If you have been reading our blog for a while, you will know that we love cooking with woks. And it you happened to read our wok buying guide, you’ll also know that we prefer woks made from carbon steel. The reasons are simple: they heat up quickly, are incredibly durable, and when seasoned properly,will add delicious flavor to your food that only gets better with time. It can be a bit of work upfront, but once it’s done all you have to worry about is properly storing and maintaining your wok, instead of cleaning it after every use.
Why Do You Need to Season a Wok Anyway?
We hear this question a lot, and people wonder why you cant just unpack your wok and get cooking? Well, with a carbon steel wok, it’s important to season it as this is the process that is going to help it develop a nice patina and more importantly a natural, non-stick coating. You see, woks ship with a coating of oil on them that you are definitely going to want to remove before you cook with it. Additionally, the process of seasoning the wok sets you up for painless non-stick cooking down the road. And here is the real beautiful thing: the more you cook with it, the more non-stick the surface becomes and the less oil you will need to cook successfully with it. Also, the more mileage the wok has, the more flavorful your food will become.
So know that you know the why, let’s get to the how!
How to Season Your Brand New Wok
Theoretically, you will only need to do this once, maybe twice, during the life of your wok. After that, you gain the personal satisfaction of knowing that you created a totally natural, non-stick surface on your wok.
Wash the Wok Thoroughly
As we mentioned above, your wok will ship with a layer of oil from the machine production. This is a good thing because it prevents your wok from rusting during storage, but it also means you need to remove it before you can season. Luckily, this is easy. Just wash the wok with hot water and a tiny amount of liquid dish detergent. You may have to take a couple of passes at it and use something a little more abrasive that a sponge like a stainless steel pad, but eventually you will be able to get rid of it all.
Season Over A Very High Heat
To properly season a wok you are going to need a very high heat. While any stovetop should work, if you’re is less powerful you will probably need to spend a little more time getting it up to the proper temperature. You’re also going to need heat resistant gloves to handle the wok. If you have single handle this won’t be an issue, but if you have the Cantonese style handles which are just small handles on each side of the wok, you’ll need protection. The other important step to consider here is ventilation. You’re kitchen is about to get very smoky so make sure you either open all of the windows or turn your range hood up to full power to capture all the smoke.
Once you are ready to season, just move the wok back and forth over the heat source until you get your wok up to a searing blue color. In our kitchen, this took about 30 minutes. While this may seem like a long time, you probably will never have to do this again so take the time to do it right. Keep heating work wok until the entire surface turns a very dark color.
Finishing the Seasoning with Vegetable Oil
Once you have the wok and nice dark color, take if off the heat and turn your burner down to a medium to medium-low flame. With your wok still off of the heat, add about a 1-2 teaspoons of vegetable oil, or just enough to coat the entire surface with a thin layer. To avoid the risk of burning yourself, you can use long tongs and a clean rag or paper towels with vegetable oil on it to coat the wok.
With the wok properly coated, place it back on the burner for around 10 minutes. After, wipe of the remaining vegetable oil with a paper towel and tongs. Once the paper towel is completely black with residue, it’s time to add another thin coat of oil. Again, heat the wok for around 10 minutes and wipe off the excess oil with a paper towel. You are going to repeat this process until the paper towel no longer collects a black residue after heating. In our experience, this usually take about 4-5 cycles.
After all that hard work, you are now the proud owner of a well-seasoned carbon steel wok. Even though initial seasoning can be a pain, it’s well worth the reward. Happy woking!