Stable as a wok

A five-ply solution to the standard utensil
JERRY ANNE DI VECCHIO

A wok is much too useful to relegate to a single cuisine. And as the pan has been adopted in contemporary Western kitchens, it has been adapted in materials and shape. A prime example is the Buffalo five-ply stainless steel wok. This pan has a three-layer core of aluminum and aluminum alloy sealed between layers of stainless steel. The aluminum provides good heat distribution, while the stainless steel functions at high temperatures without wear and tear (unlike many nonstick-finished woks), won't rust, and doesn't affect the colors or taste of foods ― a common fault of standard cold-rolled-steel woks, which turn artichokes black and impart a metallic flavor to some foods.

In addition, the Buffalo wok, which comes in 11- to 16-inch diameters, has a slightly flattened bottom ― enough to give stability on a regular burner, but not enough to take away the advantages of a bowl-shaped pan.

The model I find big enough to be useful but not too large to maneuver is 15 inches wide (8 qt. to the rim), with two handles for easy lifting, and a domed lid that provides needed space for steaming foods. Prices are in the fancy-pan range, from $189 to $249. But if you shop at (888) 833-8833 or www.chinesewok.com, you save about 20 percent.