Before buying a carbon steel wok please check out our section Is Carbon Steel For You? They are a bit more work, especially at the start, but I think it’s worth it for a wok. You need to be prepared to season and maintain your wok. None of this should take much time. If you think this is for you then read on to find the best carbon steel wok to buy.
I’ve reviewed the following carbon steel woks:
- Craft Wok Carbon Steel Pow Wok (Best carbon steel round bottomed wok for gas stoves)
- Joyce Chen Carbon Steel Wok (Best carbon steel wok on a budget)
- Town Food Service Peking Style Wok (Best oven carbon steel wok)
- Souped Up Recipes Carbon Steel work (Best carbon steel flat bottom wok for electric and induction stoves)
- Mammafong Traditional Wok (Best hammered carbon steel wok
Read my carbon steel wok reviews to find the best one for you
High Heat Stir Frying with Carbon Steel woks
Before we go on, there’s something I want to run by you: You came here looking for a wok, and I’ll help you find one, whatever stove or scenario you have.
Yet also consider if you need a separate burner. Stir frying is supposed to be done at very high heat and there are two problems with traditional stovetops:
- You can’t always reach as high heat as you would like as home stovetops are more limited
- Even if you do reach the desired heat it can leave the kitchen smokey and hot
What’s the answer? Well you could probably stir fry at normal stovetop temperatures and it will come out OK. So, by all means try that first.
Are carbon steel woks for you?
Carbon steel, like cast iron is a long lasting, tough material that needs a little bit of extra care. Carbon steel doesn’t contain the chemical PTFE which is in Teflon. However, you can season your wok so it is nonstick, without PTFE. You also get a wok that, if you look after it, you can leave to your grandchildren.
The advantage of carbon steel over traditional nonstick in a wok is that carbon steel can get much hotter without risk of breaking down. Carbon steel can be heated up to (399°C) 750°F. On the other hand, PTFE nonstick (i.e. Teflon) only goes up to 260 °C (500 °F). You can stir fry above 260 °C (500 °F), though you need to be very careful if you do. I like the extra margin of a carbon steel wok, and it’s also great to be able to use metal utensils without worrying.
What about cast iron?
Carbon steel and cast iron are very similar. The main difference between the two is that carbon steel is a little bit lighter. Each has its own uses, but I think being lighter makes carbon steel ideal for big woks. A cast iron wok might be a little bit too much.
Seasoning a carbon steel wok
When you get a wok made of carbon steel you have to season it. This is not very difficult, and you can just follow the manufacturer’s instructions which typically are:
- Wash off the manufacturers oil
- Lightly coat in canola oil
- Heat wok until oil smokes
- Repeat steps 3 and 4 several times to build up a nice seasoning
This video explains it well:
Caring for your carbon steel wok
When you wash the wok, you should do so gently, without using detergent. If you ever give it a thorough wash, then repeat the seasoning steps. Never leave it wet as it will rust. It’s a good idea to apply a light coat of oil to the pan after washing and drying. This should take no more than a minute and helps stop it rusting.
That’s it – I don’t think it is a big deal, but it is a little bit more work than a normal nonstick. That’s why I think a wok is ideal to have in carbon steel. I don’t use a wok every day so it’s not much extra work for me.
Too much Work?
If the seasoning and maintenance sound like too much work for you, there are two alternatives:
- Buy pre seasoned. As I couldn’t find a decent pre seasoned carbon steel wok, I would recommend, this pre seasoned cast iron wok.
- Alternatively consider getting a normal nonstick wok. Modern nonstick isn’t actually dangerous so it’s more of a personal choice. There is a great selection of nonstick woks.
What You Need to Know when Choosing The Best Carbon Steel Woks
The Type Of Bottom
The bottom of a carbon steel wok depends on what type of stove you have. If you have a gas stove I would recommend a carbon steel round bottom wok. These are the true woks for me as they make it easy to toss the food around the pan. The flame of the stove spreads nicely around the rounded bottom. The main problem is that round bottom woks don’t really work on induction or electric stoves. These stoves need a flat surface to heat.
A flat bottom carbon steel wok is ideal for induction and electric stoves. The flat bottom means that the stove can heat the whole of the base not just a spot. It also means it rests comfortably on a flat surface – a round bottom wok would wobble on the flat surface.
Round bottom woks shouldn’t wobble on gas stoves because they sit on the grills with the bottom curving below the contact point. As always this depends on the stove (and grills); you need a space around the centre of the burner for the round bottom of the wok.
If you want to use a round bottom wok with an electric stove you could consider buying a wok ring (or wok rack). This is a little device holds the wok in place on a flat surface like an electric stove. It doesn’t quite solve the problem that electric stoves heat better through contact but it helps. It’s unlikely this would work for induction stoves though.
You can even use a wok ring on a gas stove if the grills don’t allow the wok to curve under them.
You could use a flat bottom wok with a gas stove, but I wouldn’t recommend it. A rounded bottom on a gas stove will heat the base and sides better.
Carbon steel woks are big and you need the space to store them. Most of them have a metal side handle which you can use to hang them up.
For a family of 4-5 I would suggest a 14 inch (35 cm) wok. For a single person or a couple you might only need a 12 inch (30cm) wok.
Some carbon steel woks come with lids or offer them as extras. These are nice to have, but I don’t use a lid with my wok. I do use a lid with my frying pan. With a frying pan I’m often leaving things cooking in the pan without touching them. The lid then helps stop the fat from jumping out of the pan. This isn’t the case with woks, as I’m always moving food around when I stir fry, so the lid wouldn’t get any use.
The Helper Handle
Most carbon steel woks have a second helper handle. This is used to pick up the wok when you’ve finished cooking – the fully laden wok can be a bit heavy for just the main handle.
You can also use a good helper handle to hang the wok for storage – a great option if cupboard space is limited.
The helper handle might be metal which makes it more robust and less likely to get burnt as you turn the wok. On the other hand, wooden handles make it easier to lift the wok straight away after cooking, without oven gloves. There isn’t a best answer here!
The material the wok is made from can make a big difference to the ease of use, durability and cooking quality. As a general rule, the thinner the material the more lightweight (and easy to use) it is. Thicker metal is heavier but more durable.
The metal can also impact how quickly, and evenly the pan heats. Round bottom woks have an advantage here in my opinion.
Most of the rest is aesthetics. For example, the colour doesn’t affect anything, so it’s a matter of personal taste.
Some woks are visibly hand hammered and I think this makes them look a bit nicer. I’m not sure it adds much value, but that is up to you.
Best Carbon Steel Woks: Reviews
This beautiful and sturdy 14 inch carbon steel wok by Craft Wok should last you a lifetime. It’s designed for cooking over high heat, meaning you can stir fry in the traditional way. It is attractively hand hammered, although it was also machined. (Machining doesn’t affect quality and it still looks nice).
The wooden handle is the weak point on this otherwise awesome Craft Wok. It isn’t quite the same quality as the rest of the pan and makes it harder to handle. The high quality metal helper handle more than makes up for it. My suggestion is: Use the wooden handle to hold and turn the pan when cooking. When you’ve finished lift the wok with both the wooden handle and the metal helper handle (wearing oven gloves).
The round bottom means the Craft Wok isn’t suitable for induction or electric stoves without a wok ring (not recommended). It is ideal for gas stoves.
- Sturdy and well crafted
- Metal helper handle is useful for high heat
- Helper handle is ideal for hanging (storing) wok.
- Wok itself heats up quickly and to a high heat – ideal for traditional stir fry.
- The wooden handle can sometimes become loose.
- Wok laden with food is heavy for wooden handle. You need to use oven gloves and the metal helper handle as well.
Joyce Chen Carbon Steel Wok – Best Carbon Steel Wok on a Budget
This 14 inch carbon steel wok is lightweight and comfortable to use. Both the main and helper handles are made of wood, meaning you can lift it off the stove with your bare hands. It’s slightly thinner than the alternatives which makes a difference when it’s full of food.
Unfortunately, these features also make this Joyce Chen wok slightly less sturdy: It dents easily, and the handles can become loose. This wok is not made to take a beating.
If I had an induction cooker and wanted a wok for occasional use, then I would definitely consider this one. If you do get it, inspect if before use to make sure it hasn’t come dented, then treat it with care.
This Joyce Chen wok has a flat bottom – ideal for induction or electric stoves. They also work on gas stoves, but you might be better off with a round bottom wok.
- Lightweight wok makes it easy to use
- Wooden handles mean you can pick it up straight away with your bare hands
- Well designed pan and very versatile
- Affordable price
- Both handles can come loose easily
- Thin steel – easily dented
- Helper handle isn’t ideal for hanging (storing) wok
If you want to shop around you can find this Joyce Chen wok at Bed Bath and Beyond (with some extra goodies):
Town Food Service Peking Style Wok – Best Carbon Steel Wok for Oven Use
This 14 inch wok is all metal, including the handle which can get hot. There is no helper handle so think about how you will lift it.
The thickness of the metal is probably just right in terms of balance between weight and sturdiness. This does mean, though, that there is a risk of it getting dented if you don’t take care.
This is a basic wok that does the job. For the price it’s great and should last a long time. For me this the “back to basics” wok – it is the minimum you need to do great cooking – the rest is up to you.
The round bottom means that it isn’t suitable for induction or electric stoves, unless you get a wok ring (which I don’t recommend.) It is ideal for gas stoves.
- All metal so you can put it in the oven
- Lightweight so easy to toss food around
- Well built so nothing comes loose of falls apart
- Affordable price
- No helper handle – makes it harder to lift full pan
- Metal main handle gets hot while cooking
- Thin metal means it can get dented
Souped up recipes is a Youtube channel with some great cooking ideas. Mandy, the person behind the channel has come up with her own wok. Of course it’s the wok she wants to use.
You can see this with the little things like the little lip on one side. This is great for resting the spatula – which comes with the wok. She’s included a lovely wooden lid that not only looks nice but is great if you are boiling water. The main handle comes unattached, ready for seasoning in the oven, and is easy to attach by screwing in. I’m not sure why she hasn’t included a side handle, but I guess she doesn’t think it’s needed.
If you buy this black carbon steel wok, make sure to take off the plastic part before seasoning.
For me the size is small at 12.5 inches (32cm), is it big enough to cook for the whole family? I think I would manage and would welcome the extra storage space, but it gives me pause for thought. The wok might be a bit small for a large family, at least if you are stir frying. Deep frying would work better.
This is a flat bottom wok – ideal for induction or electric stoves. They also work on gas stoves, but you might be better off with a round bottom wok.
- Distinct look to it
- Pan has a little lip on the side – great for resting spatula or pouring liquids.
- Bonus spatula
- Lovely wooden lid for keeping food hot.
- Lightweight and easy to handle
- No helper handler
- Wooden handle sometimes cracks or comes loose
Mammafong Traditional Hand Hammered Wok Best Hammered Carbon Steel Wok
This 14 inch flat bottom carbon steel wok is hand hammered in China, giving it a beautiful artisanal look.
Although lightweight, the pan can take some heavy use. It’s comfortable to handle and should last a while. The metal side helper handle can take a high heat and is useful for lifting the pan.
The flat bottom should be ideal for induction or electric stoves, but it is quite small meaning it doesn’t heat as well as it could. The pan is also prone to occasional warping – making it even less suitable for non gas stoves.
This is a flat bottom wok – normally ideal for induction or electric stoves. In this case, I would recommend it for those who want a flat bottom wok on a gas stove. Mamafong also offer a round bottom carbon steel wok, which is ideal for gas stoves.
Mammafong offer a lid as a separate item, though I doubt you will need it for stir fry!
- Lightweight making it easier to handle
- Metal helper handle is useful for high heat.
- Helper handle is ideal for hanging (storing) wok.
- Unfortunately can warp slightly, rendering it useless on induction and electric stoves
- Small flat bottom means it doesn’t work as well on electric and inductions stoves as it could.
Best Carbon Steel Woks – Conclusion
Top Carbon Steel Wok For Gas Stoves
My personal choice would be the Craft Wok Carbon Steel Pow Wok a tough long lasting wok.
Yes it’s a bit heavier than other woks (having a slightly thicker metal), but that is what makes it more durable. Having a helper handle means that it’s no problem to pick up and manage.
As well as stir fry, this pan is versatile enough for you to use for deep frying, steaming and soups. It doesn’t need babying, although you do need to season it as with any pan.
Because of it’s design, this wok heats quickly and evenly, meaning it’s super easy to cook a decent stir fry with it.
Best Carbon Steel Wok For Electric and Induction Stoves
You could buy the Craft Wok above and buy a ring to go with it. I don’t recommend this though as you are likely to find it tough to get the wok hot enough. I
f you have an electric or induction stove I would recommend the Souped Up Recipes Carbon Steel work. I’m a bit disappointed in the lack of helper handle but it’s lightweight enough it doesn’t seem to need it!
I also think the metal is great as it’s hard to make a pan as durable as this one without it being heavy. What wins me over is that it is so clear this is pan has been designed by someone who loves cooking. It’s full of little touches that Mandy knew would be useful. I would wager that if you got this pan you would find yourself using it more often than what you expected!
Check out my Induction Wok roundup for more information and alternatives.