Carbon Steel Vs Cast Iron Wok – Head to Head Comparison

One of the most controversial topics amongst scientists and craftsmen is titling, which alloy is the best between Carbon Steel or Cast Iron. If they are having such an intense issue deciding, then you having the same issue is not a surprise. 

Both the materials are tough, durable, have high melting and boiling points and are good conductors of heat, making them perfect for woks and frying pans. These facts just make it more difficult choice.

The intention of this article is to aid you through this tough decision. Mainly focusing on all the ups and downs for both the materials, we will be discussing all the necessary details that will put an end to this carbon steel vs cast iron topic once and for all.

An Introduction to Carbon Steel and Cast Iron Wok

Numerous metals and alloys have been used in the making of cooking utensils, and all of them have been claimed the best. But, from the ancient era to the 21st century, the use of carbon steel and cast iron in making cookware hasn’t changed, and we highly doubt that it will ever change.

These alloys have been used in cooking from almost the 5th BC. And, before we can start comparing them, we need to get a little idea about their composition, arrangement of atoms, what they were made of, etc.

Alloys are basically compounds. Made by chemically bonding two or metal elements together, the sole purpose of alloying is to make a compound stronger and more durable than its parents.

Hence, before we go to the choosing part, it is necessary to fetch some information about them.

Beginning with an adequate amount of information and detailed comparisons in the latter parts of the article will help you decide the best metal alloy for your wok. 

Carbon Steel 

Let us start with one of the most common alloys. The name pretty much suggests the composition of the compound. Using different quantities of carbon allows manufacturers to create different types of compounds, each with different properties.

Woks and stir-fry pans are generally made from 99 percent steel, and 1 percent carbon so are considered as high-carbon steel. This ratio of iron to carbon increases the strength of the wok exponentially and makes it very durable.

Also, the addition of the carbon gives it a very high melting temperature, making it perfect for the Wok you desire.

Cast Iron

Carbon steel’s rival, the Cast iron, is also among the most used metal compound in the world of craft and has a high regard in the cookware market.

Cast iron being very similar to its arch-nemesis makes the choice even harder. Like Carbon Steel, Cast Iron also contains a small percentage of carbon but also has other impurities such as silicon, etc.

Dating back to the 5th BC, the ancient iron alloy is still considered to be one of the best materials for making cooking utensils till now.

Tough, rustproof, and good at conducting heat gives it the edge from most other compounds. Enameled cast-iron is one of the best in the business as it allows zero rust to form.

Carbon Steel Vs Cast Iron: Which One To Choose?

Both the products are absolute in their ways, and choosing a winner is tough, but it is not impossible. To do this, we compared each of the alloys and deemed the one with the highest strong points over each other the winner.

The article is a little longer, but when you reach the end, you will know which one to opt for.

  • Higher Casting

Right of the bat, carbon steel has the edge when it comes to castability.

A term called grain determines the structure and functionality of a metal. Grains are the arrangement of continuous atoms. And, Iron’s higher castability introduces different sizes of atoms to the structure disrupting the arrangement and making the product weak and brittle.

Also, having a higher castability decreases the machining factor of cast iron. Machining is the process of cutting the metal into the desired shape.

Due to a higher number of an abnormal arrangement of atoms disables it to be cut into a desired and efficient shape. So one win to carbon steel.

  • Ultimate Tensile or Compressive strength

Next is their capability of withstanding any stress. Confused on how this is relevant to the topic?

Well, your Wok undergoes a large amount of internal pressure by the excited atoms. When something is heated up, its atoms gain thermal energy and convert it into kinetic energy.

This conversion causes the atoms to vibrate more quickly and makes them want to break the chemical bonds. If the material that your wok is made from is incapable to withstand this high pressure then it will collapse and crack open.

Carbon steel has lower carbon content thus making it weaker in comparison to cast iron. Thus cast iron’s comparatively high carbon content rate gives it an edge in withstanding high stress and puts them both on equal footings.

  • Immunity Towards Rusting

Let’s consider their rusting factor. Rust is created when a metal reacts with air and creates a metal oxide.

Woks made from cast iron and carbon steel are resistant to corrosion and rust. Carbon steel wok has Chromium, an anti-corrosive and anti-rust element, which prevents your wok from rusting. Chromium creates a coating of a chromium oxide layer and stops the reaction with oxygen which creates rust.

Cast iron, on the other hand, does rust but the process is relative to the surrounding. So in short, cast iron slows down the rusting process significantly. Both metals are still tied.

  • Durability

Both the alloys are similar in durability and heat conduction which brings them back on equal footings. And, this round will be decided by comparing their capability to resist most forms of damage.

Woks made from Carbon steel are generally high-carbon steel with carbon to iron ratio of 1 to 99 whereas cast iron has a higher carbon content reaching almost 2 to 3 percent of carbon and 98 to 97 percent of iron.

As little the difference may seem, it causes a big impact. Carbon steel’s low carbon count makes it stronger than cast iron, and ultimately, makes it less prone to damage and puts the steel back in the lead.

  • Availability and Production Cost

The cast iron is more readily available at a very cheap price giving it the edge it needed to score the equalizer. By having lower production and manufacturing costs, cast iron is able to stay neck to neck with carbon steel.

  • Functionality and Appearance

As we had stated earlier, both the materials are amazing, and the woks made from them are evidently on top of the cooking utensils business.

Yet, there can be only one that’s the best, and the deciding factor for that will be the appearance and functionality of the woks.

Cast Iron Woks tend to have steeper walls with a little more rougher base. Steeper walls ensure nothing falls off or spills out of woke and makes it more suited to oven and baking dishes.

Also, the brownish look given to the Cast Iron makes it seem a little rugged and might give it an unwanted antique look.

Which woke wins this round is very evident now as the Carbon Steel Wok with its round corners is versatile enough to cook almost any dish. Manufacturers have made sure to provide a smooth and efficient pan and design, which enhances your cooking to a different level.

Apart from being smooth and efficient, the woks’ black look gives it an elegant and classy look. Ultimately, makes your kitchen look a little better than before.

 

Verdict

Considering all the features, it looks like Carbon Steel takes the title for being the best in the business. Though Cast Iron has many strong points and its works are amazing, it lacked in some major areas where the carbon steel prospered.

So the next time you go to the nearby store, you might consider those cool, durable, and versatile Carbon Steel woks.

Conclusion

Hopefully, this article was able to aid your decision, and though both carbon steel and cast iron have been the best for decades, you now know which one wins by a hairline and is the best cookware.

Still, choosing a wok or stir-fry pan is entirely up to your personal preference and comfort.

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