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I LOVE stirfrying (I probably do it 4 times a week) and I want to take it to the next level (or 2). I am going to get this burner to cook my stirfry's out on the patio.

I am wondering if I should also get a cast iron wok, or should I just stick with the carbon steel that I have been using?

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3 Answers 3

up vote 12 down vote accepted

I have friends from Hong Kong who always use steel woks in their take-away.

A cast-iron wok would require a different technique for stir frying. It would be slower to heat up and retain heat when you didn't want the food to continue cooking.

Stick with the one you have ...

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Or you could perhaps get a bigger one. There really is an old Chinese saying, politely expressed as "when stuff starts flying around, you need a big wok (daiwok) to catch it"! –  klypos Jun 9 '11 at 22:54

When you see chinese chefs in the kitchen they always use carbon steel woks because they are much lighter, making them better for flipping the food in the air in the style called "The Pao Action". This looks exciting, but does not make the food taste any better. If you decide that you don't need the Pao Action style, you are better off with a cast iron wok like those from Lodge (there are other brands as well). Yes, they are much heavier, but they will last for a lifetime, are more stable on your stovetop, and they are not as fragile as the Asian cast iron woks. Why risk cracking a thin seasoned cast iron wok? Buy the heavier cast iron, they can take the abuse and you will never be sorry.

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There isn't so much difference between both materials to warrant the purchase of a new wok. While the different parameters can be measured, any noticeable difference will probably stem from production quality or seasoning quality. They are just too similar in specific heat per cubic centimeter (how much you can heat the pan) to expect an improvement. Iron has somewhat better thermal conductivity (how quickly it gives off heat to the food), which is more important in a wok than in a generic sauce pan, but the difference is small. Also, they are very similar in maintenance, with carbon steel being easier to (re)season.

For specific values and for better understanding the theory behind the heating of pans, read this article. For an example of somebody who has come to prefer his carbon steel pans over his cast iron ones, read here. (The part I mean is the four paragraphs between the picture of the pans and the "seasoning" heading, but the whole post is an interesting read too).

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A cast iron wok has to be heavier (thicker) than a steel wok to be useful - it cannot be made robust and thin, it has to be heavy or it would crack easily. –  klypos Jun 9 '11 at 10:54
    
@klypos, I forgot that part (although, I have an iron pan which is only 2.5 mm - but then, I think it's forged, not cast). It speaks even more against iron, because a direct comparison of thermal conductivity is only sensible if the thickness is the same. A thicker pan will be clearly less suited for woking, because of its worse responsiveness. So thank you for the addition. –  rumtscho Jun 9 '11 at 11:10

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