The debate over what type of wok to buy is fierce. Cast iron or carbon steel? Which one will last the longest and heat up quickest? Which one will make you the best stir fry? Which one is more suited to high temperature cooking?
The answer, in short, is that both types of wok their strengths and weaknesses. Carbon steel woks are lighter, which makes them easier to maneuver and allows for faster heat-up times. Cast iron woks are heavier but they don’t warp when exposed to high temperatures like some carbon steel models do. They also provide a non-stick surface with minimal maintenance required. But while it might be tempting to buy whichever type you can find simply on the basis of price, be sure that either your choice gets good reviews or your purchase comes with a warranty.
What is a carbon steel wok?
A carbon steel wok (sometimes called a “carbon steel flat bottom wok” or “wok pan”) is made of thin and light metal that is heated with an open flame, such as gas or induction. This type of pan has some advantages over other types of stir fry pans – it is responsive to changes in temperature, light weight so it can be lifted without fear of injury, and it’s able to be heated quickly. These features make the carbon steel wok popular among professional chefs who cook on hot woks all day long.
Benefits of carbon steel woks
Carbon steel woks are non-stick and can be used for cooking oily and heavy foods. In addition, they possess a reasonably high heat conductivity so that they can heat up quickly. These features make them good options for stir-frying, especially when it comes to cooking vegetables in oil. Although carbon steel woks do require some maintenance, they are a good option for those who are looking for an affordable alternative to cast iron woks.
Drawbacks of carbon steel woks
On the other hand, carbon steel woks may not be the best option for long-term use because they tend to rust. Because the metal is thin and light, the heat from cooking often causes it to warp. The good news is that they can easily be flattened out again by putting them under heavy books or other objects. You will also need to keep your carbon steel wok covered when you’re not using it so that food particles don’t get stuck on it which could contribute to rusting. When it comes to cleaning, you may need to use a sharp object like a knife or fork to scrape off food particles from the bottom of the pan. More advanced carbon steel stir fry pans have handles that make it easier to avoid dropping your wok on the floor which can cause it to warp, too.
What is a cast iron wok?
A cast iron wok is made of a thick metal that is heated with fire. It is known for its hard-to-clean surface but its heavy and has good heat distribution properties.
Benefits of cast iron woks
Like carbon steel woks, cast iron woks are responsive to changes in temperature which allow you to cook foods without worrying about overcooking or burning them. In addition, they distribute heat evenly and retain heat well so that it can be used for cooking even when the stovetop cools down a little bit. These features make it easy to use in restaurants because meals can be prepared quickly and easily. When it comes to maintenance, you only need to season the pan occasionally to protect it from rusting. The seasoning process can change the color of the wok somewhat. However, you will be able to add a layer of oil every time you wash your cast iron wok so that food doesn’t stick easily.
Drawbacks of cast iron woks
Foods may stick if they are not properly seasoned because they can leave residue on its surface. This is particularly true when it comes to cooking oily foods like fried eggs or tofu because foods tend to stick more easily on the surface of the pan. Because the metal is thick and heavy, you may have trouble lifting your cast iron wok when it’s hot and full of food. You will need a special wok spatula that can be inserted into the deep grooves on the surface of your pan. Cleaning is also more difficult because some of the stuck-on food may fall into the grooves in the pan’s surface. You will also need a very thick round pad-like brush to be able to clean its bottom properly. Some users have also mentioned that the food residue left on the surface of their cast iron wok get so bad that they need to scrub it repeatedly with a stiff brush to remove it.
The main differences
When it comes to the cooking process, carbon steel stir fry pans heat up quickly and they are responsive to changes in temperature so that you won’t have anything burnt or overcooked. On the other hand, cast iron woks can distribute heat evenly and retain heat well so that it can be used for cooking even when the stovetop cools down a little bit. These features make it easy for restaurants to use them because meals can be prepared quickly and easily.
Another major difference between the two woks is the seasoning process. When it comes to seasoning carbon steel woks, you should use them frequently and season them often. The more you use those woks, the better they will perform so you won’t need to spend much money on replacement parts. This makes carbon steel wok an affordable alternative for restaurants that need a good tool for stir frying.
After all, this type of pan is great for stir-frying because its surface is non-stick and it can be used without oil when prepping oily foods like tofu or eggs in the morning. When it comes to cast iron woks, you need to season them occasionally. The seasoning process can change the color of the wok slightly. However, you will be able to maintain its condition by adding a layer of oil after every wash so that food doesn’t stick easily.
When it comes to maintenance, carbon steel woks are easier to maintain because you only need to clean them with water after every use. No harsh chemicals or detergents should be used when washing your carbon steel stir fry pans since this could damage their non-stick surface. If they do get too dirty, you can scrub them with soap and add boiling hot water afterwards so that they don’t develop rust spots over time. With cast iron woks, you will need to clean them more frequently and you should use a brush to remove stuck-on food. You can also use chemical cleaning agents if your wok is really dirty.
Last but not least, cast iron woks are generally heavier than carbon steel models. This means that they may be too heavy to use when cooking or standing on the stovetop for an extended period of time. However, if you prefer a wok that has excellent heat distribution and retention, then you should opt for cast iron. The thick metal used in this kind of pan will help ensure that your stovetop remains cool while you’re cooking. Be mindful that the handle of a cast iron wok will also get hot easily so you have to regularly replace it with another one in order to avoid accidents during your cooking activity.
Carbon steel woks vs cast iron woks: which one should you buy?
This is an extremely difficult question to answer because there are both pros and cons to both types of woks. In my personal opinion, I would choose a cast iron pan over a carbon steel pan because it can be heated more quickly and evenly. However, my personal preference comes down to whether or not I am using the wok for cooking oily foods only or if I will be using it for stir-frying all kinds of ingredients like vegetables and noodles.
If you are going to be cooking oily foods only, a carbon steel wok will do the job because it offers a non-stick surface and can be heated quickly. On the other hand, if you plan to cook stir-fried dishes or pan-fried noodles and want something that distributes heat evenly on the surface of your wok, then a cast iron wok is probably your best choice.