No matter how amazing your ingredients and recipes are, you won’t be able to whip up delicious and satisfying meals if you’re using the wrong cooking equipment.
While you might think a wok and skillet are interchangeable, they have some important differences and uses to know about.
Can’t you just use a frying pan instead?
You might assume you can simply make do with a frying pan for various cooking tasks, but this is much more limited than if you had to use a wok or skillet.
Both of these types of cooking equipment are versatile, so you’ll be able to achieve much more with them.
With that in mind, let’s explore the wok vs skillet debate so you can see which one you should purchase.
What Is A Wok?
A wok is a piece of cooking equipment that has strong Asian roots. Its traditional design is that of having a round base and high-walled sides, although you can find flat-bottomed woks. A wok can either have a long handle or two side handles.
While you might assume a wok is reserved for stir fries, it’s actually used for a variety of dishes because it’s deep and can therefore be filled with water to boil food or oil to deep-fry them.
If you combine wood chips and a rack to the wok, you can use it as a smoker for cheese and meat. And, by using the wok’s lid, this transforms your wok into a steamer for veggies or seafood.
A wok is very convenient when you’re short on time. This is because of its high walls which are sloped and therefore enable foods to get cooked faster. This design increases the wok’s surface area.
It’s useful if you have to cook with many ingredients. This is because its rounded bottom and deep walls can handle many ingredients at once.
You won’t have to use a lot of oil when cooking food in a wok, whether you’re cooking veggies, seafood, or meat. This means that you can keep your meals healthy.
The wok’s rounded shape means that it will ensure uniform cooking as more heat will be dispersed across its surface area.
You should avoid cooking soft foods, such as tofu, in a wok. This is because you have to keep moving the ingredients around to cook them and soft foods can easily break.
If you want to sear meat, you should use a frying pan instead of a wok. This is because the wok’s rounded shape isn’t that convenient for charring or pan searing large pieces of meat.
What Is A Skillet?
While a skillet looks quite similar to a regular frying pan, it does have some differences that make it more versatile.
It has slanted sides so it’s a bit deeper than a frying pan. You can use a skillet for a variety of cooking techniques, such as baking, broiling, roasting, pan-frying, and sauteing.
Skillets can be made of aluminum, copper, or cast-iron, although most are made of cast iron. Some come with non-stick coatings. Cast-iron skillets are great for making fonds or browning food.
Fonds refer to those brown food particles found at the bottom of a pan after you’ve browned meat or veggies. Scraping these and and adding them to a sauce is known as deglazing, and it bolsters the flavor of your dishes.
You can use a cast-iron skillet in the oven, which makes this kitchen equipment even more versatile.
A skillet can handle very high temperatures, which isn’t the case with a standard frying pan.
A skillet has sloped sides so it’s ideal for faster cooking. These sloped sides also enable you to toss and shake food back to the bottom of the pan.
You should avoid cooking acidic foods in a cast-iron skillet because any unseasoned areas on the skillet can leach metallic flavors into your food.
You have to season your skillet regularly, which involves scrubbing it with soapy water, drying it, then applying a thin layer of vegetable oil on its surface before putting it on the oven to bake for an hour.
A cast-iron skillet is heavy and can be difficult to clean and handle.
Wok Vs Skillet: How Are They Similar?
A wok and skillet have some similarities, mainly that they both have raised sides to enable a greater cooking surface area, although a wok will have higher walls than a skillet.
Let’s check out their other similarities.
Use Of Oil
They also only require small amounts of oil to be used during the cooking process so you can whip up healthy meals at home while preserving the crunch of some of your favorite foods.
Both a wok and skillet perform very well when exposed to high levels of heat.
In fact, they’re designed to handle very hot temperatures, and you can use both of them in the oven which increases their versatility.
As mentioned earlier, you can find woks in a variety of materials, such as copper, ceramic, aluminum, and stainless steel, but cast iron and carbon steel are two most popular materials for their construction.
You can also find skillets in stainless steel, ceramic, copper, anodized aluminum, and cast iron materials.
Another similarity between woks and skillets concerns their maintenance.
Both need to be seasoned to ensure that they continue working well and impart delicious flavor into your food.
Earlier, we mentioned how you can season your skillet. Seasoning a wok is done in a similar way.
You need to wash your wok in hot, soapy water and dry it on low heat on the stove, then add two tablespoons of oil to coat its surface area. Heat the oil and let the oil form a glaze on the surface of the wok. Then, let the wok cool down so the oil hardens on the surface.
You have to use the correct utensils when cooking with either a wok or spatula. This ensures you get the results you want.
A metal wok spatula has a long handle and curved head so that you can easily get to food on the bottom of the wok. You can also stir small pieces of garlic before they burn and become bitter.
By comparison, when you cook with a skillet, you’ll have to use a spatula that’s compatible with your skillet and cooking technique.
If you’re not going to use temperatures above 600 degrees Fahrenheit when cooking, you can use a silicone spatula.
If you’re using a non-stick wok or skillet, avoid metal utensils.
How Are They Different?
Woks and skillets have some important differences and knowing them is important so that you can better decide which one to choose depending on the foods you cook regularly.
The shape of a wok is quite different from that of a skillet. It has a round bottom with tall sides to make you cook foods evenly while better distributing heat.
Many woks can also be used on electric cooktops thanks to their round base.
A skillet, on the other hand, looks a bit more like a frying pan because while it has sloped sides these are shorter than what you’ll find on a wok.
Since woks can be two to three times deeper than skillets, they’re perfect for stir-frying meats and vegetables. As with a wok, you can use a skillet on electric stovetops.
While a wok performs exceptionally well for stir-frying, it can be used in many other ways, such as when you want to braise, dry-fry, deep-fry, or steam foods, thanks to its concave shape.
A skillet is also highly versatile, because you can fry, braise, sauté, and roast foods. It’s especially good for browning foods such as meats and cooking over-easy eggs.
We’ve already talked about seasoning a skillet and wok, but how do you clean them after a cooking session?
If you own a wok, you should never wash it with soap or chemical cleaners as this removes its patina.
You need to gently scrub the inside of the wok with hot water then allow it to dry before putting it on the stove on low heat until you no longer see any water droplets on it.
If you own a skillet, you should avoid soaking it in water or leaving it in the sink because this can cause it to rust. Clean it immediately after a cooking session. You should do this with a sponge and hot water.
Remove pieces of food that are stuck to the skillet by scrubbing it with a paste made of coarse salt and water, then rinse it and wipe it dry. Make sure it’s been dried properly before storing it away.
Both woks and skillets have a good level of heat resistance, and they can be used in the oven. But they vary a bit.
Woks are great for use when you want to cook quickly and your ingredients require a blast of heat. So, they’re great for cooking meals such as stir fries.
By comparison, a skillet that’s made out of cast iron evenly distributes heat and it stays hot for longer after you’ve pulled it off the burner. This means it’s ideal for keeping food warm before serving it.
So, Should You Choose A Wok Or Skillet?
Now that we’ve looked at ways in which a wok and skillet are similar as well as what features set them apart from each other, you’ll have to decide which one to buy. If you can afford both, you should definitely buy both of them as they really shine in different cooking scenarios.
If you only want to buy one, then consider what type of cooking you do most regularly.
If you want to cook foods really quickly, such as stir fries, a wok is your best friend. It heats up quickly and you can push ingredients up the sides of the wok while cooking the rest of them at the base, therefore increasing your cooking surface area and spending less time in the kitchen.
If you want a piece of equipment that heats up slowly and then stays hotter for longer, a skillet is a good choice. This will be useful when you want to use cooking techniques such as frying, baking, and simmering foods, like lamb.
Can you put a non-stick skillet in the oven?
A non-stick skillet is usually safe for use in the oven. This is because most non-stick pans can be heated up to a maximum of 350 degrees Fahrenheit.
How big should your wok or skillet be?
Woks vary from 10 to 20 inches in size, and generally one that’s around 13 inches is a versatile choice.
As for skillets, buy one that’s around 12 inches as this makes its surface area large enough without being too big that it won’t heat up evenly.
You probably already have a variety of frying pans at home, but you might wonder if you need to take your cooking to a higher level by purchasing a wok or skillet. Which one is best?
In this article, we’ve looked at everything you need to know about woks and skillets, featuring their similarities and differences so you can decide which one to choose to ensure cooking satisfaction at home when you want to create delicious meals.
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.