How to Tell If a Hand Forged Wok Is Fake
The Zhang Qiu district is renowned for having the best blacksmiths in all of China. When an episode on Bite of China featured hand forged woks from Zhang Qiu, demand skyrocketed and dozens of people took advantage of the popularity by establishing factories that produce low quality woks marketed as Zhang Qiu woks.
The Chinese government attempted to regulate the market and standardize the industry by giving out stamps to factories in Zhang Qiu engaged in the wok crafting business. However, some companies simply moved their factories to Zhang Qiu to acquire one of these government issued stamps. Legally, they are allowed to identify their woks as Zhang Qiu woks, but make no mistake, many of them produce inferior products that aren't made with the same traditional process that made Zhang Qiu woks famous in the first place.
Hand forged woks are prized by chefs and home cooks alike for their quality, durability, and performance. However, not all woks that claim to be hand forged are actually made by skilled artisans using traditional techniques. Some woks are mass-produced in factories using machines or fake hand-forging methods, and then marketed as authentic hand forged woks. In this post, we will show you how to tell if a hand forged wok is fake.
For the sake of this article, we will classify the fakes into 3 levels.
Level 1 Fakes
These are woks that use thin steel and have a cobblestone pattern on the surface of the wok. This cobblestone pattern was stamped on to the wok to give it the illusion of being "hammered". You can easily tell that you are dealing with a Level 1 fake wok if you see hammer marks never overlap or intersect.
These woks are often nitrided. Nitriding is a process that helps make the woks more resistant to rust. Nitriding is not a bad process; however, these woks typically have a very poor quality nitriding process that peels off or chips within a year of use. You can tell that a wok has been nitrided if it has a dull grey-black color.
Below is an example of a Level 1 Fake:
Pictured above is an example of a wok pretending to be hammered. The pattern is stamped on and provides no value.
Level 2 Fakes
These are woks that use a thicker steel in an attempt to imitate hand forged woks. These woks can fool an uninformed buyer because they are as heavy as the real deal hand hammered woks. The key difference here is that these woks never went though the traditional 12-step forging process that makes hand forged woks truly one of a kind. They are hammered by a machine to give them the individual hammer marks, then they are pressed into a wok shape. These are usually marketed as "fish scale" woks because they have deep hammer marks that resemble fish scales.
This factory uses a machine to put small hammer marks on the wok.
These types of woks typically will require more oil because of the deep craters in the wok, and food tends to stick in them a lot more.
Below is an example of what a level 2 fake looks like:
This wok has deep hammer marks that were done by machine.
Level 3 Fakes
These woks have very similar characteristics to a Level 2 fake, however, after they are machine pressed into shape, they are hand hammered to give it the aesthetic of genuine hammer marks. These are harder to spot because the hammer marks are a bit more random due to them being hammered by a real person rather than by a machine. Again, these woks don't go through the 12-step process, and are just trying to imitate the aesthetics of a hand forged wok. Genuine hand forged woks will be hammered thousands of times while hot and thousands of times while cold. This process removes impurities in the steel. The easiest way to tell these woks apart is their bluish tint. A real hand forged wok will have a silver-black color under bright lights, whereas a fake will have a blue-black color.
Here is a side by side photo comparing a level 3 fake vs. an Oxenforge genuine hand forged wok:
You can see the clear difference in color and finish between the wok on the left and our wok on the right.
In conclusion, it is important to be aware of the signs that a hand forged wok may be fake. By examining its material, and craftsmanship, you can avoid buying a fake hand forged wok and ensure that you get a genuine and high-quality product.
Remember that authentic hand forged woks should not have deep hammer marks, and should have a unique pattern created by hand-forging. Hand forged woks will also have a silver-black color under bright lights, rather than a bluish tint.
For reference, here are some pictures of our wok under natural sunlight:
Our woks are all hand crafted in the Zhang Qiu province in China by master blacksmiths that have been in the industry for decades. Check out our shop to learn more about our woks.