Difference Between a Frying Pan and a Wok
By Marc Gordon - May 25, 2022

Woks and pans look similar enough to be used interchangeably, but minute differences make each one suitable for forms of cooking where the other falls short. Due to the misleading simplicity that comes with cooking –or some forms of it, it is hard to imagine the physical and chemical reactions that accompany even the smallest of dishes. Frying is one of such processes and the little distinctions even reach the utensils.

Table Summary

Frying PanWok
Flat-bottomed and shallow with low wallsTraditionally round-bottomed and deep with high walls
Typically made of stainless steel, which retains heatTypically made with carbon steel which rapidly conducts heat
It cannot be seasonedRequires regular seasoning
Cooks well with acidic foods like tomatoes and vinegarReacts to acidic food
It can be used in the oven and dishwasherIt is not designed for oven cooking and could rust when used in the dishwasher
Perfect for meals that require slow cookingPerfect for meals that need to be quick, like stir fry.


The traditional pan is a shallow pan with a flat bottom and slightly sloped walls. It’s mostly made of stainless steel and some come with non-stick materials.

A wok is a bowl-shaped frying pan with high sloped walls native to Asian cuisine. Woks are usually made of carbon steel.

Frying Pan VS Wok

Due to its design and material, woks are quick to heat up at the base before slowly spreading to the edges, this means that you have to move food around quickly so it does not burn. The flat base of the frying pan means that heat is slowly spread all over the base of the pan and food has more time to cook in the oil. Another important difference between both is that while carbon steel woks need regular seasoning to remain non-stick, stainless steel frying pans do not. Although it is also possible to get non-stick woks, they are more common with traditional frying pans.