Whether you are a professional chef, or you simply enjoy cooking at home, you may have wondered if there is a difference between cooking with a wok and a frying pan.  They look similar, but both serve a different purpose. 

Both pans are useful, and whilst they can be used interchangeably, we are going to explain which dishes are best cooked in a traditional frying pan or an authentic wok.

What is the difference between a wok and a frying pan?

Both a wok and frying pan are designed for use on top of the stove.  A traditional frying pan has a flat bottom with slightly sloped walls.  They are designed this way to allow for oil, sauces and other liquids to sit evenly across the bottom of the pan.

A wok has more of a round bottom, allowing the liquids to sit in one spot in the centre.  They have deep walls that also slope.  The woks sloping deep walls trap in more heat, cooking food much quicker than if you were to use a frying pan.

What materials are used for woks and frying pans?

Woks come in different shapes and sizes and are made using various materials. The most modern woks are made from carbon steel.  Carbon steel is durable, yet lightweight making it easy to carry from one hob to another.  Steel conducts heat quickly and is a resilient material. 

Frying pans are also available in various materials. However, most chefs choose stainless steel due to their versatility.  They are oven safe and are the perfect option for even cooking.

Advantages of a wok v’s frying pan

Like all cookware, there are pros and cons to using both.  Here is a list of things to consider.



Carbon Steel Wok


  • Excellent heat retention
  • Non-stick
  • Cooks quickly
  • Lightweight
  • Perfect for cooking stir-fries


  • It is possible to overcook dishes
  • Can rust over time
  • It could react to acidic food
  • The pan needs to be seasoned

Stainless Steel frying Pan


  • Durable
  • Safe to use in a dishwasher
  • Excellent for heat retention
  • Responds well to change in heat
  • Safe for the oven
  • Ideal for cooking meats


  • Food may stick
  • You can’t season the pan
  • Needs to be scrubbed clean
  • Takes longer to cook


When cooking with a wok

Every pan serves a different purpose, and some are more ideal for cooking different foods than others. If you find yourself in the following situation, you should reach for your wok!


  • If you need to cook a meal quickly. Due to the deep, sloped walls, the wok will heat up almost instantly and cooks food far quicker than other pans.
  • If you are frying vegetables, the wok should be your ‘go-to’. You will have perfectly even cooked veggies in no time at all.
  • If you are health conscious. Even though you are using oils, the food will only come in to direct contact with it intermittently. This is because you are constantly stirring the ingredients during cooking.  
  • If you are cooking with a lot of ingredients. As mentioned, the wok has deep walls with a round bottom. There is ample room to cook in large quantities.

When cooking with a frying pan


Bypass the wok and choose your frying pan in these situations.


  • If you are cooking soft foods. A wok is designed for when you need to constantly stir food.  A frying pan is more suited for soft foods such as fragile meats and vegetables that may break during cooking.
  • Searing meats. As previously mentioned, a wok has a rounded bottom and therefore is not suited for cooking steaks or searing other meats.  A frying pan is far better for cooking whole meats, perfecting a golden sear.
  • Having a lazy day? By using a frying pan, you don’t have to concern yourself with seasoning. Also, a frying pan can be much cleaner to cook with, therefore avoiding over-spills, avoiding the need to clean up after your meal.




Both a wok and a frying pan is useful for any kitchen.  Neither are better than the other, they are simply required in different situations.  At Haufson, we believe you need both!


For more information on our range of cookwares, please don’t hesitate to contact us, and we will answer any questions you may have.