From Season 4: Stir-Fry 101
We've said it plainly several times: We don't like woks. The relatively small base of a wok means only modest burner contact, which translates to less than maximum heat. Quite simply, the design of a wok is not meant for cooking on a Western stovetop; there, a large open skillet is much more successful at achieving optimum sizzle and sear.
We wondered, however, if electric woks offered advantages over stovetop woks. Are their heating elements capable of really cranking up the heat and producing first-rate stir-fries? We collected six electric woks ranging in price from $35 to $100 and set up shop in a corner of the test kitchen. We stir-fried and deep-fried in each wok and looked for differences in heating ability, the design of the wok and temperature control unit, and ease of cleaning. Quite frankly, we were surprised to find one wok—and a modestly priced one at that—that excelled in all areas and another that did quite well. The rest weren't worth the space they occupied on the countertop.
The runaway winner heated up nice and hot, and quickly, too. It stir-fried on par with a skillet, and it managed the oil for deep-frying like a pro. The temperature dial stayed cool during cooking and was relatively accurate as well as easy to read and to adjust. This wok's size was generous and its construction solid, while its long handle made it easy to hold the wok with one hand while scraping out ingredients with the other when cooking in batches. Cleanup was a breeze.
The runner-up had the heat output of the winner, but it was not nearly as commodious. With use, its temperature dial became hot to the touch, and its two short handles were less than ideal for cooking in batches because it was impossible to scrape out food while turning the wok to empty it. The nonstick interior made cleaning a snap.
Several models fared poorly. Problems were flimsy construction, odd design, and hot spots. Moreover, none of these four woks had good heat output; in fact, three couldn't get the oil for deep-frying above 350 degrees, even though their thermostats were set for 375 and indicated that the temperature had been reached (in one, the oil hovered at only 312 degrees).
Should you purchase an electric wok? Probably, if you're a frequent fryer or like to use a bamboo steamer (which requires a wok of some sort, electric or not). Definitely, if, in addition to the above, you enjoy gadgetry and have the storage space. However, if stir-frying is your limit, stick with a large, heavy, utilitarian skillet.
Victorinox (formerly Victorinox Forschner) 6-inch Straight Boning Knife: Flexible
The nonslip grip and narrow, straight blade let testers remove the smallest bones with precision and complete comfort. Perfectly balanced with enough flexibility to maneuver around tight joints. The low price was a bonus.
|★ ★ ★||★ ★ ★||$19.95|
Wüsthof Classic Boning Knife
Hefty in weight, this knife was a solid performer when removing poultry bones, and the handle was easy to grip, even when covered in chicken fat. Piercing silver skin was a challenge since the tip wasnt sharp enough and the long narrow blade produced slightly jagged cuts.
|★ ★||★ ★ ★||$99.95|
|Recommended with Reservations|
Mundial Boning Knife: Flexible
The sharp tip performed well when removing silver skin, but it was too flexible when maneuvering around poultry joints, leaving testers feeling a lack of control. The heavy handle was slightly unbalanced and became slippery once covered in poultry fat.
|★ ★||★ ★||$19.95|
Shun Gokujo Filet Knife
Designed to replicate a samurai blade, this expensive knife was a disappointment. It struggled to pierce the silver skin, although long cuts were smooth and even. Minimal flexibility and extreme curve got in the way when maneuvering around joints. The smooth handle was hard to grip and slippery.
MAC Boning KnifeChef Series
The large, cumbersome handle reminded testers of an outdoors knife for fishing and hunting. The blade was too wide to maneuver around joints and it struggled to pierce silver skin. Unlike other knives, this boning knife could only slice in one direction, making intricate cuts around joints difficult.
Messermeister San Moritz Elite Flexible Boning Knife
The blade was so flexible it led to erratic cuttings; testers said the knife was hard to control. The blade was not sturdy enough to maneuver around joints and the lightweight handle felt flimsy and unbalanced.