Summary: Flat bottomed woks perform better on electric stoves.
You already knew that, didn’t you?
I’m sure you’re here for the exact wok models. First, there are two types of electric stoves – the older coil-based ones often found in apartments and the ceramic, pricey ones. Cleaning the latter is a breeze but they will certainly develop unsightly scratches.
Which is why you need best woks for electric stove. Woks that won’t scratch or break your (probably expensive electric stove.
The biggest consideration we made when looking for the best wok is that they need to be preheated to avoid warping. Woks are typically made of carbon steel bases – which need to be really hot before using.
The temperature should be gradually increased when working with them to extend their utility. In fact, you should preheat all cookware with carbon steel bases.
OUR TOP PICK
Why don’t you make the traditional stir fry meals you crave? Is it because they’re made in a wok – cookware which you can’t substitute? Conventionally, woks used to cook over flames and it was only natural that they had round bases.
Good luck working a round-bottomed wok on an electric stove. Electric stoves are great at fast heating. But this isn’t the best maintenance practice for woks – as you already know. Again, non-stick coatings on woks aren’t exactly heat-friendly yet woks should work in high heat cooking.
These are the considerations made in designing this Rachel Ray wok.
This exact model is oven safe up to 400 degrees Fahrenheit – comes in handy when working recipes that need to be finished off in the oven.
The only downside of this wok is that you cannot use it on an induction stove. However, it makes up for lack of this feature by being dishwasher safe. Even without a dishwasher, hand washing this model with warm soapy water is a breeze as food won’t stick to its non stick coating.
Another downside of this wok is that it has a somewhat round-bottomed base. Of course, this isn’t the ideal shape for steady balance on electric stoves. It may wobble a little. Customers compliment this cookware on its impressive heat distribution.
With the tempered glass lid, you can see how well the food is cooking without having to open.
The elegant agave blue finish will certainly complement other cookware in your kitchen. There’s a silicon layer over the strong stainless steel handle preventing it from getting too hold to hold while you’re cooking. Don’t we all know how durable and (sturdy) steel handles are? The silicon layer makes for a comfortable, non-slip grip.
Coming at the right price, this carbon steel wok will change how you stir fry (for the better). Worrying about burnt food will be a thing of the past when cooking with it.
Unlike the Rachael Ray wok, this model has a flat base making it ideal for cooking on both gas and electric stoves. It stands steadily on the burner.
In the package, you will get a 14-inch wok together with its lid and a beautiful 13-inch spatula made from bamboo. You’ve seen many woks but I doubt if you’ve cooked with one with a wooden handle before. There are two handles on the unit – the primary one with its helper – for added stability.
The pan has a rather unique design where it “sits” inside the pan, effectively preventing condensed water from falling back into the dish.
Ironically, the manufacturer recommends handwashing this wok even though it comes without a non stick layer. This may be a challenge when you accidentally have burnt food.
Eliminating the non stick layer was a sacrifice worth making so that the wok could be used in high heat settings without risk of corroding the layer. Ensure you season this pan prior to cooking with olive oil, a tad of butter or your favorite cooking spray.
Even though it comes at an almost similar price with the Helen Chen Wok, the manufacturer doesn’t include a lid in this unit’s packaging,
Of course, you will have to buy it separately. Thanks to its carbon steel body and base, this round-bottomed wok can be used on all types of cooktops. As you may be thinking, balancing it on an electric stove won’t be the simplest of tasks which is why it ranks third on my list.
It has a wooden helper and main handle but if its style you’re looking for, go for the Hellen Chen Wok instead.
The carbon steel base heats up fast ensuring that you can start cooking in a short time. You can dish wash, put in the oven or cook on high heat without worry of destroying the non-stick layer (because there is none).
Season this pan with your favourite technique before cooking to stop food from sticking. Even though it’s marked as dishwasher safe, hand wash it and it will outlive its usefulness. Seriously.
Which electric stove is best for woks?
The top brands will never confess that their flat electric cooktops are made of the same materials. They all have varying proportions of glass and ceramic. This makes them great at handling temperature changes.
The downside of these electric stoves is that they break when heavy objects (with woks being among them) are dropped. Again, the stove will scratch when you drag a wok across its flat surface. This is bound to happen when you’re working with a round-bottomed wok. Cast iron woks tend to work better on ceramic and glass electric stoves but they aren’t as durable. Which is a catch 22 situation.
You could use a wok ring to minimise the scratches. Just ensure that you do not drop the wok. With a work ring separating the wok’s base from the stove surface, scratches will be rare. This is workable but you will be sacrificing on the cooking temperature as the wok will rarely be hot enough.
Choosing a Wok
A wok is at the heart of every Chinese kitchen. This tool serves as the primary cookware for just about any cooking method, whether it is stir-frying, pan-frying, braising, boiling, deep-frying, or steaming. When it comes to choosing a wok, a good-quality wok is important, but more expensive does not always mean better. Let’s explore.
If you are cooking for just one or two, a 12-inch wok will suffice. A 14-inch wok is an ample size for a family of four to six, and is the standard size used in most home kitchens. There are much larger woks—up to a few feet in diameter—but those are designed for restaurant use. I would not recommend a wok smaller than 12 inches, as it can be difficult to move food around in order to get a proper stir-fry. However, they do look pretty for presentation if you serve a dish in them.
I don’t recommend nonstick woks for stir-frying because the high temperatures often required for stir-frying can cause the nonstick material to release toxic chemicals and even transfer some of the material to the food. Nonstick woks can still be used for making soups and steaming, but I would only recommend them for low-heat cooking.
CARBON STEEL WOK
A good carbon steel wok is the best option, and luckily, it is also the least expensive! Perfect for the home kitchen, carbon steel woks are light yet durable. As they are quite thin, they heat up very quickly and evenly.
Choose a carbon steel wok that is at least 14-gauge, as these are sturdy and won’t bend. A carbon steel wok does need to be seasoned, and over time, this seasoning will help it develop a naturally nonstick surface. The more nonstick it becomes, the less oil you can use when cooking.
Most carbon steel woks have a wooden handle that stays cool as you cook. This is handy for when you want to flip your food in the wok without the wok spatula—a technique that will help you look like a real pro while you entertain your guests!
CAST IRON WOK
Traditional woks are made out of cast iron. They can be heavy and take time to heat up, but they retain heat well and cook food evenly. They also develop a nonstick surface readily after seasoning. Cast iron is a great option if your heat source is a gas burner, as it actually relies on very high heat to function at its best.
My mom has used cast iron woks for years. Because she uses it on a daily basis, it rests on her gas burner at all times. It is so well seasoned that it’s easy to maintain. After cooking in the wok, she just gives it a good rinse, places it on the burner, turns on the heat to dry the wok, then turns off the heat once dry. There it will sit until the next time she uses it, which is usually the next meal!
On the down side, if you rarely cook with a wok , it may be cumbersome to store such a bulky, heavy wok in a cupboard. It can also become difficult to maintain the seasoning.
Most cast iron woks have iron loop handles. Though these are helpful for picking up the heavy wok when it’s cool, the handles get very hot when the wok is in use. Always use protective oven mitts or silicone holders when touching the handles or picking up the wok during or right after use.
FLAT-BOTTOM AND ROUND-BOTTOM WOKS
If you have a flat stove top (electric, glass-top, etc.), a flat-bottom wok works best, providing the most contact with the heat source.
On a gas range, a round-bottom wok is the better option. The flames from the gas stove can easily wrap around the curve of the wok, giving it more even heat distribution.
What if you already have a round-bottom wok but a flat stove top? You can use a wok ring to help keep the wok in place. Setting the wok ring upside down so the wok rests on the wider end of the ring can help distribute the heat more evenly. However, the heat distribution will still not be as good as when using a flat-bottom wok.
SEASONING YOUR WOK
Whether you choose a carbon steel wok or a cast iron wok, it’s important to season the wok before you use it for the first time in order to prepare it for stir-frying and cooking. Seasoning a wok helps it create a natural patina, or a layer of nonstick coating, on the wok’s surface.
As a bonus, this patina also subtly enhances the flavor of the foods that you cook in it. The more you cook with your wok, the more layers it builds up and the more patina it develops. Over time, this patina gives the wok a gorgeous dark color and a natural nonstick surface, along with imparting additional fantastic flavors to your meals.
How to Season a Wok
You will need the following:
- Brand-new cast iron or carbon steel wok
- Stainless steel scrubber
- Dish soap
- 2 tablespoons of peanut oil (or any other oil with a very high smoke point, like canola or grapeseed oil)
- 2-inch piece of ginger, peeled and sliced
- 1½ cups chopped scallions or garlic chives (cut into 2-inch pieces)
- Carbon steel and cast iron woks are coated with a chemical to prevent them from rusting from the time they leave the factory until when they are purchased and used, so the first step is to remove the chemical. To do this, thoroughly scrub the wok, inside and out, with a stainless steel scrubber and a generous amount of dish soap in warm water.
- After rinsing all the soap off, set the wok on a burner over medium heat. This will dry the wok and start to open up the pores of the metal (really!) to prep it for its very first seasoning.
- As soon as the wok is completely dry and at the right temperature (water droplets flicked into the wok should sizzle immediately), add the peanut oil, ginger, and scallions to the wok.
- Stir-fry for about 15 minutes, moving the vegetables all around the wok to completely cover the bottom and the sides of the wok.
- Discard the ginger and scallions, and allow the wok to cool down slightly.
- Using only water, rinse the wok, gently wiping off any food residue with a clean, damp sponge (without soap) or a bamboo wok brush.
- Return the wok to the burner over medium heat to dry. Turn off the heat when the wok is completely dry.
- You may need to repeat this seasoning process if you find that your wok imparts a “steely” taste to your food.
To maintain that lovely seasoning on your brand-new wok, hold off on cooking highly acidic foods like tomatoes, and avoid boiling water in the wok for poaching or steaming. Otherwise you may strip off that patina that you worked to develop! Allow the wok at least a few months of regular use before boiling water or cooking acidic foods in it.
Even if you use your wok frequently, it takes time to develop a nice patina, so don’t feel discouraged if you don’t see great results, even in the first year. As you use your new wok, feel free to reseason it as often as needed (steps 3 through 7 only), especially if you notice your wok is losing its nonstick capabilities—it just needs a little spa treatment!
Care and Maintenance
Your wok can last for years and years if it is properly cared for. But even though you want it to develop that great patina and seasoning, it still needs to be cleaned after each use. Below are some tips for cleaning your wok without losing that nice coating:
HOW TO CLEAN A WOK
- Rinse the wok while gently scraping any food residue off the surface with a wok brush or soapless stainless steel scrubber. If you have any stubborn bits stuck to your wok, place the wok on a burner over medium heat and add a splash of water to help loosen those bits.
- Once rinsed and scraped, heat the wok over medium heat to thoroughly dry it. When it’s completely dry, turn off the heat.
- Pour about a tablespoon of peanut oil into the wok. Use a folded paper towel to spread the oil all over the wok’s inside surface. (For very well-seasoned woks, you can skip this step, as there should now be enough of a patina to keep it oiled and rust-free.)
While soap should be avoided as much as possible, especially for new woks, it is okay to use a very little bit of soap on a seasoned wok from time to time. I use a touch of soap whenever I cook anything spicy, just to wash off those chili oils on the surface, so my next dish won’t pick up any of that flavor.
Because, like my mom, I use my wok daily, it stays on my stove top. If you don’t use your wok as often, store it with the wok lid on so it won’t collect dust.
Tools and Utensils
Most Chinese dishes can be prepared using the pots and pans you already have in your kitchen, but you can invest in some basic equipment and tools to enhance your Chinese cooking experience. As already mentioned, a wok is the one absolute must-have. In addition, here are some tools that you would see in a typical Chinese kitchen.
Please don’t feel like you need to go on a shopping spree to buy these; you may never need certain items—I simply find these most useful for my needs. Start with a wok (with a wok ring if you need it), and a wok spatula, then slowly build your collection as you expand your Chinese cooking repertoire.
Small bamboo steamers are famously used for dim sum, but various sizes can be used to steam meats, fish, vegetables, and buns.
You’ll need a bamboo steamer that will sit high enough in your wok so water can boil under it; a steamer of about 10 inches or larger is a safe bet.
To steam, simply add water to your wok (about halfway to the bottom of your steamer), allow the water to boil, then set your steamer in the wok above the water.
CHEF’S KNIFE OR CLEAVER
A good sharp knife is an essential tool for any kitchen, Chinese or not. The cleaver is a common knife in the Chinese kitchen due to its versatility.
There are small cleavers delicate enough to chop vegetables, and there are heavy cleavers sharp enough to cut pork ribs into little pieces.
A good chef’s knife is perfectly adequate for Chinese cooking if you find a cleaver intimidating.
METAL STEAMING RACK
This round rack can be used to steam larger dishes that won’t fit in a bamboo steamer. It rests in the wok, allowing you to place heatproof dishes right in the wok.
This rack is perfect for reheating fried rice, steaming whole fish, and making dishes like Steamed Egg with Ground Pork (here).
You can cook rice on the stove top, but if you’re cooking a lot of Asian food, a rice cooker is an incredibly convenient kitchen appliance to have.
Just put the rinsed rice in the rice cooker, fill it with water to the level marked, and turn it on. You’ll never undercook or burn rice again!
You can also cook brown rice and quinoa in a rice cooker. Most modern rice cookers also come with a steamer basket so you can steam food while you cook your rice.
Also known as a spider, this tool is perfect for blanching vegetables, straining noodles, and deep-frying. A skimmer allows you to easily scoop any food from the water or oil in your wok.
Larger skimmers are great for noodles and vegetables, and smaller skimmers are ideal for deep-frying.
Made with thin strips of bamboo, a wok brush is used to clean the wok. The bamboo easily removes food residue that is stuck on the wok’s surface—just add water to the hot wok, then brush the tool in a swirling motion to clean it.
A stainless steel scrubber (without soap) will also work in place of a wok brush.
Built with a different angle than a traditional ladle, a wok ladle is useful for stirring soups in a wok and transferring soup to serving bowls.
Many Chinese chefs also use this ladle to scoop sauces into their stir-fries. It is usually a deep, round metal bowl on a long metal body, with a wooden handle at the end.
A wok lid is essential for steaming dishes when using a metal steaming rack, and also for braising meats. Wok lids are normally made of aluminum and are quite light.
I recommend using the lid when storing your wok to protect it from dust.
You may or may not need this, depending on what type of wok you use and what type of stove top you have.
The primary function of a wok ring is to keep a round-bottom wok in position when using it on a flat stove top.
A wok spatula goes hand in hand with a wok. In my experience, you just can’t have one without the other. I discourage using any other type of spatula with a wok, and here’s why:
A wok spatula is designed with a rounded edge that should fit the curve of the wok, making it very easy to scrape food from the wok, collecting it all and leaving hardly any residue.
It’s the perfect utensil for stir-frying.
COOKING WITH A WOK ON AN ELECTRIC STOVE
Before the introduction of modern cookware and kitchen appliances, the wok was used in Chinese cuisine for literally all cooking methods, including roasting and smoking. Today, the most common cooking techniques using a wok are parboiling and blanching, steaming, and, of course, stir-frying.
PARBOILING AND BLANCHING: In some recipes, denser vegetables and meats are boiled for a short time to partially cook them, followed by stir-frying, grilling, or braising, which completes the cooking process.
This parboiling process speeds up the cooking time and also helps foods cook more evenly. Blanching involves a bit of parboiling followed by “shocking” them (submerging them in cold water immediately after they are taken out of the hot water) in order to quickly stop the cooking process. For vegetables, blanching also helps set their bright green color.
STEAMING: Steaming is one of the healthiest cooking methods because it retains the nutrients in the ingredients and does not require oil. You can use a bamboo steamer or place your ingredients in a heatproof dish on a metal steaming rack. The design of the lid of a bamboo steamer handily allows some steam to escape instead of allowing water condensation to fall onto the food.
A bamboo steamer is ideal for dim sum dishes and buns and protects them from sogginess. Using a metal steaming rack is convenient for larger food like fish and vegetables, and even for steaming leftover rice, which can benefit from a few droplets of condensation.
STIR-FRYING: Not only is stir-frying quick and healthy, it is also fun to do and results in delicious dishes. Bite-size pieces of food are tossed in a wok over high heat to seal in the flavor. Very little oil is used if the wok is well seasoned. Stir-frying is incredibly versatile since you can use just about any combination of vegetables and meats that you have on hand.
When stir-frying vegetables, keep them constantly moving in the wok. For meats, you can leave them for a bit more time before moving them around in the wok, to allow them to sear.
One important component of any successful stir-fry is learning to control the heat of the wok. This will take some practice and familiarity with your burner or stove, as well as your wok.
High heat is generally required for a good stir-fry, but heat that’s too high for too long can result in burnt food. Medium-high heat is a safe place to be, but if the food starts browning too fast, don’t be afraid to turn it down and fine-tune the heat as you cook.
- Dry Stir-Fry: Dry stir-frying is a method popular in Sichuan cuisine. Very little oil is used, and the meat or vegetable is dry-fried without any coating or batter. The cooking time is slightly longer but it produces a unique crispy, charred texture. A small amount of strong aromatics and very little sauce are added after the meat or vegetable is dry-fried.
- Moist Stir-Fry: In a moist stir-fry, stock or water is added to the dish while cooking to create an accompanying sauce or gravy. This is common in American-Chinese cuisine, as evidenced by dishes like Moo Goo Gai Pan (here) and Happy Family (here). Rice is often served with moist stir-fry dishes to help absorb the flavorful sauce.
- Velvet Stir-Fry: Velveting is a technique in which meats are marinated in liquids such as soy sauce, egg white, or Shaoxing wine, along with cornstarch. This starchy blend tenderizes the meat by acting as a protective barrier when stir-frying over high heat, locking in all the juices. The meat is sometimes blanched in hot oil or boiling water before stir-frying. This method results in super-soft and tender meat.
6 EASY STEPS TO STIR-FRYING WITH A WOK ON AN ELECTRIC STOVE
Because stir-frying is so healthy, easy, and delicious, it’s a great technique to master and to make a regular part of your cooking routine. Most of your time will be spent preparing the ingredients. In fact, the stir-frying process literally takes just minutes, so you’ll want to be ready with all your prepped ingredients before you fire up the wok. Follow these easy steps for a successful stir-fry every time:
- Prepare the ingredients. This includes cutting any meat into thin strips or slices, chopping vegetables, and mixing the sauce. Mixing the sauce ahead of time is essential; you won’t have the time to measure each sauce ingredient once the meat and vegetables are in the wok, since your hands will be busy stirring!
- Heat the wok. Unless specified in the recipe, wait until the wok is sizzling hot before adding any oil. When water droplets sprinkled on the wok’s surface sizzle immediately, it’s ready. Use an oil with a high smoke point such as peanut oil or grapeseed oil.
- Sear meat first. Using a wok spatula, arrange the meat strips in a single layer. Allow the bottom side of the meat to sear before flipping and moving the pieces around the wok. Remove the meat from the wok once cooked (unless directed otherwise).
- Add the vegetables. If the wok is dry after removing the meat, add a splash of oil. Add aromatics such as garlic and/or ginger to flavor the oil then add the vegetables in the order of their cooking time (slowest to fastest). Unless they are parboiled, firmer vegetables like broccoli and carrot slices take longer to cook than softer vegetables like leafy greens, fresh mushrooms, and fresh bean sprouts.
- Sauce and toss. Add the sauce, stirring to combine all the ingredients. If there is cornstarch in the sauce, it will thicken very quickly. Thinner sauces should not sit in the wok for more than about 30 seconds, as they will burn quickly and overcook the food. Generally, once I add the sauce, I give it a quick stir to combine then remove the contents from the wok within about 10 seconds.
- Serve it. Transfer the dish to a serving plate, add the garnish, and serve immediately. Enjoy!