What is a POW Wok?

by Bob | Last Updated:  October 15, 2020
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Anyone interested in cooking with a wok may come across the question of what is a pow wok. A pow wok is simply a wok with a single long handle, usually 6-7″ so that the cook can flip and toss the wok over a gas flame similar to how you would flip an omelet. Not all woks have this handle, and some may have two small handles instead.

Here are the specs on this 12.5″ pre-seasoned pow wok available at Amazon.

Pow woks are available in various sizes from 10-16″, although the 14″ tends to be the most popular. When it comes to using one of these woks, your strength is essential. It takes a fair amount of muscle to use the wok over high heat with one hand in constant motion. I recommend that you start with a 12-inch wok if you plan on learning how to flip your food.

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Flat Bottom Vs. Round

The traditional pow wok comes with a round bottom, which is designed to help with the tossing/flipping motion used in cooking. Here is an example of a very good round-bottomed 12″ pow wok with one handle. Check it out at Amazon.

However, it is possible to find a one-handled wok with a flat bottom. This type of wok may be used on an electric stove, although it’s not recommended for ceramic stovetops or a heat induction type stove. If you limited to using a flat-bottomed wok, I recommend the flat-bottomed 12″ wok below from Amazon.

Handle Type

There are generally three choices for handles- hollow metal, wood, or bamboo when shopping for a pow wok. If using the wok for a quick stir fry, then the metal handle will be slightly lighter and stay cool through the cooking process. However, if using over high heat, expect the handle to become too hot within about 20 minutes. A wooden or bamboo handle is slightly heavier but won’t conduct heat in the same way.

If you are using a pow wok with a metal handle I recommend that you have a pair of heatproof mittens close by. These mittens will protect you from getting burned as you grab the metal handle on your wok.

Here is a pair of mittens that I like. Check Amazon for current prices.

Metal Type for Woks

Each chef has a preference for wok type, although carbon steel is a standard in the industry. Stainless steel is the least desirable option as it does not conduct heat well and may have hot spots. Since wok cooking is traditionally done on high heat, a material that can withstand the heat well over time is best.

Carbon steel and iron are the two most popular metal types for a wok. Both of them acquire a patina or seasoning with constant use that will create a non-stick surface and add to the flavor of dishes. They require more care than stainless steel, but this extra effort is usually worth it given the superior end result.

Using a Pow Wok

For anyone not familiar with a pow wok, it takes time to learn how to use it well. Expect some mishaps and spills at first as a part of the process. It may be easier to start with one of the smaller woks as they can be heavy and then work up to a larger model over time.

Here is a nice wok package that will include everything you need to learn how to flip food in a wok. I like this wok because it is only 12 inches and not as heavy as other woks. Check it out at Amazon.

Regardless of what type of wok you use, it is a fun way to cook various dishes. When used well, they complement a chef’s cooking tools and are great for steaming, braising, sauteing, and other cooking methods. With care, a wok can last an entire lifetime and usually gets better over time.