Finding the Right Size Wok


What size of wok you needs depends on the stove you are using and the type of cooking you want to do. Large restaurants often have high-powered wok ranges that can accommodate woks two feet or more in diameter. Woks this large are usually only used for boiling water or making soup or rice. Smaller woks – those that are 16” or below, are best for stir-frying or for any other high-heat cooking. That is because it takes considerably more power to get a large wok up to the necessary heat level for stir frying – around or above 400° F.

Remember, when cooking with a wok, the more BTU your stove has, the better, especially when it comes to stir frying. Use the following chart to determine what size wok you need for the burner you are using and the number of people you need to feed:

Wok Diameter# of People It FeedsMinimum Burner Power
 6-11” 1-2 10,000 BTU
 12-15” 3-5 12,000 BTU
 16-20” 6-10 15,000 BTU
 20-30” 11+ 30,000+ BTU

The standard wok found in a home is about 14” wide, but this may not be sufficient for serving six or more people. For home chefs that want to be able to cook for a large family or dinner party, a 16” wok is a good choice.

An extra heavy steel wok

How Much Your Wok Holds

An overfilled wok will not perform well. There should be several inches of extra space at the top of the wok. This is because it is easier to toss the food around when the wok is not over-full, and the food will spend more time in the hot spot, where it will flash-cook to create that fresh, crispy taste that is unique to wok cooking. If you fear you need to overfill your wok to accommodate the people you want to feed, it is better to go with a larger wok.

Remember, wok cooking creates a special flavor, known as wok hei, but only if it is used properly. The wrong size of wok will make it very difficult for you to add wok hei to your dishes. Make sure that you are buying the right size wok for your stove and your needs, and you will ensure that you have the proper Asian cooking vessel for your stir fries, fried rice or curries.


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