Many people underestimate the wok’s versatile cooking ability and try to confine it just for stir-frying. But when compared to other cookware like a frying pan, a wok can yield much better results.
A wok is a kind of frying pan with a round-bottom base that evens out the heat to the items placed inside. It has a long handle to keep you away from the fire.
The frying pan is flat at the bottom and stands firm on the surface to sustain the heat. Both might sound alike, and people often get confused between them.
So to clear out the misconceptions, we will compare the wok and fry pan for a few most popular ways of cooking and find out why and when to use a wok instead of a frying pan for what type of cooking.
Before starting, here is a short overview of what we have found.
Wok Vs. Frying Pan | Sauteing
Sautéing is a cooking method that uses a small amount of fat, usually oil, to cook food. The food is usually cut into small pieces so that it cooks evenly. Sautéing is a quick-cooking method, so it’s perfect for dishes that don’t need to cook for very long.
A frying pan is a more traditional option for sauteing. It is shallower than a wok and has sloped sides, making it easier to toss and turn ingredients.
On the other hand, a wok is deeper and has more flared sides. This design makes it ideal for stir-frying but equally suitable for sauteing too. Though you can do it with a saute pan or frying pan, you can toss and flip it better with a wok.
So should you use a wok instead of a frying pan for sauteing? If you are comfortable doing so, you should use a wok!
Wok Vs. Frying Pan | Steaming
If you’re looking for a way to add more versatility to your cooking, you may wonder if a steamer basket can be fitted into a wok.
The answer is yes!
A steamer basket is a great way to cook veggies, seafood, or dumplings. Plus, it’s a healthy cooking method that allows you to retain more nutrients in your food.
What makes the steamer basket so perfect for fitting in the wok? The wok comes with a deep and rounded shape with a lot of space for the steamer basket to fit perfectly inside.
A frying pan is relatively shallow and does not have much space left for steaming. Though technically, you can fit a steamer basket if its diameter is smaller than the pan, it would feel awkward for any chef to steam in a frying pan.
So when it comes to steaming vegetables or delicious momos, you should better be using a wok instead of a frying pan.
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Wok Vs. Frying Pan | Braising
Some people prefer to use a frying pan for braising meat because it is easier to control the heat and prevent the meat from sticking to the pan. Others prefer a wok because it allows the meat to cook evenly and allows the juices to circulate better.
However, A frying pan will typically have a larger surface area, which means more of the meat will be in contact with the hot surface of the pan. This is important because it allows for better meat browning, adding flavor and texture.
Additionally, a frying pan will have straighter sides, which allows for better circulation of the braising liquid. This is important because it ensures that the meat cooks evenly and prevents it from drying out.
So the frying pan got the edge here over the wok.
Wok Vs. Frying Pan | Poaching
There are pros and cons to a wok and a frying pan concerning poaching. A wok has a large surface area and is shallow so that it can heat up quickly and evenly. This is ideal for poaching because you want to cook the food quickly and evenly, so it doesn’t dry out.
However, a wok can be challenging to control the heat. If the heat is too high, the food will cook too quickly and can be tough.
A frying pan has a smaller surface area, so it doesn’t heat up as quickly. However, it is easier to control the heat to cook the food more slowly and evenly.
So should you use a wok or a frying pan for poaching? If you are a beginner, you should stick with the frying pan. However, if you have cooking experience with a wok, it’s much better to poach with it.
Wok Vs. Frying Pan | Simmering
Simmering is a cooking method that involves cooking food in a liquid at a low temperature. This cooking method is often used for tough foods that need to be cooked for a long time, such as tough cuts of meat or stews.
The high sides of the wok prevent the liquid from evaporating too quickly, and the wok’s shape allows the heat to circulate evenly, so the food cooks evenly.
However, a frying pan can also be used for simmering. The main advantage of using a frying pan for simmering is that it is usually smaller than a wok, so it is easier to control the heat and the simmering process.
So, which is better for simmering food: a wok or a frying pan? Although a frying pan will give you more control over the heat and the simmering process to evenly cook the food and prevent the liquid from evaporating too quickly, using a wok is a better option.
Wok Vs. Frying Pan | Deep-Frying
Between a wok or frying pan, either can be good for deep-frying foods. The main difference is the shape and size.
Frying pans have a larger surface area, making them better for frying large quantities of food at once. On the other hand, Woks have a smaller surface area but are deeper, making them better for keeping food submerged in oil and ensuring that it cooks evenly.
A wok might be better if you cook for a large group. And if you are cooking something that needs to be kept submerged in oil, such as chicken or fish, a wok is probably your best bet.
So, If you are deep-frying foods that need to be coated in batter, a wok might be better because the food can be easily turned. On the other hand, if you are deep-frying smaller pieces of food, a frying pan might be better because the food will not fall through the gaps.
As you can see, though a frying pan is quite effective for braising or deep frying, the wok is more suitable than the frying pan for most cooking techniques.
So if you’ve been wondering Why and when to use a wok instead of a frying pan, this guide will help you understand which cooking techniques require a wok rather than a frying pan!
Though it will depend on other factors such as your experience, the ingredients you are using, and the cooktop. But wok is certainly more versatile and deserves more attention than it usually gets from other cookware.