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Details

  • Price $185 for the 34cm on oxenforge.com
  • Weight Approx 2kg
  • Thickness 2mm

Overview

Ever since I encountered my first cast iron skillet from Borough Furnace, I was hooked on quality cookware. Cooking my own food is key to controlling my diet. And doing so with cookware that you love just elevates the experience.

Don't get me wrong. I firmly believe that there is a point of diminishing return when it comes to paying a premium for overpriced cookware. Anything above that point, you are paying to tell yourself you are using something better, even though it would unlikely make the food any tastier.

Personally, I am one of those minimalist who love things. I want to own just one of each item, but be able to use it for the rest of my life and possibly even hand it down to the next generation. I am willing to pay that premium to achieve this.

I've been spending most of my year in Singapore recently and in Singapore, there is nothing more convenient to cook than Chinese food. I love food but I am a lazy chef. I love cooking but I want to do it in the most efficient way possible.

Besides air frying, stir frying a bunch of stuff in a large wok is my preferred way of cooking. You cut up the ingredients and dump it all in. There is certainly some skill involved in the timing of putting ingredients, the heat control, and tossing technique, but the learning curve is a lot gentler than other techniques.

Up till recently, I have been using the Joyce Chen Carbon Steel Wok on my IH stove in Japan. In Singapore, I have a gas cooker, and I knew a round bottom wok like the Oxenforge was the way to go.

In this review, I will be looking at the 34cm version round-bottom wok from Oxenforge.

Style

I thought all woks were made the same. It was only getting the Oxenforge, was I exposed to all the nuances that go into a quality wok. Not all woks are built the same.

The Oxenforge wok is all black, which I absolutely love compared to silver woks. It has been hammered into a mirror finish, a signature of Zhang Qiu woks. The handle is wrapped with a black rubber grip that blends beautifully. It looks beautiful out of the box.

Mirror finish

But black woks aren't anything special. What is truly special about Oxenforge woks is the integrated handled. This means there aren't any rivets holding the body and the handle together. It's just one piece.

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Rivets on wok tend to get loose and you'll end up with a wobbly wok, which was what happened with my Joyce Chen Carbon Steel Wok.

Hand hammered woks exist. Woks with integrated handles exist. Black woks exist. Woks with rubberized handles exist, although wooden handles are much more common. However, a wok the combination of all these features is almost non-existent. The closest I could find is the Mecete Wok, which is a little more silver than black.

This unique combination makes Oxenforge truly unique.

Oxenforge has a very pretty “章丘鐵鍋” inscription on the handle, a touch that I love. Once upon a time, I was into Japanese knives and having my name hand-inscribed is always something I had done when I visited Nishiki Market in Kyoto.

I also got a wooden lid that looks very traditional. There is the Chinese characters “章丘鐵鍋”, which refers to Zhang Qiu Steel Wok, the black smith that actually makes these wok.

Material

There are many types of materials for woks, like stainless steel or cast iron, but carbon steel is the go to for its ability to heat quickly and evenly. At the same time, it's durable and inexpensive. Like cast iron, it will develop a non-stick surface as you care for it.

A good carbon steel wok, like Oxenforge, should be 14 gauge, which is about 2mm thick to prevent bending when you press on the sides.

Oxenforge woks are actually Zhang Qiu Steel Woks, branded for a western market. I love that Oxenforge does not hide this but proudly tout the heritage of the woks. Zhang Qiu province in China is well known for their woks and supplies their to many brands, such as Xiaomi affiliated brand, HUOHOU.

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Each wok are more or less similar by master blacksmiths in Zhang Qiu, with small adjustments for each brands. For example, this YouTube video reviewing the HUOHOU version shows an inscription on the inside of the wok, which Oxenforge do not have.

The woks go through a 12-step process, of which the most impressive is hand hammering the wok into shape. Some good fakes will shape the wok by machine and hand hammer to give the effect, but as it is the hand hammering that removes impurity, you can tell these fakes apart by their bluish tint, compared to the silver black of Oxenforge.

Usage

Out of the box, the wok looks amazing. It comes with a thin layer of oil for protection and should be cleaned before use.

This is different from residual industrial oil that you should burn off through a process called bluing. Oxenforge does the bluing process on your behalf, so as long as you wash off the protective oil, you can cook on it straightaway.

The inside of the wok has a shimmery finish, a signature of Zhang Qiu woks. The outside of the wok seems to have more silver patches, which should turn black as you use it.

My wok came with a patch of rust on the outside. It could be due to the humidity during delivery to Singapore, but it isn't a deal breaker. Dealing with rust is part and parcel of using cookware like cast iron skillets or carbon steel woks.

Rust on the underside

The first time I test any cookware, I immediately non-stickiness to the test, even the wok isn't inherently non-stick. After cleaning the layer of protective oil, I added a generous amount of oil and dumped an egg right in.

The time it takes for the wok to heat up with medium heat is less than 1 minute. A egg would sizzle the moment it hits the pant. Being able to conduct heat well is usually an advantage, but might be a double edged sword for novice cooks still trying to master heat control.

I left the egg for about a minute expecting it to stick, but to my delight, it slides around the wok effortlessly. I can say that the wok is non-stick right out of the box.

That said, you will want to maintain it by doing the following after each wash

  1. Wipe off excess liquid and heat the wok over medium-high heat till it dries
  2. Add a tablespoon of vegetable oil and swirl it to spread it across the wok
  3. Heat it for about a minute
  4. Turn off the heat and wipe it with a paper towel (controlling it with your spatula)

The vegetable oil will turn parts of the wok brown or black which will make up your patina. It's a good thing!

The wok came with a wooden lid which is useful for steaming or boiling. However, I noticed that the edges of the lid is quite rough. While it won't affect the experience much, I thought this was a detail they could work on to really give that premium impression.

Compared to the Joyce Chen Carbon Steel Wok, you can feel that the Oxenforge Wok is heavier, mainly due to the thickness. This might need some getting used to when flipping food, but I got used to it after a few tries.

I will be adding more images as I cook with it more, so do check back.

Conclusion

The best blacksmiths in the world created this high-quality wok that's nothing short of a work of art.

While it can be heavier than lower quality woks, the return in durability and quality is well worth it.

I've never felt so much joy stir frying than I have with the Oxenforge wok. I look forward to decades cooking with it and eventually passing this down to the next generation.

Additional Images

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