What Is A Wok?

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Woks are amazingly popular cooking tools – and so many people swear by them! In use in Asia for thousands of years, they’ve been introduced to the Western world over the last century, and have started to become really popular. Indeed, many people never go back to other sorts of cookware after using their first wok!

What Is A Wok?

Woks are a fantastic tool for the kitchen, and one of the most versatile pieces of cookware that anyone can own. There are so many things that you can cook in a wok.

People have been using them for a really long time too. Woks are actually extremely old tools. It’s thought that the first wok was used over 2000 years ago!

The key thing about a wok that lets you tell it apart from other pots and pans is its distinctive shape and size! Woks are usually quite large when compared to most pots and pans.

They’re both deep and wide – which makes sense when you consider that sometimes the entire meal can be cooked in and even served from the wok.

They have a characteristic round shape, with sidewalls high enough to keep your food inside despite vigorous stirring and tossing.

Traditionally, woks will have a round bottom. Traditional woks are hand-made by craftsmen, requiring painstaking work to beat out of sheet metal with a hammer.

However, modern manufacturing has made it easier to make woks using machinery. A lot of modern woks are also made with flat bottoms, which makes them easier to use on a lot of modern cooking equipment, such as electric stoves.

What Can You Cook In A Wok?

The first thing that most people think of when they think of wok cooking is a traditional Chinese stir fry! And, indeed, a stir fry is not just a delicious thing to make in a wok, but a real classic too.

Woks have been used for stir-frying as far back as the Ming Dynasty! Indeed, much Asian food is absolutely fantastic for cooking in a wok – and often, the wok is the traditional way to make these foods anyway!

However, that’s far from all. The truth is that practically anything you can cook in another sort of pot or pan, you can cook in a wok too.

They are absolutely fantastic for cooking all sorts of food – not just Asian! A good wok can find a home in any kitchen, and indeed can often outright replace many other cookware items. They’re so versatile that there’s very little you can’t cook in them!

What’s great about cooking in a wok is that, due to both its sheer size and its unique shape, heat is retained exceptionally well.

This is in part because of the simple fact that a wok is made with more metal than a smaller pan – so there’s more to hold the heat!

You can even use woks to boil water in, as they’re so deep they can comfortably hold quite a lot of it. In fact, it almost doesn’t matter what it is you’re trying to do. As long as you can actually fit it inside the wok, the chances are that you can use a wok for cooking it!

Advantages Of Woks

  • Size – the fact that a wok is so big is actually a fantastic point in its favor! There are so many things that are easier to cook in a wok than any other sort of pan, simply due to how deep and wide a wok is.
  • Great Heat Retention – again, a huge amount of this advantage is granted by the sheer size of a wok. It’s made of more metal than smaller pans, therefore there’s more metal to heat up! The shape of a wok helps to channel heat too. The sloping, broad walls stay hot due to their shape, even though they’re rarely near the heat source itself.
  • More Even Heating – even though a wok is too big for every part of the base to be directly over the heat source, the fact is that the sheer size and shape of the wok help to eliminate cold and hot spots. With a well-built wok, you can extremely even heat all over – which of course makes cooking a lot easier!
  • Absolutely Perfect For Tossing – if you’re cooking some food that needs to be tossed, then a wok is probably the best way to cook it! A wok is great for tossing – not least because it’s so big that food just tumbles right back in!

Disadvantages Of Woks

  • Cost – woks aren’t necessarily much more expensive than other cookware, but the fact that they’re bigger and made from more material than other pans usually means that they cost a little more to buy. This is offset by the versatility of a wok, of course – they can stand in for so many pans! And, of course, even an inexpensive wok can be a perfectly good tool for cooking with – you don’t need to break the bank at all to get a wok!
  • Not For All Stoves – that size and shape is an advantage most of the time, but there are things about the size and shape of a wok that can make it a little trickier to use in some circumstances. A lot of traditional woks are round-bottomed, which can mean they’re impossible to use on electric stoves, as there’s just not enough area in contact with the hob. There won’t be much heat transferred to the wok, and as a result things just won’t cook well!
  • Cleaning And Storing – woks are actually pretty easy to keep clean, as their smooth rounded shape is really easy to wipe down. However, there’s one thing to bear in mind – and, again, it’s down to size! Woks can be quite large, which can make actually finding room to clean and store them more difficult. It’s not a huge problem for many people – but it’s something to be aware of!


Hopefully, this simple guide has helped you to learn a little about woks!

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