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Woks have been used in China for centuries. However, in the state its just now catching on. Traditional wok are made of Carbon Steel. They are ductile, durable and take a non stick coating. The problem is that our stove is often too weak to handle a true wok. A good alternative is a Cast Iron Wok. Because of its extra heft, it can compensate for our weaker stove. The Best Cast Iron Wok uses a heavy gauge metal with a solid and stable base. Rounder and thinner woks are not suitable for the home kitchen.
Cast Iron Wok vs Carbon Steel
As stated before, carbon steel is the traditional Wok. They are designed to be used in the professional wok range. The intense heat lets you get intense heat and stop cooking in an instant. Since carbon steel is relatively ductile, it can take the tossing and turning. While it might get warped, it wont snapped.
Cast Iron have very similar properties, but the main difference is the ductility. While its strong, its also quite brittle. Constant banging and tossing isnt really recommended for cast iron. The advantage that cast iron wok have over carbon steel is the thickness. Instead of tossing and turning its designed to be more stationary. To move food, you use a spatula or chopstick to move it.
Cast Iron Wok are better for our home kitchen. Since its relatively weak compared to the professional range, the cast iron wok can makeup for it. It can store heat well so when you drop food in, it wont cool down. You get better searing performance and better flavor. With Carbon Steel, since the gauge is so thin, the heat will be lost immediately.
Another issue with traditional carbon steel wok is the round bottom. It cant generate as much heat since its up and away from the base. With a cast iron wok, the base is flat and is more in contact with the heat.
Cast Iron Enamel Wok vs Bare
There are two type of cast iron on the market. One is regular cast iron with no coating. Another is the Enamel type of cast iron. The Enamel is a glass like substance that protects the metal. It wont rust and its easier to clean. You can use soap on it. The problem lies in the performance. Since it lacks the seasoning of bare cast iron, everything sticks. Not only that, the enamel actually degrades the performance of it. Heat cant be transferred as readily as bare cast iron. As a result, searing performance is degraded.
For a thing like a Wok, its generally recommended that you get the bare cast iron. Since you will be doing a lot of stir fry and turning food, the last thing you want is for everything to stick. Having the extra performance from the seasoning will help you immensely.
How to Use a Cast Iron Wok
To use a Cast Iron Wok, preheat the pan. Once its smoking, add oil and sear food. As the food finish searing, remove and put it in the bowl. Do this until all food is cooked. At the final stage, put all the food in to mix. I recommend under cooking it a little so that you wont overcook it.
If you find that food is sticking, adding a bit of water will loosen the food. When you stir fry noodles, I find that adding water is the best bit. Doing it dry will get you horrible results.
Cleaning and Care
Cleaning is a problem for most cast iron. If you’re not careful, you can easily strip the seasoning. As a result, the wok will rust and the nonstick performance will be gone. I recommend just splashing water on a hot pan to get rid of the crud. However, most manufacturer will advise against this. It does shorten the lifespan so do so at your own risk.
If you want a safer approach, you can use a piece of paper with salt. Using it to rub the pan can act as an abrasive. In some situation you can use mild soap to clean the Wok.
In some situation where the seasoning is stripped. You can reseason it. To do so, add a thin coat of oil and bake it at 350 degree Fahrenheit for half an hour. Rinse and repeat as necessary.
Best Cast Iron Wok List
Below, you will find a list of some of the Best Cast Iron Wok. There are a few different model available, choose one that best suits you.
Lodge Pro-Logic Wok With Flat Base and Loop Handles, 14-inch (Best Overall)
Lodge is the best choice for a Cast Iron Wok. Its heavy and the base is flat. The searing capability should be the best out of most cast iron wok out there. This model is the 14 inch variety but you can also get the smaller one for individual serving. One thing to note is that the handle will get hot, so you use a glove or a towel.
Cuisinart CCW-800, Pre-seasoned Cast Iron Grilling Wok (Best Buy)
Cuisinart Wok is slightly different. Its more wide and flatter giving you more room to cook and sear food. The handles are comfortable and up and away from the pan. At 10 inch, its a bit smaller than lodge, but suitable for most task. If anything, this resembles more of a saute pan. It should actually be a bit more versatile than your traditional pan.
Le Creuset Enameled Cast-Iron 14-1/4-Inch Wok with Glass Lid (Best Enamel Cast Iron Wok)
A enamel wok is great for deep frying and stews. Since it has a enamel coating, its easier to clean than bare cast iron. You also get a wire rack to help when deep frying. The glass lid lets you look inside when cooking. However, since the enamel coating is not nonstick, I would avoid it for stir fry. If you do use it for stir fry, use the technique listed above. Add water as necessary to reduce sticking.
A cast iron wok is better than traditional carbon steel wok for the home kitchen. They generate more heat and can sear better. In this case, I recommend Lodge for its heft and durability. But for a slightly more affordable model, go for Cuisinart. Its slightly wider base makes it a bit easier to cook and more versatile. However, if you want a enamel one, go for Le Creuset. They are perfect for deep frying and stews.
Looking for expensive wok? Check out our article on the Most Expensive Wok.