What is a wok? & What does wok mean? – Details guideline in 2017

What is a wok? – A wok is a traditional Chinese cookware. Though it was originated in china, it’s very popular all over the world at present. The main and most important characteristic of this cookware is its round bottom and long handle. It can be used for various cooking techniques. It is basically used for stir frying, steaming, pan frying, steaming, pan frying, deep frying, and poaching, and boiling, braising, searing, stewing, making soup, smoking and roasting nuts.

What is a wok? – What does wok mean? A Total Guideline

A wok’s shape makes it different from other cookware. Traditional wok has a round bottom. Hand-hammered woks are sometimes flipped inside out after being shaped. It gives the wok a gentile flare to the edge. It helps to push up onto the sides of the best wok.

Traditional woks didn’t have much variability in their materials or in the design they are made. They were basically made in a particular shape. But in modern time woks are made in different shapes and designs. Also a wide range of materials are being used in their production.

what is a wok


Long handle is a unique characteristic of a wok. Woks usually have two kinds of handles.

They are – loops and stick.

Loop handles

In southern china loop handles are typically set on opposite sides of the wok. To use loop handles woks, need to hold them from both sides and have to toss the food. In most cases these loop handles are made of bare metal so, cooks need to hold them with a thick towel although some woks have wooden or plastic covers over the metal of the handle.

Cooking with a wok having loop handles is sometimes very difficult because it requires a lot of strength to hold the wok lift it and toss the food.

Stick handles

Stick handles are long. They are made of steel. They are usually welded or riveted to the wok basin or it can be a direct extension of the metal of the basin. These types of handles are popular in north China. These handles are made of steel but other materials are also used like wood or plastic covered handgrips. These types of handles are normally not found is cast iron wok. There can be two reasons behind it. First one is the wok is too heavy for the handle, second one is the metal is too thin to handle the tensile stress exerted by the handle. Woks of larger diameter usually contain a helper handle which aids in handling.


Now-a-days, there are two important materials which are used to make a wok. They are carbon steel and cast Iron.

Carbon Steel

Carbon steel is the most widely used material as it’s cheaper than other material and it’s relatively light in weight. It has got a huge popularity for its quick heat absorption and distribution and its long durability. So, cooking is very easy and lifting is also comfortable by a wok made with carbon steel.

Cast iron

Woks made with cast iron are very thick and heavy. It takes more time than carbon steel wok to get hot and also to get cool. So foods need to be removed quickly to avoid burning or over cooking. It also provides good result in different aspects. Likewise it creates a more stable carbonized layer of seasoning that provides stick resistance.

A different kind of wok is getting popularity all over the world. Steel wok with non-stick coatings are among them.

Multilayered wok

Now woks with several layers are also constructed. The layers usually include stainless steel, aluminum or copper. Aluminum or copper layers are generally encapsulating by the stainless steel layers. Woks made with aluminum and they are superior in quality having thermal capacity as cast iron or carbon steel. It gets cool very quickly after cooking and constructed much thinner than cast iron. Aluminum is mostly used for wok lids.

Suitable cook tops

Woks can be used on all kinds of cook tops. But, the bottom of the wok creates differentiation in this case. A traditional wok usually has a round bottom. In ancient China pit stove or tradition stove were available which were suitable to use a wok. But, in modern cook-tops like induction or western style burners they can hardly be used without any extra facility. That facility refers to a wok ring. A wok ring helps wok to settle down on a flat cook top. This setting problem doesn’t arise in western style woks. Because, no-a-days, wok are made with a flat bottom in western countries which are easily usable on all cook tops. Woks can be used in oven too. Modern non-stick woks work well in the temperature up to 500-degree F. This amount of temperature is suitable for stir frying.


There is a wide range of woks with different sizes or diameters. Most woks range from 300 to 360 mm or 12 to 14 inches or more in diameter. There are lots of variances in the diameter of woks. These diameters can be 10-inch, 12 inch, 14 inch or even 26 inches. Small woks of 10 inch or less are only suitable for cooking a few cups of ingredients mainly for a person or two for a single course. The most suitable size of a wok is 12 – 14 inches. This range of wok are very versatile are have the ability to scale up or down. But, home woks can be found are small as 8 inches and as large as 36 inches. Smaller woks are usually used for quick cooking techniques for high heat such as stir frying. Large woks over a meter wide are mainly used by restaurants or community kitchens for cooking a lot of food. In a small wok a lot of food ingredients can’t be cooked. On the other hand, in a large wok many items can be put but it will be difficult to carry or move. But, that doesn’t mean they aren’t good. They are of great use in their different field. So their utility depends on the purpose they are using for.

Cooking ability

Woks are that types of cookware which can perform various cooking tasks very well. Modern woks are also good at different cooking techniques. Traditional wok has round bottoms which enable cook food with a little amount of oil. It can be used stir frying, dry roasting or even steaming. Traditional round bottomed wok allow some of the food to be seared by intense heat while using relatively little fuel. It has large stopped sides. These sides make tossing very easy. Traditional woks are free from the problem of splashing because of these sides. However, modern woks with both round and flat bottom have their own benefits. Woks are superior to most of the pan and other cookware because of their ability to cook both of the large and small quantity food.

Woks are made of such metal that provide stick resistance and makes food more flavorful. It is particularly important for Chinese dishes requiring high heat for fragrance. That’s why it’s one of the most common cooking vessels in China. But, now-a-days woks are being used to wok all sorts of food all over the world. It’s no more confined in China. It’s also found in parts of East, South and Southeast Asia. In fact, it’s now becoming a popular cookware in all over the world. Hope you get total knowledge on what is a wok/What does wok mean.


Kathy Smith

Hi, I am Kathy Smith. I am chief chef in KitchenGearPros. I am also a freelance blogger. I share my cooking related experience and knowledge.

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