Wok cooking is a fast, fun, and flavorful way to make a quick weeknight stir-fry or an elaborate Asian-inspired feast. The curved shape and rounded bottom of a wok allows ingredients to be tossed and flipped with ease as they cook over intense heat. For the best wok cooking results, gas stoves are a popular choice due to their adjustable open flame burners that can supply the high heat needed. However, many home cooks struggle to balance a rounded wok securely on their gas stove’s round burners. This can lead to a wobbly cooking experience with uneven heat distribution. Luckily, there is an often overlooked accessory that can solve these problems – the wok ring.
A wok ring is a specially designed metal circle that fits over your gas stove’s burners to provide better stability and support when cooking with a wok.
Wok Cooking Basics
First, let’s do a quick rundown of woks and wok cooking basics for those new to this essential Chinese cooking vessel.
A wok is a unique bowl-shaped cooking pan that originated in China. It has sloped sides that curve up to create a wide, round bottom. Woks are designed for quick cooking over very high heat, allowing food to be stirred and tossed constantly. This rapid movement and direct contact with high heat allows for faster, more even cooking.
Woks are traditionally made from thin carbon steel, which heats up rapidly and evenly. Carbon steel woks must be seasoned before use. Modern woks may also be made from stainless steel or cast iron. Woks come in a variety of sizes, with 14 to 16 inches being the most common in home kitchens.
The two main types of woks are:
- Round bottom wok – The traditional design with a completely rounded bottom used with a wok ring.
- Flat bottom wok – A modern adaptation with a flat bottom to sit evenly on Western style stove tops.
Benefits of cooking with a wok include:
- Quick cooking at high heat
- Ingredients cook fast and evenly
- Versatile for stir-frying, deep frying, steaming, etc.
- Sloped sides allow easy tossing and flipping
- Requires little oil for cooking
- Retains flavors and seals in juices
Some of the most common cooking techniques used with woks include:
- Stir-frying – Ingredients are fried over high heat while moving constantly.
- Deep frying – Foods are submerged and cooked in hot oil.
- Steaming – A lid is used to trap steam to cook foods like dumplings or fish.
- Stewing – A small amount of liquid simmers foods like curries gently.
Using Woks on Gas Stoves
Gas stoves provide an open flame cooking experience that is closest to traditional wok cooking over intense coal or wood fires. The flames engulf the wok, allowing for very high heat output perfect for stir-frying or deep frying. Gas stoves allow for precise temperature control via adjustable knobs, so the heat can be turned up or down as needed.
However, one challenge of using woks on Western-style gas stoves is balancing the traditional round-bottomed wok securely on the round burner grate.
Without a flat bottom to sit evenly on the burner, round woks tend to wobble and shift during cooking. This can make tossing ingredients difficult. Round woks also have less direct contact with the burner grate, which can lead to uneven heating, hot spots, and scorching.
While flat-bottom woks address the balancing issue, they still often struggle to heat evenly on a gas burner. The small circular area in contact with the grate leaves much of the flat bottom hovering above the flame without direct heat.
Enter the Wok Ring
This is where a wok ring comes in! A wok ring is an easy solution to maximize gas stove cooking for both round and flat-bottom woks.
A wok ring is a round metal band designed to fit over the circular burners of a gas stove. It sits atop the burner grate, providing a secure, stable surface to balance a rounded wok. The ring distributes heat evenly across the bottom of the wok, eliminating hotspots and scorching issues. This allows traditional round woks to be used properly on gas stoves, just as they would on a coal or wood fire.
For modern flat-bottom woks, the wok ring also provides more consistent heat distribution and contact by bridging the gap between the wok’s flat bottom and the circular burner grate.
Wok rings are affordable, convenient accessories that typically range from $10 to $30 depending on material and quality. They allow home cooks to maximize the benefits of cooking with a wok on a gas stove for fast, even heating and authentic stir-fry results.
Wok Ring Benefits
Let’s look closer at the many advantages of using a wok ring for gas stove cooking:
- Stability – The ring prevents round woks from shifting and wobbling during use for better control and handling.
- Heat Distribution – It allows heat to spread evenly across the bottom of the wok, eliminating hot spots or uneven cooking.
- Versatility – Works with both round and flat-bottom woks to improve performance.
- Control – Food can be tossed, flipped, and stirred easily without the wok moving.
- Authenticity – Mimics traditional wok cooking by allowing round woks to be used properly.
- Affordable – Inexpensive way to improve wok cooking without buying new equipment.
Wok rings provide stability for easier handling and flipping. The increased contact with the burner grate creates more even heat distribution. This prevents ingredients from scorching or cooking unevenly. Food can be stirred and tossed with ease for fast, consistent cooking. Using a wok ring allows home cooks to enjoy the authentic benefits of wok cooking from the convenience of a gas stove.
Choosing a Wok Ring
When selecting a wok ring for your gas stove, keep these tips in mind:
- Check the diameter to ensure the ring will fit your burner size. Measure the burner grate diameter and compare to ring sizes.
- Material affects heat transfer. Iron or steel rings conduct heat better than aluminum.
- Thicker, heavier rings distribute heat more evenly than thin rings.
- Look for rings with helper handles for easier placement on the stove.
- Choose rings with short sidewalls to allow the wok to sit low in the ring.
- Select a ring designed specifically for wok cooking vs. a steamer rack.
Common materials for wok rings include cast iron, carbon steel, or stainless steel. Iron and steel offer the best heat conductivity. Diameters typically range from 10 to 15 inches to fit different burner sizes. Heavier, thicker rings prevent hot spots better than thinner rings.
The wok should sit low in the ring, not perched high up on the sides. Look for a short sidewall height of 1 inch or less. Helper handles on the ring make placing and removing it easier. Models with small feet can help air flow under the wok.
For the best fit, bring your wok when shopping for rings. Test it in the ring at different placements to ensure the flat bottom sits level and makes solid contact all the way around. A snug fit will provide maximum stability.
Using Your Wok Ring
Once you’ve got the perfect wok ring for your stove, follow these tips for the best cooking results:
- Season the new ring before first use according to manufacturer instructions.
- Place the ring securely centered over the burner grate.
- Ensure wok sits flat and evenly inside the ring with bottom in full contact.
- Heat the wok with ring for a few minutes before adding oil and ingredients.
- Start with high heat for initial searing, then reduce heat as needed.
- Toss and flip ingredients with wok tools for even fast cooking.
- Clean the ring after each use to prevent food buildup. Dry thoroughly before storage.
Careful placement of both the ring and wok are important for stability. Allow time for the wok to fully preheat before cooking for best results. Use proper wok tools like long spoons or spatulas to keep hands away from direct heat.
Adjust burner heat periodically to account for ingredients added. Sear protein and veggies on high at first, then reduce heat to prevent burning. Keep the wok ring clean after each use for optimal longevity.
Frequently Asked Questions
Here are answers to some common questions about wok rings:
How do I know if my wok ring fits properly?
The wok should sit flat inside the ring with the bottom evenly making contact all the way around. There should be no major gaps or tipping. The wok should not sit up high on the ring sides.
Can I use a wok ring on an electric stove?
Wok rings are designed for gas stoves. They generally don’t work as well on electric, induction, or glass top stoves which use different heating methods.
Is it okay if my wok wobbles a little in the ring?
A small amount of wobble is normal, but the ring should provide sufficient stability during cooking and tossing. If the wobbling is excessive, the ring may be a poor fit.
How do I clean my wok ring?
Use a soft brush or cloth to clean the ring with warm soapy water after each use. Avoid harsh chemicals or scrubbing that can damage the surface. Dry thoroughly before storing.
Should I season my wok ring like my wok?
Yes, seasoning the ring before first use will help prevent food from sticking. Follow manufacturer instructions, often coating lightly with oil and heating to distribute it across the metal surface.
Wok rings are affordable must-have accessories for unlocking the full potential of wok cooking on a gas stove. They provide stability, prevent wobbling, distribute heat evenly, and give you the control you need to toss and flip ingredients like a pro. A wok ring allows both round bottom and flat bottom woks to be used properly on gas burners. With a ring, you can experience fast, even heating and authentic stir-fry results right from your own kitchen. Give your wok skills a boost and start enjoying the benefits of wok cooking with the help of this simple accessory.