The world of international cooking is huge. So much to taste, so much to learn! My family has enjoyed learning and tasting both Chinese and Spanish cuisine by way of relationships built through hosting international students. The friendships we have forged have been a wonderful and rich experience, the food piece is just an added bonus. Along with the cuisine, we continue to learn about new ingredients, kitchen appliances, and Chinese cooking tools that come in handy when making these new dishes. Below I look deeper into ways to outfit our kitchens, so we can create and journey into new flavors together!
What is a Chinese wok?
A Chinese wok is a large bowl-shaped cooking pan used mainly in stir-frying. It is round, wide, and moderately shallow. It’s probably singularly the most well-known and important Chinese cooking tool.
What is the best wok to buy?
The best wok to buy is the one that fits your lifestyle, cooking style, budget and fits best with your kitchen setup. If your goal is home-cooked delicious food, you can get by with most any wok. But if you want to cook more professionally and reach a higher standard like a Chinese restaurant, you will need to make specific choices.
Most restaurants use a large, carbon steel, commercial-grade wok. With high heat and searing, they achieve Chinese food with incredible, flavor known as “wok hay” or “wok hei”. Wok hay is a Cantonese phrase used to describe a distinct character and fragrance that is produced in a dish when authentic stir-frying is done. “Hay” means “energy” or “breath”; therefore, “wok hay” implies “the energy or breath of a wok”.
For starters, many Chinese dishes can be made right in your typical frying pan. So you can certainly start where you are! The home cook may appreciate nonstick pans, for easy cooking and cleanup.
Our friends Zhengheng (Dave) from Shanghai and Yulin Zhou (James), from the Hunan Province of China, love to cook but are not professionals. In their respective home kitchens in China, they also use kitchen tools that do the job but are easy to care for.
Zhengzheng says his family back home cooks primarily in a wok pan that is nonstick with higher sides, similar to a couple of the woks below. This gives you added real estate to push food around in different temperature zones without pushing food over the edge.
Interestingly enough they also eat out of bowls for the same reasons. Everything is safely contained.
Woks are great for stir-frying many noodles and vegetable dishes. There are many options out there. Below are woks that get great reviews and are balanced with affordable price tags. (affiliate links in blue)
Carbon Steel Wok
Here’s an authentic 14-inch hand-hammered carbon steel wok that’s made in China. This classic wok had to be number one in the best wok review because it is a perennial favorite.
It has a flat bottom for a better balance and stability against many common flat kitchen cooking surfaces, for example, electric, induction, or radiant heat stovetops. If you have a gas or dedicated wok station, you can get a completely rounded bottom wok variety.
You can also purchase a ring holder or wok stand that allows a round bottom wok to behave on a flat surface.
The professionals and restaurants like carbon steel best, but it does require care and the knowledge to season it properly plus employ correct cooking processes (ie: use very high heat and add oil after not before, etc.).
I own a model similar to this one but with a round bottom and it does work great, but for my kitchen, I am ready for a nonstick wok in my life for the ease and cleanup alone.
Wok/Stir Fry Pan
This one is a great wok for beginners and home cooking enthusiasts. It has a long-life nonstick, PFOA free Teflon select.
I would use this for a variety of cooking, not just Asian stir fry recipes. It is coated 5 times with Teflon print designs and has extra-heavy gauge forged aluminum construction.
Nonstick Wok Stir Fry Pan
When I set out to do wok reviews this pan was my first choice! I love the clean look and good-looking solid black finish. It has the high sides of a classic wok, but the nonstick hard-anodized surface, plus a see-through cover.
It is durable, heats evenly, quickly, and prevents hot spots. Perfect for easy food release, tossing, cleaning, and healthy cooking.
This could be the best wok for a small apartment or kitchen because of its flexibility alone! Move it anywhere, inside or out (if you have electricity).
It’s the classic shape with its dome-shaped lid and perfect for any type of stir-fry, saute or simmer. Though it won’t reach the high temps of the carbon steel, the material allows for excellent heat circulation for any dish you throw its way.
Helpful Kitchen Tools to Make Chinese Food
Wooden Spoon for Nonstick Pans
I absolutely love wooden spoons. They come in all kinds of shapes and sizes. Here’s a good solid, one-piece beech wood variety, I do own a few of these! The OXO brand is awesome, it is always top quality.
This spoon is great for woks and other cooking too. It’s got a large, comfortable handle, natural oil finish, and is safe for non-stick cookware.
Stainless Steel Strainer
This strainer is made of premium food-grade 18/8 stainless steel which is heat-resistant and sturdy. It won’t be deformed even after long-term use.
The material is safer and more durable than plastic. This works great for scooping when we make Zhengzheng’s Chinese pork dumpling recipe!
Black + Decker 16-Cup Cooked/8-Cup Uncooked Rice Cooker and Food Steamer
Here’s a great budget-friendly choice for young adults, college students, or anyone really. Zhengzheng has this one at his University of Minnesota college apartment and loves it. The rice cooker is easy to use and clean and typically is priced just under $20.
It effortlessly makes up to 6 cups of rice in less than 30 minutes and keeps it warm with an automatic warming function. A glass lid makes it easy to check on things, plus a cool-touch plastic knob is designed to rest on the cooker’s side handles.
As a bonus, it comes with a steaming basket, measuring cup, and serving spoon, to help you create a variety of meals.
Instant Pot Duo 7-in-1 Electric Pressure Cooker
If you don’t have room for a bunch of random appliances in your kitchen, here’s the perfect choice for a variety of recipes. My friends and family swear by it. It makes perfect rice, but a million other things too!
This is the best selling model; America’s most loved multi cooker, built with the latest 3rd generation technology, the microprocessor monitors pressure, temperature, keeps time, and adjusts heating intensity and duration to achieve desired results every time.
Aroma Housewares 2-8 Cup Rice Grain Cooker and Food Steamer
This fast and dependable food cooker and steamer from Aroma does it all. It can prepare up 2 to 8 cups of cooked rice at a time. The multi-functional appliance cooks white and brown rice to perfection, but also jambalaya, steamed veggies, and even a cake.
Additionally, it has steaming capabilities, a steam tray allows you to prepare your veggies above all while rice, soup, or any other meal cooks below, allowing you to save time without sacrificing quality.
There’s the start of my Chinese cooking tools “must-have” list. I will be adding more ideas as I continue to learn! Check back for updates.
What’s your favorite cooking accessory? I’d love to hear about it.
Enjoy your culinary adventures and exploring new kitchen tools!