The Best Pan for Stir-Frying When You Don’t Have a Wok

published Feb 26, 2015
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(Image credit: Emma Christensen)

If you think you can’t make a good stir-fry without a wok, think again. It’s possible, and I’ve been doing it for years. All you need is one tool, and I’m sure you already have it in your kitchen.

Living in New York City, storage space in the kitchen is at a premium. It’s forced me to be selective about the appliances, tools, and cookware I buy. Even though I love stir-fry and make it regularly, one piece of cookware that hasn’t made the cut is a wok.

Instead, I rely on a large frying pan, or skillet, with slanted sides every time I make stir-fry. You probably have one too, right?

You do lose some of the high-sided cooking area you get with a wok, but even stir-fry expert, Grace Young agrees that a skillet makes a suitable substitute.

(Image credit: Emma Christensen)

Tips for Stir-Frying in a Skillet

The most important part of making a stir-fry isn’t the cookware, but the ingredients. Focus on using fresh, seasonal, flavorful ingredients. Skillets have slanted sides similar to a wok, though the sides aren’t as high. So, it’s crucial not to overload the pan, or you may have trouble with ingredients falling out of the pan. Consider cooking in batches if there’s too many ingredients to fit in the pan.

It’s also important to cook stir-fry over a high flame. Because of this, stainless steel pans are a better choice than nonstick pans.

Try these stir-fries!