Convince me not the throw away my wok

So I have a wok, it was a gift. It’s a Joyce Chen wok, probably middling quality, but it’s made of carbon steel with a bamboo handle. Wasn’t cheap. It’s got a flat bottom for US cook tops and doesn’t have a ring.

It came “preseasoned” but that turned into a sticky nasty mess the first time I cooked with it. I later stripped it down in a lye bath and hit it with a wire brush. I re-seasoned it using the salt method.

Tonight I used it to caramelize onions for french onion soup. Things mostly went well, but towards the ends the onions stuck and burned at the end of cooking. Never have this issue when I caramelize onions in a stainless stock pot which isn’t non-stick, but it does have a much thicker bottom. I’m fed up with this thing and have never found a dish I will actually cook in it.

I do like stir fry and Chinese/Thai dishes quite a lot (which is why it was gifted), but have never had the confidence or ambition (or ingredients) to try making a homemade version of any of those standards.

So, I’m at my wits end. Give me a reason not to pitch this stupid thing. What can it do that a non-stick, cast iron or a stainless pan cannot? What can I cook in it without everything sticking and the seasoning getting destroyed? Is it worth it to keep and store the stupid thing on the off change I make fried rice or pad thai 2 years from now?

There probably isn’t any reason to keep it if you don’t regularly cook wok-y things (quick high heat stir-fries, etc.)

(I’m pretty much in the same boat as you - I like that kind of food, but just don’t cook it at home.)

Maybe your heat is up too high. I know wok cooking requires high heat, but maybe you’re getting too hot too fast. Also carmelizing is pulling the sugar to the surface of the food which will tend to stick in a not well seasoned pot of any kind. I say keep using it for a while longer. Get a good oil.

I would never attempt to carmelize onions in a wok. It is absolutely not the right tool for the job. A wok is intended for rapid cooking of thinly sliced meat and vegetables, not the slow simmering process of caramelization which should ideally be done in a thick-bottomed skillet or saucepan. Also, when caramelizing onions, after you have simmered them to break down and release sugars, you need to regularly stir them under medium high heat to complete the process, essentially sealing in the sugars by searing them.

Whether you should keep the wok or not is up to you but learning to stir fry is not difficult. Like learning any new method of cooking there is a learning curve but given the right ingedients and some practice it is not hard to master.


A wok is perfect for making popcorn. The kernels stay in the small bottom, while the popped corn floats up the sides where it won’t burn. I use bacon fat for extra goodness.

You can buy a thing at the Chinese grocery to sit under your wok, on your stovetop, so the round bottom is not a problem. You should consider getting one and then switching to a real wok without a flattened bottom. I’m pretty sure that flat bottom is part of your problem.

Things move around much easier and heat distributes differently/more evenly, when the perfect roundness is maintained. There is a reason it’s NOT flat on the bottom, in my opinion. Much like an electric wok, it seems like it might be a good idea, but fails in application.

Just one opinion.

I’ve had my wok for more than 30 years, and I’ve only ever cooked one dish in it*. Because the dish is so yummy, I retain my wok even though I’ve probably only used it <20 times over those 30 years.

So I vote to keep it.

*It’s a stir-fry taco salad using fritos. Damn, I could go for some right now.

To a tune from Hamilton, the musical: I’m not throwing away my wok

Give it to goodwill.

Well it’s built for stir fry, so yeah if you are never going to have the confidence or ingredients for that (which I find utterly baffling) then it’s a waste of space.

You should try using making caramel corn in there. Or alter the recipe a bit for Jell-O Rainbow Popcorn. With molasses & corn syrup you get imitation Cracker Jack.

Hm. Google didn’t return the caramel & Cracker Jack recipes I usually use. These are closer.

Caramel Corn

Cracker Jack

'Course, I use agave syrup in place of the corn syrup.

I’ve actually heard that for stovetop use, a flat-bottomed wok is best. The idea is that you have more of a hot zone like you should, but most household burners do not nearly get enough BTUs for serious wok work (that produces “wok hei”) so a round wok and a ring actually is suboptimal for a home set-up, and a flat-bottomed wok works best to create zones of heat on a home stovetop (and, of course, it also works on electric stovetops, which a round wok can’t at all.)

The brand the OP mentions, Joyce Chen, is actually a highly recommended wok. It’s what Serious Eats recommends. Not sure if its the same wok, but they apparently are good.

The problem you guys are forgetting is that the OP doesn’t actually intend to ever use a wok for its intended purpose so it really doesn’t matter if he had a better wok or not.

Yes, it sounds like for the OP’s purposes, the wok is not needed. I used my wok semi-regularly (at least a couple times a month), and even I consider it non-essential kitchenware.

I have a big 5qt non-stick sauté pan that I do most of my wok stuff in. It’s not the same at all, it can’t do the high heat. The big flat bottom is good for cooking off liquid as long as I don’t overload it and the non-stick is a godsend for the sugar based sauces common to Asian food. It’s also really versatile. As far as flavor goes, I throw in a few splashes of liquid Maggi for the smoky umami flavor.

Here’s a good article

If you are gonna get rid of it, PM me. I’m in Jefferson Park and I’d love to try one out.

I am not throwing away my wok
I am not throwing away my wok
Hey yo, it’s not like it’s busted
It’s just old, crappy, and rusted
But I am not throwing away my wok


I was in the exact same boat you’re in. A wok showed up at my apartment as a gift. Tried to use it, but was just too much hassle. Took up too much space in my small apartment so I gave it away. Love the food, but there’s so many takeaway and delivery places in Chicago to bother cooking wok dishes, I live alone so it’s a pain to have all the ingredients around as well.

Donate it to NASA! Then they can be wokking on the moon!

I will refrain from making non-PC jokes about naming anything after the sound that’s made by the OP’s wok as it’s thrown away. :smiley: