For thousands of years, Asian chefs seem to have done just fine with cast-iron woks. Around the 1950s, however, nonstick woks entered the market and gave chefs an exciting new option. If you’re wondering whether nonstick woks are right for you, we have the answer.
Simply put, you shouldn’t invest in a nonstick wok if you’re interested in cooking at high temperatures. Here’s a shortlist of the pros and cons for working with a nonstick wok:
- Doesn’t require seasoning
- Easy to clean
- Less of an upfront investment
- Ideal for chefs transitioning from nonstick pan to wok
- Nonstick surfaces can’t handle high temperatures
- It’s easier to scratch a nonstick wok’s surface
- You won’t get authentic “smoky” wok flavor
- Usually has a shorter lifespan than traditional woks
Anyone interested in the benefits and drawbacks of nonstick woks should keep reading. In addition to going over nonstick woks, we’ll share info on more standard wok materials and proper wok maintenance. Just keep reading!
All About Nonstick Woks: Who Are They For?
Although nonstick woks aren’t favored in traditional Chinese restaurants, these contraptions might be useful for at-home chefs. Let’s review the key features of nonstick woks to help you determine whether it’s the right choice for you.
No Seasoning Required: The Benefits Of Nonstick Woks
The main reason people are drawn to nonstick woks is their convenience. Like other nonstick cookware, nonstick woks have a slippery Teflon surface that requires minimal maintenance. You don’t have to worry about properly seasoning your nonstick wok as you would a cast-iron or carbon steel model.
As long as you know how to clean nonstick cookware, then you also won’t have an issue maintaining your nonstick wok. As a bonus, nonstick woks are now available in a wide variety of shapes and sizes that are sure to fit everyone’s preferences.
If you’re looking for a highly reviewed nonstick product, then check out T-fal’s Anodized Nonstick Wok.
It Can’t Handle The Heat: Nonstick Wok Drawbacks
The biggest downside with using a nonstick wok is they can’t handle high temperatures. That’s a big deal when you consider many of the most popular stir-fry dishes in require temperatures of about 500° F.
High temperatures cause damage to your pan’s Teflon coating, which reduces its longevity. Sadly, once your nonstick coating starts to shatter, there’s no way to repair it.
On average, nonstick cookware only lasts about five years, even with good maintenance. If you’re always cooking at high temperatures, then your nonstick wok’s lifespan will be reduced even further.
Also, keep in mind Chinese chefs often use steel ladles and spatulas to manipulate food. Unfortunately, you can’t use these tools on a nonstick wok because they will scratch the surface.
As an added note, you can now find an authentic Chinese spatula and ladle set put out by the company Fox Run.
Final Verdict: Who Are Nonstick Woks For?
Cooks familiar with frying pans who want to dip their toes into Chinese cooking are a good fit for nonstick woks. Although you can’t sear your food as you would in a traditional wok, these nonstick products work great for those who are only interested in dishes that require medium heat.
Finding & Maintaining Your Perfect Wok: A Few Tips
If you’re still contemplating what wok to purchase, then you should read through this final section. Below, we’ll reveal the most popular material used to make woks and share a few maintenance tips.
What Is The Best Material For A Wok?
Now that you know the pros & cons of nonstick woks, you might be wondering what the “best” material for a wok is. Although there is some debate on this issue, carbon steel remains the most popular choice.
Chinese restaurants typically use carbon steel woks because they are durable, heat evenly, and last a long time. Plus, carbon steel models conduct heat better (and are way lighter) than cast-iron woks.
Yes, carbon steel woks tend to require the most attention in terms of proper cleaning and seasoning. But if you stay on top of your wok in terms of maintenance, you will notice it’s easier to work with as it ages.
Check out this traditional carbon steel wok put out by Craft Wok.
Why Is A Wok Better Than A Frying Pan?
Although frying pans are more conventional in Western kitchens, woks have a few unique benefits. Even if you’re not interested in cooking Chinese cuisine, check out these advantages that woks have over frying pans:
- The wok’s bowl-like design helps provide even heating.
- Woks tend to have more space, which means you can fit more food.
- Since traditional woks already have a seasoned coating, you’ll end up using less oil.
- You could drain excess oil by holding food on the wok’s sides before serving.
Is Cooking In A Wok Healthy?
Yes, cooking with a wok is considered a very healthy option. As already mentioned, the wok's design helps promote even heat distribution, which reduces the risk of overcooking your meats. You could also better control how fast your foods cook by moving some to the center and others to the side.
The most significant health benefit associated with woks, however, is that you won’t consume as much oil. Not only is your wok pre-seasoned with a nonstick layer, but any oil you use pools in the center of the pan. This means you could easily drain off oil on the wok’s sides before serving.
How Do You Maintain A Wok?
If you have a carbon steel or cast-iron wok, you will need to create a nonstick “patina” before you cook on it. This nonstick coating makes it easier to cook your food and also prevents rusting.
There are many different ways to season a wok, but here’s a standard method you could use after washing and drying your new wok:
- Place your wok on a stovetop over high heat.
- When the pan is hot, put in two tablespoons of peanut oil.
- Mix in green onions and ginger.
- Set heat to medium and spread your ingredients all over the wok’s surface for about 20 minutes.
- Throw the food away and let your wok cool.
- Rinse the wok with hot water and a clean sponge.
- Put your wok on high heat until all the excess water has evaporated.
To extend the longevity of your wok, you should avoid using abrasive cleaners like soap and scrubs. Only use hot water and gentle sponges to remove food particles.
Of course, every wok design is different, so you need to consult your manufacturer’s guidelines for proper maintenance procedures.
What Wok Works For You?
Nonstick woks are not traditional, but that doesn’t mean they’re worthless. Indeed, at-home cooks who want a frying pan alternative might jive with a nonstick wok design. Hopefully, the information listed above helped you decide what wok works for your cooking needs.
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