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How To Season and   Clean a Wok

How To Season and Clean a Wok

Last updated on 6/29/2018

So you’re the owner of a brand new wok, which means you can take that thing right out of the box and start chopping veggies for a chicken chow mein, right? Wrong! Woks require some tender love and care, but don’t worry; we’re here to help get you started! This article will provide you step-by-step instructions for how to initially clean a wok, season a wok, and care for it so you can maximize its performance, maintain its condition, and start making all your favorite stir-fry recipes, full of flavor and aroma.

Why We Must Season a Wok

Tablecraft CW80119007 CaterWare 15 inch Carbon Steel Wok with Wood Riveted Handle

Woks come in a variety of materials, including the porous metals of cast iron and carbon steel. Using these porous metals when unseasoned will cause them to absorb water, which will eventually cause your wok to rust. Therefore, it is important to season a wok before you start cooking with it. By seasoning a wok, you’re creating a patina, a layer coating the inside of the pan. As you continue to cook more and more with your wok, the oil or any other form of lard you’re frying with will cause the patina to gradually Lodge Pro-Logic P14W3 14 inch Pre-Seasoned Cast Iron Wok become thicker and heavier, ultimately creating a natural, non-stick cooking surface. This layer also adds enhanced flavor and seasoning to every meal...So let’s get started!

There are three main methods used to season a wok.

  • Stovetop seasoning
  • Oven seasoning
  • Salt seasoning

Every chef has his or her own preference regarding which method works best. Certain woks, depending on handle material, are recommended to be seasoned one way over the other to preserve the quality of the wok. All three of these methods, however, require the same initial step: The wok must be washed so the bare metal is exposed.

When manufacturers ship woks, they apply a factory oil to prevent rusting during transport, which can be caused by humidity or other environmental variables. This initial oil that is applied is not one in which you want to be cooking your food, so this is the first and virtually only time you should wash your wok with an abrasive sponge and soap.

To clean a wok for the first time, follow these steps:

Stainless Steel Standard Weight Scouring Pads - 12/Pack
  1.  Fill sink with hot, soapy water.
  2.  Scrub the inside and outside of wok with a scouring pad.
  3.  Completely rinse.
  4.  Dry wok with a clean, dry towel.
  5.  Place on stovetop over medium-high heat to completely dry the wok and evaporate any leftover water.

Now that you’ve removed all the manufacturer's oil and have exposed the bare metal, it’s time to pick your seasoning oil or other form of lard.

Choosing a Seasoning Oil

Admiration 17.5 lb. 100% Peanut Oil - 2/Case

You want to choose oil with a high smoking point, the temperature at which oil breaks down. Lard, such as bacon fat, is another great option for seasoning. In fact, frying bacon in your wok is one of the best options! Unrefined oils, such as olive oil and sesame, have lower smoke points and a strong flavor, which does not make them ideal for seasoning a wok. So you want to choose a more neutrally-flavored, refined oil, or form of lard, such as one of the following listed below. 

Admiration 17.5 lb. Canola Oil - 2/Case

How to Season a Wok

Stovetop Seasoning Method

  1. Complete initial washing to remove factory oil.
  2. Preheat wok over high heat until you can feel warmth radiating off the bottom of the wok from a few inches above.

    You can also perform a water test by throwing a drop of water on the pan. If it’s heated enough, it’ll evaporate within a second, and it’s ready to be seasoned.
  3. Add in about 2 tablespoons of your desired oil or lard, and reduce heat to medium-high.

    If using lard, grip a towel with a pair of tongs, and completely cover the inside of the wok with lard. Once done, wipe away excess lard with a paper towel and let cool. You can now skip steps 3-8.
  4. Add in fresh chopped ginger and scallions, or other spices of your choice.
  5. Reduce heat to medium.
  6. How to Season a Wok
  7. As ginger and scallion mix start to soften, use your turner to actually spread the mixture to cover the entire surface of the inside walls, so your wok is covered from rim to bottom. Continue doing this for about 20 minutes over medium heat.

    If you notice ingredients are becoming too dry or are starting to burn, add in more oil, a little at a time.
  8. Dump mixture out, and let the wok cool down.
  9. Rinse with hot water, and use a bamboo wok brush, sponge, or the soft side of a scrubber to remove any excess food particles.
  10. Place wok back on stovetop over high heat to completely dry and evaporate all water.
  11. Either store the wok until you’re ready to use it, or repeat this process up to 3 times for a better, thicker seasoning.

Oven Seasoning Method

    How to Oven Season a Wok

  1. Complete initial washing to remove factory oil.
  2. Preheat oven to 450 degrees Fahrenheit.
  3. Line a sheet pan with aluminum foil.
  4. Using a paper towel, coat the entire wok, inside and out, with lard or oil.
  5. Place lined pan on bottom rack of oven.
  6. Place oiled pan on top rack.
  7. Bake for 20 minutes and remove from oven.
  8. You can now either let it cool, or, you can rinse the wok with warm water and a soft sponge, dry it completely on stovetop over high heat, and repeat steps 3-6 up to 3 times for the best seasoning result.

    If your wok has wooden or plastic handles, as pictured above, remove them; and if they can’t be removed, cover them completely with a damp dish cloth while baking, or they will dry out and crack. You can also cover the handle with Emmet's Elixir wood conditioner to prevent warping and splintering while in the oven or hot water.

Salt Seasoning Method

Note: This method should only be used on gas range stoves.

    How to Salt Season a Wok

  1. Complete initial washing to remove factory oil.
  2. Pour 1 cup of kosher salt into wok.
  3. Place wok, filled with salt, on gas stovetop over high heat.
  4. Stir salt constantly for 20 minutes, pushing the salt up and around the sides of the wok.
  5. After 20 minutes, remove wok from heat and dump the heated salt into the sink (letting it cool before you discard it).
  6. Wipe the wok clean with an oil-covered rag or paper towel, spreading a thin layer of oil onto the wok’s surface.

How to Clean a Wok

If you have an aluminum, stainless steel, or copper wok, you can simply put it in the dishwasher, if it’s dishwasher safe, clean it in the sink, or care for it per the manufacturer’s instructions. But if you have an iron or steel wok that you’ve seasoned, special care is need. After you’ve successfully seasoned your wok and have developed a thicker patina through continuous cooking and sautéing, it’s actually quite simple to maintain. Cleaning a wok requires no soap or abrasive sponges. To clean your wok, follow these easy steps:

  1. Rinse wok in warm or hot water.

    If you need to sanitize it for specific regulations, you can briefly submerge it in pure boiling water, free of soap and chemicals.
  2. If food particles need to be removed, gently scrub with a sponge or wok brush.

    Do not use abrasive scouring pads, soaps, sanitizers, or warewashing chemicals as they will remove the seasoned surface you just created.
  3. Rinse off any loosened debris.
  4. Dry completely with a towel.
  5. Place wok over medium-high heat to finish drying and evaporating any remaining water.

    If you’re planning to store your wok without using it for over a week, we suggest applying an additional thin layer of oil or lard to further preserve the wok’s patina.

Tips for Preserving Your Wok's Seasoning

  • Don’t steam, boil, or poach products in your new wok
  • Avoid cooking with acidic products in a newly seasoned wok, including, tomatoes, vinegar, and lemon
  • Don’t use abrasive pads or any warewashing chemicals, including soaps and sanitzers
  • Cook, sauté, and fry often to continuously build a patina
  • Invest in a bamboo wok brush

Check It Out

For step-by-step instructions on seasoning your wok and other pans that require this care, check out the video below!

How to Season Your Pans

Related Resources

Types of Woks

Stir fry, soup, egg rolls, lo mein - you name it, you can make it in a wok . One of the most versatile cooking pans in the world, the simple design of these famous pans originated in China and are now used the world over. They come in a variety of materials and forms, but the signature style of these round cooking pans is as useful as it is recognizable.

Pan Seasoning Guide

Seasoning a pan allows you to cook a great-tasting product without a lot of oil, butter or fat. Seasoning a pan will also give it a stick-resistant surface, allowing for easy clean up, and will keep it from rusting quickly - ensuring that your pan has a longer life. This handy pan seasoning guide will help you determine whether or not your pans need to be seasoned, how to season your pans based on their material, and how to care for them after they’ve been seasoned.

Types of Pot and Pan Scrub Brushes

Good food requires three things: fresh ingredients, a skilled chef, and most of all, clean pots and pans . Think about it: You could have an Iron Chef cooking with fresh produce from his or her own garden, but if the pots and pans are a mess, the food will be too. That means the most important kitchen tool should be a good, old fashioned scrub brush . Without one, you can say goodbye to tasty dishes that will keep customers coming back. This guide gives you a place to start, providing the basics of pot and pan scrub brushes, so you can make an informed decision and successfully upgrade your kitchen.

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