Sauté Pan vs Wok: How to Choose Between These Two

When using the stovetop to cook, there are many different options for what you can use. From regular pots and pans to saute pans and woks, it can be hard to determine which is best to use. Many believe that saute pans and woks can be used interchangeably, but there are certain dishes that each tends to cook better when compared to the other.

A wok and a sauté pan each have differences that you can denote in order to help you determine which is the best to use depending on the dish you are cooking. You can use these differences, such as size, the dishes they are typically used to cook, and how each conducts heat, to determine which is the best cooking pan for you to use.

Continue reading to learn more about the differences between a wok and a sauté pan as well as which cooking pan should be used to cook different dishes.

Wok and Sauté Pan Overview

When it comes to determining which you should use when it comes to a wok and a sauté pan, it is important to know what each is as well as the advantages and disadvantages of using each cooking pan.

What is a Wok?

A wok is a cooking pan that is known for its deep rounded bottom. This cooking pan originates from China and is commonly used, as well as pans that are similar to it, in parts of East Asia, South Asia, and Southeast Asia.

A wok tends to be thin-walled and is shaped like a bowl that is shallow with handles. The best woks tend to be made from carbon steel, although there are options that are non-stick and cast iron.


When it comes to using a wok, there are some advantages that come with using a wok as a cooking pan. These advantages include:

  • It allows for your food to keep moving. This makes it easier to cook food quickly on high heat.
  • Woks allow for food to cook in a shorter period of time.
  • It is made to handle very hot heat.
  • It helps to avoid spillage.
  • A lot of food can fit in the wok.
  • There are many different types of woks, so you can choose the wok best for what you plan on cooking


While there are advantages that come with cooking with a wok, there are also some disadvantages that can come with using this cooking pan. The disadvantages include:

  • The wok will begin to wear down if you are cooking acidic foods.
  • Food tends to burn quickly.
  • It can be difficult to store the wok because it can be quite large.
  • Woks are known to heat quickly and cool quickly. This can be dangerous if you are not paying attention.

What is a Sauté Pan?

While sauté pans are smaller when compared to woks, they tend to be larger than your average frying pan. Sauté pans have high sides that are straight and may also come with a handle and lid.

Sauté pans are often used to brown meats, sauté vegetables, and for cooking risottos.

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There are some advantages that come with using a sauté pan rather than a traditional frying pan or a wok. Some of these advantages include:

  • You do not have to constantly keep an eye on it
  • It is much easier to store compared to a wok
  • Most pans are non-stick
  • They can be used for many different dishes
  • You can use a sauté pan on any stove


There are some disadvantages that can come with cooking with a sauté pan. These disadvantages include:

  • It is harder to toss a sauté pan when compared to a wok
  • Sauté pans are not meant to be washed in a dishwasher
  • Smaller than a wok, so there is less room to cook many foods
  • Sauté pans take a longer time to cook
  • All foods are cooked on the same level

Is a Sauté Pan the Same as a Wok?

While both a sauté pan and a wok are cooking pans, they are not the same. Each has different advantages when it comes to cooking different dishes. 

Each cooking pan is also used in different ways and have different shapes and sizes that make them better for cooking particular dishes. For example, a wok is best used for cooking lo mein noodles, while a sauté pan is better for sautéing vegetables.

What is the Difference Between a Sauté Pan and Wok?

There are some major differences between a wok and a sauté pan that can help you to denote which is best for you to use. These can also help you to determine which cooking pan you should use for whatever dish you have decided to make.


While both a sauté pan and a wok are cooking pans, each has a different use that helps you to better prepare the meals you are cooking.

Sauté pans are used more to brown meats as well as sauté vegetables. The process of sautéing vegetables involves heating the pan on a stovetop over medium heat. The items that are cooked in a small amount of fat. They are usually cooked until they are either golden brown or softened.

Woks are most often used when stir-frying a dish. Woks can also be used to boil foods as well as deep frying foods using oil. This is mainly due to the deep, rounded bottom that allows for the liquids to best cook the foods.

Size and Shape

When you are looking at a wok and a sauté pan, you can easily distinguish which cooking pan is which.

A sauté pan is typically smaller and has a flat bottom, a round shape, and straight sides. A sauté pan is not good to use if you plan on cooking a large batch of food as this can lead to uneven cooking as well as spillage.

A wok is much bigger than a sauté pan. This is the type of pan you want to use if you are planning on cooking a large batch of food. A wok is known for its large bowl-shaped base. These are also much more difficult to store.


Each cooking pan is also made from different materials. A wok is traditionally made of cast iron because cast iron tends to heat quickly. More recently, woks tend to be made using carbon steel.

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Sauté pans are often made from steel. This tends to make sauté pans much cheaper to buy compared to woks.

Heat Conduction

The way that the different cooking pans conduct heat can be one of the biggest determining factors in determining which cooking pan you are going to use.

The heat is spread evenly with a wok. This makes it an ideal cooking pan for cooking a large quantity of food as the wok will ensure that all of the food is cooked evenly. A sauté pan generally has all of the heat concentrated around the bottom of the pan which makes it perfect for foods that are more flat in nature.

Types of Meals

There are some meals where it is better to use a wok, while there are other meals where it is better for a sauté pan to be used.

A larger pan, like a wok, is best to be used to cook meats. Smaller pans, such as sauté pans, are best for cooking fish, poultry, and vegetables.

Which is Better Between Sauté Pan and Wok?

When it comes to determining which cooking pan is better to cook with, you need to examine all of the advantages and disadvantages of both the wok and sauté pan along with what type of food you are planning on eating.

Both are useful when it comes to cooking food, but each has certain dishes that it tends to work better with. For example, a wok is the better idea to go with if you are cooking noodles or large batches of food, and sauté pans are better to use when making fish or vegetables.

Frequently Asked Questions

Can you use a wok to sauté?

You can use a wok to sauté. It is best to use a wok if you choose to sauté smaller pieces of food.

Can you cook everything in a sauté pan?

A sauté pan can be used to cook many different types of foods. It can be used to cook almost everything. It is still better to use other cooking pans to cook larger dishes.

Is it worth buying a wok?

It is worth it to buy a wok. A wok is a great choice to cook large batches of food. A wok also ensures that all parts of the dish are cooked evenly.

Final Thoughts

Both a wok and a sauté pan are great cooking pans that can be used to cook your food. While both can be used to make different dishes, there are some advantages and disadvantages to using each cooking pan. You can use both when cooking.

A wok is best to use when cooking large batches of food, while a sauté pan is best to use when cooking vegetables, fish, and smaller batches of food. Neither cooking pan is better than the other, and it can be a good idea to have both cooking pans.