Most helpful critical review
41 of 43 people found the following review helpful
Good wok, but far from ideal, and has a large learning curve...!
on November 14, 2012
UPDATE: After living and using this wok for a couple of months, I really do prefer the thin walled Chinese cast iron flat bottom wok (with the black enamel exterior), sold by The Wokshop. It's much thinner and lighter than the Lodge, but still has enough cast iron heft so that it can get very hot (and much faster than the Lodge), and do a much better job of holding the heat than carbon steel; it also holds more food than the Lodge, and cools off much faster when removed from the heat than the Lodge. Ideally the Lodge is best suited for stir fry newbies who have never owned or used any wok, and can therefore get used to the Lodge much faster. But if you have had experience with carbon steel woks--with fast and easy temperature changes, and most importantly are used to thickening sauces with cornstarch, the Chinese made thin walled cast iron Wokshop wok is much more ideal for you, and gives you the best of all worlds! Although the Chinese cast iron must be used only on high for electrical stoves (but can easily do a good stir fry at a constant 500F-600F).
I am very "wok experienced" and can recommend this heavy cast iron wok for most American users who want sir fries over high heat and don't want to setup (or cannot) an outdoor wok burner. As other reviews will tell you, this wok is big and heavy and will hold a lot of residual heat that will allow you to stir-fry at constant temps over 450F, even when adding a pound of meat, or 4 cups of vegetables, or when you have both in the wok. On most American stoves, carbon steel woks just loose too much heat, and then bog down trying to heat back up with all the food in the wok. Yes, this wok is big and heavy and "anti-Asian" in nature, but that is what makes it so successful for most American users and their weakly powered stove-tops. Almost all American burners aren't capable of doing intense stir fries as done at good Chinese restaurants (at over 600F), but this wok helps helps more than it hinders--quite the opposite of thinner carbon steel woks.
This wok is, however, a pain in many respects, to live with. Once it gets hot enough for a rip roarin' stir fry, you have to be careful about your sauce. If you make a traditional cornstarch slurry, or a sauce with a cornstarch thickener, watch out as it can and probably will burn and bubble and stick to wok, and you'll lose a lot of your sauce, giving you a drier and different than you planned stir fry, and it may pick up some burnt or "roasted starch" flavors also unexpected. I have experimented with removing the wok from the stove and letting it cool a bit as I finish the stir fry on the counter, before adding the sauce so it won't burn. And while this can work, it takes a lot of experimenting and fooling around and is honestly a PITA...
A lot of my wok experience is with a 50K BTU propane wok burner, used outside with my carbon steel POW woks (single handle, tossing food around a lot), and this Lodge wok is not as good as my outdoor 50K BTU burner, but is better than most wimpy American stoves. I still get a certain burnt iron taste if the wok gets too hot (600F+), but if you have no outdoor space, this may be your only option for high heat stir fries indoors. Keeping this wok around 500F really helps it to preform ideally. Also, this may get better as the seasoning ages--it takes at least a year for cast iron or carbon steel to get seasoned well, maybe sooner if you use it daily. While heating or cooking, if you see the very bottom "hot" area start to get dull in color and is void of any oil slickness, back off on the heat--you're too hot!
This wok does has a learning curve, particularly if like me you have a lot of carbon steel experience. It takes a while to heat up (5-15 minutes), and then you have to stir-fry quickly, as the food will cook quickly (but not burn like in thinner carbon steel woks over high, high heat). I even remove the wok from the burner completely about a minute or two before adding my sauce at the end--most often the wok is SO HOT, the sauce instantly starts to boil vigorously and stick and burn to the wok (but rinses right off at cleanup). Sometimes this isn't so good for the sauce, and the overcooked/burnt sauce creates some taste issues--I have had some bad stir-fries when this wok gets over 550F (which is not true outside with the carbon steel woks). This wok is heavy, but most people will be able to lift it. You cannot shake it at all, tossing food around, like most carbon steel woks, so a good wok spatula is a must to keep the food moving around. Unlike some of the other reviews here, I can easily pick the wok up by the handles with my bare hands, even at hight heat; I don't need oven-mitts, but I tend to have asbestos fingers...!
I seasoned well beyond Lodge's "pre-seasoning", and after about 12 additional coats and a few first stir-fries, the wok is very non-stick and cleans easily with hot water and a sponge. Easy, easy care. Recommend this if you have had problems with stir fries (particularly on electric coil stoves), and stir-stewing rather than stir-frying, and you don't have access to the outdoors for stir-frying. It isn't perfect, but if you keep your temps around 500F, you can make some great stir fries, and it's certainly better than struggling with thin carbon steel.
A great kitchen tool to get to be used with this wok to keep your temps at the ideal 500F is a infrared laser thermometer gun (also great for everything from checking your oven to candy making to measuring the temp of oil in pans). You can get these thermometer guns cheaply on Ebay, or here on Amazon.