The problem with stir frying is that most of the time you end up steaming rather than frying. You actually want them to fry and to fry quickly. That makes meat and vegetables browner, crispier, and more flavorful than boiling or steaming.
Unfortunately, when you try to do this in a frying pan at home, the food cooks too slowly and gives up liquid, which settles on the bottom of the pan. Because water boils at a much lower temp than oil, the pan cannot get hotter than 212F until all the water evaporates. So you end up stir steaming in your frying pan. The beauty of the wok is its bowl shape. You can pull the meat and vegetables up the curved sides and let the juices settle in the bottom so they can boil off or concentrate.
When buying a wok, the bigger the better. You don’t want to crowd your food. You can buy cast iron, but those woks are really really heavy, and they don’t cool off very fast when you turn down the heat. You can buy nonstick, but they scratch too easily. That leaves carbon steel, and that’s the stuff they use in most Chinese restaurants. Carbon steel needs to be seasoned and can rust, so you do need to wash and dry it by hand.
But if you want to cook more authentic Chinese food, you need a more authentic wok like carbon steel. Make sure you get a wok spatula, a special curved spatula that fits the curved bowl, a dome lid, a ring for it to sit on, and a drain rack. I prefer a flat bottom wok because it heats better on American stovetops, and I like handles on both sides so the wok is easy to lift. I bought mine on the cheap in Chicago’s Chinatown.
If you don’t have a Chinese store nearby, go for Helen Chen’s Asian Kitchen Flat Bottom Carbon Steel 14-Inch Lidded Wok Set. It has everything you need and is very reasonably priced.
Published On: 9/22/2018 Last Modified: 4/27/2021
These are products we have tested, won our top awards, and are highly recommend. Click here to read how we test, about our medals, and what they mean.
A big part of this site is our unbiased equipment and product reviews. We love playing with toys and we have no problem calling them the way we see them. Some companies pay a finder’s fee if a reader clicks a link on AmazingRibs.com and buys a product. It has zero impact on our reviews, zero impact on the price you pay, and the sites never tell us what you bought, but it has a major impact on our ability to keep this site alive! So before you buy, please click our links. Here’s a link that takes you to a page on Amazon that has some of our favorite tools and toys: https://tinyurl.com/amazingribs
Click here to read our detailed review
The Thermoworks Thermapen MK4 is considered by the pros, and our team, to be the single best instant read thermometer. The MK4 includes features that are common on high-end instruments: automatic backlight and rotating display. Don’t accept cheap substitutes.
Click here to read our comprehensive Platinum Medal review
Green Mountain’s portable Davy Crockett Pellet Smoker is one mean tailgating and picnic machine. But it’s also gaining popularity with people who want to add a small, set it and forget it pellet smoker to their backyard arsenal. And with their WiFi capabilities you can control and monitor Davy Crocket from your smart phone or laptop.
GrillGrates(TM) amplify heat, prevent flareups, make flipping foods easier, kill hotspots, flip over to make a fine griddle, and can be easily rmoved from one grill to another. You can even throw wood chips, pellets, or sawdust between the rails and deliver a quick burst of smoke.
If you’re using oven mitts at the grill, it’s time to trade up. Say hello to these suede welder’s gloves. They’re heat resistant enough to handle hot grill grates, and flexible enough to handle tongs. The extra long sleeves even let you reach deep into the firebox to move hot logs without getting burned. Our Fave.
The Slow ‘N’ Sear turns your grill into a first class smoker and also creates an extremely hot sear zone you can use to create steakhouse steaks.
Click here for our article on this breakthrough tool
Napoleon’s NK22CK-C Charcoal Kettle Grill puts a few spins on the familiar kettle design. In fact, the hinged lid with a handle on the front, spins in a rotary motion 180 degrees. It’s hard to beat a Weber kettle, but Napoleon holds its own and adds some unique features to make the NK22CK-C a viable alternative.