changes the material, design and in some cases the whole phenomenon of the cooking process. One of these effects is felt in the heating surfaces. In old days kitchen have just gas stovetops. But now we have too many choices such as gas, electric, ceramic glass induction and more.
On one side if these changes have made our cooking jobs a lot easier but on other sides it also have created some issues such as selection of pots and pans those are compatible with your top stoves.
The most problematic cooktop is induction one. You can only use those pots and pans on this heat surfaces with induction optimized bases. Another issue you might face is the base of your pot or pan. The base of wok is particularly a matter of consideration when you are using it on glass stovetop. For glass stovetop you can’t use round bottom wok because it can easily scratch the heating surface. A flat bottom wok can solve this issue of glass surface scratching to some degree. But some professional chefs don’t recommend wok based cooking on glass surface at all.
Factors to Consider When Buying Carbon Steel Wok
The wok market is full of plethora of choices. If you are looking for a quality and suitable wok best for meeting your stovetop and recipes requirements you can come across of a lot of choices. Each of these woks is designed differently. So before spending your hard earned money on one of these woks you need to consider some of the critical factors to ensure you have made the right choice.
In market you will find woks in different sizes. The size of wok depends on your cooking needs. For home chef a 14 inch wok is a perfect option. A smaller pan will save you some bucks it will always stress you since it can’t provide enough space to accommodate your ingredients. On other hand a bigger wok will overwhelm your kitchen without serving any purpose.
Large size woks are recommended for using in restaurant.
As we already discussed in this article there are two types of woks as far as design is concerned. You can either buy a round bottomed or flat bottomed wok. So you need to assess the requirements of your stovetop. A round bottomed wok, the most common and traditional form is best for gas cook-tops while modern flat bottomed woks are best for electric and induction stovetops.
A quality wok allows even distribution of heat across the cooking space. According to professional chefs the ideal thickness for a cooking pan is range of 1.5MM to 2.0MM. As you might know carbon heats up fast and cools down faster so it makes easy to regulate temperature.
Most of the carbon steel woks are equipped with handle. The way these handles are designed plays a vital role in determining your cooking experience. One of the important features is the design of the handle. Wok handles are not made of same size. Some handles are short while others are long.
Longer handles make the cooking process easy. It will allow you to toss food easily without losing control. Your cooking experience material affects by size of the handle. Long handle wok is a more preferable choice than short one.
Besides the size of the handle, another important feature of ergonomic handle is the material used in its construction. The most common material used for modern wok handles are phenolic, wood or plastic. Handles made any of these material stay cool on stovetops.
Phenolic handles are resistant to solvent cleaners as well as high temperature. Wood and plastic made handles are not resistant to high temperature and solvent cleaners. Phenolic handles are considered the best because of these two safety features.