As one of my Mother’s Day presents this year, I was given a wok! I LOVE IT! In fact, I had been looking at buying a wok for a while now as I cook so many Asian dishes. Actually, I receive an electric wok as wedding present 19 years ago, but sold it when we moved abroad. I have a tiny one from Ikea, but nothing quite like an authentic one over a gas stove!
Here is a photo my 11 year old took of me comparing two different ones at Amazing Oriental my favorite shop here in the Netherlands.
If you know anything about woks or even perhaps nothing – before you use it, you have to first season it! This way the food does’t stick to it and cleans away the chemicals on it. The wok came with instructions in Dutch of how to season it, but I of course, I wanted to watch actual videos too so I knew I was doing it correctly. The directions from the paper are not the same at all as the directions I found on the web. There are different ways of doing it.
Here are the directions from the paper: (translated)
Iron wok instructions. Before using a new wok, you must burn off the protective layer of the wok. Put the wok on a low heat and let the wok burn black for about 15 minutes. (Or on high heat in about 5 minutes). Then you should wash the wok. Return the wok to the heat to dry. After drying, lubricate the inside completely with oil. Before stir-frying, heat the wok before adding the oil. The wok should be hotter than the oil so that the food doesn’t stick. Avoid using detergent for cleaning. Clean the wok with hot water and a washing-up brush. Stuck food residues soak off first. After cleaning, put the wok away dry (place it on the fire for a while) and if necessary rub with a little oil on a dry wok. After a few months of use, the wok will become dirty from soot deposits. You can remove the soot deposits by heating the wok around the edges and sprinkling some salt on the inside. Scrub clean, rinse, dry on fire and grease with oil.
Here is the video which I thought was the best and with over 1 million views – so others did too! As mentioned above, there are other methods like using salt, putting into the oven and even using food – but those were not the methods I chose to try.
WHY SEASON A WOK?
Many cooks prefer using carbon steel because of its nonstick surface. However, it is important to note that carbon steel woks are NOT naturally non-stick. You need to season the wok first. Every time you use your wok, the patina will become more developed so the pan’s performance will improve. The non-stick properties will increase and food will release quicker and easier from the pan. Cleaning will become easier too, as food particles are less likely to stick. With the proper care, your wok will last you for many years to come.
What You’ll Need for Seasoning a Wok
- hot water
- dish soap
- metal scrubber or scouring pad
- paper towels
- peanut oil or any other high-heat oil – I used grape seed oil. Avoid unrefined oils with low smoking points like olive oil & sesame oil.
Scrub Off the Factory Oil
Carbon steel woks are coated with a layer of factory oil to keep them from rusting before they are sold / used. It is crucial that you scrub off this layer of factory oil (front BOTH sides) before you use the wok for cooking. You don’t want the factory oil in your food!
For the initial scrubbing, you’ll need dish soap and a metal scrubber or scouring pad. You only use soap and abrasive scrubbers when you are prepping the wok for seasoning. Once it is done, you DO NOT use them for regular cleaning and maintenance. Otherwise, you will scrub off the patina and ruin the non-stick surface of the wok!
Spend a good 10-15 minutes on the scrubbing. Add some dish soap to your wok and use a scrubber to scrub the inside and outside of the wok thoroughly. Rinse the wok with water. Add dish soap to the wok again and repeat the scrubbing and rinsing two more times. As you rinse the wok, if you notice that your fingers are picking up black stains from touching the wok, it means you haven’t quite gotten rid of the factory oil yet.
After several rounds of scrubbing and rinsing, rub the inside and outside of the wok with paper towels. The paper towels are very good at picking up any leftover factory oil residue from the wok. If the paper towel looks black after rubbing the wok, scrub the wok with soap, rinse, and wipe with paper towels again. Eventually, you’ll get a clean wipe with the paper towel, and that’s when you know you’ve scrubbed off the factory oil sufficiently.
DRY THE WOK
Now it’s time to dry the wok. You don’t have to waste paper towels – as the water will evaporate quickly when you set the wok onto the heat. You’ll notice it starts to darken a bit. You don’t have to do this for too long only to dry it. Then let it cool a bit before you start to add the oil.
SEASON THE WOK
In this step, the goal is to use heat to open up the pores of the wok so that they can absorb oil to prevent rusting and start developing a nonstick surface. You will be heating oil for quite some time, so turn on your exhaust fan to the highest setting. Open your windows if your kitchen needs more ventilation.
Using a paper towel rub the oil evenly on the inside and outside of the pan. Put the pan on medium heat. You’ll see it start to change color rather quickly. Depending on the type of wok you have , it may even turn blue. You’ll have to turn it a bit to ensure that the sides change too. After 15 minutes, turn off the heat. Let the wok cool for a few minutes. When a bit cooler it is time to wash again.. but remember NO SOAP!
CLEAN THE WOK – A SECOND TIME
After the wok is cooled, wash again in hot water. Return to heat again for a few minutes and your wok is ready to use. There will be grease and a dark layer of patina. Use a bristled brush or soft sponge to gently clean the wok. Do not use dish soap here. Rinse the wok and place it on the stove to dry. This is when I used it for our dinner but if you don’t want to use it now, proceed to the final step before putting it away.
Dry Wok and Seal with Layer of Oil
Heat the wok over high heat again. Once all the water evaporates, turn off the heat. Carefully rub a thin layer of oil onto the wok. Pour about 1 to 1 1/2 teaspoons of oil into the wok and rub the oil throughout the wok with several layers of paper towels. Be careful because the wok is still very hot at this point. You can use a spatula to help move the paper towel around too.
You don’t want to reintroduce moisture back into the wok. Otherwise, the wok can rust while it’s stored.
GENERAL CARE FOR YOUR WOK
After each time you use the wok, gently clean it with a brush or soft sponge.
If there are stubborn bits of food stuck to the bottom of your wok, fill your wok with about 4 to 5 cups of water. Bring the water to boil and then drain it. The hot water should help loosen the food and will be much easier to release with a brush or sponge. After you clean the wok, dry it over high heat and rub a bit of oil on the inside.
If your wok ever rusts, scrub the rust off with a scouring pad. Rinse and re-season the wok as if it were brand new.
Truthfully, I know it doesn’t look correct but it is… again, over time a layer of patina will build up and will be more nonstick. Will update this blog post after some months to show the wok…
So I’m super psyched to have a wok now and even made two recipes tonight. I’ll be on the hunt for more great recipes! Just need to get some wok tools like a long spatula and I’m sorted!
Do you have a wok? Did you season it this way or a different way all together?