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What’s the Difference Between Carbon Steel and Cast Iron Woks?

Here we settle the debate of the superior Wok material once and for all.

By Emily Borst
Aug 1, 2022
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When it comes to preparing delicious cuisine, the Wok stands alone. From smoking and steaming to deep frying and heating, a high quality Wok is a coveted tool in any well-stocked kitchen.

Woks are now available in a variety of styles that most often feature either a Carbon Steel or Cast Iron construction, since these materials have excellent heat retention and are long-lasting. These different types of Woks do vary in cost and features, so it is important to consider the pros and cons of each Wok material to decide whether a Carbon Steel or Cast Iron Wok is best for your kitchen.

Carbon Steel Woks

Probably the most popular type and often used in Chinese kitchens, Carbon Steel Woks are affordable and are a great conductor of heat. Here are some of the advantages of this material.

Advantages of Carbon Steel Woks

  • Lightweight: Carbon Steel is much lighter than Cast Iron, which makes for an easier cooking experience when perfecting your moving it around while making stir fry.

  • Non-Stick: Carbon Steel Cookware is non-stick once it's properly seasoned, which makes cooking in your Wok a pleasure. Non stick Woks will last for years when properly seasoned and maintained since they are so durable.

  • Heat Retention: Carbon Steel is the absolute best when it comes to cooking meat and vegetables quickly and evenly, so it’s a no-brainer that this construction is perfect for a Wok.

Considerations of Carbon Steel Woks

While a Carbon Steel Wok has many advantages, there are a few things to consider when choosing this material for your kitchen.

  • Care: Keeping your Carbon Steel Wok in tip-top shape requires regular cleaning and maintenance. Avoid using a metallic sponge, abrasive cleaner, and putting it in the dishwasher for best results and to avoid rust.

  • Avoid Certain Ingredients: Acidic foods like citrus, wine, and vinegar should not be cooked in your Carbon Steel Wok because they will strip the seasoning you've been building up.

Cast Iron Woks

While not as popular as a Carbon Steel Wok, a Cast Iron Wok is available in two distinct styles: the Chinese-style Wok and the Western-style Wok. Made with a mixture of iron and carbon, a Cast Iron Wok is a poor heat conductor and much heavier than its Carbon Steel counterpart.

Advantages of Cast Iron Woks

  • Heat Retention: A Cast Iron Wok retains heat easily, so they are great for frying foods and keeping your food hot for longer.

  • Long Lasting: Cast Iron Cookware is strong, durable, and can last many years with proper care and maintenance, making it a good investment for home cooks.

Considerations of Cast Iron Woks

While a Cast Iron Wok offers many advantages, there are a few things to consider when choosing a Cast Iron Wok over a Carbon Steel one for your kitchen.

  • Weight: A Cast Iron Wok weighs considerably more than Woks made from other materials. This can be a nuisance when cooking and cleaning your Cast Iron Cookware.

  • Care: Using hot water and a non-metallic brush to clean your Cast Iron Wok is the best choice. Keeping your Cast Iron Wok in good condition requires regular cleaning and maintenance and avoiding the dishwasher at all costs.

  • Uneven Heat Distribution: Cast Iron Woks do not offer even heat distribution, so it is crucial to pre-heat the skillet for at least five minutes to properly disburse the heat for cooking.

Which Wok Should I Use?

When it comes to deciding between a Carbon Steel vs. Cast Iron Wok, Carbon Steel is not only our recommendation, but is the choice of experienced professionals as well as talented home cooks around the world. A Carbon Steel Wok is lighter, easier to use, more versatile, and even more affordable than a Cast Iron Wok.

This, combined with the superior even heat distribution, makes our Carbon Steel option, like the Made In Carbon Steel Wok, a favorite for home cooks.

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