Which wok or deep saute pan?

Hello all: I like making stir frys and would like to pick your brain on which enameled cast iron wok/deep saute pan to buy.

I now use a Ballarini non-stick (made in Italy) wok, but worry about its long term health effects. I tried carbon steel but its upkeep is demanding. So, I am looking into enameled cast iron.

Both Le Creuset and Staub make woks, but they seem to be too shallow. I like sauteing greens, Asian style and therefore think that I need a deeper pan.

Standard dutch ovens have vertical walls and thus are not suitable. I have a Staub (now discontinued) 12 in pan that is only 3 in tall. I also have a Le Creuset 3qt saucier, which is great for stir frying small amounts of food (about 2 portions).

Due to the lockdown, I currently work from home and want to cook several portions in one setting and eat leftovers for lunch (no midday cooking).

Does this large dutch oven from QVC look like a good fit for me? It looks like the walls are slightly sloped at an angle. This is too heavy for tossing, but I don’t toss anyway.

https://www.qvc.com/Le-Creuset-Cast-Iron-75-qt-Classic-Chefs-Oven-with-Glass-Lid.product.K51392.html?TZ=EST

Just found another product, but the 2.9qt capacity seems too small.
https://www.crateandbarrel.com/staub-10-graphite-daily-pan/s401035

Thanks very much.

Others with more technical backgrounds will probably jump in to correct me, but I’d probably stick with a deeper nonstick (hard anodized) saute pan. Or a larger saucier. Maybe others have good experiences with using Le c as a wok, but enamel is going to get scorched with the type of heat you’d be using to stirfry. If you’re not tossing… you’re essentially looking for a large pan you can saute lots of veg without overcrowding on very high heat, with high walls to minimize splatter? This all clad is a 4qt, and hopefully would meet your needs.

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Sounds like the @droolingdoggie won’t be purchasing a Le Creuset wok, anyway, but my almost 20 year old Le Creuset wok is dark on the interior like the one on this page so scorching isn’t so much an issue. That said, it was a gift and has some features/downsides that make it unlikely we’d buy for ourselves if we were in the market.

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Thank you.

I have concerns about anodized aluminum, as it reacts with acidic foods and may cause dementia. I know that this is a controversial topic, but I want to lean on the safe side.

@ WireMonkey: Is it easy to stir fry large amounts of food in your LC wok without the ingredients falling out of the pan?

I have this Vollrath carbon steel pan. The size/shape is perfect but the seasoning eventually came off though I never used metal utensils with it.
https://www.amazon.com/Vollrath-59949-Silicone-Handle-Carbon/dp/B01N8OZBGS

It’s not too bad as far as capacity. Unfortunately the site I linked only gives volume so I’m not sure it’s the same size as ours but if it is we’ve never had problems holding a couple pounds of meat at a time or a whole shredded cabbage. Like, you have to be a bit careful and we do occasionally plop morsels out by accident but not egregiously so. We also tend to stir fry in batches since we’re just using a home gas burner but it fits well enough when we put it back in the wok at the end with enough room to toss using utensils.

That said, the downsides (for us) are that it has two small handles (rather than one long one as with your Vollrath) so you can’t flip it easily. Even if the handles were easy to deal with they get way, way too hot and it’s a whopping 10lbs so either you’ll need wrists of steel or you’ll be scooping the food out.

We do like that it’s enameled so we don’t have to bother with seasoning it but it’s not as non-stick as a well seasoned carbon steel version would be. On the other hand you can totally use metal utensils in it so we tend to use one or even two wok paddles given we can’t flip to stir. I should mention, it does scorch but given it’s black on black enamel it’s not particularly noticeable.

All in all, not a terrible piece of equipment but not a purchase we would necessarily make.

I think you already have the best solution. When it comes to stir-fry, I really don’t care for cast iron. It takes too long to heat up, too long to cool down, and the whole pan gets hot without giving you the different heat zones of a carbon steel wok… plus they are too darned heavy to handle like a wok.

At one time I had a Calphalon aluminum one, but it warped badly, way too soon. I suppose you could look for a stainless steel one, but in all honesty it’s actually not as convenient as carbon steel.

Think about it, you’re stir frying… meaning you’re using a high smoke point oil. When you’re done cooking, wipe the residue out of it, then use a cotton rag to wipe out the excess oil and rub it down inside and out. Then throw it in a timed oven set for 440°F for 2 hours and leave it there. You’re done. Much less effort than cleaning stainless or enameled cast iron.

This is what I do with all my raw steel and iron pans, and in most cases I leave them out until well after the meal has been consumed (and sometimes 'till the next day). After a while you will have a beautifully seasoned pan that takes less effort to maintain then practically anything else. What I use is an old cotton tee shirt. I use a paper towel or two to wipe out the food residue into the trash, and then the tee shirt to buff out the oil inside & out. It literally takes a minute or two, and I don’t have to mess with hot water or soap in a sink. And since your pan has an oven safe handle it seems a no-brainer.

I know a lot of folks feel keeping a pan well seasoned is a lot of work, but it really isn’t… especially if you usually cook in it with high smoke point oils.

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Thank you. Which oil(s) do you suggest for seasoning carbon steel? Is flaxseed oil not good enough?

I now have some seasoning chipped off. Do I have to remove all the seasoning and start from scratch?

For stir-fry I usually use peanut oil (for other things like meats canola).

As for whether to start over, I suppose it is about the quality of the current seasoning. If the thickness of the chipped off areas is substantial, that would indicate way too much oil was used for that seasoning, and I would scrub it off and start over.

When seasoning, the coating of oil used should really be super thin. Like I mentioned above, I use a cotton tee shirt to literally buff off all the oil before popping them in the oven. It should be hard to see or feel. I keep the same tee shirt in a metal bin in front of a sink drawer.

Too thick a coating of oil can chip (and even become rancid) as it prevents proper polymerization of the oil to the surface of the pan.

Like lacquer on a cabinet or automobile, many thin coats is way better than a thick one.

Sounds like you may have a good solution already, but my personal take is I would not go for a cast iron wok (enameled or not). Way too heavy for a wok. Woks are generally supposed to be light enough to allow for tossing and movement while stir frying. And while I’m not fancy doing tons of tossing, I do rely on moving my wok around the stove as needed. Just the thought of doing that with my cast iron fry pan already gives me wrist tendonitis.

If you stir fry things that are generally light and not a lot of oil, just using one of those alternative pans is not a bad back up. But i think you risk having many foods potentially sit near the bottom too long and not getting the just right stir fried done-ness. A deep wok for me is a must because I do make very saucy braises in my wok and it’s also my steamer for big dishes or for buns.

I agree that you should just re-apply and start building up the seasoning again on the wok you already have and like.

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Totally agree with what @ScottinPollock and @kobuta are saying but also I’ve heard mixed things about flaxseed as a seasoning oil. I remember when I first looked into seasoning pans 15 years ago or so America’s Test Kitchen recommended flaxseed but since then I’ve heard that chipping can occur with flaxseed oil specifically. I’ve also seen it in action with someone else’s well seasoned cast iron so your mileage may vary…

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What’s the best method of removing the existing layer of seasoning from my Vollrath carbon steel wok? Does potato skin + coarse salt do the trick? Some websites suggest steel wool, but I think it’s too harsh.

Also, do I have to re-season the bottom too? It’s now somewhat rusted. I have not used the Vollrath for 6 months.

You’ll want to remove the rust… a paste of warm water and Barkeeper’s Friend, and scrubbing with a stainless steel scrubber will work great on both the rust and the old seasoning. I have also used vinegar (just fill pan and let sit at room temp for an hour or so) as a second step for the inside of the pan.

Just remember to season the whole pan inside and out going forward.

There are of course other methods out there, but these are the only ones I have used and they work just fine.

I use grape seed oil for seasoning.

Actually on the counter beside the stove is only grape seed and olive oil as they are my go-to oils. The cupboard stores the other lesser used ones.

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I typically use two different woks. The go-to is a cheap non-stick Joyce Chen but for some dishes use a larger carbon steel. I also have a third very large wok for some rare uses.

I would not recommend any enameled cast iron as a wok – regardless brand. There are two features of enameled cast iron which do not work well as a wok. First, enameled cast iron cookware is not suitable for high heat or sudden sudden temperature change, both are necessary for wok cooking. Second, enameled cast iron cookware are thick and heavy, which adds additional challenge for wok cooking.

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Thank you very much.

I will try to re-season my Vollrath and see what happens.

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