A wok is versatile cookware, ideal for stir-frying. It is one of the most popular cooking pots used today throughout the world. You’d likely be hard-pressed to find any modern household in the US and China that does not have at least one type of a wok.
A wok comes in various materials. You are sure to get your hands on stainless steel, non-stick or carbon steel wok. In this article, we’ll focus mainly on non-stick wok vs. carbon steel woks to see how each works.
Non-Stick Wok Vs Carbon Steel Wok: Which is better?
The truth is that each type of material has advantages and disadvantages. Different cooking methods may require a certain type of material to cook better. For example, most people find non-stick woks useful for cooking sticky foods such as pancakes and eggs. Other people find carbon steel cookware useful for cooking foods at high temperatures.
Both of them feature almost similar characteristics. They all work well with frying, smoking, steaming, and braising food. All have handles though some got improved long handles to make cooking easy. The handles are there to give you stability when flipping, shaking, or putting and taking off the wok from a stove. You are likely to find some woks with lids, which are perfect for steamed dishes.
With that said, let’s see how carbon steel and non-stick wok stack up against one another.
1. Non-stick wok
There is no question that oil-less cooking is a better way to prepare healthy meals. But using non-stick woks can offer other benefits as well.
Does not require seasoning
An unseasoned wok and water are two things that do not go together. Non-stick woks do not need any seasoning. They, therefore, don’t rust or corrode when exposed to moisture like carbon steel.
Easy to maintain
Maintaining this type of cooking pot is easy and not time-consuming. The non-stick coating on it makes it easy to clean.
You can enjoy oil-free cooking
The added benefits of this cooking pot are how little or no oil is needed when cooking. You don’t need to worry about food sticking on the surfaces of the wok. Isn’t it a healthy way of cooking food, especially when you are on a low-fat diet?
Easy to remove burnt food
Nothing gets annoying, like having to deal with burnt or stuck food. This is never a problem with non-stick woks like it is with carbon steel options. Removing debris from a slippery coating is also a quick job.
Read more: How to Clean a Wok with Burnt Food
Cons of non-stick woks
A non-stick wok is a great investment. It does, however, come with a few drawbacks. For this reason, it might not be the best material to use regularly. Here are a few things to keep in mind.
Non-stick surfaces are easy to clean, but they are fragile and easy to damage. Using steel wool, for instance, can scrape off the coating. When washing it, it is best to use nylon scrubbers and mild soap.
High heat may damage the non-stick surface
It does not get hot compared to how carbon steel gets. If you want to cook your food at a high temperature, you’ll want to avoid non-stick woks at all costs. They are not safe for use at high-temperature cooking. Extremely high heat can damage the wok’s non-stick properties, voiding the warranty.
Not dishwasher safe
Non-stick woks are not dishwasher safe, regardless of what the manufacturer says. Over time, the extremely hot water and harsh chemicals will wear down the non-stick coating. You will need to wash your wok with your hands. Let’s face it, cleaning dishes by hand is not fun at all.
2. Carbon steel wok
Caron steel has been the traditional material for Chinese woks. They are multipurpose and are suitable for many cooking methods.
Pros of carbon steel woks
Here are a few reasons why you may want to choose carbon steel rather than non-stick woks.
Heats up much quicker than non-stick
One thing that people love about this wok is how fast it gets to heat. You get to reach a higher heating threshold with carbon steel wok compared to a non-stick.
Lightweight and long-lasting
It features a durable material, and it’s lightweight for better usage. Lifting food off the stove from the burner should not be a problem with this wok.
Carbon steel is made mainly of carbon and iron. Neither of these materials contains toxic substances that are harmful to humans.
Designed for high heat
Higher temperatures cannot damage carbon steel cooking surface or cause the release of dangerous toxins. If you use a non-stick wok with high-temperature cooking, there is a good chance its coating will start to peel off. Even worse, it will release toxic chemicals into the air at high temperatures.
Easy to clean
Cleaning it is simple, just like all the others. All you need is a sponge, preferably soft, and mild soap.
Cons of carbon steel woks
Carbon steel might sound promising for everyday cooking, but it comes with several downsides.
You have to keep it seasoned
With non-stick, you never have to worry about seasoning the wok after every use. Carbon steel needs regular seasoning to make it non-stick at all times. It is important to coat it with vegetable oil before and after cooking.
Carbon steel may rust or corrode
The material is durable, but it is not rust-resistant. If it gets exposed to water or moisture, chances are it might start to rust or corrode. Drying is an important step not to miss if you want a rust-free wok.
Not dishwasher safe
Washing it is easy, but it is also not dishwasher-safe. Any metallic material can scratch it and damage the patina.
Not ideal for acidic recipes
One of the important things to know about carbon steel is that it is reactive. As much as it accommodates any cooking, using it for acidic foods will cause a chemical reaction. The reaction is always going to change the taste of your meals.
The type of material should not deter you from enjoying Asian cuisines. Non-stick and carbon steel are both perfect for use at home. For business purposes, carbon steel will do a better and faster job than non-stick.
As we’ve seen, they both have their pros and cons. If we were to choose the best among the two, carbon steel would be the better option. Even so, it boils down to personal preference. You want to go for one that suits your cooking needs, budget, and taste.