Wok vs Skillet – What’s the Difference?

The most significant difference between Wok vs skillet is the shape which affects the way heat is distributed across the surface.

This makes each of them best for a certain type of cooking but not the other.

wok vs skillet
Wok vs Skillet Chart Comparison

If you’re reading this article, chances are you’re confused between buying a skillet or a wok.

Maybe you already have one in your kitchen but don’t know when to use each one.

When I shifted to my own place, I spent hours of research on deciding the most essential pots and pans to buy.

And because I was on a budget I was thinking if I could get away with buying just the skillet or the wok.

So, I am here to help you. In this blog post, I will explain the differences between wok and a skillet, as well as when to use each one so that you can make better decisions in the kitchen.

What is a Wok?

What is a Wok

A wok is a type of pan that is typically used in Asian cooking. It is shaped like a bowl, with sloped sides that come to a point at the narrow bottom.

This design allows for better heat circulation and withstands high heat on the bottom of its interior surface, which is ideal for stir-frying.

Woks are made from materials like Carbon Steel, Cast iron, Enameled Cast Iron, Iron, Stainless steel, Aluminum, hard-anodized aluminum, Non-stick Coated, Ceramic, and Copper.

The sides of a wok are usually sloped, which allows food to be tossed easily during cooking.

Woks work great on gas stovetops and coil electric stovetops that provide plenty of heat output. Woks come in a variety of sizes, the most popular being 14 inches.

When choosing a wok, it is important to select one that is the right size for your stovetop and cooking needs.

When to use a Wok?

Stir frying in a wok
Stir-frying in a wok

Woks reach extremely high temperatures, making them ideal for stir-frying. The shape of the wok also allows you to toss food easily, which is necessary for proper stir-frying.

The wok creates amazing hot and cool zones. The hot food is pushed up the sides of the wok while the cooler food is cooked in the center.

If you are cooking for a large family or entertaining guests, a wok is also a great option because it can accommodate a lot of food.

You can also use your wok for deep-frying, steaming, and even braising if it has a lid.

A wok uses less oil than a wide skillet and the food is less likely to stick to it because of the curved sides.

One important thing to look at is the bottom of the wok. It’s better to buy a flat-bottom wok for typical American stoves.

Wok rings are also available in the market for round-bottom woks to sit in.

But they hold the wok off the heat and the wok doesn’t get heated the right way.

Some woks require maintenance and seasoning. If you plan on doing a lot of cooking with a wok, it is important to season it properly.

This will help to create a non-stick surface and prevent the wok from rusting.

Best Wok Materials

Previously, woks were made from iron but they are prone to corrosion. I talked to two wok experts and both of them recommended the following top two most popular and desirable materials for woks.

They also recommended looking for a 14-inch size across the rim. Anything smaller will make the food steam, which is a No-No for stir-frying.

Light Weight Cast Iron: Retains heat, Durable but requires regular maintenance and seasoning

Carbon Steel Wok: It’s sent with a layer of grease or wax to prevent it from rusting when exposed to air or water.

You have to scrub off this layer first and then season it by cooking a lot of salt and potato peals in little oil, making sure to move it around the wok.

Once the peals are dark brown, throw them away and rinse the wok with water and dry it. The Wok is now ready to be cooked in. As it is used over time It becomes seasoned and non-stick.

What is a Skillet?

Different Skillets

Skillet is basically another name for a frying pan. However, It’s a common perception that only cast iron frying pans are called skillets.

The Skillets are flatter pans with low and slightly sloping or flared sides as compared to the wok.

They are typically used for searing, shallow frying, flipping, or browning food.

They can be made from a variety of materials, including stainless steel, aluminum, cast iron, non-stick and more.

Skillets are typically used on stovetops, but some of them can also be used in the oven.

When to use a Skillet

baking in skillet
Start Cooking food on Stovetop and finish in the oven

Skillets are ideal for cooking food that needs to be seared or browned. The flat surface also allows for evaporation, making it a good choice for cooking sauces or reduction.

Additionally, skillets (except nonstick and skillets without oven-safe handles) can be used for baking, making them a versatile option for the kitchen.

Another important factor in choosing a skillet over a wok is the stove type.

If you have a glass-top electric stove or an induction stove the wok’s not gonna work that well on them.

Personally, I only use a 5-ply stainless steel skillet for all my searing and shallow frying needs and a nonstick skillet to fry eggs or make omelets.

A typical nonstick skillet has a plastic coating on top and if it’s heated too hot, It starts to break down and can release dangerous fumes.

A nonstick skillet should never be heated empty.

Best Skillet Material

Searing in Skillet
Meat searing in a skillet

The best materials for skillets are

Cast iron skillet: Cast iron skillets are great for evenly distributing and retaining heat. They also increase food’s iron content.

However, you shouldn’t use cast iron skillets when making food with acidic ingredients. Cast iron pans can be heavy and difficult to clean.

Multi-Clad Stainless steel skillet: Distributes heat evenly. It’s nonreactive, so it won’t alter the flavor of your dish when using acidic ingredients.

Also Read: How to use a non-stick pan

Final Thoughts on Wok vs Skillet

When it comes to Wok vs Skillet, it really depends on what you’re looking to cook and the type of stove you have.

Woks are better for stir-frying and deep-frying on gas stovetops or coil electric stovetops, while skillets are better for searing and shallow frying.

However, both can be used for a variety of different tasks in the kitchen. Ultimately, it’s up to you to decide which one is best for your needs.

If I have to choose one, I would choose a skillet because I am a steak lover and I cannot make the best one in a wok. If you make Chinese food frequently, I will say go for Wok.


Is a wok better than a skillet?

It really depends on what you’re looking to cook. Woks are better for stir-frying and deep-frying, while skillets are better for searing and shallow frying.

Can I use a wok instead of a cast iron skillet?

The skillet is mostly used for searing meat which requires a wide flat area. The wok with a narrow bottom is not going to be as effective in searing or flipping food as a skillet.

What is the difference between a skillet and frying pan?

A skillet is a frying pan. Most commonly cast iron pans are called skillets. It is typically used for searing, shallow frying, or browning food.

The most significant difference between Wok vs skillet is the shape which affects the way heat is distributed across the surface. This makes each of them best for a certain type of cooking but not the other.

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