I have two woks: a Lodge cast iron and a Cuisinart stainless steel. And I used to have carbon steel.
Carbon steel is still the most common type of wok, but cast iron has recently gained popularity.
And not too long ago, I heard Tak from Wok With Tak say in one of his videos that he believes stainless steel will become the wok of the future.
All woks have high sloped walls but are very different in the way they cook, season, and clean.
Between cast iron and stainless steel, the materials are more different than similar. And as such, I believe someone who often cooks in woks would benefit from having both.
However, if you are only looking for one and you want to know which one is better between cast iron and stainless steel, let’s look at each type.
Cast Iron vs. Stainless Steel Wok
Both cast iron and stainless steel woks have natural seasoning and high sloped walls. And both materials can go in the oven. But that’s where most of the similarities end. Cast iron is heavy, heats slowly, and its handles are not heat-resistant. Whereas stainless steel is light, heats quickly, and often comes with stay-cool handles. It’s hard to say if one is better because it all depends on what you are looking for. As with many things, it’s a matter of preference.
- Walls: High sloped walls
- Use: On the stovetop and in the oven
- Seasoning: Natural seasoning
- Cleaning: Hot water and a brush or scrubber
- Nonstick properties: Food won’t stick if you heat the pan and oil first
- Cooking: Must understand how to cook in them for best results
- Weight: The Lodge 14-inch wok is 12 lbs. and the Cuisinart 14-inch is 3 lbs.
- Handles: Lodge has two loop handles, both get hot and Cuisinart has one long handle and one loop handle, both stay-cool
- Heating: Cast iron heats slowly, and stainless steel rapidly
- Lid: Lodge doesn’t come with a lid, and the Cuisinart does (the lid weighs as much as the wok)
- Heat Retention: Cast iron is excellent, and Stainless Steel cools much more quickly
- Scratch Resistance: Cast iron doesn’t easily scratch, and stainless steel does
- Construction: Lodge is thick all over, and Cuisinart has thin walls and a thicker base
- Bottom: Lodge has a rounded bottom, and Cuisinart has a large flat bottom (like a frying pan)
- Maintenance: Cast iron cannot be wet for long because of its propensity for rust, so you can’t soak it, put it in the dishwasher, or let it air dry. Stainless steel does not rust, so it is much easier to maintain.
The Difference in Seasoning
Above, I wrote the seasoning as a similarity because they both have natural seasoning (as in, there is no nonstick coating added).
And both use oil and heat to create a nonstick surface.
Plus, food will stick to both materials if you don’t know to season it first.
However, there is also a difference.
With cast iron, you can build up the seasoning while cooking and eventually create a nonstick surface without (or very little) oil.
With stainless steel, you start from scratch every time. The seasoning never builds up, and you will need to use the same amount of oil after five years as you did on day one.
One is not better than the other since both can create a nonstick surface.
Loop vs. Long Stay-Cool Handle
The stay-cool handles of the Cuisinart stainless steel wok are definitely an advantage over the Lodge loop handles that get hot.
You will always need to use oven mitts or a handle cover When handling cast iron you will always need to use oven mitts or a handle cover.
With its one-piece construction and the fact that heat travels quickly through metal, there is no way around it.
The most common way to get stay-cool handles is to connect them separately. This is what Cuisinart did on their wok.
However, some cast iron handles have a design that allows them to stay cool longer. But not for loop handles.
Round vs. Flat Bottom
Here is where the two woks really differ.
Lodge’s bottom is rounded like a bowl, and Cuisinart’s has a 7-inch flat surface.
I don’t know if it means one is better than the other, but maybe the Cuisinart if you also want to use your wok as a frying pan.
You could make an omelet, a grilled cheese, or a couple of hamburgers.
Still, I would say round vs. flat bottom is mainly a matter of preference.
Which One Makes Better Food?
If you ask me, I would say cast iron. I like how it makes the food a bit crispier than the stainless steel does.
However, I am more familiar with cooking in cast iron. And I’ve only made one meal in the stainless steel wok–fried rice.
Cooking in stainless steel is different from cooking in cast iron, and I may not yet know how to get the best results.
For example, stainless steel heats up quickly, and I’m not sure if I understand how to use that to my advantage when making fried rice. It seemed to be more of a hindrance.
On top of that, nothing seared.
Don’t get me wrong. I love my stainless steel saucepans (with copper bottoms), but I don’t make fried rice in them.
Above, I put cooking as a similarity because whatever wok material you use, you need to understand how to use its qualities to make the best food.
Which Wok is Better?
I’m sure by now you can guess my answer.
Neither wok is better per se, though one may be better for you.
If you would like to read more about stainless steel and cast iron (plus carbon steel), check out the following:
Or, if you’d like to know more about the Lodge cast iron wok, see my review.
And if you are interested in a review on the Cuisinart 14-inch stainless steel wok, see the video below.
Review of a Cuisinart Stainless Steel Wok
Making Fried Rice in My Woks
The first thing I made in both my woks was a simple fried rice recipe with frozen vegetables.
I wanted to like the stainless steel and be impressed with what made it different from cast iron such as the stay-cool handle, flat bottom, and lighter weight.
However, the taste of the food trumps everything for me, and I will probably be making fried rice in my cast iron wok from now on.
But that doesn’t mean I won’t find other ways to use the Cuisinart. I like the idea of making my noodles in it (as shown in the video).
You can find the fried rice recipe I used and read about my experience in the link below.
RELATED > > > > > What’s Cooking in My Cast Iron Wok? – Fried Rice
As you can see, there are some similarities between the Lodge cast iron and Cuisinart stainless steel wok.
But the differences are more significant, and what will ultimately help you decide which one you think is better.
I thought the lighter weight, flat bottom, and stay-cool handle of the Cuisinart stainless steel wok would sway me to its side, but alas, it was not to be.
The way cast iron cooks the food and retains the heat is still what is most important to me.
However, you might like something else better.
Hopefully, you now have a better understanding of the two kinds of woks and can decide which one is better…for you.
Let me know which one you like better.