What’s the Difference Between Round and Flat Bottom Woks?

Not all Woks are built the same.

Heather Lim|Aug 22, 2022
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When you picture a Wok, you probably imagine a dome-shaped metal pot moving back and forth in an engulfing flame. However, Woks have evolved from their original round shape and are now found with either a flat or round bottom. Nowadays, flat bottom Woks are more versatile because they can be used on any type of burner. On the other hand, round bottom Woks remain popular thanks to their higher heat threshold.

Your choice of Wok will depend on your needs and your kitchen setup. Whether you are looking to graduate from the normal Frying Pan or venturing into the world of Chinese cooking, you should understand the difference between a round and flat bottom Wok beyond their aesthetics.

Flat Bottom Woks

A flat bottom Wok has the curvature of

a normal Wok

, with high sloping sides and a narrow bottom. Yet, unlike a round Wok, the flat bottom Wok has a flat base, allowing it to sit steadily on any cooking top, including an

induction stove

.

This version of the Wok was invented in 1971 by Joyce Chen, a Chinese-American immigrant. Seeing how challenging it was to use the traditional Wok in the average American home, Chen patented the flat bottom Wok. Since then, her version of the Wok has become the dominant type of Wok found outside of China.

Flat bottom Woks can be used for a variety of dishes, but they are most commonly used for stir-fries. A flat bottom Wok brings the desired

wok hei

(smoky, fire flavor) of Chinese take-out to your very own kitchen. Thanks to its high walls, our

Carbon Steel Wok

is able to reach high temperatures, which bring out this smokey flavor.

Flat bottom Woks can also be used to function as frying pans or deep fryers. The stability of the flat bottom Wok, along with its deep walls, makes it a great vehicle for

deep frying

or flash frying. The walls maintain high temperatures for deep frying while providing the depth needed for a safe deep fry. So, the flat bottom Wok is essentially a hybrid of the traditional Chinese Wok and the frying pan, and it can function as both.

Advantages of Flat Bottom Woks

Here are a few reasons why both professional and home cooks alike prefer the flat bottom Wok over the traditional round Wok, mostly concerning its ease of use due to it not needing a Wok ring.

Universally Used

Our flat bottom Wok can be used on any cooking surface, for any cooking purpose. Thanks to its flat bottom, it allows home cooks with electric stoves and induction burners to reap the benefits of the Wok’s high heat.

Even Heat Distribution

The flat bottom Wok offers more even heat distribution. Because the bottom surface lays flat on the stove, the heat is able to transfer throughout the entire Wok evenly, which heats your food completely.

Cooks Larger Portions

Unlike the traditional Wok, the flat bottom Wok can hold larger portions of food due to its greater surface area. The flat bottom Wok can be more convenient when you’re cooking for a group of people, or making a large batch of food.

Considerations of Flat Bottom Woks

Although there are many benefits to using the flat bottom Wok over its rounded counterpart, there are a few factors to put into consideration—mainly concerning its sustained contact with a heat source.

Less Searing

Because it has a more even distribution of heat, the flat bottom Wok may not sear your food as much as you’d like. Luckily, our Wok is made of

Carbon Steel

, so it can activate that

Maillard reaction

that caramelizes your food.

Difficult Technique

While it is a more stable kitchen tool than the round bottom Wok, the flat bottom Wok can be harder to maneuver or jolt with your wrist. You will need chopsticks or a spatula to mix your stir-fry.

May Warp

A flat bottom Wok is more prone to warping from high heat, due to the sustained contact with the flame of a stovetop. However, our Carbon Steel Wok will stay in shape, since it can take on temperatures up to 1200F.

Round Bottom Woks

The round bottom Wok is the traditional Chinese Wok that is most popular in Asia. This original form of the Wok was invented in China around 2000 years ago, as ‘Wok’ translates to ‘cooking pot’ in Cantonese. These conical, deep pans have a rounded center that allows the cook to swivel the pot in order to stir fry or sear.

The rounded bottom of the Wok has concentrated heat due to its proximity to the flame. Due to its smaller surface area of high heat at its center, the round bottom Wok is more suitable for cooking single-serving dishes. However, the round bottom Wok’s focalized heat allows for quick charring and searing, giving your food a delicious, fiery flavor. The traditional Wok is

used for almost anything

in Chinese cooking—braising, deep frying, stir-frying, you name it.

Advantages of Round Bottom Woks

Here are a few reasons why round Woks are often chosen over their flat-bottom counterpart, mainly due to its traditional design and ability to handle extremely high heat thresholds.

High Heat Threshold

The round bottom Wok’s shape allows it to reach a higher heat threshold, which cooks food faster. The high heat gives your food the wok hei flavor that you may want in your stir fry.

Flexible Technique

Thanks to its dome-like shape, the round bottom Wok gives you more flexibility with stir-frying. You can toss your food around with just a flick of the wrist.

Warp-Resistant

The traditional Chinese Wok is still the preferred Wok-style in Asia because it is a sturdy cooking pot that doesn’t warp as easily as some flat bottom pans, since only a small amount of the pan comes into contact with the flame of the stove.

Considerations of Round Bottom Woks

Although the traditional round bottom Wok is preferred in Chinese restaurants, it may not be right for you for a few reasons—mainly concerning its limiting design that requires purchase of a Wok ring.

Not Universal

The round bottom Wok is only compatible with a gas stove or an open flame. On most flat cooking tops, you’ll need a Wok ring to stabilize it, which can be an added expense on top of a cookware purchase.

Small Portions

The round bottom Wok isn’t a great cooking vessel for large amounts of food. Due to its narrow center, the traditional Wok can only efficiently cook enough for one person at a time.

Not Stable

A traditional Wok’s shape makes it wobbly. Although it is easy to move with your wrist, you should definitely expect more accidents and spills in the kitchen, especially if you’re just beginning to perfect your Wok stirring technique. 

Which One Is Better?

Between the flat bottom Wok and the round bottom Wok, the flat bottom Wok might be the better option, thanks to its versatility and its stable bottom. Chinese cooks may prefer the round bottom Wok due to its higher heat threshold, but this type of Wok only works on a gas stove.

Our Carbon Steel Wok can reach high temperatures on an

induction stove

, bringing out the smokey flavor that comes from cooking food in a traditional round bottom Wok. The flat bottom Wok has all the perks of the traditional round bottom Wok, but works on any cooking top. The flat bottom Wok’s surface area can also hold bigger portions of food, allowing you to cook for multiple people at once.

Ready to Shop?

Whether you are a Chinese-food aficionado or a home-cook trying to perfect your stir fry, you can achieve the optimal char with our

Blue Carbon Steel Wok

. Thanks to its flat bottom, our Wok is suitable for any cooking surface, including induction stoves.

Worried that you won’t get the wok hei flavor of a traditional Wok? Have no fear: our Wok is made of the finest Carbon Steel that provides even heat retention and reaches temperatures as high as 1200 F. Our Wok is flexible for any kitchen, with a lightness and refinement that professional cooks rave about.