Carbon Steel vs. Stainless Steel Wok – Which one is better?

Carbon Steel vs. Stainless Steel Wok: You may know that four different types of steel are available in the market, but you’ll only find cookware made of either stainless steel or carbon steel. Many individuals, especially our grandparents, love carbon steel pans, while modern people prefer stainless steel ones.

Carbon Steel VS Stainless Steel Wok

When it comes to commercial purposes, many professional chefs use stainless steel woks instead of carbon steel ones or vice versa according to the requirements. If you’re looking for the better option, you have to know the differences between these pieces of cookware.

Apart from the difference in construction, there are a few things to consider when comparing the best stainless steel woks with carbon steel ones. A carbon steel wok is a better option when you want to cook foods on a natural gas cooktop or a liquid propane gas (LPG) stovetop.

What is the Main Difference Between Carbon Steel and Stainless Steel Wok?

Carbon Steel vs Stainless Steel Wok Main Difference
The actual difference between Carbon steel and Stainless steel wok is in their construction material. As the name says, one is made of carbon steel, and another one is of stainless steel.

Furthermore, carbon steel conducts heat more than stainless steel. Therefore, carbon steel wok is best suited for cooking at higher temperatures (higher than 500 degrees).

On the other hand, a stainless steel wok will be excellent if you’re going to prepare delicious dishes on a flat stovetop. This wok is highly recommended for easy cleaning because it allows you to clean it both in a dishwasher and with hands.

Regardless of these differences, there are many others between these two types of woks. Let’s have a look at the definition, pros, and cons of both stainless steel and carbon steel wok and some key differences between them.

What is Carbon Steel Wok?

Carbon Steel Wok

Carbon steel wok is an alloy of carbon and iron, where carbon is usually between 1 and 2%. This material is quite heavyweight but thin to heat up quickly and retain that heat for a long time. This is why carbon steel woks retain high temperatures to quickly stir-fry foods.

In fact, carbon steel woks are popular, especially in Asia. Cooks in these countries use hard-hammered carbon steel woks for cooking a wide variety of recipes. Compared to cast iron woks, these woks are easier to season.


  • Becomes nonstick once well-seasoned
  • Heats up more quickly than stainless steel
  • Does a fantastic job of searing fish, steak, and chicken
  • Requires less fat for cooking
  • Cheaper than high-end clad stainless steel


  • Requires seasoning
  • Cannot be used for highly acidic foods
  • Might leach iron out of the pan
  • Imparts a metallic taste to the food
  • Cannot be put in the dishwasher

What is Stainless Steel Wok?

Stainless Steel Wok

Stainless steel wok is an alloy of chromium and iron, where chromium is usually between 10 and 30%. It’s more rust and corrosion resistant than any other steel. But, it’s thinner than carbon steel, and therefore, doesn’t heat up and retain the temperature as evenly as carbon steel.

When it comes to materials, uncladded stainless steel woks that are mixed with other metals can be quite inexpensive. But, they should be avoided because cladded stainless steel pans with a mixture of aluminum and copper are a better choice, although they can be a bit expensive.


  • Prettier material than carbon steel
  • Heavy, durable, and nonreactive
  • Rust and corrosion-resistant
  • Doesn’t need seasoning
  • Allows you to put in a dishwasher


  • Thinner material without a nonstick surface
  • Might stick food to the cooking surface
  • Doesn’t heat as evenly as carbon steel
  • Might develop hot spots while cooking
  • Requires more oil than cast iron woks

Carbon Steel vs. Stainless Steel Wok Differences

Carbon Steel vs. Stainless Steel Wok

Now that you know the definition, pros, and cons of carbon steel and stainless steel woks, you need to consider the following factors, especially if you’re looking to purchase one but cannot still decide on any of them.


As the names suggest, carbon steel woks are made of carbon steel, and on the other hand, stainless steel woks come with stainless steel material. The bottom of the stainless steel wok is flat, while the bottom of carbon steel woks may not always be flat – they can slightly warp.

Cooking Surface

The dimension of both woks depends on the size of your chosen cookware. However, if you choose a carbon steel wok, you have to season it to make it nonstick. On the other hand, a stainless steel wok won’t be nonstick even if you try to make it so.

Heat Source

A carbon steel wok will be the better option if you’re going to cook foods on a natural gas or liquid propane gas (LPG) cooktop. However, if you want to prepare a delicious meal on a flat stovetop, a stainless steel wok is better due to its flat bottom and even heat distribution.

Besides, cast iron woks are suitable on an induction cooking surface, while you cannot use a stainless steel wok on an induction cooker. However, if the stainless steel wok comes with a magnetic grade base, then you’ll be able to use it on an induction cooktop.


When it comes to handles, carbon steel woks usually feature carbon steel handles but don’t always come with helper handles. However, some carbon steel woks offer neoprene or silicone handle covers (you may have to purchase separately) to protect your hands from direct heat.

On the contrary, stainless steel woks have stainless handles, neoprene/silicone-coated handles, or plastic handles. So, if you want to put your pan in the oven, you should consider the handle, whether it’s oven-friendly or not.

Ease of Cleaning

If the ease of cleaning is your main concern, and you want quick cleanup in a dishwasher, then a stainless steel wok will be the better option for you. A steel cleaning pan can be used for cleaning a stainless steel wok, but you shouldn’t use it for cleaning a carbon steel wok.

Final Verdict

Long ago, our grandparents used to cook a wide variety of dishes in well-seasoned cast-iron woks that was heated evenly throughout the surface. In the 1980s, Teflon coated nonstick pans and some stainless steel pans were introduced in the market.

FactorCarbon Steel WokStainless Steel Wok
ConstructionMade of carbon steel, may have non-flat bottomMade of stainless steel, flat bottom
Cooking SurfaceRequires seasoning to be nonstickNot naturally nonstick
Heat SourceSuitable for natural gas or liquid propane gasBetter for flat stovetops, even heat distribution
InductionNot suitable for induction cookingMay work with magnetic grade base on induction
HandlesCarbon steel handles, some with neoprene/silicone coversStainless steel handles, some with coatings or plastic
Oven-FriendlyLimited oven use due to handle materialConsider handle for oven use
Ease of CleaningNot suitable for dishwasherDishwasher-friendly option

But, the fact is that Teflon coated nonstick pans are proved harmful to human health. So, you should opt for one between stainless steel and carbon steel. When it comes to choosing a wok, we recommend you have a carbon steel wok in your kitchen.

Stainless steel woks are more prone to sticking food to the cooking surface, and therefore, if you use one of these pans, you might be in trouble. With a carbon steel wok, you can cook plenty of dishes, but you have to make sure that you season it before cooking.

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