Carbon steel and cast iron are the two most widely used materials for woks. And both have what it takes to make a great stir fry. However, if you’re looking for the best wok but not sure whether to go with cast iron or carbon steel, hopefully we can clear the differences up for you so you can make the best consumer choice for what you need.
First of all, carbon steel is the most widely used material when it comes to woks. And, carbon steel tends to be rather inexpensive compared to cast iron. In addition, carbon steel woks are relatively lightweight, have quick heat conduction and are quite durable.
However, what the carbon steel woks lack is they are more difficult to season than woks made from cast iron. And, seasoning is important in order to prevent food from sticking to the cooking surface. Furthermore, although carbon steel is tough and durable, nothing really compares to the durability of cast iron.
Cast iron is perhaps the most preferred material because it seasons better than any other material. These woks are better at heat retention and heat distribution than the carbon steel. And, like we mentioned before, cast iron is one of the most durable materials for cookware.
So, now that we have the material differences covered, there is another element to consider. And, this element exists in both carbon steel and cast iron woks. Do you go with a round bottom wok or a flat bottom wok?
A round bottom wok is the traditional style of wok that is usually only reserved for gas stoves. The round bottom wok uses less oil than a traditional style wok and it’s much easier to stir fry. And, when using a round bottom wok, it is recommended you use a wok ring which you can find here. A wok ring helps distribute the heat more evenly and throughly.
A flat bottom wok can be used on all types of stovetops from gas to electric to induction, and most can be used in the oven. This is the most preferred style of wok in the West because it works with our appliances. However, it is more difficult with the flat bottom wok to whip the stir fry around like the professionals do.
But, it’s important to note that a lot of people seem to have success using a round bottom wok on an electric stovetop when using a wok ring. This is something to consider if you want have traditional fun with the stir fry.
So, when choosing between a round and flat bottom wok, it’s part personal preference in regards to what material you go with and a whole lot of what type of stovetop you have been dealt with.
Here at FHL, we went with the traditional-style, flat bottom cast iron wok. We wanted the best material that will, perhaps, last a lifetime. And, because we have an induction stove, we went with the flat bottom style of wok.
But, whatever type and style of wok you decide to go with, our picks for best wok, whether carbon steel or cast iron and round or flat bottom, blow the competition away.
M.V. Trading Carbon Steel Wok
Our first pick for best wok in the carbon steel category is a flat bottom style wok and comes in your choice of a 12 inch or 16 inch. The M.V. Trading Carbon Steel Wok can feed up to 5 people with the 12 inch size or over 12 people with the 16 inch size. If you’re looking for a carbon steel wok in an in-between size to feed roughly 6-12 people, you can find the M.V. Trading Carbon Steel Wok in a 14 inch here.
This wok is made with heavy 14-gauge, 2mm carbon steel, which means this wok is solid and durable. In addition, because it is made of carbon steal, the cooking time will be rapid with even heating and cooling. However, please note that carbon steel has less heat retention than cast iron, so the heat will escape rather quickly after cooking.
The M.V. Trading Carbon Steel Wok features a flat bottom which works well for both electric or gas stoves and grills. It comes with wooden side spool handles for easy handling while stir-frying and to help keep hands safe from extreme temperatures.
With this wok, initially you will need to season the wok and you can find out how to do that here. The M.V. Trading Carbon Steel Wok is to be hand washed only and towel dry immediately after use.
Iwachu Cast Iron Wok
This pick for best wok in the cast iron category may be, perhaps, the most traditionally-crafted woks you will find. Iwachu is a Japanese company that has been around for over 100 years and has a strong reputation as being one of the leading manufacturers for authentic Japanese cookware.
The Iwachu Cast Iron Wok is a round bottom style wok, which means this works best on a gas stove. If you wish to use it on an electric or induction stove, it’s best advised to use a wok ring which you can find here. However, like we mentioned earlier, this method is not ideal and the results won’t give you the best stir fry or sauté.
Additionally, if you are using a flat gas stove, you will want to invest in a wok ring to ensure more even cooking.
This cast iron wok is approximately 11 inches which will feed up to five people comfortably. And, because it’s made of cast iron, it will retain heat well. So, when you’re ready to dish up, take your time. The stir fry will keep nice and warm till everyone gets a scoop.
The Iwachu Cast Iron Wok has cast iron handles which makes it easy to maneuver while cooking. However, be sure to wear some protective gloves or mitts because stir frying can get hot.
Finally, to care for the Iwachu Cast Iron Wok and make it last a lifetime, be sure to hand wash only. You will also want to season this wok periodically.
Mauviel Made In France M’Steel Black Steel Wok
This black steel wok, otherwise known as carbon steel, is a high quality, flat bottom wok made in France. The Mauviel M’Steel Black Steel Wok is made of extra thick black steel to withstand extreme high temperatures which allows for longer preheating. So, in addition to stir fry, this wok is excellent for searing and sautéing.
The Mauviel Made In France M’Steel Black Steel Wok is 11.8 inches, making it the perfect size to feed up to 5 people comfortable.
This flat bottom wok is ideal for all cooking surfaces. This includes gas, electric, induction, oven, halogen stovetops and even the barbecue. And, it has a long, riveted handle, which makes for a secure grip and keeps your hand far from the heat source. In addition, this wok has a smaller side handle to help with maneuvering and increasing your stir fry skills.
The Mauviel Made In France M’Steel Black Steel Wok is 11.8 inches, making it the perfect size to feed up to 5 people comfortably.
Lastly, this wok is naturally non-stick as long as you follow the manufacturers recommendations for seasoning. And, it is to be hand washed only.
This is another quality pick for best wok in the carbon steel category. Made of 2mm Australian Iron, this flat bottom wok will ensure even heating, with just about any heat source, without warping.
The AUS-ION Wok is a seamless, one-piece, carbon steel, rivet free wok. And because it is one-piece, there will be no gaps to clean and the handles will stay secure throughout the duration of your cooking experiences.
And, the handles are extremely comfortable. They are ergonomically shaped with a wide design to fit every size of hand which will ensure better manageability. This will also help to decrease the pressure to your hands and wrist. In addition, the handles include venting which helps to keep the handle at cooler temperatures for easy maneuvering.
This carbon steel wok is 12 inches, which makes it the perfect size for a family of 2 or even a family of 5. It has a total length of 17.75 inches and is 3 inches deep.
The AUS-ION Wok is naturally pre-seasoned to be non-stick, so it’s immediately ready to go upon delivery. To clean this wok, use a wooden utensil or steel wool to lightly remove debris under hot water. It is advised not to use soap and to dry thoroughly after use. After the first few uses, additional seasoning is recommended.
This flat bottom cast iron wok is multifunctional. Not only can you use it on all stovetops, you can also use it in the oven. And, it can handle temperatures as high as 500 degrees Fahrenheit.
The Staub Wok is an enameled cast iron wok with rough texture for searing and browning. It comes with a tempura grill and glass lid which makes this wok useful for just about everything, not just stir frying. You can bake, baste, cook, grill, sauté, steam…you name it.
This enameled cast iron wok comes with cast iron handles and a nickel steel knob. And, it has self-basting spikes on the lid to keep the food moist and return much desired juices back onto the food for the ultimate flavor.
The Staub Wok is roughly 15 inches and will feed up to 12 people. Additionally, because this wok features high sides, you may be able to squeeze a couple more guests into the mix.
Finally, this wok is dishwasher safe and requires no seasoning. And, because it’s cast iron, it is made to last a lifetime.
Wok Shop Carbon Steel Wok
The reason why we like this pick for best wok is because it’s good quality at a more than reasonable price.
The Wok Shop Carbon Steel Wok is a round bottom wok which works best for a gas stove with a wok ring. Round bottom woks are the more traditional style of wok and tend to be the preferred way to stir fry by the experts. However, it’s best to use a wok ring when using a round bottom wok and you can find that here.
The Wok Shop Wok is a heavy, 14 gauge carbon steel wok with natural wooden handles to allow for more maneuverability while protecting your hands.
This wok is 14 inches which is ideal for 6-12 people. Additionally, it can work for a smaller size crowd.
To care for this wok, you must season it first and you can find out how to do that here. For longevity, hand wash with warm, soapy water and towel dry.
Le Creuset Of America Enameled Cast Iron Signature Wok
This flat bottom wok is one of the more high end woks on our list. And, the great thing about this wok is Le Creuset of America has matching cookware from saucepans to dutch ovens to griddles. So, if you’re looking to start a collection, this is a great pick for you.
The Le Creuset of America Enameled Cast Iron Signature Wok will work with all stovetop heat sources from gas stoves, ceramic stoves, electric stoves and induction stoves. In addition, this wok will even work in the oven.
The Le Creuset of America Enameled Cast Iron Signature Wok has a seamless, concave cooking interior to mimic the cooking style of a round bottom wok. And, the round bottom wok is the style used by professionals. So, if you’re stuck with an electric stove but want more of an authentic cooking experience, this is the best wok for you.
This wok has wide loop handles that will allow you to shake, stir and serve. These handles are comfortable and will fit any hand size. In addition, it comes with a tight fitting lid to trap in moisture and heat.
Lastly, this is a 12 inch wok which will cook portions for 1 to 5 people. It is hand wash only.
Lodge P14W3 Cast Iron Wok
Our final pick for best wok in the cast iron category is both quality and budget-friendly. The Lodge P14W3 Cast Iron Wok is a 14 inch wok designed to feed 6-12 people.
This wok has a sturdy, flat bottom base that will work on any stovetop and in the oven. It also features two loop handles for a safe and secure grip to increase mobility.
The Lodge P14W3 Cast Iron Wok is already pre-seasoned with oil so this is ready to use once it arrives. This wok is to be hand washed only and towel dried immediately. And, after every wash, it is recommended to season it with a light coat of vegetable oil.
Finally, this pick for best wok comes from a company that has been around since 1896. It is also proudly made in the USA.