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Whilst the transformation of technology in our cooking appliances and utensils is really great, it also means that sometimes our more traditional cooking styles and cookware aren’t necessarily compatible with the modern age of kitchen design.
A particular problem arises when certain traditional pots and pans are attempted to be used on modern electric stoves. Traditional woks were designed to be used on high heat, strong surfaces, such as heated rocks and fires.
Over time they have become compatible with ceramic plates, but not so much with newer electric stoves, particularly glass ones.
If you are contemplating buying a traditional wok because you are not sure if it will be effective on your electric stove, then look no further! In this article, I will answer all of your burning questions regarding wok cooking on electric stoves!
Table of Contents
- What is a wok?
- Can I use a Wok on a Glass Electric Stove?
- Can I cook with a wok on an electric coil stove?
- What Kind of Wok Should I Use on an Electric Stove?
- Can you use a wok ring on an electric stove?
- What alternatives can I use for an Electric Stove?
- Benefits of a Wok
- Final Thoughts
What is a wok?
First, it is useful to understand how a wok is distinguished and what makes it different from other pots and pans.
A wok is a deep, round-bottomed cooking pot and it was derived from China. It is still commonly used in Asian cooking, but people across the globe have now adopted the use of woks in their cooking.
Woks are useful because of their depth, meaning they are great for things like stir-fries, but can also be really good for mixing pasta dishes and sauces because things do not spill out so easily.
The rounded shape allows the heat to travel up along the sides as well, giving a very even cook. This is different to regular pans where the heat tends to travel straight up and they require a lot more stirring.
Woks can be used in general on any type of stove, and woks are built and designed in many ways which may impact how successful they are on an electric stove.
Can I use a Wok on a Glass Electric Stove?
You can in fact use woks on a glass-top electric stove, and the choice of wok you use is entirely up to you. Most chefs would argue that you should stick to a flat-bottomed wok because these have better heat conductivity.
Round-bottomed woks need to sit on a wok ring, and therefore by the time the heat has passed up through the wok ring, it will take a lot longer than if the wok was sitting directly on the stove. Round-bottomed woks work better on naked flames.
The only concern with using a flat-bottomed wok on a glass stove is that it may scratch the stove, or if it is dirty, it may leave marks on your stove.
Ensure your wok is completely clean, and be careful with how you use the wok on the glass surface. You can learn more about tips on how to protect your glass top stoves here.
Can I cook with a wok on an electric coil stove?
Similar to glass top stoves, you should use a flat-bottomed wok on an electric coil stove. This is again due to the heat conduction, as the heat radiated from the coil will take a while to heat up a wok ring before reaching the wok itself.
Wok rings also tend to shake a lot over electric coils and so you would need to make sure the dimensions of your wok ring match those of your coil stove tops.
Electric coil stoves can work great with flat-bottomed woks because they have such a rapid heat transfer and are very stable to cook on, meaning they are a great mechanism to use when cooking at fast pace or under pressure.
What Kind of Wok Should I Use on an Electric Stove?
As mentioned, cooking with a wok on a stove is probably done best using a flat-bottomed wok due to the transfer of heat. The direct contact with the heating element means that the contents of the wok will heat up and cook a lot better than using a wok and a wok ring.
In terms of the wok itself, those made of carbon steel are the best for obtaining heat. Well-seasoned carbon steel gives off a great smoky flavor when cooked in as well and this can add some great aromas to anything you are cooking.
Many chefs also put their preference in cast iron or stainless steel woks when using electric stoves. Whilst both conduct heat very well, they are also incredibly sturdy and very difficult to break on damage. These make them ideal in a high-stress kitchen environment.
Further to this, cast iron and stainless steel are easy to maneuver and work with in comparison to the weight of heavy-duty cast iron woks.
Working with woks on electric heating elements can often lead to people burning their food. Electric heating elements stay hot for a while even after they have been turned off and so if you do not remove your wok when the food has finished cooking, it will continue to overcook. Because of this, you should make sure that your wok feels light and easy to move around, as you should not leave it sitting on the stove once the food has been cooked.
Finding a wok with easy-to-grip handles and reasonably light weight will make maneuvering a lot easier and save you the aggravation of burning or ruining your food.
Can you use a wok ring on an electric stove?
Throughout the article, I have discussed the difficulty of using a wok ring on an electric stove, however, if this is all you have available try not to worry too much. You can still use your wok and wok ring, provided it is sturdy enough to safely cook.
If you are using a wok ring to cook, remember to allow yourself extra time. Using an electric stove to heat up through the wok ring will take a lot longer than using a wok that sits directly on the heating element.
What alternatives can I use for an Electric Stove?
Whilst woks are fantastic for cooking certain dishes and can be an authentic and traditional way of preparing Asian food, there are some alternatives you can use on an electric stove that may give a better cook.
As mentioned, you can use flat-bottomed woks and these work as a fantastic alternative. Whilst still be a wok, they allow the heat to spread through the pan a lot easier whilst still giving an even cook.
In addition, you can use frying pans in place of woks. The flat bottom allows the heat to transfer quickly into the pan. It is important to bear in mind that you may have trouble fitting everything into the shallow depth of a frying pan.
Because of this, some chefs choose to have a frying pan for the vegetables, and another for the protein to help separate the overflow of ingredients.
Alternatively, you can cook in a pot as this will provide more depth. Although the depth is great, the straight side of a pot does mean that the heat only tends to travel straight up through the food and so you do not cook as evenly as you would with a wok.
Frying in a pot can also be extremely hard as there is less room to toss the vegetables and turn any meat, meaning that a pot in place of a wok would be very restrictive. Pots also do not tend to have the same level of non-stick, and so you would have to oil both the bottom and sides.
Benefits of a Wok
As we can see, there are many reasons to use a wok, particularly because of its depth and shape. The curved edges help to transfer the heat more evenly through the food and the depth of a wok allows you to cook in great quantities without the risk of spilling it or losing food over the edge of the pan.
Well-seasoned woks also require a lot less oil. Food also does not stick so easily to the sides of woks and so overall the cooking experience with a wok is a lot less oily.
Finally, the curved edges of woks make them easier to strain. If you do have excess oil or liquid in your cooking, it is a lot easier to strain it out of a wok than it is from a pot.
Overall, using a wok on an electric stove is absolutely manageable. It is recommended to use a flat-bottomed wok over the use of a wok and wok ring, however the latter is not impossible.
The flat bottom helps to transmit the heat straight into the pan, giving you a more efficient cooking experience.
You should be wary of the materials you are using if working with a glass electric stove, and make sure to keep your pans clean so that they do not damage the surface.
There are many alternatives to using a wok, however the depth and shape of a wok makes it a very convenient and reliable form of cookware and there is absolutely no reason you should not enjoy this on an electric stove as well!
Are There Wok Alternatives For An Electric Stove?
Yes, you can use frying pans or pots in place of a wok however these will not have the same impact when distributing heat. A frying pan will also not have the depth of a wok.
How Else Can You Stir-Fry On An Electric Stove?
You can use a frying pan to stir-fry on electric stoves but it is like you may need two so that your ingredients don’t flow and you still have the space to flip the food.