Best Wok Pan of 2021
The Helen Chen's Asian Kitchen puts a modern spin on the traditional-style model and is a pleasure to use when stir-frying delicious recipes. It features excellent heat regulation, with the carbon-steel heating and cooling quickly. This allows for a quick hot start, sealing in liquids, which leaves meats and veggies juicy. We also appreciate how the pan rapidly cools when the heat is lowered, which avoids burning sauces at the end of your cooking journey. The large size keeps ingredients from crowding and allows them to easily spread around the pan. The thinner and lighter carbon steel allows the cook to easily pick up the pan with one hand while 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, it takes up quite a bit of storage space. If your kitchen is small, this is not the most ideal tool. Since it uses a wooden handle, it cannot be seasoned in the oven. It can be seasoned without a gas stove, but that proved to be a bit challenging. Overall, this pan is excellent for cooks looking for an affordable, traditional model with a flat bottom, for creating stir-fry and soup dishes, and who have space to store a bigger pan.
The Kenmore Hammond Flat Bottom is made of carbon steel with a non-stick coating. It was fun to cook a stir-fry since it is responsive to temperature changes; it's also easy to use due to the coating. The non-stick coating is heat resistant up to 500 degrees Fahrenheit. The only limitation is that the manufacturer recommends slowly bringing the pan to high heat. This method added a few minutes to cooking time, but with both soup and stir-fry, once the pan reached the desired heat, it cooked quickly, and adjusted temperatures rapidly for fine control. The non-stick coating makes this pan easy to clean up, and no seasoning is needed. The Acacia handles are visually appealing, feel sturdy, and are heat resistant.
The non-stick surface means plastic or wood utensils must be used. Also, at 14 inches, plus handles, this pan takes up a good amount of space in the kitchen. This pan combines the best aspects of a traditional carbon steel pan with modern non-stick technology, making it a great option for stir-fry lovers who want an easy cleanup.
The Souped Up Recipes is a stylish take on a traditional model and heats up quickly, with a flat bottom, making it ideal for stir-frying meals. This carbon steel pan is one of the fastest to reach the boiling point in our rate of heating tests and is 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, making it one of the easiest carbon steel pans to season and maintain. We also like the stylish wooden lid.
This pan does not have a helper handle, whereas most of the other pans of this size did. This made carrying a batch of soup to the table more of a challenge. This pan is slightly textured, and after some use, the seasoning starts to wear off, but we did notice some foods sticking. After re-seasoning the pan, it performs well but 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 a stir-fry night.
The Calphalon 12 inch is a beginner-friendly pan for those looking for a full-size wok. The aluminum heats up a little slower than the carbon steel pans, and holds heat for longer, making adjustments slower, the upside of which is that it can be more forgiving, with less dramatic changes in temperature. The durable non-stick surface keeps ingredients from sticking, with less oil used, and makes cleaning up a breeze. The size and shape are great for stir-frys and soups for the whole family. This pan also comes with a lid, which is ideal for cooking up a batch of soup, or even spaghetti bolognese.
While many non-stick pans can warp when used with high heat, this pan can be used on high heat and is oven safe up to 500 degrees Fahrenheit. It does need to be completely cool before washing, which is the only thing to keep in mind. This pan is also dishwasher safe, making clean up a breeze. This pan had one of the most durable non-stick surfaces we tested, and can even be used with metal utensils. The metal helper handle gets hot and needs to be used with a potholder. This pan does have one of the highest price tags of this test, which is its biggest downside. The quality and durability of materials offset the high price tag, as it should last for years to come. It is worth considering if this is the right choice for your budget and kitchen needs. The 12" size, non-stick surface, consistent heat, and lid make this ideal for those looking for a multi-use pan, newer to making stir-frys, easy clean-up, as well as those looking to use less oil in their cooking.
The Joyce Chen is one of the easier carbon steel pans to season, just requiring heating oil on the stove with an even coat of oil, cool, wash, and repeat three times. The first time it was tested with a stir-fry, the ingredients stuck and had to be constantly stirred, but the residue came off surprisingly easily. With additional seasoning and use, ingredients stuck less to this pan. When testing cooking stickiness, the scrambled egg did not stick and cleaned up quickly. It was quick to cook a stir-fry, scramble eggs, and was one of the fastest pans to bring two cups of water to a boil. This pan can adjust its heat on a dime, making it easy to fine-tune the cooking temperature.
This product is made of quality, durable materials, and is one of the sturdiest carbon steel pans tested. The carbon steel is on the slightly thicker side, which does make it heavier than some of its counterparts. Making it a little harder to lift and shake with one hand. This pan offers great value for a durable, carbon steel product, especially good for stir-fry enthusiasts.
The Cuisinart Cast Iron is small and compact, making it ideal for one or two people with minimal storage space, while being versatile and durable. It is affordable, and if properly cared for, should last a long time. 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 during our tests. Cast iron takes longer to get up to temperature than carbon steel, but once it reaches the desired temperature, it sears meat quickly and cooks rapidly.
Unfortunately, the eggs stuck 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. Extra maintenance is also required. This is an excellent value for a small household on a tight budget who are looking for a product that will sear meat well and last.
The Circulon Symmetry has the biggest flat bottom of the products tested and works 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. It is one of the easiest to lift with one hand, shake, and flip all ingredients. At only 11 inches, it is an excellent choice for two people. This smaller size lends it to easier storage in small spaces but is 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 scrubbing test did the most damage to this pan. The non-stick coating scratched deeply, and a portion of the non-stick 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 Yosukata is 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. In our tests, it is quick to respond to temperature adjustments. This beautifully crafted contender comes pre-seasoned and 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, which we didn't love. 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.
The Craft Carbon Steel is an excellent example of a traditional Chinese wok, made of carbon steel for quick temperature control, has a round bottom, is hand-hammered, and has a heat-resistant wooden handle. The shape makes it easy to spread ingredients around the pan to quickly and evenly cook, locking in juices while searing the outside. The carbon steel heats up rapidly. This product does need to be seasoned but can be done on the stove. It develops a patina over time to prevent sticking and needs to be re-seasoned regularly and dried immediately after washing so it won't have a chance to rust.
The round bottom means it works best with a gas stove and a wok ring and is not recommended for electric or induction stoves. This pan is ideal for experienced cooks looking for an authentic, hand-hammered round bottom option to use over a gas stove with 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 pan 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 wok pans 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 model.
Analysis and Test Results
After spending hours looking over the best quality and affordable pans on the market, we selected 10 models to test side-by-side in our kitchen. Using each, we explore how they do comparatively across five testing criteria, including cooking performance, ease of cooking, maintenance and clean-up durability, and storage. Take a look to see how they compare and which is the best option for your kitchen.
To test cooking performance, we ran the pans through various 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. Some of the non-stick 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. The Kenmore is a non-stick option that can be used on high heat; the manufacturers just recommend bringing the temperature up slowly, which worked well in our tests. This feature meant the pan could sear in juices and cook stir-frys quickly thanks to the carbon steel while maintaining the ease of cooking and the ability to use less oil of a non-stick pan.
Woks are widely agreed to be fantastic for rapidly cooking stir-fry meals, using high heat to seal 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, Joyce Chen, and Souped Up Recipes were our top performers in the stir-fry test. All three pans heated up and adjusted temperature quickly, searing the meat, and rapidly cooking the vegetables for a fast dinner.
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. A laser thermometer was used to test the evenness of heating. Temperature readings were taken at the soup level and at the rim of the pan. The Cuisinart cast-iron pan 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. The Joyce Chen was the fastest pan to bring water to a boil at four minutes, two seconds, followed closely by Helen Chen's Asian Kitchen and Kenmore. The non-stick 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. Helen Chen's Asian Kitchen's domed lid made it a favorite pan for cooking soups, as the lid brought the liquid to a simmer quickly, and kept the broth from evaporating.
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. Calphalon 12 Inch Wok and Rachael Ray Brights were two pans that scored highly in this category. The non-stick surface required little oil; food didn't stick, and both are a manageable size. They are both beginner-friendly and are a little more forgiving to temperature changes or inattentiveness — compared to the carbon steel woks. The Kenmore was the easiest of the carbon steel woks to use, thanks to its non-stick coating.
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. The Rachael Ray Brights 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 many non-stick pans, as well as if they were oven safe. The Cuisinart Cast Iron scored well, with little 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 non-stick pans performed the best, taking only a few strokes with a dishcloth. The Kenmore came clean quickly, and the Craft was one of the easiest pans without a coating to clean. Most of the cast iron and carbon steel pans need 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 Calphalon 12 inch Wok has a durable non-stick coating which made washing up quick and easy, it is also dishwasher safe and was one of the few non-stick pans that can be used with metal utensils. The Circulon Symmetry and Rachael Ray Brights were also both easy to clean and dishwasher safe.
Quality and Durability
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 Craft showed no damage from the stainless steel test.
The Cuisinart Cast Iron also showed little wear and tear, and left more of an impact on the driveway than on the pan in the drop test.
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 its 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 is 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 Cuisinart Cast Iron was the smallest pan tested, taking up the least amount of storage space, followed closely by the Rachael Ray Brights The Kenmore is large, but with its ring on the handle, has found a new home hanging on the wall of our kitchen.
We took the time to find and test the best wok pans on the market for any cook's kitchen. With a saturated market stuffed full of many products, it can be hard selecting what's best. We hope that the time we devoted to cooking over a hot stove and making delicious food can aid you in finding the best wok pans for your kitchen, group size, and preferences.
— Jessica Albery