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Source of good quality woks?

gjander's picture

I'm not entirely happy with my current wok, which is made by Caphalon.  I'd like to find a very good quality one that holds heat well.  Does anyone know of a good brand or have a suggestion for where to look? 

Thanks in advance,


ashleydbrit's picture

(post #53914, reply #1 of 27)

Your local Chinese store.

Jello Sheriff

Jean's picture

(post #53914, reply #4 of 27)

Right! My DH got mine for around $20. He asked the proprietor what to use  to season it and was told to use "chip oy". About halfway home he figured out that was cheap oil. It has a flat bottom so I can use it on my electric stove.


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gjander's picture

(post #53914, reply #5 of 27)

I hadn't thought to look at a Chinese supply store for some reason.  We have an abundance of Asian stores in this area so I'll give a few a try.  Thanks everyone for the responses.


JoeB2's picture

(post #53914, reply #6 of 27)

My problem isn't the Wok, but the stove! If I peek in the kitchen of a Chinese resturant, their huge woks sit low in the stove and flames are jetting up the sides and the entire thing is heated.

At home, only the center 5" diameter really gets the heat. I'm not in any position to shop for a new oven but I'm curious, are their any stoves or contraptions that address this problem?

I'm completely convinced this design problem definatly affects the outcome of all of my dishes that are stir-fried.

editing to address origional point: I have two I bought at a local asian grocery, large and smaller. I like the larger one better because the metal is heavier/thicker and there is so much more room to cook with and move things around... just wish I could get flame over more surface area! :)

Edited 1/20/2003 4:58:07 PM ET by JoeB

3chang's picture

(post #53914, reply #7 of 27)

Joe, get thee hence to the Asian market and look for a propane burner, the kind that puts out at least 30,000 BTUs. For safety reasons, stoves for the home kitchen will never exceed 15,000 BTUs, resulting in tired and flabby stir fries. You've heard the adage before: there's no replacement for high BTU stoves when it comes to wok cookery. Your stir fried dishes will sparkle and have that wok hay (literally "the energy from the wok," which is that indefinable smoky/savory flavor) and the right texture and color. We have a 50,000 BTU burner that we use outside (SoCal is blessed with pretty much all year outdoor cooking weather): it has that MIT look to it (as in Made In Taiwan), the business end is made from iron, so keep it away from the elements and clean it regularly with a steel brush, and it hooks up to a 5 gallon or larger propane tank. But be forewarned. When you get one, get a larger wok, learn to cook by sound, be sure to have everything mis en placed, and forget those techniques that you find in normal recipes. Cooking on these things is FAST: if you spend the 3 minutes stir frying garlic that most cook books say you should on one of these stoves, the result will be carbonization. You will, of course, be spoiled for anything else.

JoeB2's picture

(post #53914, reply #8 of 27)

Oh wow Sam. I must have one of these. Roadtrip!!!

Fledge's picture

(post #53914, reply #9 of 27)


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I have an African Grey

PeterDurand's picture

(post #53914, reply #10 of 27)

Quick question if I may.

All those BTUs must heat the oil quite high. Don't you run the risk of breaking it down? My modest little gas cooktop will bring most oil to the smoking point if I am not careful. I have a feeling that I am missing something really basic here.




MEANCHEF's picture

(post #53914, reply #12 of 27)

Yes if you have it too hot.  We had a wok burner at school and I preheated it on high, added oil and got a big flash of flame.  There are limits.

3chang's picture

(post #53914, reply #13 of 27)

Yes, it is easy to break down oil (and thereby introduce all sorts of nasty free radicals and such), but the great thing about really high heat is not how hot you can get it (just preheating a wok over a kitchen range will get it plenty hot), but how well you can retain or introduce more heat into the wok once you've started putting relatively cold foods into it. Sustained heat is the whole point of high heat cookery: if you put in the sauce in a wok, the last thing you want to see is the sauce just sitting there, warming up and not even bubbling when it makes contact with the wok. That's a sure recipe for soggy stir fries and lifeless food.

That said, you can get these things really hot. If you're not careful you can get the bottom of your wok to glow orange. Looks pretty at night, but impossible to cook on.

JoeB2's picture

(post #53914, reply #16 of 27)

yes! that's it! When I stir fry, the first few seconds are perfect.. but then it cools.. more ingredients get added.. and it soaks waiting for more heat that never quite makes it.

I guess all these things need to be used outside huh? *looks at thermometer registering -2F today*

I recall one high-end stove having a "wok pit".. Wolf perhaps? I was unaware there was a BTU ceiling for residential stoves. Are you saying that wok pit probably only went up to 15000 BTUs?

3chang's picture

(post #53914, reply #17 of 27)

I guess all these things have to be used outside huh?

Most definitely! The heat is a bit intense. At full blast these things will spout out a huge jet of flame and sound like an F-16 with full afterburner. Besides, cooking outside means none of that sticky film, and cleanup is a breeze. We put it on a stainless steel cart, BTW: we found that a wooden base will easily crack and develop scorch marks. And despite the high heat output, cold weather definitely alters cooking times and technique.

I'm kind of skeptical about these fancy ranges that feature wok pits. I don't know their specific outputs, but I do know that it very expensive to install a restaurant range in a residence. You'll need a bigger gas spigot, the kitchen walls against which it will rest will need extra insulation, and the wall itself will need to be (I believe) at least 1-hour fire rated, not to mention the extra ventilation you'll need. Some of the fancy houses owned by rich Chinese here and abroad (there's a huge market for these things in Vancouver, I understand) feature "wok kitchens," which are sealed off attachments that has a wok pit, serious gas lines and ventilation, and the appropriate fire-proofing. They are also lined with tile for easy cleanup.

ashleydbrit's picture

(post #53914, reply #18 of 27)

I've got a "wok burner" on my stove top that's about 15000 btu. OK it's not in the same league as the pro jobs but get it up to temperature, get your mise en place to hand and it's fine for relatively small quantities, like cooking for two. Mind you I've always coveted burners like we saw in Hong Kong, gas valve was knee operated and as samchang says, noise like an F-16, burn, baby, afterburn!

Jello Sheriff

Gretchen's picture

(post #53914, reply #11 of 27)

Joe, get thee hence to the Asian market and look for a propane burner, the kind that puts out at least 30,000 BTUs.

Hey, I'm gonna use my turkey fryer burner that I have never used yet!  Any reason it wouldn't work?

3chang's picture

(post #53914, reply #14 of 27)

A trukey fryer is what I was going to suggest if JoeB didn't want to go trekking far and wide. These things are available at Home Depots and the like. Same concept, and it may even be a better bet: turkey fryers are built for the US market and will feature the new style propane tightening collar. Taiwanese burners use the old fashioned ones. Not that it makes any difference in performance, but the new ones are easier to put on and off.

Wolvie's picture

(post #53914, reply #15 of 27)

this intrigues me. I think I'll go and get one of these turkey fryer thingys. I grill all year, so I could just leave this set up outside.

Thanks for the idea guys! I was thinking I would never have a great wok set up, since I am unwilling to spend 4 grand on the type that Ming has! ;-)

Woe to the cook whose sauce has no sting
- Chaucer


Biscuits's picture

(post #53914, reply #19 of 27)

Last night on Good Eats, aka Alton Brown, he made squid in a wok, and he used the base of a turkey fryer!  Said it was the cheapest way to get "wok-ay" (sp?), or the flavor from a real wok, which you can only get from that high heat.

He did do one thing I found suspect - first thing he put in the glowing hot wok was - SESAME OIL!   Please correct me if I'm wrong, but it has always been my understanding that Sesame oil has an incredibly low burn point, and because of this, should never be used to stir fry, but only as a condiment and seasoning.  Yes?  No?  That's what I've read in my two Barbara Tropp books...



wtf    Biscuit

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Li's picture

(post #53914, reply #20 of 27)

I think the smoke point of regular sesame oil (which has little taste; it's similar to vegetable oil) is about 450.

You're thinking of toasted sesame oil, which is a different animal altogether, and shouldn't be used for cooking but for flavoring.

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JoeB2's picture

(post #53914, reply #21 of 27)

oh dang I missed it. I love his show and would have really liked to see this particular one.

PeterDurand's picture

(post #53914, reply #22 of 27)

Turkey fryers......check out this link.



3chang's picture

(post #53914, reply #23 of 27)

You can use toasted sesame oil in a very hot wok asuming that you don't let the oil heat up too much. A few seconds ought to do it. Depending on where they're from, Japanese Tempura chefs will regularly add toasted sesame oil to their oil for deep frying. In Tokyo they favor that white tempura, so no sesame oil is added, but other prefectures prefer golden colored and deeper flavored tempura, so they'll add as much as 50% toasted sesame oil. After having experimented a bit, using sesame oil for frying is a good way to replicate that "seasoned oil" flavor and color. When deep frying with fresh oil, the first batch is never the best, and it's usually the third batch onward that turns out just right. The sesame oil helps to replicate that characteristic. I don't like calling it the "used oil" flavor: perhaps "previously owned?"

And BTW, even though just about every cookbook says not to, I use EVOO in a very hot wok to cook down our tomatoes for a sauce. Yes it smokes, but it adds a wonderful depth of flavor.

JoeB2's picture

(post #53914, reply #24 of 27)

I bet Ebay would be a good place to pick up a burner. "Deep Fried Turkey" sounds like something a backyard gourmet would think is a good idea till they actually try it and see the fire hazard risk. It appears these things put out anywhere from 160,000 to 200,000 BTUs! *grunt* *grunt*

I'm going to troll ebay a couple months (while the weather wakes up) and see.

Gretchen's picture

(post #53914, reply #25 of 27)

You can get a burner for a fish fryer for $40--we actually got one for $30 on sale last fall. Go to Walmart or Home Depot.  You'll get eaten with the shipping on e-BAY.


sujata's picture

(post #53914, reply #26 of 27)

I think it has something to do with the type of sesame oil - the less refined, darker and more flavourful stuff vs the paler, more flavourless type. The refined stuff is fine for frying, while the darker stuff is more like a condiment.

Biscuits's picture

(post #53914, reply #27 of 27)

Ah, I see.  So, just like olive oil?  The more refined, the higher heat it can take.  The less refined, the less heat it can take.  I understand.  Thank you all.  I honestly didn't realize there were grades of sesame oil.  I've always bought the toasted sesame oil, and never even looked for anything else.  I love learning new stuff!



wtf    Biscuit

Ancora Imparo -

mangiaFagioli's picture

(post #53914, reply #2 of 27)

I really like the indian made karhais (sp?), they're like woks, made of a relatively heavy black steel and need seasoning. I know foods of india (a.k.a. sinha trading, 121 lexington avenue, 212 683-4419) sells them and they're really cheap. i suspect they'll ship one

Biscuits's picture

(post #53914, reply #3 of 27)

Agree with NoChef and Ashley.  An good Indian food supplier or Chinese food supplies is where you want to look.  I have 3, different sizes.  You want the thing to be HEAVY and made of steel.  You will have to give it some love and care or it will rust, but care is really minimal.  Same as with a cast iron skillet - wash with hot water and a scubby only, dry on the stove, then light wipe of vegetable oil before storage.  That easy.

I think you will also find that buying a wok from those sources will not only get you a much better wok, but you will also save many, many dollars.  I can't believe how much money people pay for crappy woks, when if they just went to a Chinatown or Indian store they could literally get one for 2/3 the price (maybe even 1/2 the price) and get a real wok that will not only survive your lifetime, but your children's lifetime, as well.

One of my woks came from my mother who got her's in Singapore.  The other one was a gift from a Vietnamese woman when I live in London.  The other one I bought in Chinatown in NY.



wtf    Biscuit

Edited 1/17/2003 10:05:30 AM ET by Biscuit

Ancora Imparo -