When it comes to feeding a crowd, most of us think first about what’s easiest: A wok or a casserole? We check our cabinets and drawers to see what we have on hand, then contemplate what the weather will be like come mealtime. But after making the choice, we never question why we made it. We just cook. Casseroles are the old-school answer to a busy weeknight; they’re one-pot meals that feed a crowd and save time.
Woks are the new and flashy way of doing Chinese takeout at home. They require a lot more equipment and skill than a casserole (and a lot more clean-up), but they’re the healthier, more adventurous way of doing Chinese takeout at home.
Why Use a Wok?
A wok is a traditional Chinese cooking vessel that has been around for more than 2,000 years. It’s a deep, narrow pot with sloping sides that helps make stir-frying and deep-frying easy. Because of its design, a wok’s surface area is much larger than a typical cooking pot, so it can hold more oil or fat and cook more dishes at once.
A wok can be used to make steamed or boiled dishes, but it’s best known for its use in stir-frying. You can use the wok’s sloping sides to create a low, wide “basket” in the bottom of the wok. This keeps your ingredients above the hot oil or fat, while still allowing you to stir them easily.
Why Use a Casserole?
A casserole is a one-dish meal in which all the ingredients go into a single oven-safe dish. It’s the traditional choice for when you want to feed a crowd, like on game day or during the holidays.
A casserole can be either savory or sweet; it might contain vegetables, grains, beans, meat, or a combination of these ingredients. But no matter which type you choose, you can be sure it will be more nutritious than ordering Chinese takeout.
- Easy clean-up. Unlike a wok, a casserole doesn’t require intricate clean-up. You can put it in the dishwasher or wash it by hand, then put it away for next time.
- Can accommodate a large number of people. A casserole can feed a large number of people because there is only one vessel needed to cook it. With a wok, you’ll need at least two pots.
- Versatility. You can make many dishes in a casserole, but you can only stir-fry in a wok.
On a cold winter’s night, nothing warms you up faster than a big bowl of ramen. But ramen is a carb-heavy dish, and while nutritious, it’s not the best choice for your waistline. Woks, on the other hand, are excellent at delivering complex Spices. So, while a casserole may be a good choice to keep your family nourished, a wok is best suited for providing that much-needed warmth.
Final Words: Is One Better Than the Other?
Both woks and casseroles are one-pot meals that require little effort to prepare. The real difference is in the style of cooking and the types of dishes you can make using each.
A wok is best suited for stir-frying, deep-frying, and steaming; a casserole, on the other hand, is better for soups, stews, and other one-pot meals. While both can be used to make Chinese food at home, a wok is best suited for those who want to get into more complex and detailed dishes.