Flat-Bottom Woks Vs. Curved: Which Should You Use?

If you want your next stir-fry to taste as good as the kind you get from your neighborhood Chinese restaurant, then you're going to need a good wok.

According to Brittanica, woks have been used by Chinese chefs for more than 3,000 years. They were originally designed because their unique shape allowed cooks to fry food while using less oil. They've stuck around though for their versatility and the delicious flavor of the wok hei. Michelin states that wok hei translates to 'wok's breath' and is used to describe the flavors and scents that can only come from properly using a wok.

Serious Eats points out that wok hei is something that cannot be achieved with a traditional Western-style cooking pan. This is because the wok's high walls allow the food to be tossed gently into the air while the cooking oil vaporizes as it comes into contact with the pan's intense heat afterward. This process gives the signature aroma and taste of the wok hei that your beloved cast-iron pan just won't be able to manage it.

When searching for the right wok, though, it's important to keep a few qualities in mind and to make sure that you get the right one for your kitchen.

Rounded woks won't work on some stove tops

When considering which shape of wok to buy, it's important to keep your cooking setup in mind. New York magazine states that woks were originally made with the classic round bottom. This helped concentrate direct flames and high heat at the bottom of the pan and create a flavorful sear on meats and vegetables alike. The flat bottom may be a more recent invention, but it is still worth considering for home cooks.

According to Taste of Home, if you're planning to use your wok on a gas, electric, or induction stove you'll need to have a flat-bottomed wok. The flat bottom will allow the wok bottom to make complete contact with the range. This way you'll have adequate heat being conducted into the wok's main cooking surface. Rounded woks would otherwise need a wok ring to sit in, and would not be able to conduct heat adequately from induction or electric stoves.

For those who want to achieve a proper high heat stir-fry, then there are still ways to make a rounded wok work. There are many retailers that sell wok rings that can pair with gas stoves. Serious Eats also recommends the WokMon which turns your typically circular gas stove into a proper wok range. It forms a more direct gas flame that will provide a similar recreation of the type of heat used in commercial kitchens.