The Not-So Starving Student—Cast Iron Wok Review

As a student living independently, I am always on the lookout for kitchen hacks that improve my cooking and meal preparation experience.  Having perfected my stir-fry recipes but not having the right tool to prepare them was a frustrating experience.  Using a flat saucepan for my stir fries meant my vegetables never had the proper texture or flavor.  Hence, this summer, I decided to invest in a cast-iron wok.  Before doing so, I had opted for a cheap, aluminum wok that not only lost color within a few uses, but also failed to enhance the taste of my stir fry.  So, if you’re like me and wish to make an investment, try using a cast iron wok instead.  Not only is it durable and fun to learn, you’ll never have to settle for mediocre Asian recipes.

A lacquer glazed cast-iron wok

Functionality: ★★★★☆

One of the features I look for in my kitchen tools and appliances is how likely I will be to use it on a day to day basis.  I was not disappointed.  While you might believe that a wok is only great for those interested in Asian recipes, this multifunctional cookware is actually perfect for preparing sauces, soups and curries.  I found that because the heat gathers at the bottom of the rounded wok, I can cook my ingredients quickly and effectively.  And a cast iron wok retains heat so well that the food can stay warm for half an hour after the stove has been turned off! The elevated sides of the wok also mean that I can safely move the ingredients around without it spilling over the edges like in a traditional saucepan.

Cleaning: ★★★★☆

For those who might dread cleaning cast iron materials, glazed cast-iron cookware may be an option.  Glazed cast-iron is simple to care for and doesn’t require complex cleaning processes – one can simply rinse the material off with soapy water.  While many unglazed cast-iron woks exist on the market, they can add a layer of complexity both before and after cooking.  For more information about how to care for cast iron products, check out my previous article on cast iron.

Perfect for fried rice, stirfries and traditional Asian cooking

Cost: ★★☆☆☆

While aluminum or lighter material woks usually range between $20-30, a cast iron wok may easily be double the price.  I purchased my cast iron wok from a discount kitchen appliance store at an outlet mall for $50, but higher end brands such as Zwilling J.A. Henckels might easily start in the hundreds.  But depending on how much you enjoy cooking, or if you’re a foodie like me, the cast iron wok might be well worth the price.

Overall experience: ★★★★☆

One of the downsides of this wok is its overall weight.  At times, it can be challenging to move from the stovetop to the sink or for flipping the ingredients while cooking.  While carbon steel or aluminum woks might be lighter and easier to operate than the cast-iron version, I personally prefer the cast-iron wok for its enhancement of the ingredients.  Overall, the wok is a great piece of equipment that is fun to use and easy to maintain!

A non-traditional use of the wok