Carbon steel is one of the most durable, nontoxic, and heat-resistant cookware options around, and the best carbon steel woks are perfect for whipping up homemade stir-fries, fajitas, and even popcorn.
Before you start shopping, it's worth considering a few key things in order to ensure you're getting the best one for your needs.
Wok sizes typically range in diameter, from 12 inches up to several feet. Look to the size of your group (and your stovetop) to guide your choice here. For reference, a wok that’s 12 to 14 inches in diameter is ideal for serving around four people. Larger woks can naturally serve larger groups, but keep in mind they might be harder to maneuver and store.
Most woks have one long handle that sticks straight out just like any other frying pan handle (these are Northern-style woks), and sometimes they'll also have a loop handle on the opposite side. Others have two “loop” handles on opposite sides (these are Cantonese-style woks). Loop handles provide easy lifting — and storage since they allow the wok to be hung — but they may be a burn hazard for some. Stick handles are easier to maneuver for most people, and since they are often made from materials like wood or bamboo they typically eliminate the need for potholders.
Woks are either flat on the bottom or rounded, and there are pros and cons to each design. Flat-bottomed woks are the most versatile, since they work on all types of stoves, but it's slightly harder to use a wok spatula to move ingredients around with them. Round-bottomed woks are more traditional, and they offer more linear heat distribution. However, round-bottomed woks don't work well on electric or induction stoves, so they have more limited use.
A note on maintaining your wok
With all this in mind, take a look at the best carbon steel woks below.
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1. The best flat-bottomed wok
Diameter: 12.5 inches
The highlights: This lightweight carbon steel wok by Souped Up Recipes features a flat bottom and a convenient wooden stick handle. It's compatible with all stovetops, including gas, induction, and electric, so it wins points for versatility. You also get a fair amount for your money: A wooden lid and a metal spatula are included. Its size is a plus for those cooking for a group of four, but it won’t be able to make enough servings for larger gatherings, and it’s not pre-seasoned.
One reviewer says: “I have four woks, and this is by far my favorite. It comes wonderfully packaged with clear, simple instructions to assemble, clean and season. The wooden lid and metal spatula are just bonuses to getting you on your way to delicious home cooking.”
3. The best round-bottomed wok
Diameter: 14 inches
The highlights: This authentic round-bottom wok by Craft Wok is hand-hammered in China and has a substantial weight. It's also one of the largest woks on this list, with a 14-inch diameter. The wooden stick handle is easy to grip, and the one loop handle is great for storage and extra stability (though, you'll need to use a pot holder with it).
However, while it's great for gas stovetops and open fires, this pick isn't ideal for flat cooking surfaces, which rules out induction and electric stovetops. You’ll also need to pre-season this pick before using it.
One reviewer says: “I can't believe how hard it was to find a real, carbon steel, roundbottom, hand hammered wok, but this one was worth sorting through all the non-stick, flat bottom, electric things that come up first in your search. Follow the instructions on blueing and seasoning your wok before you get started. [...] I haven't had a 'real' wok in 15 years and what a difference this wok makes in every dish. I'm able to get authentic asian flavors and proper cooking with this wok and it cleans up very easy, nothing sticks! This wok is a winner."
3. The budget-friendly wok
Diameter: 12 inches
The highlights: For less than $40, this budget-friendly pick has a lot to offer. Part of Helen Chen’s collection, it has a flat bottom, making it compatible with all stovetops and heat sources, and it also has a heat-resistant bamboo stick handle. The size featured here is 12 inches, but there are larger options available, too. While it's not pre-seasoned, the brand does provide an easy-to-follow video right on the Amazon page.
One reviewer says: “I came across this wok and knew it would be a good fit as it is flat bottomed and thus would work well with an induction top. I have used the wok for a month and it's been great. It is a bit heavier than what I would have wanted but this has an added bonus of making it more stable on the stove top. It does not tilt and is well balanced. The handle is heavy duty and is great for the constant moving one has to do while stir frying. I do wish a helper handle is present due to the heavier weight of the wok."
4. The pre-seasoned wok
Diameter: 14 inches
The highlights: Although it’s one of the most expensive picks on this list, this round-bottomed wok is also the only one that comes pre-seasoned, so you can simply wash it and get right to cooking. It also offers the best of both worlds handle-wise, featuring a red eucalyptus stick handle and a steel helper handle (the latter of which will require a potholder). It’s 14 inches in diameter, making it ideal for larger groups, too.
One reviewer says: “This is the best wok that I have ever used and well worth the money. I would have never been able to season the wok myself as well as it has been seasoned. Nothing sticks!!”