Best Wok: The 2023 Tasting Table Awards

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If you're serious about cooking Asian food, it makes sense to invest in a wok. While you may primarily think of them as tools for stir-frying, they're quite versatile, coming in handy for braising, steaming, and deep-frying too. A wok's high, rounded sides make it easy to toss your ingredients and its large capacity is great for cooking for a crowd. Some types of wok can also get hotter than a typical nonstick skillet, which is essential for making certain Asian dishes taste restaurant-quality.

We tested several popular woks priced at under $140 and put them through their paces preparing both stir-fries and braised dishes. When stir-frying, we checked how nonstick each wok was, how easy they were to maneuver/toss food in, how much heat they could deliver, and how evenly they cooked. Braising allowed us to evaluate how quickly each wok could bring the liquid to a boil, whether they had hot spots, and how well they retained moisture when covered with a lid. We noted if the handles became hot or were uncomfortable to hold and also factored in whether or not each was a pain to maintain. Herer are the woks that impressed us the most.  

Read more about the 2023 Tasting Table Awards methodology and all the top picks here.

Best Overall: Helen's Asian Kitchen Carbon Steel Wok

We had to pick a carbon steel wok as the best overall because this material can withstand the super-high temperatures needed to create "wok hei" or "breath of the wok" when stir-frying. While home burners may not technically be powerful enough to create a true wok hei flavor, we noticed a big difference in the taste of stir-fries cooked in ripping-hot carbon steel woks vs. nonstick ones. The fried rice we cooked in the Helen's Asian Kitchen wok had the smokiest flavor of all. This pan also had our favorite handle. Despite cooking at temperatures that required us to have the hood vent on at full blast and all our windows open, the bamboo handle didn't get hot, and its comfortable rounded shape made maneuvering the wok a breeze.

The wok's wide bottom meant a lot of contact with the burner, so it brought the liquid to a simmer super quickly, which was great for braising. It's also well-equipped to handle your steaming and deep-frying needs. Though solid for stir-fries, that wide bottom and shallow, flared sides weren't ideal for tossing ingredients in the pan — we had to move it around with a spatula instead. Still, the wok's versatility and accessibility made it a standout.

Purchase the Helen's Asian Kitchen Carbon Steel Wok on Amazon for $33

Best for stir-frying: Yosukata Carbon Steel Wok

Unlike the other carbon steel woks we tried, the Yosukata arrived pre-seasoned. Carbon steel, like cast iron, must be seasoned with a layer of polymerized oil to create a semi-nonstick surface before you cook on it. Although we still had to coat it in oil and heat it until smoking hot, it definitely ended up more nonstick after one round of seasoning than woks that arrived au natural.

Cooking pork fried rice was a breeze with minimal sticking for all ingredients including the egg. The high-sided shape of this wok proved to be perfect for tossing. We could easily flip the fried rice around in the pan with a flick of the wrist — no utensils necessary. 

While the carved wood handle felt comfortable and ergonomic, it was attached with a protruding metal sleeve that got ripping hot. We recommend having a kitchen towel handy to choke up on the handle for extra control. Also, its narrower bottom meant it didn't heat up large amounts of liquid as quickly or evenly as our Best Overall choice, though it still performed decently well as a braising vessel.

Purchase the Yosukata Carbon Steel Wok on Amazon for $60

Best nonstick: Calphalon Signature Hard-Anodized Nonstick 12-Inch Flat Bottom Wok with Cover

We love carbon steel pans, but they come with a bit of a learning curve. Even after you burn layers of oil onto them to create a nice coat of seasoning, food can still stick to them if you're not careful. Nonstick woks are a great way to get into Asian cooking, and there's no better choice than Calphalon.

This wok is only rated up to 500 degrees Fahrenheit, which isn't hot enough for wok hei. However, it managed to get a nice crispy sear on our pork slivers, and because the pan was perfectly nonstick, all of that browning stayed on the meat instead of attaching itself to the wok. Tossing food around one-handed was super-easy as well, although we weren't big fans of the uncomfortably narrow stainless steel handle.

The included lid (a rarity for woks) was a great added feature. Testing other woks for braising and steaming, we ran into issues borrowing lids from random pans since they never fit perfectly. The Calphalon's lid, however, was quite snug, which meant it didn't lose any moisture to evaporation while we were braising. It was also see-through, so we could check on the progress of our dish without taking the top off.

Purchase the Calphalon Signature Hard-Anodized Nonstick 12-Inch Flat Bottom Wok with Cover on Amazon for $89.