Finding an inexpensive wok that cooks well and is convenient to use can be a challenge. Nonstick woks by major cookware manufacturers can be pricey, and they also tend to have a shallow shape that sends bulky vegetables spilling out when you mix ingredients. More traditional woks need to be seasoned before they become nonstick, which can be an annoying task. Moreover, their deep, rounded shape can make them unsteady and awkward to use.
For an affordable wok that cooks well and handles easily, many reviewers recommend the Joyce Chen Pro Chef 14-inch Carbon Steel Wok (*Est. $35). Reviewers say that it is durable, roomy and, thanks to its flat-bottom design, steady and stable on the stove. Although many traditional woks have two short handles, this Joyce Chen Wok combines a long handle on one side with a short handle on the other -- a configuration that experts say supports cooking and helps in transporting the wok from the stove. Users posting to retail websites give the wok high marks for its cooking performance for foods ranging from pork tenderloin and bacon to seared tofu and shrimp curry. Users also say that the handles, which are constructed of phenolic plastic, remain cool even when the wok gets very hot. Many users call the wok a good value. There is some disagreement regarding the seasoning process, with some users complaining that the wok stays sticky even after repeated seasonings, while others maintaining that seasoning the wok is easy, albeit time-consuming. Some users also report problems with rusting, and one complains that the wok does not come with a lid.
Many users applaud the Joyce Chen Wok as a durable, basic product. If you can afford to spend a bit more money, however, and you appreciate the convenience of nonstick cookware, many also give high marks to the Calphalon Unison Nonstick 13-inch Wok with Cover (*Est. $100), which has a flat bottom, comes with a lid and coordinates with other Calphalon Unison Nonstick pots and pans.
The nearly 30 users posting about the Joyce Chen Pro Chef 14-inch Carbon Steel Wok (called the Flat Bottom Wok on this website) give it an average 4.3-out-of-5-star rating, which lands it squarely on Cooking.com's top-rated list. Nearly 90 percent of reviewers say they would recommend the product, and the same percentage call it a good value. Users say it heats up quickly and cooks well, with one user commenting that it cooks up colorful and crispy veggies. Other users say the deep well and flat-bottom design are functional bonuses. Some users complain that the wok remains sticky after seasoning, and others note problems with rusting.
Review: Top Rated Items in Woks and Stir Fry Pans Category, Contributors to Cooking.com
More than 40 users have posted comments to Amazon.com about the Joyce Chen Pro Chef 14-inch Carbon Steel Wok, giving it an average 3.5-out-of-5-star rating. Reviews laud the wok's construction and durability, noting that it is well made and can withstand regular use. The handles also garner praise, with one user pointing out that even though phenolic plastic is not a traditional wok material, the handles feel more solidly attached than the wood handles did on a previously owned wok. Several users also comment that seasoning the wok is easy and effective as long as you follow the directions. Some users, however, report problems with rusting and difficulties with seasoning, and one says the wok imparted a metallic taste to food.
Review: Joyce Chen Pro Chef 14-Inch Flat Bottom Wok Uncoated Carbon Steel, Contributors to Amazon.com
The Bestcovery.com website features reviews of products in a wide range of categories, with links to retail websites that sell the products it recommends. Stephanie Hamilton, a Bestcovery.com writer who chooses Bestcovery.com's recommendations for several indoor-living categories, names the Joyce Chen Pro Chef 14-inch Carbon Steel Wok as one of her five top picks. Although she does not say whether she tested the wok or compared its performance to that of other woks, she does comment that its construction is impeccable, it heats quickly and evenly, and its ergonomic, stay-cool handles make cooking easier. She adds that the wok delivers exceptional results on both gas and electric ranges.
Review: Best Wok, Stephanie Hamilton, March 7, 2011
Although there are fewer than 10 user postings about the Joyce Chen Pro Chef 14-inch Carbon Steel Wok on this specialty kitchen website, reviewers give it a unanimous 5-out-of-5-star rating. Users cite a range of "pros," including that the wok is easy to clean, is a value for the money, performs well and is easy to use. Heat retention, appearance, and capacity are also listed as positive aspects. There are very few "cons" listed, although one user says the weight is a detriment, and another finds the wok difficult to store.
Review: Joyce Chen Flat-Bottom Wok, Contributors to ChefsCatalog.com