Pros: less smoking, heats quickly, cleans easily
Cons: don’t put it in the dishwasher
Rating: 5 out of 5
First published 5/12/2003
When our old housemate moved out a few years ago, he took his wok with him. We spent quite a bit of time looking for a decent replacement. His was really big, which we liked. We wanted one that would work well on our gas stove, which would handle all the abuse we put our pans through (we take care of them, yes, but we also use them a LOT), and which would last us forever.
It took us a long time to make up our minds. We didn’t want something we’d have to “season.” I know lots of people like cast iron, but I don’t for the most part. It’s just something I’ve never been able to get into.
We wanted something reasonably large. 14″ in diameter was the largest we were able to find. Assuming we stayed with that diameter, that drastically reduced our number of choices to just a few woks. It came down to a cheap $20 one or a more expensive Calphalon wok (the choice will be easier for you, hopefully, since the price has come down since then!).
Once we got things that far, we agonized for a while. We didn’t want to spend that much money, but would it really help if we had to replace our $20 wok every year? It would add up fast.
Besides, we had a Joyce Chen skillet that needed replacing as well. The non-stick coating was dented in places. The wok was about the right shape to replace that as well; two pans in one.
Eventually we settled on the Calphalon.
Features and Drawbacks
Supposedly the hard-anodized aluminum can handle metal implements, but Calphalon recommends heat-resistant nylon. Luckily cooking.com sold heat-resistant nylon tongs and spatulas, so we got a couple of those. They also sold a special cleanser for Calphalon hard-anodized aluminum, so we got a thing of that too.
The HAA (hard-anodized aluminum) is generally cleaned with regular dish soap and a soft dishcloth or sponge; you can use a nylon 3M Dobie pad in a pinch. When you have food stuff that just won’t come off, you can use a Dobie pad with one of their recommended cleansers (there are several, so you should be able to find one without having to buy theirs). Honestly, we haven’t yet needed the spiffy cleanser–food comes right off.
Don’t put your HAA products in the dishwasher. This is supposedly a real no-no, as dishwasher soap does bad things. We’ve found that the wok cleans easily, so I wouldn’t worry about not being able to use the dishwasher. If you remember to deglaze the pot with a little liquid as you’re finishing up your dish, it’s even easier to clean.
Don’t put cold water in your hot HAA pot; it can warp it. For most pots this is a good idea anyway, so it isn’t hard to remember.
The 14″ size was perfect for us. We were cooking for three (us and a friend) with expectation of a night or two of leftovers, and this wok can handle that.
HAA heats easily and quickly. Even when you’re doing high-heat stir-frying you won’t need to put this over high heat.
We found that when we sauteed mushrooms in the HAA pot, they didn’t smoke nearly as much as in other skillets. A wonderful feature, since I can’t stand smoke alarm sounds.
The Calphalon wok comes with a nice lid, which most woks don’t (that always annoyed me). It’s only going to work on a gas stove as the bottom is rounded and the heat from an electric burner won’t travel right on it. It does come with a “collar” to hold it steady over the burner despite the rounded bottom.
All in all, we felt as though we got our money’s worth. If you do a lot of wok-cooking and want your wok to last for a long time to come, the Calphalon Hard-Anodized Aluminum Wok is a great investment.