How to Season a Wok Content from the guide to life, the universe and everything

How to Season a Wok

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Despite the vast selection of cooking devices out there, none comes close to the sheer simplicity of the wok. Its curved shape enables all of the cooking surface to heat evenly and means that you can scramble eggs in one bit while cooking fried rice in the other parts.

Despite its simplicity, cooking device manufacturers have somewhat complicated the wok by giving it non-stick surfaces and, for some strange reason, a flat bottom1.

So why not go back to basics with the original iron or steel wok? Of course, you must season it before you use it2. This will make it non-stick and assure its longevity.

Necessary Equipment

  • An iron or steel wok
  • A pair of cooking tongs
  • Kitchen towels
  • Vegetable oil
  • Cooker

Preparing the Wok

When you first buy your wok, it will have a protective coating on it to prevent it from rusting in the shop. Give it a good scrub to remove the coating, then dry it thoroughly. Then:

  1. Open the windows, as it may get a tad smoky in the kitchen. Put the cooker ring on the highest temperature you have and place the wok on to it. Now sit back and enjoy the light show as the previously metallic wok goes from silver to blue, purple, red and then brown. Do not be disturbed by this, as it is meant to happen.

  2. The wok should now be fiery hot, and perhaps smoking a little. Now is the time to apply the oil. Grease a folded up kitchen towel in a little vegetable oil, mount it on the end of the tongs, and wipe it around the inside of the wok. Do not pour the oil in as it will catch fire - remember, the wok is incredibly hot at this point. Now turn the heat right down to the lowest setting and let the oil sink into the wok for 15 to 20 minutes. If the wok dries out a bit during this time, give it a quick wipe with the towel. The wok should now be going a deep shiny black.

  3. After the time is up, turn off the heat and let it cool. Once the wok is cool, run it under the tap and gently wipe the inside with a sponge. Dry the wok and then wipe the inside with a little oil to protect it when it is stored.

Wok Aftercare

The blackness of the wok is the protective layer, so after using it, do not use a scourer or iron wool on it! The black stuff is harmless - it is merely carbon and nothing else. Plastic scourers or bamboo brushes are the best cleaning utensils to use for your wok as they will not remove the black coating.

If needs must and a cooking extravaganza requires the wok to be cleaned, do what the professionals do - don't resort to washing up liquid. The detergent will sink into the wok like the oil did when you first seasoned it, giving subsequent dishes the unique flavour of soap. So instead, after removing the food, while the wok is still smoking hot, plunge it into a stream of hot running water, while rapidly brushing around with the aforementioned bamboo brush or plastic scourer. This removes food adequately without destroying the protective seasoning.

However, if you do end up with some rust or accidentally take a metal scourer to it, just give the wok a good scrub and season it again using the steps above.

1This is despite the fact that the original, hard-to-balance, curved shape gives it the uniquely even heating quality. Giving it a flat bottom makes it nothing more than an oddly shaped saucepan.2This technique can also be used to season cast iron frying pans.

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