A popular, all-purpose Asian pan, the wok is distinguished by high, sloping sides, resembling a bowl. Hammering looks nice, and does not make a wok better. Expect a carbon steel wok to turn dark (to oxidize) with repeated use; this is a desirable quality.

The general idea is to create a hot spot at the bottom of the wok, where the actual cooking takes place. The sides are used to rest the food that is cooking at slightly cooler temperatures. Moving the food about gives you great control and versatility, while enabling you to cook each food perfectly to enhance its flavor and retain its nutrients.

Combined with a bamboo steamer, woks are ideal for steam cooking and, with a tempura rack, make excellent deep fryers or tempura pans.

The typical traditional wok measures about 14 inches in diameter and is made of carbon steel.

Iron woks take a long time to heat up, but hold the high heat very, very well.

Stainless steel's inherent qualities make this a poor metal for a wok and also make it much more expensive.

An electric wok is an inefficient and expensive alternative that, with few exceptions, is best avoided.

Nonstick surfaces are unnecessary and don't last long. They are most common in electric woks.

Aluminum gets hot all over and considered overkill. They lack the cooler parts of the wok's inner surface, which is used to move foods away from the hot spot to a cooler spot.

If you have electric burners, you may need to use a flat-bottom wok in order to get enough heat. Or turn the ring to the side that keeps the wok closer to the burner.

Round-bottom woks are best for flame burners. Use a wok ring to keep them stable on the stove burner.

An oil coating is generally applied to carbon steel after manufacture, to prevent rusting during transport and storage. There are different instructions on its removal, depending on the type of oil. It is generally a good idea to remove the coating before seasoning and using the wok.

How to Remove Food-Grade Oil from Some Woks

A food-grade coating was applied to some of our woks to prevent any rusting during (ocean) transportation and storage. This replaced the 'old' method of using the messy machine oil. Other than this coating, it is a carbon steel wok in its natural state.We recommend that you remove the coating before seasoning: Add 1 tablespoon cooking oil to wok. Heat wok to medium to high heat. Wipe off with paper towel. Repeat if necessary. Wash with warm soapy water, rinse off.

Sometimes the food-grade coating may have been applied unevenly and may be a little thicker in certain areas and it may be necessary to repeat the process. It is not absolutely necessary to remove all of the oil coating before seasoning, but it is recommended that you remove it from the interior bottom of the wok before seasoning.

How to Season a Steel or Cast Iron Wok

Before seasoning, scrub the wok well with hot, soapy water, then rinse thoroughly. Place over medium heat on the stove. Occasionally add a few drops of water to the wok; when the drops sizzle, you can start seasoning. Wet a folded paper towel with peanut or corn oil. Using tongs to keep your hands away from the hot surface, rub the oiled towel along the inside surface of the wok, coating it evenly. When thoroughly coated, lower the heat under the wok, and let it cook for about 15 minutes. Wipe off any excess oil, allow it to cool, and it's ready for use.

Note: If your new wok came with a lacquer or other protective coating, remove it before seasoning.

To keep your wok perfectly seasoned, do not use soap to clean it after use. It generally wipes clean with a paper towel, however you can wash it with a nylon or natural fiber scrubber and hot water, rinse, then dry thoroughly.

For more information on woks and other cookware, check out our Cookware Guide.