Stir fry is undoubtedly one of the best things to cook up when you’ve got a bunch of random food in your fridge that you need to get rid of. However, a stir fry isn’t “good” unless it’s made in the right wok. The market is over saturated in terms of pots, pans and woks, which can make it challenging to figure out what you actually need. When you’re searching for your next best kitchen item, aim your focus towards a sturdy cast iron wok with a lid.
Traditional woks consisted of a carbon steel bowl with no handles, but the modern wok has developed into something a little more complex. Now, woks have different lids, are made of different materials, and even come in different shapes, like flat bottom woks! With all the different options that there are, three main points come into play when trying to pick which one you’re going to add to your kitchen; quickness of heating, ability to season, and ease of clean-up.
Why Cast Iron?
Much like cast iron skillets, cast iron woks only get better with time. Being able to season your wok will make your food that much better. Unlike the traditional carbon steel woks, cast iron holds spices and seasonings in it’s rough surface. However, the rough cooking surface might deter you from buying it based on its inability to be cleaned quickly…but that’s not quite true. Cast iron cookware can be cleaned with a little drop of dish soap and water. Yep, the age-old myth that you can’t wash your cast iron has been debunked (thankfully). By seasoning a cast iron correctly and adding a layer of oil with a paper towel after each cleaning, you lessen the chance of food sticking to it, too.
While cast iron tends to take a bit longer to heat up because of it’s thickness, they retain heat further up the side walls. This will change the style of cooking. Traditionally carbon steel woks have thin sides, so the food can cool off as it’s flipped and moved up the sides. However, flipping food in a cast iron wok requires Herculean strength. So the style of dishes you can achieve in a cast iron wok will be slightly different.
If you’re cooking at home and need some more stove top space, you can take it off the heat and set it aside and your food will still cook from the hot cast iron. Another plus to a cast iron wok is that it can be used on high heat, so you can use it on open flame or on a glass stove-top. But you’re probably going to want a flat bottom wok for electric burners.
Best Round Bottom Cast Iron Wok
Loop handles and a wooden lid make this Homeries Cast Iron worth every penny. It is on the bigger side, 14 inches, which is perfect for big family meals. The upward slanting handles make it easy to move.
The amount of woks out there are endless, but this list narrowed it down to a few key players. My recommendation would be to find a wok you love first and if it doesn’t already come with a lid, get one! Even if you don’t think you need it, it’s better to have it now than to need it later.
Woks come in different Shapes
There are two primary shapes for a wok: round and flat. A flat bottom wok is nice because it fits and stays balanced on almost every surface. Frying pans and flat woks are pretty closely related, yet woks have higher walls that slope out more dramatically.
Round bottom woks are great for tossing around food and not worrying about whether it will get stuck in a crevice or on the surface. Round woks can be tricky to use on electric/glass top stoves, which is why I suggest a flat bottom wok for electric and glass stove tops and a round bottom for open flame and gas stoves.
Looking for a bundle?
This Crucible Cookware wok kit comes with a cookbook, a lid, and two silicone handle grippers. It’s absolutely huge at 14 inches.
It’s oven safe because it is pure cast iron. Yes, the silicone handles are not attached.
Speaking of the silicone handles, they come in handy (sorry for the pun), so you can easily move the wok around when it’s hot, and it’ won’t slip. Many types of cookware silicon is safe up to 600°F. I just left my spatula very near a flame, and it didn’t melt even though it was hot enough to burn my hand when I grabbed it!! Ouch.
Wooden Lid vs. Glass Lid
While woks are used to make a great stir fry, they can also be used to steam, braise and smoke (among other things), which is where lids come in handy. Some woks don’t come with lids in a set, which gives you the opportunity to figure out which one you prefer. Your main two differentials when it comes to a lid is the material.
Glass or wood? They each have their advantages. For instance, when I’m cooking up a dish in my wok, I find my wok’s glass lid works great to check on the readiness of my dish without affecting the moisture in the pan. However, if I want to steam something I like to switch over to a wooden lid. The main benefit of a wooden lid is it stays relatively cool on the outside because wood is more insulating than glass or metal. Another benefit of a wooden lid is that it will help to prevent boiling over, won’t drip liquids onto your stove top after taking the lid off and keeps a lot of moisture in the wok.