Wok Vs Skillet – Detailed Compare From An Expert!

When it comes to the kitchen, people confuse common kitchen utensils. However, if you are a kitchen expert, you can know the difference between all utensils. A wok and a skillet have always been the two greatly confused items, but I am here to reassure you, they are two completely different things. Let us find the difference between these two utensils and their uses in the kitchen.

What is Wok?

A wok is a circular, round-bottomed cooking pot with high walls. Its origin is tracked to china and parts of South, East, and Southeast Asia. A wok can have two side handles for holding. Some designs have one long handle instead of two. It distributes heat evenly and makes tossing foods easier due to its shape.

What Is A Skillet?

A skillet, known as a frying pan, is a flat-bottomed cooking pan and has slanted sides. It has a smaller surface area when compared to the wok. A skillet is deep, not as deep as a wok, and has a thicker bottom. It is ideal for making curries and thick sauces.

Main Differences Between Wok And Skillet

Although they might seem the same, there are factors in both the wok and the skillet that show you the difference, these factors are;

Material:

A wok and a skillet are made from different materials. Wok features cast iron and carbon steel construction. However, others have aluminum, ceramic, stainless and steel construction. Traditionally, carbon steel was used to make wok. The material used for a wok is lightweight and durable. It also heats up quickly and distributes heat evenly, and might become non-stick with proper care.

On the other hand, a skillet has stainless steel, anodized aluminum, cast iron, copper, and ceramic materials. Some of them combine two or more of these materials, like stainless steel and aluminum or an enamel coated cast iron skillet.

Shape:

This is a very visual difference between the two. A wok has a round bottom with deep sloping walls, like a semicircle. The traditional wok has handles on both sides, although there are those with just one handle. The round bottom transfers heat quickly and evenly and allows you to cook quickly.

On the other hand, a skillet is flat-bottomed and has slanted sides, unlike the deep sloping sides of a wok. It is also shallower than a wok so you can use it for stir-frying, but it is not as good as a wok. Skillets are suitable for shallow frying due to their flat bottoms.

Heat Resistance:

Woks are suitable for cooking over high heat. You can use it for flash-cooking vegetables and meats that need high heat. It helps you to get crunchy vegetables and burnt meats. They are good for stir-frying, rice dishes and noodles, or any other dish that needs cooking on high heat and fast. A wok loses its heat quickly.

A skillet, especially one made from cast iron, does not heat up as fast as a wok, but it holds/retains heat for longer. Also, due to its flat bottom, a skillet distributes heat uniformly. You can also use a skillet on both a stove and an oven, no matter the temperature. A skillet can keep your food hotter for longer.

Utensils Used:

A good item to use when cooking with a wok is a spatula. A metal wok spatula is an excellent choice, especially one with a long handle and curved head. This spatula can reach the bottom of the wok easily. You can also use chopsticks for mixing things if you are good with them.

Using a spatula that is compatible with your skillet is crucial. You can use a silicone spatula when cooking over heat lower than 600 degrees Fahrenheit. You can switch to using a stainless steel or wooden spatula with temperatures higher than that. Using a pair of tongs is also acceptable.

Tongs can mix and lift food easily and can be used with both woks and skillets. Avoid using metal utensils when cooking with a non-stick wok or skillet to avoid damaging it.

Versatility:

A wok is the most versatile of the two. Its round shape makes it easy to use with different cooking methods. You can use it for deep or dry frying, making soup, braising thick dishes, and many more. The deep, large shape also allows you to use it for making salads that need to be tossed or for making popcorn. The best use of a wok, however, is stir-frying.

A skillet is also not left behind in versatility. Although it flat, it is well-rounded for most kitchen cooking. You can use it for frying, roasting, braising, sautéing, and many other practices. The best use for a skillet is browning meats, making grilled-cheese sandwiches, or over-easy eggs.

Advantages And Disadvantages:

Both the wok and the skillet have their best points and their shortcomings. These are some of them;

Advantages Of Wok:

  • Good heat retention
  • Cooks food quickly
  • Lightweight and durable
  • Works well with super high heat
  • Has healthier results
  • It is great for stir-frying
  • Naturally non-stick

Disadvantages Of Wok:

  • It is easy to overcook food with a wok
  • Can rust easily
  • Reacts badly with acidic foods
  • Needs a lot of maintenance; regular seasoning

Advantages Of A skillet:

  • Skillets are durable
  • Can be used on both stoves and ovens
  • Dishwasher safe
  • Great for browning meats
  • Great heat retention
  • Oven safe
  • Responds quickly to heat change

Disadvantages Of A skillet:

  • Its heavy bottom makes it easy for food to stick
  • Cooks food slower than a wok
  • Most skillets cannot be seasoned
  • Requires heavy maintenance; needs to be scrubbed

Frequently Asked Questions - FAQs

Q: What's the difference between a wok and a skillet?
A: As we have seen, there are many differences between a wok and a skillet. The most obvious one is the shape. A wok has a round bottom with deep sloping walls while a skillet has a flat bottom with slightly slanting sides. You can see the difference by just looking at the two.

Q: What is the purpose of a wok pan?
A: A wok pan is good for making dishes that need to be ready fast and require high heat. They are suitable for stir-frying and deep-frying foods. Woks can handle a lot of heat, and they distribute the heat quickly. You can also use a wok for keeping and tossing salads and popcorn.

Q: Does a wok need a lid?
A: A wok does not need a lid. You can, however, buy a lid for your wok. The lid makes it easy, especially when making Chinese food. A lid is useful when you need to let the food simmer, and you have to cover it.

Q: Can you cook steak in a wok?
A: Yes, you can. You even have a choice of how you want to make it. You can quickly cook your steak using a wok, just make sure it doesn't burn before you remove it from the fire. You can also use the wok for cooking steak when you want to stir-fry it or even make soup.

Q: Can you stir fry without a wok?
A: Of course, you can. If you don't have a wok and want to stir fry, you can substitute the wok with a sauté pan, or even a skillet. A wok is the best when it comes to stir-frying, but you can use other cookware and get the same results. 

Q: Can I use a wok as a skillet?
A: You can use a wok as a skillet if you don't have one. You can easily substitute one for the other although, they all have their specialties.

Q: Is cooking with a wok healthy?
A: Yes, it is. A wok is healthier than a skillet. It only uses a little oil when cooking and has high heat retention. You can also drain off some of the oil when serving to remove the excess.

Q: How expensive is a wok?
A: Woks come at different prices. The prices depend on the kind of material it is made from. Heavy-duty and long-lasting materials cost more than the others. Some woks are less than $50.

Conclusion

So, to wrap it up, what is the difference between a wok and a skillet?

A wok is a round-bottomed pan with deep sloping sides. It is suitable for cooking foods over high heat and for stir-frying. It has spectacular heat retention and helps cook foods fast. It is also healthy as it only needs a little oil and works with high heat. You can toss food with many ingredients easily due to the shape and size.

On the other hand, a skillet is a flat-bottomed pan with slightly slanted sides. You can use on both a stove and an oven. A skillet has excellent heat retention capabilities. The skillet is also dishwasher safe, so it saves when it comes to cooking. It can respond quickly to heat change, but it can also keep your food warmer for longer and is durable.

The kind of pan you will use out of the two will depend on the food you want, the speed you want it in, and the health factor.

  • Updated September 5, 2020
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