Carbon Steel vs Cast Iron Wok Frying Pans – the Difference and Which to Use

Woks are essential kitchen items that originally came from Asia but are now highly popularized across the United States and other parts of the world. Although the pots are considered old and traditional, the designs have undergone many changes that make wok pans fit right into any modern kitchen.

Cooking can be fun when you love what you’re doing, but it can be even more fun when you have the proper utensils.

Even though carbon steel and cast iron wok frying pans share many similarities, the differences between the two can determine how well your meal turns out.

Carbon Steel vs Cast Iron Wok Frying Pans – the Differences

Heat Retention

Cast iron cookware takes some time to heat up, but they remain hot for a long time after. Compared to metals such as carbon steel, cast iron wins at heat retention. On the other hand, when it comes to heating up faster, carbon steel wins; making it a better cooking option for when you’re cooking delicate foods that require fast heat.

Functionality

Comparing carbon steel vs cast iron wok in terms of functionality will help you determine which pan is best suited for your needs.

For baking, pan-frying, stewing, and braising, cast iron is the more preferable of the two. Carbon steel, on the other hand, is perfect for roasting, stir-frying, baking, and pan-frying.

Pricing and Availability

Cast iron and carbon steel wok are within the same price range; both are fairly affordable. However, carbon steel pans are usually more expensive than cast iron wok pans. It’s easier to find an affordable carbon steel wok pan due to higher production rates. Depending on your budget, there is a cast iron or carbon steel wok in any size or shape for you.

Durability

Proper care and maintenance will have you using your favorite cast iron and carbon steel wok for many years; it could even be passed down generations! In fact, these pans are an exciting find at an antique store.

Appearance

Cast iron pans are suitable for oven use since the pans are built with steeper walls and an uneven base. Carbon steel wok; on the other hand, is suitable for almost every kind of cooking. Carbon steel wok is also aesthetically pleasing with elegant colors, compared to the more traditional appearance of cast iron wok.

Maintenance and Care

When comparing the maintenance of carbon steel vs. cast iron wok, the basics are similar. Both pans can be cleaned with hot water and a scouring pad. You may or may not opt-out of using soap to wash your cast iron pans.  Dry the pan completely after washing, season with coconut oil, flaxseed oil, or peanut oil, and store. 

However, I prefer carbon steel since the maintenance process is easier. You don’t need to use harsh chemicals and other cleaning agents, because they could damage the non-stick surface of your carbon steel pan. If your pan gets too dirty, you can use soap and hot water to clean the surface.

Cast iron wok pans need to be cleaned more frequently with cleaning agents.

Weight

Carbon steel woks generally weigh less than cast iron woks. This means that cast iron woks might be more difficult to cook with, especially when you do a lot of lifting. Be careful when lifting the cast iron wok handle since it gets hot.

Carbon Steel Frying Pans – focus on main differences and when best to use

Carbon steel wok is the more affordable of the two cookware, and it responds to heat faster than cast iron wok. These pans are the best choice for cooking vegetables since the material allows for excellent heat distribution.

This type of pan is perfect for cooking meats; you can add more pieces of meat to an already simmering pan and get a finished product of evenly cooked meat. Carbon steel wok pans are also great for stir-fry foods and can be used to cook eggs in the morning without oil.

Carbon steel frying pans are lighter than cast iron pans and easier to use; the icing on the cake is its affordability and availability in many cookware stores. Make sure to season your cast iron woks occasionally to maintain their good condition.

Cast iron wok frying pans – focus on main differences and when best to use

Cast iron wok is not quite as common as carbon steel wok pans today. This wok pan is most famous for its excellent heat retention capabilities, making it a piece of great kitchen equipment for frying food. It also makes food stay warmer for longer after you take it down from the fire.

Depending on your personal preference, there is a cast iron wok frying pan out there for everyone.

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Is Carbon Steel Better than Cast Iron?

Pitching carbon steel vs cast iron wok in a battle of the pans is futile since they each have their respective duties in the kitchen. Carbon steel will heat up faster and spread heat evenly, but cools fast. Cast iron, on the other hand, takes longer to heat up and will retain heat for a long time after you take your pan down from the fire.

If you cook more oily foods, carbon steel wok will do an excellent job since the pan has a non-stick surface and heats up evenly. On the other hand, if you’re more likely to cook pan-fried and stir-fried dishes, a cast-iron wok might be your best bet.

Although each pan has its advantage and it mostly depends on your preference and needs, we would recommend cast iron wok for its durability and heat retention abilities.

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How to tell if Wok is Carbon Steel or Cast Iron

Both woks are mostly made from iron and the difference in appearance is not too visible to an untrained eye.

However, examining carbon steel vs cast iron wok to find the differences reveals that cast iron wok has a rough, bumpy surface due to the carbon levels in it. Compared to cast iron wok’s shiny appearance, carbon steel has a matte feel and is lighter than the heavy cast iron wok.