Cast Iron Wok Vs Carbon Steel Wok: Which Is Better?

cast iron wok vs carbon steel wok

It is not without reason that cast iron wok and carbon steel wok are among the top must-have items in the kitchen. Both of them have earned their reputation for durability and high heat resistance. 

However, due to these similarities, many people find it challenging to distinguish between cast iron wok and carbon steel wok, making them sit on the fence when purchasing.

If you have similar concerns, the content below will provide you basic knowledge about two types of pans to help you distinguish them in various aspects.

Quick Facts

Cast iron wok:

  • Construction: contains more than two percent carbon
  • Cost: cheaper
  • Durability: less durable
  • Streng: more brittle
  • Heat distribution and retention: slowly but retains heat longer

Carbon steel wok:

  • Construction: contains less than two percent carbon
  • Cost: more expensive
  • Durability: more durable
  • Streng: stronger
  • Heat distribution and retention: more responsive but cools faster

Cooking With Cast Iron Vs Carbon Steel

Cast iron woks are notorious for their durability, flexibility, and ability to retain heat. It can withstand high temperatures, getting so hot that it allows you to sear a steak in a few minutes. However, it is often too heavy to sauté; it will never be the best choice for cooking eggs. 

When seasoned appropriately, it develops a nonstick surface. Keep in mind not to simmer acidic liquids in cast iron, like a tomato-based sauce, because the acid will both break down the nonstick seasoning and give your dish a metallic flavor.

A significant advantage of this type over cast iron is its better electrical conductivity. It is perfectly capable of reaching a high enough temperature to sear a steak thoroughly. You’re more likely to have to season it yourself. 

With a smoother surface with a layer of seasoning, carbon steel is great for cooking something sticky, such as eggs, omelets, and crepes, as well as fish. Like cast iron, cooking acidic foods on carbon steel will impart a metallic flavor to your food.

Cleaning And Storing

In general, the way to clean these 2 types of wok is the same. When you’re done cooking, gently wipe and clean them with a paper towel or dishtowel to collect any food remnants and absorb excess oils and fats. 

If there is any stuck or burned food on the surface of the pan, you’ll need some soap and water to remove the debris. After rinsing off the food residue, set them to medium heat on the stove to dry out any remaining water or moisture on the surface of the pan.

The enemies of both are water and moisture. Therefore, store them in a dry place. It will be better to remove the cover to prevent rust formation. Make sure they’ve been oiled to prevent oxidation if you don’t have the intention to use them for a while. 

The best place to store and display your seasoned woks is on a hanging pot rack. However, if you have no choice but to stack them in a cupboard, place a paper towel between them to prevent them from scratching each other.

Cost Comparison

When it comes to considering cost comparison, cast iron is preferred. While it is made by pouring the steel and carbon mixture into a premade cast, carbon steel is created by manually pressing and rolling the material combination into a specific shape. 

It is the more complicated process and intensive materials that make up the higher price of carbon steel -usually starting at about $60 per high-quality piece, while you can only cost $20 for good pieces.

Is Carbon Steel Safe For Cooking?

This type earns its reputation for being non-toxic and completely safe to cook. It is only made of iron and carbon, which are considered two completely safe materials for cooking. Moreover, it is safe because there is absolutely no coating on it. 

There is no need to worry about the seasonings. Over time, the seasoning you build upon carbon steel is entirely from the oils you use to season and the natural oils from foods, so it’s perfectly OK for them to fall out of your pan. 

In addition, no matter how harsh carbon steel goes through, it won’t wear out. That is also the main reason why it has become a must-have item in home kitchens.

How Often Do I Need To Season My Cast Iron Wok?

It stands to reason that seasoning is an effective way to your wok’s longevity. The better you season it, the more perfectly nonstick it becomes. It would help if you kept your wok seasoned a few times per year. 

Or, in some cases, you need to season your wok immediately to keep it working well. Although the seasoning will create a nonstick on the surface of your wok, there is still a little food crusted on after using it, which is normal, and you can wash them out quickly. 

But if food starts to stick constantly, it is high time you season your wok again. Also, in case you notice a bit of rust, it’s definitely time to season. The frequency of seasoning depends on the condition of your wok. 

Can I Put My Wok In The Oven?

There is no right answer to this question. A wok can be put in the oven or not depends on the material making of it. Ovens often have high temperatures; therefore, if you put an unsafe wok inside the oven, the chances are good that it will likely get ruined. 

So if your wok is made up of parts that can’t bear high heat, it’s not safe to put it in the oven. Most good woks that have hit the market for the past few years are designed to withstand extreme heat. The most common materials used to make woks today are carbon steel and cast iron. 

These materials are pretty durable and can withstand high temperatures in the oven. So instead of making a distinction about whether it’s safe to put the wok in the oven, you should think twice about whether your wok can withstand high heat.

Do I Need A Lid For My Wok?

It is highly recommended that you purchase a wok with a lid to make your cooking much more straightforward. It will take a lot of time for ingredients to simmer and cover the wok if you don’t have a lid. 

Meanwhile, a wok with a lid not only saves you cooking time but also makes your life a lot easier. It’s not without reason that a wok with a lid is very prevalent nowadays. 

Is Cast Iron More Durable?

The answer is no. It is proved slightly more durable than cast iron. Also, cast iron is heavier and relatively brittle in comparison, which can fracture or shatter if dropped. 

On the contrary, there’s a lesser chance carbon steel will break when dropped because it is usually thinner and more lightweight. However, both materials are renowned for their durability for generations as long as they are treated well.

Tamara Pierce

Tamara Pierce is a food writer at Elapasony, passionate about exploring diverse cuisines and sharing recipes and food experiences. From trendy restaurants to local hotspots, she's always on the lookout for new and exciting flavors.

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