They both sound the same, and are both made from cast iron. But do they differ in any significant ways? Maybe it’s time to find out the difference between these two utensils and which one is better suited for you.
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What is a wok?
A wok is a Chinese cooking utensil used for stir frying, steaming food, deep frying and stewing. It is basically a deep metal pan that has sloped sides to allow food to slide around it when cooking. The sloping sides are also very handy when handling the pan as they make it easier for you to toss food in or out of it. (See the images below for woks.)
What is a skillet?
A skillet is like cooking on a cast iron griddle. The sides are straight and it has made up of various flat parts that connect to the handle part of the pan which makes it easy to control the heat during cooking. Skillets are typically 12-14 inches in diameter and have a long handle to keep you comfortably away from the heat during cooking. (See the images below for skillets.)
What’s the difference between a wok and a skillet?
The most obvious difference between a wok and a skillet is the shape. A wok is round with sloping sides, while a skillet is round with straight sides. While both can handle steaming food and frying food, the shape allows the two utensils to handle different types of food better.
Because of the sloping sides on a wok, you can toss vegetables and meat around easily without spilling them all over your stove top. And due to its large surface area, you can cook more in one go.
A skillet, on the other hand, has smaller sides that makes it hard for you to toss food around. It also has flat sides that make it harder to cook more than one thing at a time. Skillets are best used for foods like eggs or pancakes that needs space to cook evenly.
Are woks and skillets really different?
Yes. While both can cook food very well, their designs are different and they use different cooking methods. For example, a wok is deeper and better used for stir frying. While skillets are shallow and better used for cooking something like pancakes. Using the wrong utensil will result in food stuck to the utensil and hard to get off.
Because of their different cooking methods, it is better to use a wok when making Chinese dishes that require frying, as well as steaming food like fish.
What is the difference between a cast iron wok and a cast iron skillet?
You most likely know the difference between a wok and a skillet, but what’s the difference between a cast iron wok and a cast iron skillet?
Well here’s where it gets interesting.
Cast iron skillets are used on home stoves where the burners have small flames, and they are very functional on home stoves. They have the right surface area to catch the heat and maintain it. But this is where a cast iron wok differs.
Cast iron woks are big, and then top of a cast iron wok is quite high up and the sides flare out a lot, which means on a home stove where the burner is quite low powered, the flames cannot reach up the sides of the wok, this leads to the wok not becoming hot enough and heated unevenly.
Now this is where it gets different, cast iron woks are used on the more powerful burners with more BTU’s. This is because those burners shoot up flames which cover all of the sides, leading to a hot evenly heated wok. You might have seen these burners in a chefs kitchen, but in case you haven’t, see the image below.
If you put a cast iron skillet on these powerful burners, they would get extremely hot, too hot. They might even begin to melt because of the intensity.
So the main difference between a cast iron wok and a cast iron skillet is, cast iron woks are designed to be used on special powerful burners that you won’t find at home, and cast iron skillets are designed to be used on home stoves with low powered gas burners.
Cast iron wok vs cast iron skillet: Which one is better?
There really isn’t a clear winner here. It depends where you’re cooking. If you’re using them at home or in an apartment, cast iron skillets are the best choice, but if you’re going to be using them in a professional kitchen with very powerful burners then the most sensible choice is to go for a cast iron wok.
And even then it depends on the type of recipes you are cooking.
If you are cooking recipes at home that require a wok, for instance a stir fry, then it’s probably best to use a different wok such as a carbon steel wok rather than cast iron wok.
If you are looking to sear meats and fry foods, then you are better of just using a cast iron skillet.