A wok on an electric stove
A wok on an electric stove

The wok (from the Cantonese pronunciation wok6 of Chinese 镬, pinyin hu) is a versatile cooking utensil used especially in East Asia and Southeast Asia.

In Indonesia the wok is known as a wadjang, while in Malaysia it is also known as a kuali.

It is traditionally a round-bottomed pan that ranges from 30 cm to a meter or more in diameter. Almost every Chinese family owns one. It is most often used for stir frying, but can also be used many other ways, such as in steaming and deep frying or to make soup. One advantage of woks is that the shape produces a small, hot area at the bottom while using relatively little fuel.

Woks are found composed of a variety of materials, in a variety of sizes. By far the most commonly used material these days is carbon steel, although cast iron was the old standard. Some woks are even made of aluminum, although this is a bit overkill. Although an excellent conductor of heat, aluminum does not retain heat as well as these other two materials, which is a vital attribute of a wok in stir frying. Cast iron is by far superior to carbon steel in its own heat retention, but the incredible weight of cast iron makes carbon steel the most popular option due to its relatively light weight, quick heat conduction, and excellent heat retention. A 14" wok is the most common size, suitable for a family of 3 or 4, but woks can commonly be found as small as 10" and as large as 36".

Woks are also sold in western countries, where they are sometimes found with flat bottoms and/or nonstick coatings. This makes them more similar to a deep frying pan than a true wok. However, the flat bottoms mean that they can be used on an electric cooker. Woks with curved bottoms normally come with metal rings to stabilize them on a gas stove. When such a wok is used on an electric stove, the ring should normally be placed upside-down so that the wok is in contact with the burner.

In a joke sport introduced by the German comedian Stefan Raab, woks are used to carry people down a bobsleigh track. In November 2003 the first "official" championship was held in Winterberg, Germany.


General Usage


Carbon steel woks need to be seasoned before use. This is somewhat different from seasoning cast iron, but it is for the same purpose -- to provide a nonstick coating and prevent rust from forming on the cooking surface. The exact procedure for this is something of an art, but in a nutshell:

  • You will need a gas stove or some source of intense heat. An electric burner is probably not sufficient, but you might have some success. Sturdy leather gloves also might be handy: You will be dealing with very hot metal.
  • Don't do this to anything other than a carbon steel wok, or you will likely ruin your wok. If your wok has not got a black nonstick coating, is somewhat bluish in color except for some rust spots, is completely unlabeled, and you got it for a low price at an Asian market, it's probably a carbon steel wok.
  • You will need a well ventilated area, as you will be generating lots of smoke.
  • Remove any protective oil coating from the cooking surface with steel wool or a scouring pad. Make sure you have it perfectly clean. Dry it off, or rust will form almost immediately.
  • Wipe the inner surface of the wok with a cooking oil that smokes at high temperatures, such as peanut oil. Keep the surface coated at all times while seasoning the wok, but do not allow puddles of oil to form. If you do, you will end up with a gummy substance and you will have to clean it off and start over. Keep a cellulose sponge or folded paper towel handy to wipe the oil around.
  • Starting with the edges, keep a hot flame beneath one point of the wok at a time. When the oil starts to smoke and changes color to a shiny dark yellow, turn the pan a little and work on a new spot. You can keep building up layers this way, but make sure you've coated the whole wok before you do more layers. It is probably unnecessary to do more than three.
  • You should end up with an even, shiny, dark yellowish-brown coating all over the inside of your wok. Let it cool and rinse it off, and it is ready to cook on. If you get streaks in the coating, your oil may have been too thick or you didn't remove all the original oil coating. Scrub that area clean with steel wool and season it again.

Another method that works equally well for carbon steel and doesn't smoke up your kitchen, but requires a good deal more time:

  • Preheat your oven to 450 degrees Fahrenheit.
  • As in the previous method, remove any protective oil coating from the cooking surface with steel wool, water, and a mild detergent. Make sure to wash it fully.
  • Immediately place the wok on the stovetop at high heat so that it dries quickly.
  • If your wok has wooden or plastic handles that cannot be removed, wrap them fully a damp cloth, and then wrap that in aluminum foil. This is to prevent your handle from scorching or melting.
  • Using a small amount of oil, coat the entire inner surfaces.
  • Place the wok in the oven, and bake for 20 minutes. Remove wok from oven.
  • Allow wok to cool 15-20 minutes (or until you can comfortably hold it again).
  • The sides will have turned a light bronze color and the bottom will appear multicolored. Using steel wool or a strong abrasive pad, scour the edges until no bronze will lift off anymore. Rinse thoroughly but do not use any type of detergent or soap.
  • Coat wok again with oil, but with slightly less that the previous time through.
  • Repeat process 3-4 times or until wok is an even dark bronze.


Rinse your wok clean after every use, and dry it completely over heat before putting it away. If you won't be using it for an extended period of time, also give a light coating of oil on all its interior surfaces. Use soap sparingly to avoid removing the seasoning. Over time, as you use your wok, you may build up a black, burned area at the bottom. This is considered desirable. Supposedly, it adds flavor to food you cook in the wok.

See also

External Links


id:Wajan he:ווק nl:Wok ja:中華鍋


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