Wok vs Pan


For people who enjoy stir frying and used to Chinese food, wok must be familiar to you. It is a kitchen equipment originated from China used in making stir fry food. However stir fry food is not only limited to wok, practically it can be cooked using other cooking wares. One of them is pan or frying pan. Many people used frying pan instead of wok because frying pan is mostly exist in every kitchen today, you don’t have to buy wok to make stir fry. In this article we will talk about wok and pan especially frying pan.


Wok is a traditional Chinese cooking ware prevalent in South China particularly in Guangdong Province. Wok is a very versatile cooking ware, it has a round bottom with sides that sloped outward. Wok is commonly used to make stir fry. Stir fry is a method of cooking where all the ingredients are fried using small amount of hot oil while being stirred in a wok. Other than to do stir frying wok also can be used to do steaming, pan frying, deep frying, poaching, boiling, braising, searing, stewing, making soup, smoking and roasting nuts. Cooking with wok will required a cooking utensils such as spatula or ladle to prevent getting burned when stirring the food. Wok is probably have been used since early 206 B.C. to 220 A.D. it was intentionally used to dry grain and not cooking. But in the Ming dynasty wok reached its modern shape and found to be very useful to be used in cooking. (Read also : Stir Fry Pan vs Wok)

Stir fry food is said to be both healthy and appealing because of its skillful use of vegetables, meats, and seafood which have moderate fat combine with a light sauce, making it having a reasonable amounts of calories. Wok used to be made from cast iron in previous times but as the demand to make cooking ware lighter and cheaper, today the most common material to be made into Wok is carbon steel. Carbon steel is relatively cheaper and have a lighter weight compare to cast iron, making it easy to lift and also can conduct heat quicker. However unlike cast iron carbon steel wok tend to be harder to season. Low quality wok is manufactured with machine using only a single ply or piece of stamped steel. While a good quality wok is mostly if not always hand made by pounding two or more carbon steel and shape into it final form using ring-forming or also called hand-forging process.


Pan in this article is referring to frying pan which is a type of cooking ware. Fry pan have a flat bottom and low sides which flare outwards. Frying pan is commonly used to do frying, searing, and browning. However it also can be used to do sautéing and stir-frying. Fry pan have a long handle in one side and sometimes in larger pan, a small handle is also being placed at the opposite of the main handle. Frying pan is already used since long time ago, the earlier history of frying pan found used in ancient Mesopotamia and it was made out of copper.

In ancient Greece frying pan is called tagenon and in Rome it is called patella or sartago. Like we know, previous era kitchen stove does not have a flat surface, so the cooking pot and pan at that time tend to have round bottom and sometimes featured with a leg to assist when the pot is placed above the fire. When the flat kitchen stove began popular in the mid-19th century, the popularity of flat bottom cooking ware also follow. Aside from traditional frying pan, there is modern frying pan which does not required to be place in top of stove to cook food. It is electric frying pan, different from traditional frying pan, electric frying pan commonly have a rectangular shape instead circular. It also have a special feature which not exist in traditional frying pan. Electric frying pan have a heat regulation because the detachable power cord incorporates a thermostatic control for maintaining the desired temperature. Frying pan commonly have a non-stick coating or Teflon. However Teflon frying pan is not suitable for cooking in a high heat such as deglazing or sautéing since the coating will release a toxic fumes when heat in a certain degree.

- Have round bottom- Have flat bottom
- Have a high sides- Have short sides
- Commonly bigger than frying pan- Commonly smaller than wok
- Commonly made from carbon steel and cast iron- Made from various materials such as, aluminum, cast iron, stainless steel, and clad stainless steel


When comparing between wok and pan especially frying pan, there is no choice is better than the other. Some of you might be more familiar with wok and some might be used handling frying pan. Practically they can be used to replace each other. What you have to consider is their shape, if you are using a flat stove or do not have an intention to buy a wok ring than frying pan might be the right choice for you and frying pan is also said to be easy to use even for beginner. But if you are already familiar with Chinese cooking and are interested in using wok then it is good to do so. Since you are the one who are going to use it, it is wise to follow your own preference.

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