You recently got into wok cooking, and you never plan on going back. You’ve even gotten your friends and family on board with wok recipes, which means you’re going to need a bigger wok. This article will tell you how to size a wok correctly depending on the portion size.
What size wok do I need? Here’s what size wok you need:
- For two to three servings, use a five-quart wok
- For four to six servings, use a seven-quart wok
- For seven to eight servings, use an eight-quart wok
- For nine to 12 servings, use a 10-quart wok
This guide will be chock-full of useful information as you start doing more frequent wok cooking. First, I’ll elaborate further on the information in the points above. Then I’ll talk about how to select the best wok material and how to keep your wok in great shape for a long time to come!
Sizing Your Wok by Servings
When reaching for a wok to use for tonight’s dinner, many cooks use the planned serving size as their guide.
In this section, I’ll go over the information from the intro, explaining which size wok you need depending on the servings you’re cooking. I’ll also include the basic size of that wok in inches.
Two to Three Servings
Are you cooking a rather small meal tonight? Perhaps it will be you and a friend or a romantic partner, or a couple of roommates sitting down to one of your latest wok creations.
For meals that are two to three servings, a five-quart wok more than suffices. You’ll be able to whip up plentiful plates that fill everyone’s bellies.
The average size of a five-quart wok is 11 inches, but some are a little bigger at 11.8 inches. That just means the wok has room for more food!
Four to Six Servings
Cooking for the whole family is tough, but it doesn’t have to be if you have the right kitchen tools such as a wok.
The next wok size is seven quarts, which can produce four to six heaping helpings of Mongolian beef, beef and broccoli, or dan dan noodles.
It’s no wonder this is among the most popular wok sizes. You can keep the kids happy by making fresh meals every night.
Even if you’re part of a smaller family, this wok has the capacity to feed the neighbors or in-laws when they inevitably swing by.
Seven to Eight Servings
The third biggest wok is an eight-quart wok for making between seven and eight servings of delicious vegetable stir-fry, Yakisoba chicken, or even garlic shrimp stir-fry.
These woks are about 14 inches, so they shouldn’t take up too much more space in your pantry than a seven-quart wok.
If you have a large family or find yourself cooking for your friends often (because they admire your cooking skills so much), then you need a wok with as much capacity as an eight-quart.
You could even use a wok of this size for meal prep for the whole week!
Nine to 12 Servings
The largest wok on the block is the 10-quart, which can cook up a whopping nine to 12 servings of food. This wok is about 16 inches on average.
You’re more likely to see a wok of this size at a restaurant than you are in the average household kitchen due to its insane capacity. That said, if you ever have to cook for a huge group in a pinch, you might not mind having a 10-quart wok on hand.
What Materials Are Used to Make Woks?
As one of the oldest cooking tools in history, woks have been produced in a variety of materials over the centuries.
Today, most woks you come across are either cast iron or carbon steel, but some are aluminum or nonstick Teflon as well. Let’s discuss the four wok materials now.
You might think that cast iron is a strange material choice for a wok considering it’s so heavy. That’s only the case with Western-style cast iron, which is thick and burly. The average thickness of these woks is 0.35 inches.
If you want the durability of a cast iron wok, you’re much better off buying a Chinese-style cast iron one instead. The cast iron is only 0.12 inches thick.
Unlike Western-style cast iron, in which you’re waiting for seemingly eons for the wok to warm up to the desired temperature, a Chinese-style cast iron wok heats up fast so you can follow techniques like bao or stir-frying.
The weight of a Chinese-style cast iron wok will also be less. You almost won’t believe the wok is cast iron!
However, this lightweight quality comes at a price. Although cast iron usually holds up well, Chinese-style cast iron woks can shatter if you’re rough on yours or if you drop it.
Heat adjustments occur at a slower pace with cast iron, which is true whether yours is a Western or Chinese-style wok. Not only that, but once you turn your heat source off, it takes cast iron a while to cool down.
You’ll have to take this into account as you prepare wok recipes, perhaps shortening your cooking time to prevent burning your food.
The seasoning layer that cast iron develops (which is something I’ll talk more about in the next section) prevents sticking. Also, cast iron is beloved for its heat retention.
Due to the abovementioned issues with cast iron woks, you’re more likely to see these Asian cooking tools made of carbon steel instead.
Carbon steel is lightweight and quite good at heat conduction. Carbonizing or seasoning a carbon steel wok is harder to do than a cast-iron wok, but not impossible. You’ll just have your work cut out for you.
What about the price of a carbon steel wok? It’s all over the map considering the quality of these woks can fluctuate so drastically.
If your carbon steel wok has only a single ply of stamped steel, then it’s going to be plenty inexpensive. The wok will also be prone to deformations, and these woks can develop hot spots.
Heavy-gauge or multi-ply carbon steel woks will last longer and maintain their shape better with fewer incidents of hot spots.
You will spend more money on carbon steel woks though.
Considered a rarer wok material, aluminum is excellent at heat conduction but weaker at maintaining thermal capacity. Aluminum’s heat convection rate drops at a quicker rate than other wok materials such as cast iron.
If you want an aluminum wok, always choose anodized aluminum. It’s designed for regular use.
If your wok has a nonstick layer such as Teflon or perfluoroalkoxy alkane or PFA, then you never have to worry about your meal getting plastered to the wok again.
You cannot use metal cookware with a nonstick wok, as you might scratch the nonstick surface. These woks also don’t usually season, which can reduce the rich flavor of wok hei that you can only get from seasoned woks.
That said, nonstick woks have up to five layers of metal, most of which are stainless steel and one or two that are copper or aluminum. A nonstick wok can also withstand temperatures up to 500 degrees Fahrenheit.
These great features make nonstick woks costly though.
How to Season Your Wok
I said I would, so I want to take this time to talk about seasoning your wok.
No, seasoning in this case is not like how you season chicken. Instead, curing or seasoning cookware refers to covering the wok with heated oil or fat to produce a tougher coating that won’t stick and is heat-resistant. The coating also prevents corrosion.
For carbon steel and cast-iron woks, foregoing seasoning will make cooking with the wok nearly impossible.
So how do you season a wok? Here are the steps.
Put your wok in the sink and use dish soap and hot water to clean it. Then dry it with a dish towel or a paper towel.
Once the wok is completely dry, turn on your stovetop. You only need one burner on, but turn the knob so the burner is on its highest heat setting.
Put the wok over the burner and wait until it smokes. Although this might seem scary, it’s what’s supposed to happen, so try not to panic.
Begin rotating the wok so the whole thing gets the heat. Then turn off the stovetop.
Apply some oil or fat on a paper towel and then rub it all over the wok. Use tongs to apply the oil, as you don’t want your hands near the hot wok.
Use your wok and enjoy the difference!
4 Wok Maintenance Tips
To wrap up, I want to share some of my favorite wok maintenance tips so you can have your wok ready to use anytime the urge strikes.
Don’t Scrub or Scour at Your Wok After Seasoning
The seasoning you applied on your wok won’t last forever. Two to three times per year, you’ll have to reapply the seasoning per the steps in the last section.
That said, some habits can degrade the coating faster, and scouring your wok is one of them. If you have stubborn messes on the wok, try rinsing them away, even several times. You can also soak the wok for a few hours.
Dish Soap Is Okay
Some wok purists believe that even dish soap can wreck the wok’s patina. I disagree.
You already know you’re going to have to reapply the seasoning anyway, so you might as well clean your wok to your standards so you feel comfortable using it for making all sorts of meals.
Don’t Clean a Wok in the Dishwasher
Dishwashers sure are convenient appliances, but there are some types of cookware that should never go in them. Woks are certainly one of them. Hand-wash your wok only, please!
Clean Immediately After Using Acidic Ingredients
I love a good chicken and pineapple stir-fry, don’t you? The problem is that pineapple is highly acidic, and that acid can wear down the patina of your wok.
Anytime you cook with acidic foods or ingredients, don’t wait to hand-wash your wok until the next day or over the weekend. Do it immediately!