Cast Iron Wok vs Carbon Steel: The Differences You Should Know

There is a constant flow of research around the world to make our lives easier. Various types of tools, appliances, or components are being created through this.

These make our daily work easier, as well as save time and labor. That is why we also wait for more advanced products to come into the market and we wish to get more benefits from those.

Cast iron wok and carbon steel both are items of advanced research and used in manufacturing cooking appliances. Although there are many similarities between them, there are some differences as well.

The differences are not generally understood, a closer look reveals considerable variations. We get confused a lot of the time and don’t realize which one is correct for us from the features.

Here we will discuss the basics of both cast iron wok and carbon steel. We will compare ‍subtly their advantages and disadvantages side by side as well. So that we can easily select the right product according to our needs.

Cast Iron Wok

Cast iron wok is a group of iron-carbon alloys with a carbon composition of higher than 2%. There are two types of cast iron available in the market, Chinese-made cast iron and cast iron produced from the west. Chinese-made iron woks are extremely flat (3 mm), and their weight is slightly higher compared to carbon steel of similar thickness.

But cast iron woks that are produced in the West tend to be much wider (9 mm) and remarkably hard. For this, western-style cast iron woks take enough longer to bring up the cooking temperature. Its weight also makes stir-frying and Bao approaches difficult.

Cast iron woks form a higher stable carbonized layer which makes them less susceptible to food sticking on the pan. For heat retention and uniform heat distribution, cast iron woks are superior to carbon steel. It responds slowly to heat adjustments and is slow to cool once taken off the fire.

This is why food cooked from cast iron wok has to be removed instantly to prevent overcooking. On the other hand, Chinese-style cast iron woks, although comparatively thin, are delicate and are prone to fracturing if dropped or mishandled.

Carbon Steel

Carbon steel is a combination of steel with carbon content from about 0.05 up to 3.8 percent. Recently, carbon steel is the most extensively used material, it is comparatively cheap compared to alternative materials.

Carbon steel is flat and lightweight, provides rapid heat conduction as it has a low heat capacity, and still has reasonable durability. Their lightweight properties make them easier to lift and quicker to heat.

Carbon steel found varies widely in cost, style, and quality, which is based on thickness and developing systems. The cheapest quality carbon steel woks tend to be stamped by machine from a particular ply or portion of stamped steel.

Less expensive carbon steel has a greater tendency to deform and misshape. Cooking with lower quality woks is also more complex and problematic since they usually have a hot spot. Higher quality, mass-formed carbon steel is made of massive gauge (14-gauge or thicker) steel and is either machine-hammered or made of twisted steel.

The finest quality carbon steel is almost always handmade, being pounded into shape by hand-hammered from two or more sheets of carbon steel which are developed into a finished form by a ring-forming or hand-formed process.

Cast Iron Wok vs Carbon Steel: Side-by-Side Comparison

  • Material

Cast iron wok is a sequence of natural iron and carbon. While carbon accounts for only slightly higher than 2%, it is higher than its percentage of carbon steel wok.

Carbon steel is a combination of steel with carbon content from about 0.05 up to 3.8 percent. It has been around for thousands of years, carbon steel woks have prevailed since the 19th century.

  • Durability

Higher values of carbon can cause an item to brittle. Cast iron consists of above 2 percent of carbon, often around 3 percent. That is because it is somewhat more brittle than carbon steel.

Although carbon steel is assumed to have 0.05% to 3.6% of carbon, less than 1% carbon is applied to produce reliable quality carbon steel. For that reason, it is much more durable.

  • Heat Retention and Distribution

The thickness of the most frequent cast iron wok formed out of this material is approximately 9 mm. Due to higher density, it is slow to heat but performs well in retaining the heat.

Carbon steel is comparatively thinner than cast iron woks and is quick to pick up heat and drop it. It is an excellent choice if you are aiming to make multiple batches of flatbread.

  • Shape and Weight

A piece of metal is applied to produce items of cast iron. That is because its weight is somewhat higher and larger perforated rough surfaces may be visible. Cast iron wok takes place with a considerably wider and denser body structure, which makes it problematic to lift the wok with food.

Carbon steel is usually constructed from sheets of flexible metal and that is because its surfaces are even better. It weighs often slighter than cast iron. The weight of carbon steel is comparable to aluminum or stainless steel.

  • Appearance and Functionality

Cast iron woks come with steeper walls with rough bases. Steeper walls make them good enough to apply in the stove and assure that nothing flows out of it. Moreover, the brownish color of the cast iron might make the cast iron a classic look.

Besides, carbon steel is versatile enough to make almost any kind of delicious food. Its marvelous design and fashionable color will enhance both your cooking and the look of your kitchen.

  • Price and Availability

Iron cast wok items are available at a much less cost. Because of this, there are often fewer manufacturing costs.

Carbon steel is also comparatively inexpensive, but slightly more costly than cast iron.

  • Best uses

Cast iron is standard for searing, stewing, baking, braising, and pan-frying.

Carbon steel is excellent for stir-frying, pan-frying, roasting, baking, and searing.

Pros and Cons of Cast Iron Wok and Carbon Steel

Cast Iron


  • Great for roasting, baking, frying, and more
  • Durable
  • Inexpensive


  • Requires to be seasoned regularly
  • Can’t be washed with soap
  • Heavy
  • The handle can get extremely hot
  • Food can stick more easily
  • Not for use with acidic foods
  • Can rust

Carbon Steel


  • Lightweight
  • Heats up and cools down are faster than cast iron
  • Excellent for frying, sauteing, broiling, and easy to move
  • Durable


  • Needs regular seasoning
  • The handle can get hot
  • Can rust
  • Not for use with acidic food
  • More costly than cast iron

Final words

There are some advantages and some disadvantages to both cast iron wok and carbon steel. But these are modern and make our lives easier and better. We have to choose any product according to the needs and demands of the work.

Hopefully, the above discussion on cast iron wok vs carbon steel will help you choose the right product for you. Thanks for reading.

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