If stir-fry dishes are one of your favorites, it would be nice if you could make them at home. Since the closest way you can prepare them authentically is by using a wok, you’re probably considering investing in one.
You’re probably already familiar with the round-bottom wok, but did you know there are also flat-bottom ones?
If this is new information for you, you might probably be wondering:
Is there a difference between round and flat bottom wok?
Surprisingly, the slight differences between their bases can affect how you cook your dishes. So to help you determine which wok is more suitable for your cooktop, let’s discuss their pros and cons below.
What is the purpose of the round bottom of the Chinese wok?
Invented over 2,000 years ago in China, the real purpose for the invention of the wok is still unclear.
But historians suspect it allows tribes to have portable cookware that enables them to cook large amounts of food or use a small amount of oil because of fuel shortage.
Nowadays, you can use woks for several cooking methods, including stir-frying, stewing, steaming, braising, or deep-frying.
Its rounded bottom allows it to sit closer to the flame, making it easier to achieve ‘wok hei’ or the smoky aroma and flavor that traditional stir-fries have.
Its shape also ensures even heat distribution so you can cook the ingredients at the same rate. Since stir-frying requires constant movement, the wok’s tall walls also allow you to toss the food quickly without spilling.
The only downside is that you’ll only be able to cook small portions at a time because of its narrow center.
What is the difference between a flat bottom and round bottom wok?
Now that you know the reason behind the shape of the wok, you might be wondering:
What’s the difference between a flat bottom vs round bottom wok?
A flat-bottom wok looks similar to a traditional wok, except it has a flat base that allows it to sit on any type of stove. Joyce Chen invented flat-bottom woks in 1971 after observing the struggles of using a round-bottom wok in a home kitchen.
It allows you to cook larger food portions since it has a wider shape. Plus, it ensures even heat distribution because its base has a bigger surface area to get in contact with heat.
But it would be more difficult to achieve wok hei since you can’t concentrate the heat in one area. Especially on woks with wide bases that look more similar to frying pans.
Can you use a round bottom wok on an electric stove?
If you have an electric stove, using a flat bottom wok is ideal. Since most electric stoves have flat surfaces, keeping a round bottom wok steady is difficult.
Even if you use a wok ring to stabilize the wok, it will take an incredibly long time to heat up since it’s sitting an inch or two away from the heat source.
A round bottom wok won’t also work on an induction cooktop since its base needs to be in direct contact with the stove to create electromagnetic energy.
Can you use a flat-bottom wok on a gas stove?
A flat bottom wok works great on a gas stove because it can sit steadily on the surface, so it’s safer to cook.
Although you’ll have to make certain adjustments, such as tilting the wok more to ensure the oil spreads evenly and tossing the food isn’t as smooth as using a round bottom one. But it’s not a major dealbreaker since you’ll still be able to cook almost anything on it.
If you want to sear or char your food easily, make sure to get a wok that doesn’t have a large flat surface since it would be harder to concentrate the heat at the bottom if it has a wider surface area. Make sure the material of the wok is also thin so it gets hot quickly.
What material is a wok made of?
Woks are available in various materials, including cast iron, carbon steel, aluminum, and stainless steel. But a carbon steel piece does the job well if you’re looking for a durable and affordable wok. It’s lightweight, easy to season, and conducts heat well for even cooking.
A cast iron wok is also a good option because it’s durable, can retain heat excellently, and can withstand high temperatures. The more you use it, the thicker its protective layer will be. But can be too heavy for tossing food in quick movements.
Stainless steel woks are also gaining traction since they’re also durable, easy to clean, and don’t require any seasoning. The only downside is that some foods can stick to their surface since it doesn’t develop a non-stick layer that other types of woks get.
What is the best round bottom wok?
If you’re looking for something budget-friendly and durable, you can get the best carbon steel round bottom wok at your local Asian market. Their woks are usually authentic and age better over time.
But if you want one from a reputable brand, the Yosukata Carbon Steel Wok has pretty great reviews. It’s sturdy and has excellent heat retention and heat distribution.
But be aware that it has a hefty weight and tends to tilt towards the handle even when it’s balanced on a wok ring. The screws on its handles also tend to get loose, so you’ll have to tighten them often.
For a more affordable option, you can also check out the Bielmeier Hand Hammered Wok. It’s made from carbon steel that changes to a light blue hue when seasoned well. It has excellent non-stick abilities and heat distribution.
Like the Yosukata wok, its wooden handle and screws get loose after a few uses. If you get issues with rust spots and food sticking to the surface, you can remedy these by seasoning and maintaining both woks properly.
What is the best carbon steel flat bottom wok?
If you think a flat bottom wok carbon steel material is better for your cooking needs, the Yosukata Flat Bottom Carbon Steel Wok is still at the top of the list. It’s made from thinner carbon steel, allowing it to heat and cool down quickly, and it holds well for high-heat cooking.
Its flat bottom does warp after a few uses, so it’s not as ideal if you have an electric or induction cooktop. Several users also find it difficult to season the wok well even after following a number of tutorials and instructions carefully.
If you’re looking for a more affordable flat bottom wok, you can also consider the Todlabe Nonstick Carbon Steel Wok. It comes with a lid and stainless steel spatula for your convenience.
Its handle stays cool throughout cooking, and its sturdy build ensures even heat distribution. But expect its non-stick coating to peel over time, and you will need to reseason it for future use.
How to use a flat bottom wok
If you just acquired a brand new flat bottom wok, the first thing you need to do is to season it properly. This will make its surface non-stick, so it’s easy to move around your food while cooking.
To start, wash your wok with soap and water to remove the layer of the manufacturer’s oil. Then, place it on your stovetop for about 10 minutes or until its surface darkens.
If you’re using a gas stove, you can tilt the wok around the flame to season its sides. But if you have an electric or induction cooktop, you can use a butane torch to make the process easier.
Once the wok is black, apply a thin layer of oil and spread it on its interior and exterior surfaces with a paper towel. Then return the wok to the heat and let it sit for a few seconds. Then, wipe off any excess oil with a clean paper towel, and you’re ready to cook!
You can also repeat the process 2 or 3 more times to get a thicker protective layer and ensure it’s non-stick.
When you want to cook, let your wok pre-heat for a few seconds before pouring in some cooking oil. You’ll know it’s hot enough when you splash a few drops of water, and they bead up before evaporating.
After using, wash your wok with soap and water and dry it thoroughly. Then, wipe all of its surfaces with a layer of cooking oil to protect it from rust and preserve its patina from seasoning.
Is a flat or round bottom wok better?
After weighing out your options, you should be able to determine your answer to the question:
Is a round or flat bottom wok better?
The type of wok you pick should depend on what stove you have at home.
A flat bottom wok works well on a gas, electric, and induction stove since it can sit comfortably while cooking. It also ensures you get even heat distribution and excellent heat retention to help you create the best meals at home.
But if you prefer the traditional shape of a round bottom wok, you might need to use a wok ring or set up an outdoor wok stove.
Whatever you decide, you must remember to season your wok well and maintain it religiously so it stays pristine and prevents rust from forming. If you need recommendations, we hope the options above can help you find the best wok that fits your budget and cooking needs.