What Is The Ideal Size For A Wok?

Western chefs can usually count on a wide range of equipment to turn out their masterpieces, from food processors and hand mixers, a collection of knives, to a range of pots and pans from outsize ones that make soup stock, to different pans that can fry, sauté, make sauces, and grill. But kitting out the kitchen appears to be a more straightforward affair for Chinese chefs, who are known to turn out their most popular dishes with the help of just four cooking gadgets which Topics describes as the four treasures of the Chinese kitchen: a cleaver, a chopping block, bamboo steamers known as zheng long, and a wok.

While woks have been used in Chinese kitchens for about two thousand years, they are a recent addition to western kitchens. They are mostly used in stir-frying, although Kenji Lopéz-Alt says they are the best pan for deep frying, simmering, and poaching too, per Serious Eats. And when a wok is used with the other stalwart of the Chinese kitchen, the bamboo steamer, it can also steam cook anything from seafood to vegetables and rice. With the right skills- Lopéz-Alt says it can even be used as a smoker to prep things from chicken wings to smoked cheese.

How big should your wok be?

Buying a wok can be an intimidating exercise, especially if you've never owned one before. Woks today come in different materials that include non-stick or Teflon, stainless steel, cast iron, and carbon steel — with carbon steel being the material preferred by many home and restaurant chefs because it is both lighter in weight and cheaper than cast iron. If you've decided this is the material for you, Serious Eats recommends getting a wok about two millimeters thick, which will hold its shape. It also advises you against getting a wok with a rounded bottom, since they aren't likely to work on an electric stove.

Woks also come in a range of sizes, between 10 to 20 inches. While you might be tempted to get the biggest wok you can find to prevent overcrowding, they can be quite heavy which can be difficult to lift and maneuver. If you're not very adept with the tool, it could be a danger in the kitchen. Given these potential shortcomings, a 14-inch wok that can prepare enough food for between two to six persons will do the trick.