Steel Wok Vs Cast Iron Wok

Carbon-Steel Wok Vs Cast-Iron Wok: Which One Should You Buy?

by

Nicole
December 13, 2021
301 Views

A wok is essential to purchase if you want to make delicious stir fries at home, but it can be used to produce other meals as a result of how its design distributes heat evenly throughout the ingredients you’re cooking.

Woks come in two main materials – carbon steel and cast iron – although you can get it in others.

Which type of material is best for a wok?

Both carbon-steel and cast-iron are focused on quality and make the wok a versatile piece of equipment, but they have specific pros and cons to know about. 

Are they really that different?

In this article, we’ll explore which one you should buy by comparing them according to different factors. 

What Is A Wok?

Carbon-Steel Wok Vs Cast-Iron Wok: Which One Should You Buy?

A wok is a piece of cooking equipment that’s become synonymous with making a delicious stir fry. An effect called “wok hei,” which means “wok’s breath” is what makes a wok so valuable when cooking.

It refers to how the wok reaches a high level of heat and then quickly spreads it over your ingredients. This is why a wok enables you to quickly cook or char the outside of meat and veggies while ensuring their insides can still be crunchy. 

A wok is designed with a rounded bottom and rounded edges. This increases the speed at which you can heat up and cook foods. You can also find woks with handles that enable you to shake them to move the ingredients around during cooking. 

Stir fries aside, you can use a wok for other cooking tasks. These include browning, braising, making soups and sauces, and even deep-frying foods. If your wok comes with a lid, this enables you to steam foods. 

Carbon-Steel Vs Cast-Iron Wok: What Are Their Pros And Cons? 

Now that we’ve looked at why you should have a wok in your kitchen, let’s explore the pros and cons of both types of popular wok materials.

Cast-Iron Wok

Carbon-Steel Wok Vs Cast-Iron Wok: Which One Should You Buy?

A cast-iron wok is made of pure iron that’s alloyed with more than two percent of carbon. Cast iron is a brittle metal so it can break. This is why it can’t be hammered into shape during the construction process.

Cast iron has been used for thousands of years in tool-making and construction. When making woks and other equipment, such as pans, from cast iron, the cast iron is in liquid metal form that gets poured into a mold. 

Pros 

  • Cast iron evenly distributes heat so that food is cooked in a uniform manner and all the way through.
  • It retains heat well, so you can keep your food warm in the wok even when your stove top has cooled down.
  • If you season your cast-iron wok regularly, this makes it easy to maintain and naturally non-stick.
  • A cast-iron wok is useful for cooking tasks such as browning and simmering because of how it retains heat.
  • You can use your cast-iron wok for a variety of cooking methods, such as pan frying, baking, braising, stewing, roasting, and searing. 

Cons 

  • Cast iron has a porous surface that means liquids can enter it easily. This is why you can’t wash your wok with soapy water – it can enter the metal and then end up in the food you cook.
  • You shouldn’t cook regularly with acidic ingredients, such as citrus. This is because the acid causes the seasoning to break down, which means you’ll have to season your wok more regularly.
  • Unlike woks made of other materials, a cast-iron wok is heavy. This can make it impractical to use.
  • As a result of how a cast-iron wok retains heat, you have to ensure you remove cooked ingredients after you’re happy with their texture otherwise they could become limp if left in the wok. This is something to bear in mind when cooking a stir fry in your cast-iron wok. 

Best Cast-Iron Woks

Bruntmore Cast Iron Wok 

Carbon-Steel Wok Vs Cast-Iron Wok: Which One Should You Buy?

This 14-inch wok makes cooking with it a breeze. It has wide handles that make it easy to secure and a large, rounded bottom that keeps it stable during cooking, such as when making a stir fry.

This wok can be used in a variety of ways, such as on a stovetop or in the oven. It comes pre-seasoned so you can use it immediately.

Crucible Cookware Wok

Crucible Cookware Wok 1

If you’d prefer a cast-iron wok with a flat base, this one by Crucible Cookware is a solid choice.

It comes with a lid to increase its versatility and it also has silicone hot handle holders to make it even easier when carrying the wok around or tossing ingredients during the cooking process. You can use it on the stove, grill, over the campfire, or in the oven. 

Carbon-Steel Wok

Carbon-Steel Wok Vs Cast-Iron Wok: Which One Should You Buy?

Carbon steel is an alloy of less than two percent carbon and iron. It was developed during the 18th and 19th centuries, and is less brittle than cast iron. This means it can be forged and hammered into shape.

Carbon steel begins as a sheet of metal that is then shaped by hand with the use of tools or with the use of a press machine to make a wok.

Pros

  • A carbon-steel wok is lighter than a cast-iron wok, so it’s easier to move around and handle.
  • This wok is responsive to changes in temperature, which makes it user-friendly during various cooking processes.
  • A carbon-steel wok has high heat conductivity. This means it heats up very quickly.
  • You can use a carbon-steel wok for a variety of cooking methods, such as roasting, pan frying, stir frying, searing, and baking. 

Cons

  • Since the metal used to make this wok is thin, it can become warped from high temperatures.
  • You might need to use a sharp object, such as a knife, to clean your carbon-steel wok if food particles have become stuck to it. 
  • Carbon-steel woks are not as useful as cast-iron woks when you make use of a moist cooking technique, such as stewing or braising. This is because carbon steel works better with fat than

Best Carbon-Steel Woks

Craft Wok Traditional Hand-Hammered Wok

Carbon-Steel Wok Vs Cast-Iron Wok: Which One Should You Buy?

This 14-inch wok has non-slip wooden handles and it’s both strong and durable. It’s been hand-hammered in Guangzhou, China, by professionals.

It’s designed with a round base to evenly distribute heat. It can work on a variety of heat sources, such as stovetops and open fires.

Kenmore Hammond Flat Bottom Carbon Steel Wok

Carbon-Steel Wok Vs Cast-Iron Wok: Which One Should You Buy?

This is a 14-inch, 1.8millimeter carbon-steel wok that’s got a flat base. It comes with acacia wood handles that are ergonomic for a more comfortable grip during cooking.

It’s versatile for use on stovetops and induction stoves. 

Carbon-Steel Wok Vs Cast-Iron Wok: What Are Their Differences? 

Before you decide to purchase either a carbon-steel or cast-iron wok, it’s important to look at some of their features in greater detail to ensure satisfaction. 

While both carbon steel and cast iron have many similarities, such as that they’re durable and need to be seasoned, it’s important to compare carbon-steel and cast-iron woks according to different categories.

Maintenance

When maintaining your wok, cast-iron woks really shine. They are said to be able to last a lifetime.

This is because they’re rugged and durable. But, that comes with a price: you have to season your wok regularly. This entails infusing carbonized oil into the metal, which penetrates the metal. 

By comparison, carbon-steel works are easier to look after and keep in good condition. They’re non-porous so you won’t have to season them as regularly. The drawback is that carbon steel is thinner and less rugged than cast iron.  

Cooking

Cast-iron woks take longer to become hot but once they do they evenly distribute heat over the food. This is because cast iron is thick.

Interestingly, a wok made of carbon steel will warm up quickly but most of the heat is maintained at the bottom of the wok because it’s closest to the source of heat.  

So, you’ll have more evenly-distributed heat with a cast-iron wok.

Cleaning 

Although cast-iron woks require seasoning, they are actually easier to clean than carbon-steel woks. This is because the metal has a non-stick coating which prevents food from getting stuck. By wiping away any food residue from the wok, you can clean it easily. 

If your wok is made of carbon steel, you might find that its non-stick coating will wear away in time, which can make it more difficult to clean. You will have to scrub your wok harder to remove any food particles that have become stuck to it.

Price

You will naturally also have to consider the price of the wok. Cast-iron woks are strong and durable, but cast iron is easy to source and work with, which is why you can buy cast-iron woks for around $20 and $50.

Woks made of carbon steel require more effort during their construction, which makes them more expensive. You will have to pay at least $50 for a high-quality wok.  

Which One Should You Buy? 

Carbon-Steel Wok Vs Cast-Iron Wok: Which One Should You Buy?

As we’ve seen in this article, both carbon-steel and cast-iron woks have their pros and cons. This can make it difficult to know which one to buy for your home kitchen.

This is why it’s useful to think about what you’re going to be cooking in your wok.

If you’re using your wok for oily foods, a carbon-steel wok is a good choice as it heats up fast and provides a non-stick surface.

If, on the other hand, you want to cook stir fries or other foods for which you require your wok to heat evenly, you’re going to want to get your hands on a cast-iron wok as this will distribute heat to all your ingredients.

Another good reason to purchase a cast-iron wok is if you want to keep your food warmer for longer, even when you’ve taken the wok off your heat source.

Finally, think about maintaining your wok. Since a carbon-steel wok requires less seasoning, this might make it more appealing.

Should Your Wok Have A Flat Or Round Bottom? 

Traditionally woks have rounded bottoms. This allows you to move the ingredients around better when you shake the wok and it distributes more heat all over them.

The problem is that many modern stoves aren’t designed to accommodate rounded woks, so you’ll have to purchase a wok ring or ensure your stove has a wok top.

This might make you steer towards buying a flat-bottomed wok as this doesn’t require you to purchase any accessories – you can start using your wok right away.

There’s a catch, though. You won’t have as much of a surface area with a flat-bottomed wok as compared to a rounded-bottom one. You also won’t be able to toss food around as well, such as when making a stir fry. 

Related Questions 

How often should you season your cast-iron wok?

You should season your wok every year. If you use your wok on a daily basis or at least four times per week, you should aim to season it every six months.

Can you put your wok in the oven?

You can put your carbon-steel or cast-iron wok in the oven as both types are durable. 

Should your wok be non-stick?

While this is good because it doesn’t require you to season  your wok and it’s easy to clean, it won’t sear veggies and meat very well because the coating prevents high temperatures from being reached. 

Conclusion 

If you want to start making tastier stir fries and other foods at home, you should consider purchasing a wok.

In this article, we’ve featured important differences to know about carbon-steel and cast-iron woks, such as how they compare when it comes to heat distribution, maintenance, and price.

Sources

Nicole

Nicole Dowdy is an avid foodie and successful restaurateur. [He/she] has dedicated nearly all her life to learning popular recipes from across the globe as well as developing new ones. Using Food Migration, Nicole Dowdy shares the very best recipes for just about every home cook looking to try something new in the kitchen. Pro chefs can also learn a few tricks on the website.Looking to improve your kitchen? You will also find awesome and high-quality kitchen utensil recommendations as well as buying guides on this website.