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Wok Wonders: Choosing the Best Oils

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When you love stir-fries or any other type of cooking that involves a wok, you probably know which cooking oils work best. It’s not only the flavor of the oil that you need to consider with wok cooking, but also the smoke point.

When you cook in a wok, you usually whip up a fast meal at a high temperature. Consequently, the best wok oil will have a high smoke point, and a flavor that complements or is either neutral to the dish you’re cooking. 

How should you choose the best cooking oils to use in a wok? Coconut, sesame, vegetable, avocado, and grapeseed oils are the best oils for frying. You should use an oil with a high smoke point when cooking in a wok. If you are preparing a dish, choose flavors that are neutral or complementary.

Here’s an in-depth look at the oils that should be used for wok cooking and why. In addition, we’ll share what we think are the 5 best cooking oils for woks.

An Introduction to Wok Cooking

Professional chefs who use woks often use open flames, a lot of tossing, and a lot of flair. As well as for a more calm kitchen environment, woks are highly useful.

With steep sides, tossing the food inside a wok reduces the need for constant stirring, and the material is usually designed to conduct heat up the sides, allowing your food to cook faster. This usually results in high temperatures and rapid cooking because of the high temperature.

Wok Cooking Temperature

Cooking in a wok requires knowledge of the different temperatures required for different types of cooking. In general, pan-frying is done over low to medium heat for a longer duration of time, but isn’t ideal for wok cooking, hence the very specific “pan” title.

Sautéing and stir-frying are very similar, but sautéing typically happens in a pan or skillet, where stir-frying is primarily done in a wok. In case you are looking for best oils for stir-frying, we have some recommendations for you.

Both are done at very high temperatures to quick-cook thinly sliced meat, vegetables, or noodles. 

In a wok, deep frying is another method of cooking that can take advantage of the deep sides that transfer heat well. Because the sides of the wok are sloped, deep frying in a wok also uses less cooking oils. As a result of the majority of wok cooking being done at very high temperatures, a high smoke point oil is essential for best results.

The Best Cooking Oils for a Wok

What you cook most often will determine what’s the best oil for a wok.

You’ll likely need an oil with a high smoke point for stir-frying meat or vegetables in a wok, which all the oils on our list have. Beyond the smoke point, however, flavor is important.

We recommend the following cooking oils for a wok:

BetterBody Foods Avocado Oil, Refined

Avocado oil has the highest smoke point of any cooking oil, so it is ideal for quick, high-temperature frying in your wok. It only has a very subtle flavor, so it won’t interfere with delicate seasonings and can be used for nearly any cooking or food preparation task.

Key Features:

  • The best cooking oil for high heat
  • The smoke point is 500F/260C
  • Naturally refined with no additives, GMOs, and certified gluten-free

Biggest Drawback: 

Although the company claims it’s cold-pressed and “naturally refined,” being refined is what makes it have such a high smoke point. But it also means a lot of the nutritional value, color, and flavor have been stripped out.This is a positive feature for some, because it is a neutral oil, but not everyone likes the lack of substance.

Viva Naturals Extra Virgin Coconut Oil

Although Viva Naturals’ brand of coconut oil is one of the most expensive, you know you’re paying for quality. It has a naturally high smoke point, making it suitable for stir-frying at a medium temperature in a wok, and the light coconut flavor makes it a tasty addition to your recipe.

Key Features:

  • A good oil for sautéing
  • The smoke point is 350F/177C
  • A cold-pressed, unrefined, extra-virgin coconut oil

Biggest Drawback: 

It is not the product itself that is at fault for this drawback, but rather the consumer’s expectations. The temperature at which coconut oil is stored will determine whether it is solid or liquid. Many people don’t understand that, if it gets warm enough to melt, it will need to be thoroughly chilled to become solid again.

If you keep it at room temperature once it has completely melted, it will not return to solid for a long time. You should be pleased with the product if you understand this and work around it.

Pompeian 100% Grapeseed Oil

Because of its naturally high smoke point, grapeseed oil has been a popular oil for cooking at high temperatures for many years. Besides being naturally neutral in taste, it will not alter or compromise the flavor of your recipe, and it can be used both for baking and wok cooking.

Key Features:

  • The healthiest oil for stir-frying
  • The smoke point is 470F/240C
  • Rich source of antioxidants, Vitamin E, and omega fatty acids

Biggest Drawback: 

The product’s largest drawback is one of the oddest we’ve ever written about, but it appears there is a problem where bottles are being delivered without caps more frequently than is acceptable.

The containers arrive sealed, but without a cap. While it is still a high-quality oil, you may want to keep an empty sealable container on hand just in case.

La Tourangelle Toasted Sesame Oil

Asian cuisine is synonymous with toasted sesame oil and this artisanal, expeller-pressed oil has an especially deep, robust flavor perfect for all your favorite Chinese dishes.

This smoke point is ideal for wok-frying and sautéing over medium heat.

Key Features:

  • The best oil for Chinese cooking
  • The smoke point is 350F/177C
  • Signature flavor for fried rice, noodle dishes, and stir-fry marinades

Biggest Drawback: 

You may find the flavor of toasted sesame oil quite light. While this may be a great feature for some, it may be disappointing for people who go to great lengths to find toasted sesame oil of high quality on purpose.

Amazon Brand/Happy Belly Vegetable Oil

Its high smoke point and affordability make vegetable oil an ideal choice for frying. Considering that it’s a low-cost oil, if you plan on deep frying in your wok, this is the oil to use since you can use a lot of it without breaking the bank, and it can withstand high temperatures.

Key Features:

  • The best oil for deep frying in a wok
  • The smoke point is 450F/230C
  • Single-ingredient listed: soybean oil

Biggest Drawback: 

Oil comes in a large bottle made of very thin plastic without a handle. The bottle becomes difficult to handle, however, under these circumstances, we are in favor of reducing plastic at all costs.

The walls of the container cave in easily, and the oil feels too heavy. In case you need to use it regularly, we recommend transferring it to a glass jar. 


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