Short Description

A wok is a kitchen utensil originating from China. It is a round bottom cooking vessel which is versatile. It is used in China and parts of East, South and Southeast Asia. It is becoming a very popular cookware around the world.

The wok is used for a wide range of cooking techniques like stir frying, steaming, pan frying, deep frying, poaching, boiling, braising, searing, stewing, smoking and roasting nuts and making soup to mention a few.

A chahn (spatula) or hoak (ladle) is used while cooking using the wok. The long handles of the wok allows cooks to prepare the food without burning their hands.

Regional variants



Japan chūkanabe
Indonesia penggorengan or wajan
Malaysia kuali (small wok) or kawah (big wok)
Philippines Kawali (small wok) kawa (big wok)

India (Malayalam &Tamil)

1. Traditional Chinese style wok with a wider diameter called the cheena chatti.

2. Slightly deeper vessel with a narrower diameter and a similar shape, known as a karahi



A wok (left) balanced on a wok ring and Karahi (right) on a Western-style stove.

The most striking and unique feature of the wok is its shape. The standard wok has a rounded bottom. Sometimes to give a flare to the edge of the wok it is hand hammered and flipped inside out after being shaped. The flare makes it easier to push the food up the side of the wok. The most commonly used woks are of 14 inch (360mm) diameter.

. Woks of 14inch (360mm) diameter are most common as it is suitable for a family of 3-4 members. Most woks are of the range 12-14inches (300-360mm) in diameter. There are also small woks of 8inch (200mm) and large woks of 36 inch (910mm) diameter. The small woks are usually used for quick cooking techniques at high heat as in the case of stir frying.


Carbon Steel and Cast iron are the most commonly used materials to make the wok.

Carbon steel

This material is relatively inexpensive when compared to other materials and therefore widely used nowadays. They are also comparatively light in weight and provide quick heat conduction and are durable. These woks are preferred over the cast iron woks as they are light weight and therefore easier to handle and also quicker to heat.

They are however difficult to season than those made of cast-iron. Seasoning or carbonizing the cooking surface of a wok is necessary to avoid foods from getting stuck and also to remove the metallic tastes and odours.

Cast iron

There are two types of cast iron woks in the market. One is the Chinese-made cast iron woks. These are very thin 0.12 in (3mm) and weighs only a little more than a carbon steel wok of the similar size.

The other type of cast iron woks produced in the West are usually more thicker 0.35 in (9mm) and is very heavy. These type of woks take much longer to heat and its weight makes it difficult to do stir-frying techniques difficult.

The Cast iron woks form a more stable carbonized layer of seasoning which making it less prone to food sticking on the pan. These pans respond slowly to heat adjustments. They take time to cool even if they are taken off the fire. The food cooked in such woks should be promptly removed after the cooking is done to prevent over cooking.

Cast iron woks are considered superior to carbon steel in terms of heat retention and uniform heat distribution.


The latest addition is the non-stick coating such as PFA and Teflon to steel woks. These woks are not well-suited with metal utensils. The food cooked in such woks tends to retain the juices instead of browning in the pan.


Aluminium has an inferior thermal capacity when compared to cast iron or carbon steel. These woks lose heat to convection much faster when compared to carbon steel and have to be built much thinner than the cast iron woks. Aluminium is therefore mostly used to make wok lids.


The wok can be used in a large number of cooking methods. Here is a list to name a few.

  1. Boiling
  2. Braising
  3. Deep frying
  4. Pan frying
  5. Roasting
  6. Searing
  7. Smoking
  8. Steaming
  9. Stewing
  10. Stir frying





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