The Best Wok Pan of 2020
The Calphalon Tryply was our favorite pan we tested, scoring highly in every category. It is versatile, excelling at cooking soup, stir-fry, and eggs. It can go from any type of stovetop into the oven and has a lid. At 12 inches in diameter, and with medium-sized sidewalls, it won't take up the whole cupboard but is still large enough to make a stir-fry for a family of four. This pan heats up quickly, gets hot enough to sear in juices, but adjusts temperature quickly for maximum control. This was the only pan in the test that did not have a nonstick coating but also didn't require any seasoning or special maintenance.
While this high-quality stainless steel pan will last for years to come, it is the highest price-point in this test and is an investment. There are less expensive options on the market that may meet different cooks needs. The stainless steel requires more oil than nonstick pans and needs to be stirred regularly to avoid sticking. This workhorse is ideal for the stir-fry enthusiast with a bit of cooking experience, looking for a quality pan that can be used for a variety of tasks.
The Helen Chen's Asian Kitchen is a puts a modern spin on the traditional-style wok and is a pleasure to use for stir-frying. The carbon steel heats up and cools down rapidly, providing exceptional heat control while cooking. This allows for a hot start and helps seal in liquids, leaving meats and veggies juicy; the pan also cools enough on lower heat, which avoids burning your sauces. The large size kept ingredients from crowding and allowed them to be spread around the pan. The thin carbon steel allowed for the cook to do a one-handed shake while stir-frying, and the flat-bottom is stable and works on all stovetops.
This pan comes with a large domed lid, which is useful for soups or steaming. However, between the lid, the 14-inch diameter, and the long handle, this pan takes up a lot of storage space. It is not ideal for a small kitchen with limited storage space. Due to the wood handle, this pan can not be seasoned in the oven, and it's challenging to properly season without a gas stove, but not impossible. Carbon steel does need to be re-seasoned periodically to build up a nonstick surface. This pan is excellent for cooks looking for an affordable, traditional wok with a flat bottom, for creating stir-fry and soup dishes, and who have space to store a bigger pan.
The Souped Up Recipes is a stylish take on traditional woks, and it heats up quickly, has a flat bottom, and is ideal for stir-frying meals. This carbon steel pan was the fastest to reach boiling point in our rate of heating test and was consistently one of the quickest cooking pans in every meal test. The pan responds to temperature adjustment rapidly, making it easy to control changes while stir-frying. It is large enough to make a big batch of stir-fry or soup, but not so large that it is unwieldy. The smooth, high-quality wooden handle can be removed with no tools, so it can be seasoned in the oven; this made it one of the easiest carbon steel pans to season and maintain. It also comes with a wooden lid and a metal spatula.
This pan does not have a helper handle, whereas most of the other pans of this size did. The lack of made carrying a batch of soup to the table a little more of a challenge. This pan is slightly textured, and after some use, the seasoning started to wear off, and we noticed some foods sticking. After re-seasoning the pan, it performed great, but it will need to be seasoned regularly. The Souped Up carbon steel heats up quickly, and responds rapidly to temperature adjustments, cooking a meal in minutes. At this rate, you may decide that every night is stir-fry night.
The Calphalon Nonstick is a high quality, easy to use pan; it's perfect for small spaces and an excellent size for a two-person stir-fry. The nonstick surface excelled in our egg stickiness test and was a breeze to clean after every use, coming clean with just a few wipes of a dishcloth. The nonstick surface also requires less oil, keeping meals healthy, and ensuring cooking and cleaning are a breeze. In our copper wool and drop tests, the Calphalon was the most durable of the nonstick models we tested, showing the least wear and tear.
This pan is ideal for meals for one or two people, and great for small spaces. With a size of only 10 inches, it is hard to make a stir-fry for a bigger group without overcrowding the pan or cooking in batches. The manufacturer recommends cooking on medium heat, as high heat can warp the pan, which makes searing in the juices while stir-frying hard. This is a high quality, compact, easy to use nonstick pan for preparing meals for one or two people.
The Lodge Cast Iron Mini is made of durable cast iron and is ideal for cooking for one person with limited storage space. If properly seasoned and maintained, this will last for years. It was the highest-scoring pan in our durability tests; it can be used with any utensils, and along with working on any stove type, it can be used in the oven, on the grill, and even over a campfire. It took a while to get up to temperature but had the most even temperature distribution of the pans we tested. At only nine inches, it works great for soup or stir-fry for one person, and the small side handles help keep it compact for easy storage.
The downside of this compact package is that it is not ideal for cooking for bigger groups. The small side handles that retain heat also mean that a potholder must be used to hold the pot while stirring. It must be washed without soap, completely dried, and re-seasoned regularly. It is also heavy for its small size. This durable little cast iron pan is ideal for one serving, small spaces, and will last for years if properly cared for.
The Circulon Symmetry had the biggest flat bottom of the products tested, and worked better for scrambling multiple eggs than it did for one egg. The large flat bottom works well for cooking a large piece of meat or a filet of fish. It can also go straight from the stove to the oven, up to 400 degrees Fahrenheit.
While this pan is versatile, it does take time to heat up, and consistently had some of the longest cook times of the products in this test. The Circulon Symmetry is ideal for anyone looking for a large capacity stir-fry pan that will also fry a big batch of eggs, sauté a fillet of fish, and go in the oven.
The Rachael Ray 17648 Brights is a light, versatile pan with a lid that is great for small spaces. This pan is lightweight and was one of the easiest to lift with one hand and shake the contents. At 11 inches, it is excellent for two people but would work for stir-frying for more if needed. This pan is a nice size for small spaces, but it still versatile enough to use daily for more than just a stir-fry. The shape, size, and lid work great for cooking soups, curries, and sauces. The rubberized handle is comfortable to hold and is heat resistant; it's also oven safe up to 350 degrees Fahrenheit.
The copper scrubber did the most damage to this pan. The nonstick coating scratched deeply, and a portion of the nonstick coating wore off. In the drop test, the bottom dented, the outer coating cracked, and it was the only pan that dented on the rim. This pan is excellent if storage space and versatility are of the utmost importance, but it does need to be treated with care and used with appropriate utensils.
The Cuisinart Cast Iron is small and compact, making it ideal for one to two people with minimal storage space, while being versatile and durable. It is affordable, and if properly cared for, will last for years. The seasoning on the cooktop was quick and easy and is needed regularly for the best results. This pan brought water to a boil in less than eight minutes, right about the middle of the pack. Cast iron takes longer to get up to temperature than the carbon steel, but once it reached the desired temperature, it seared the meat quickly and cooked rapidly.
The eggs stuck badly and needed to be scrubbed, while the chicken stuck in the stir-fry test and required constant stirring. While the 10-inch size and small handles are compact for storage, it is best for one or two people, and ingredients would need to be cooked in batches for a larger party. The small handles get hot, and a potholder is needed. This is an excellent value for a small household on a tight budget, who are looking for a product that will last for years and make a great meal.
The Yosukata it a traditional model with a round bottom, so it works best on a gas stove, with a ring. The round shape allows the use of a small flame and evenly transfers the heat up the walls of the wok. It was quick to respond to temperature adjustments. This beautifully crafted contender comes pre-seasoned but does need to be re-seasoned regularly. It was first used for a stir-fry, which did not stick, but after a few uses, the scrambled eggs stuck quite badly and took some serious elbow grease to clean; a sure sign it was time to re-season it.
While evenly distributing the heat, the round bottom makes this pan a bit trickier to use, and it is best used over a gas stove with a ring. The manufacturer does not recommend using it with electric, ceramic, or induction stoves. We tested it on a ceramic stove, and it was pretty unstable. The handle made it list to one side, and it got to rocking while cooking soup, not ideal. This pan would be excellent for the experienced cook with a passion for cooking stir-fry in the most traditional pan, with a gas stove, and a ring.
Why You Should Trust Us
After a trip to Thailand, Jessica Albery became a bit of a stir-fry fanatic, trying out different methods, and a wide range of recipes. As a snowboard coach in the winter, she often comes home famished, and stir-fry quickly became a weeknight staple because of the short cooking time. She chose a teriyaki chicken and broccoli stir-fry for this review because of the wide range of textures involved; thus, adding ingredients at different stages would show the strengths and weaknesses of each pan.
With a wide range of wok styles out there, there are advantages and disadvantages to many of them, and the options can feel overwhelming. We aim to present a good comparison of some of the best woks out there based on tests performed by our reviewer. Tests are conducted in a consistent setting, using the same kitchen equipment and process for each models. Tests were designed to evaluate cooking performance, ease of cooking, maintenance and clean-up, quality, and durability.
Analysis and Test Results
We spent hours researching the products available, purchased a wide range of pans, and ran them through a vigorous set of tests to determine cooking performance, ease of cooking, maintenance and clean-up, quality and durability, and storability. We ran each pan through separate tests, and then crunched the numbers from the results to get a clear picture of each pan's highlights and low points. Whether you are looking for a traditional style wok for authentic stir-fry, a versatile pan to use as your daily driver, or a nonstick pan that is easy to use, we did the research to make your decision easier.
To test cooking performance, we ran the pans through a variety of tests to evaluate heating evenness, rate of heating, stickiness, stir-fry, and a soup test. We used a laser thermometer to test the evenness of heating while cooking soup. When the soup reached a simmer, the laser thermometer was used to take a temperature reading just above the soup line, as well as just below the rim of the pan. To test the rate of heating, we put two cups of water in each pan and used the same burner. All of the nonstick pans were tested on medium heat because their labels warned of warping if used on high heat. All pans without a heat limit were tested on high heat.
Woks are widely agreed to be fantastic for rapidly cooking stir-fry meals, using high heat to sear in juices, while concave walls evenly distribute heat and create a large surface area — so ingredients don't get overly crowded and soggy. We cooked the same stir-fry in every pan to evaluate how each performed. The Helen Chen's Asian Kitchen scored well followed by Souped Up Recipes.
Many manufacturers tout woks as not just a stir-fry pan, but also good for soups, curries, and steaming food. We tested this by cooking a simple soup in every pan. It turns out most were great for soups, though a few were slow to get to a boil with their large size, and many do not have lids to speed up this process. Along with the two mentioned above, the Calphalon Tryply was great for cooking soup. The lid helped get the liquid up to temperature quickly, and the size was perfect for a two-person batch of soup.
A laser thermometer was used to test the evenness of heating. Temperature readings were taken at soup level, and at the rim of the pan. The cast-iron pans scored the highest, and many with large sidewalls scored low.
To test the rate of heating, two cups of water were brought to a boil at the highest heat recommended by the manufacturer. Again, our top three pans performed the best in this test, followed closely by the Lodge Cast Iron. The nonstick pans that had manufacturer recommendations (to not use on high heat) scored low, taking quite a while to reach a simmer on medium heat.
To test stickiness, one scrambled egg was cooked per pan, using the same amount of oil in each pan. Woks are celebrated for their ability to cook stir-fry quickly, and on high heat to retain moisture, so we stir-fried the same ingredients in every pan to see how they performed. Besides being ideal for cooking up a stir-fry, woks can also be used for making soup, so we tested each pans soup-making capabilities. We made soups in every pan using the same ratio of aromatics, liquid, and veggies.
Ease of Cooking
Some cooks prefer to pick up and shake a pan while stir-frying. To test this, we picked up each pan and gave it a shake, using only one hand when possible. Pans needing two hands for the shake test scored lower; we also evaluated if it was heavy, bulky, or difficult to maneuver. We tested to see if the pan fit the burner options available on our test stove. Did the pan fit perfectly on the burner, or was it smaller or larger than the burner, making it less efficient? We also made notes on any cooking limitations related to materials, such as temperature limits, or utensils that can be used with the wok. We evaluated how much skill was required to use each pan. Some are great for all levels of cooks, while others are better for more advanced cooks.
We considered how much skill was required to cook in each pan. The Calphalon 1877054 and Rachael Ray Brights were two pans that scored highly in this category. Both nonstick pans required little oil; food didn't stick to them, and they were manageable sizes. Both are beginner-friendly and were a little more forgiving to temperature changes or inattentiveness — compared to the carbon steel woks.
We tested the ease of picking each pan up one-handed and shaking its contents. Some pans were too heavy to lift one-handed and lost points in this test. Along with the two mentioned above, the Calphalon Tryply and Yosukata were the easiest to shake with one hand.
We also noted any cooking limitations based on materials. This included recommendations to only use on low or medium heat for the nonstick pans, as well as if they were oven safe. The Calphalon Tryply, Lodge Cast Iron, and Cuisinart Cast Iron scored well, with little or no limitations based on materials.
Maintenance and Clean-up
Some pans need to be seasoned, while others did not. To evaluate the ease of this process, we read the manufacturer's instructions, and followed them to season the pans that needed it. To test clean-up, we timed how long the pan took to clean after the egg test. Some pans require no maintenance, while others, like the ones made of carbon steel and cast iron, need to be re-seasoned periodically. We tested how easy it was to maintain the pan by following the maintenance instructions from the manufacturer.
No one we know enjoys spending time scrubbing pans, so we scrambled eggs in every pan, and then timed how long it took to scrub them clean. Not surprisingly, the nonstick pans performed the best, taking only a few strokes with a dishcloth. Most of the cast iron and carbon steel pans needed to be seasoned, and require maintenance to stay seasoned. We tested this process by following the manufacturer's instructions. The easiest to season and maintain in our test kitchen with an electric stove was the Souped Up Recipe because the wood handle is removable, so it can be seasoned in the oven.
We also considered whether the pans were dishwasher safe, and what type of utensils could be used on them. The top scoring pans were the Circulon Symmetry followed closely by the Calphalon 1877054 and the Rachael Ray Brights.
Quality and Durability
To test quality and durability, each pan was dropped to see if they dented or dinged. To test durability, we performed a drop test to see which pans would dent, ding, or scratch. Fortunately, none broke.
To test scratch resistance on the inside of the pan, we gave each pan 400 strokes with a copper scrubber; any pans that got scratched lost points. While doing kitchen tests, we made note of the quality of materials, paying attention to if the pan felt sturdy, if the handles were stable, if the pan warped from heat, and the quality of the materials.
The Lodge Cast Iron scored the highest in this category, showing no impact from the tests. The Cuisinart Cast Iron also showed little wear and tear, and the Calphalon Tryply was a runner up, showing only minimal dings.
Some woks are bulky, while others are compact. We tested how well each pan fit in our test kitchen's storage drawer with other pans and rated them accordingly. We put each pan through rigorous tests to evaluate their quality, durability, ease of use, cooking performance, maintenance and clean up to help readers choose a wok that best fits their needs.
Our test kitchen was small, and storage space is a premium, so we stacked pans, and tested which fit in the pan storage drawer with the selection of pans already there. More compact or easily stackable pans scored higher, whereas ones that were difficult to store in a small space scored lower. We also took lids, and whether the pan could be hung, into consideration. The Calphalon Tryply found the best balance between relatively compact size, while still being big enough for a four person stir-fry, and being the most versatile, which can be important in small spaces. The Calphalon 1877054 also had a good balance of versatility and storability. The Lodge Cast Iron was the smallest, most compact pan at only nine inches, and with small side handles instead of a long handle.
We hope that this side by side comparison of the best woks on the market helps you choose a pan that is the perfect fit for you, whether you are looking for one pan to do a wide range of tasks or a specialty pan. We hope to present something for everyone, from experienced cooks to those just getting into the wide world of stir-fry.
— Jessica Albery