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RunBe4UFly

The Wok from Wokshop

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I just got this 16" wok from Wokshop

http://www.amazon.com/inch-Traditional-Cas...6436922&sr=1-13

and I found the wok is much different from what I expected...

The wok is much thinner than I thought. As a Chinese I know how much a cast iron wok weights, and this wok is just not as heavy as the ones I used to work with back in China.

The wok is also suprisingly flexible. It almost feels like a carbon steel wok that I can bend the wok when I push two handles on the sides towards the middle (try bend your Lodge skillet instead). Now that's a new development. I have never seen or heard any cast iron wok flexible like that before. But I have been away from China for 5 years, who knows what can happen during that time.

Cast iron wok is supposed to have better heat retention than carbon steel. With this thin cast iron wok, I don't know how true this 'heat retention' advantage will really be for this wok.

The handle is this wok is also really small, you can't grab it safely.

So, my question is : Anyone has experience with this wok? Is this 'flexible' cast iron a good material to work with?

I am thinking about returning it and found out the wokshop will charge a 15% restocking fee for return item. Read the fine prints!

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Run,

I'm hoping that there was not a lot of money involved in this.

Sorry, but it doesn't sound like the product is going to work out. Heck, given the flexibility issue and the handle, you can't even use it to practice with sand.

But thanks for the heads' up. I won't be buying from them.

Peter

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Carbon steel woks are made thin for a reason. They heat up fast and they adjust to temperature very quickly. Same thing goes for thin cast iron woks. Different material but have the same ideal properties for a wok. What you have is not a Lodge type of CI wok as you've seen. It is most definately a traditional designed wok. The fact that it's flexible should not be a problem because this isn't the type of wok you "jump" the food around with so it will just sit on your cook top. These type of woks are not ideal in every situation though and I'll tell you why.

I have the Wok Shops' CI wok w/ enamel and it is a wonderful wok. It's different from yours in that it doesn't have the enameled backing and it's got a flat bottom. While it is flexible, it's not so much. These kind of woks are actually puddled steel woks and came highly recommended and are used by locals who visit the Wok Shop in San Francisco. Mine has seasoned up very nice and currently has a fantastic black seasoning going on. It unfortunately is not ideal for me as I currently have an electric cook top. The wok cannot stay hot enough when food is added because of the lack of temperature control with the stove. This is not the fault of the wok but what I'm using to it cook on. Because of it's thinness it cannot retain the heat necessary to do proper stir-fry on my electric stove but it does an okay job...again, not the fault of the wok.

With that said, a friend of mine recommended I get a thick CI wok like the Lodge wok. He told me of a cheap brand to get that does a fantastic job of doing stir-fry's. I know what you're thinking...why would I say a carbon steel wok and a thin CI wok are ideal for cooking Chinese stir-fry's then I say the thick CI pans are better, right? Here's why. The thick CI will not cool down when meat is added. This is a perfect solution for doing stir-fry's on an electric stove. Pre=heat it enough and the wok will retain enough heat to keep the meat from stewing in it's own juices and do proper searing even though the cook top is inefficient. I've had great success using thick CI that I now keep both woks and use each one depending on what I want to cook. Now if I was cooking with gas, I would ditch the thick CI for the thin CI.

The cheap CI wok can be found HERE for only $13. It seasoned up very fast and did a great job but I found it to be too small for my style and gave it to a friend. I now have the Lodge 14" wok. Another thing...the big draw to these woks is that they do NOT have a flat bottom. Both of these woks have rounded bottoms making them even more ideal for stir-frying Chinese food.

Here is a pic I took a while ago with the CI wok from the Wok Shop. If you were looking for a round bottom wok that will season up and perform just like a carbon steel wok then I say keep what you got. YMMV.

gallery_22252_4789_272092.jpeg


My Photography: Bob Worthington Photography

 

My music: Coronado Big Band
 

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Carbon steel woks are made thin for a reason.  They heat up fast and they adjust to temperature very quickly.  Same thing goes for thin cast iron woks.  Different material but have the same ideal properties for a wok.  What you have is not a Lodge type of CI wok as you've seen.  It is most definately a traditional designed wok.  The fact that it's flexible should not be a problem because this isn't the type of wok you "jump" the food around with so it will just sit on your cook top.  These type of woks are not ideal in every situation though and I'll tell you why.

I have the Wok Shops' CI wok w/ enamel and it is a wonderful wok.  It's different from yours in that it doesn't have the enameled backing and it's got a flat bottom.  While it is flexible, it's not so much.  These kind of woks are actually puddled steel woks and came highly recommended and are used by locals who visit the Wok Shop in San Francisco.  Mine has seasoned up very nice and currently has a fantastic black seasoning going on.  It unfortunately is not ideal for me as I currently have an electric cook top.  The wok cannot stay hot enough when food is added because of the lack of temperature control with the stove.  This is not the fault of the wok but what I'm using to it cook on.  Because of it's thinness it cannot retain the heat necessary to do proper stir-fry on my electric stove but it does an okay job...again, not the fault of the wok.

With that said, a friend of mine recommended I get a thick CI wok like the Lodge wok.  He told me of a cheap brand to get that does a fantastic job of doing stir-fry's.  I know what you're thinking...why would I say a carbon steel wok and a thin CI wok are ideal for cooking Chinese stir-fry's then I say the thick CI pans are better, right?  Here's why.  The thick CI will not cool down when meat is added.  This is a perfect solution for doing stir-fry's on an electric stove.  Pre=heat it enough and the wok will retain enough heat to keep the meat from stewing in it's own juices and do proper searing even though the cook top is inefficient.  I've had great success using thick CI that I now keep both woks and use each one depending on what I want to cook.  Now if I was cooking with gas, I would ditch the thick CI for the thin CI.

The cheap CI wok can be found HERE for only $13.  It seasoned up very fast and did a great job but I found it to be too small for my style and gave it to a friend.  I now have the Lodge 14" wok.  Another thing...the big draw to these woks is that they do NOT have a flat bottom.  Both of these woks have rounded bottoms making them even more ideal for stir-frying Chinese food.

Here is a pic I took a while ago with the CI wok from the Wok Shop.  If you were looking for a round bottom wok that will season up and perform just like a carbon steel wok then I say keep what you got.  YMMV.

gallery_22252_4789_272092.jpeg

Thank!

That cheap CI one you mentioned should do me fine and it's so cheap I don't mind paying the shipping :biggrin:

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It's definately not as "finished" or refined as Lodge CI but it does a great job. Plus it has the long handle which is a plus. I miss that with the Lodge as they don't make them anymore like that. I would've kept the cheapy but it was just small for cooking for my family plus I like to make sure I have leftovers. Heat it up to 450-500 degrees and I gaurantee it will not cool down when meet is added.

Another note, the method of cooking with the thick CI is not the same as with a standard carbon/CI wok. Things cook FAST and the sauces thicken very fast too. When I cook with the thick CI wok I always make sure the sauce is more than what the recipe stated and I always have some stock ready to throw in if things get too dry and the sauce dissapears. You just have to modify your cooking methods slightly. It takes a little adjusting to.


My Photography: Bob Worthington Photography

 

My music: Coronado Big Band
 

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Run,

I'm hoping that there was not a lot of money involved in this.

Peter

The wok is $19 and the shipping is $12, if I want to return it, I will have to pay another $8 for the shipping, then the store will charge a 15% restocking fee taken from the credit. It's just not worth returning it.

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Carbon steel woks are made thin for a reason.  They heat up fast and they adjust to temperature very quickly.  Same thing goes for thin cast iron woks.  Different material but have the same ideal properties for a wok.  What you have is not a Lodge type of CI wok as you've seen.  It is most definately a traditional designed wok.  The fact that it's flexible should not be a problem because this isn't the type of wok you "jump" the food around with so it will just sit on your cook top. 

Thank you for the input Octaveman. I understand the design difference between CI and Carbon Steel wok is due to the material property. What I do not understand is from when cast iron becomes flexible? and Why?

One more thing that bothers me is the wok is so thin that I am afraid I will break it apart if I knock on the side of the wok with my wok spatula (a habit that has no problem with other woks that I have). I am not trying to beating on wokshop but I am just not convinced the construction and material of this wok lives up to its reputation among the wokking community.

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It is more fragile than a carbon steel wok but you have to imagine that if it was THAT fragile that you'd break it by hitting with a wok spatula, they would sell very many. I think Tane from The Wok Shop said mine would break if I dropped it or banged it against the sink. I've had mine for several years and it's fine. Utensil accidents I think are safe. These woks have been around for a long time and even Grace Young author of The Breath of a Wok, mentions these I believe and also mentions The Wok Shop in her book.

Given how cheap it was I say use it like you normally would and you'll be fine. Honestly don't think TWS would sell these if they were garbage. Maybe send them an email and tell them your concerns and ask how to take care of it?

It is cast iron but it is thin. You take any metal and make it thin and it will become flexible. Cast iron is a fairly soft metal so it will flex but because of it's softness it will not shatter. It could split if enough force was applied but for use as a wok on top of a stove there's very little force applied to it to cause breakage. I don't think you have anything to worry about honestly.


My Photography: Bob Worthington Photography

 

My music: Coronado Big Band
 

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We have this exact wok, and love it. I definitely prefer thin cast iron to the carbon steel wok that it replaced. We do have a gas cooktop with lots of BTUs, so a thin wok works quite nicely.

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Run,

I'm hoping that there was not a lot of money involved in this.

Peter

The wok is $19 and the shipping is $12, if I want to return it, I will have to pay another $8 for the shipping, then the store will charge a 15% restocking fee taken from the credit. It's just not worth returning it.

Just want to update the shop's return policy:

I was contacted by the seller and informed that there was no restocking fee. I checked the amazon product return page and found it charges 15% restocking fee on Wok 22" or larger. I guess I have misread the fine prints and thought 15% apply to all the products.

I have decided to keep the wok and seasoned it. I can't say I like it that much as it's different from what I expected. But I can't really complain anything about the wok either.

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I definitely prefer thin cast iron to the carbon steel wok that it replaced. We do have a gas cooktop with lots of BTUs, so a thin wok works quite nicely.

Bruce, can you talk a little bit about your experience with the CS and CI woks? What exactly did you like better about the CI? I think that I've got the same cooktop as you do (36" BS with power burners up front).

I currently have a CS wok and I'm curious to know if I'm missing something.

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I definitely prefer thin cast iron to the carbon steel wok that it replaced. We do have a gas cooktop with lots of BTUs, so a thin wok works quite nicely.

Bruce, can you talk a little bit about your experience with the CS and CI woks? What exactly did you like better about the CI? I think that I've got the same cooktop as you do (36" BS with power burners up front).

Yup, same cooktop, except we have the factory configuration (one power burner front left, one back right). Did you have your burners moved at the factory, or did you move them yourself?

Caveat: my evaluation is based on a grand total of two woks, so the conclusions are hardly universal. That said, here are the differences I have noticed between our cast iron and carbon steel woks.

Seasoning: The cast iron wok developed bulletproof seasoning very quickly. In contrast, the seasoning on the carbon steel wok has always been a bit delicate, especially up the sides. Obviously, millions of folks in China manage to season carbon steel woks successfully, so I probably did something wrong 20 years ago when I first seasoned the carbon steel wok.

Texture and shape: Our cast iron wok has a wider flare and rougher surface than the carbon steel wok. At first, I was horrified when I saw the rough surface of the cast iron wok. It seemed that it would be difficult to clean, but that has not been a problem. The rougher surface and wider flare does make it easier to slide food up the sides of the wok without the food sliding back down.

Thermal characteristics: The cast iron wok is a bit thicker and heavier than the carbon steel wok. It seems to retain heat better, giving me more wiggle room if I overload the wok with cold ingredients. Surprisingly, the cast iron wok also seems to heat up at least as quickly as the carbon steel wok, perhaps because cast iron has nearly double the thermal conductivity and thermal diffusivity compared with carbon steel (reference: eGCI Course: Understanding Stovetop Cookware).

I currently have a CS wok and I'm curious to know if I'm missing something.

Whether one prefers cast iron or carbon steel is mostly a matter of personal preference, so you probably aren’t missing anything. If you are curious and have the storage space, woks are cheap and a second wok is nice to have. The main reason that we replaced our carbon steel wok is that one of the handles is dangerously loose. I decided to invest $15 USD rather than risk anointing myself with smoking oil.

I will be interested to hear what you decide to do.

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I will be interested to hear what you decide to do.

Why, I'm going to order a CI wok right away! All of the points that you mentioned were dead-on. I don't have any real complaints about the CS wok, but the same things that you mentioned are aspects of it that I have noticed (e.g., seasoning is tender on the sides; the texture, if a bit rougher, would make it easier to hold food on the sides; and it's thermal properties could use improvement).

I did order my BS from the factory with both big burners in front, because that's where I do most of my cooking. If I had to order it again, the only other thing that I would change is to order a second simmer burner for the rear. Even the 15k burners on this thing are pretty darn hot, as I'm sure that you've noticed.

I'm also planning to install a booster fan (to assist the vent hood) in my attic. Although I ordered the strongest vent hood that I could find (a Zephyr Tempest II) that would fit my space, it's still not enough (especially when stir-frying spicy foods). I don't usually mind too much but I recently had guests who were nearly in tears by the time that dinner was ready!

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