Seasoning a wok is not, as you may think, the process of adding spices to your wok in preparation for cooking. A wok is a traditional type of Chinese frying pan that is built with a rounded bottom and high walls.
Due to their size and shape, these implements are great for cooking large rice or noodle stir-fry, as well as all kinds of other delicious Asian cuisines.
Woks are traditionally made from carbon steel or cast iron, and as such are very susceptible to rust. The reason many of these pans don’t corrode is that they have been seasoned.
Seasoning a wok is the practice of covering it in a microscopic film of polymerized oil. This oil acts as a protective coating, preventing moisture from getting to the metal and corroding it. In this article, we will explain in depth what the process of seasoning is, as well as how to season your wok.
What Is The Process Of Seasoning A Wok
Seasoning a wok involves coating the metal inside the pan with a very thin layer of oil to protect it from corrosion. However, this patina of oil does more than just protect against rust, it also helps to infuse more flavor into your food and makes cooking in your wok much easier.
A properly seasoned wok will gradually develop its own non-stick coating similar to that found in Teflon pans. This coating develops after multiple cooking sessions as the layers of polymerized oil build up.
As such, seasoning your wok will mean that food is less likely to stick to it while you are cooking. This makes it much easier to prepare stir fry and many other meals without burning your food.
It is important to note that the layer of oil in a seasoned wok is not the same as cooking grease left behind from frying.
The layer of oil used for seasoning is microscopically thin and should only be visible as a dark, black/ brown discoloration of the carbon steel.
This oil is polymerized, which means the atoms that make it up have aligned to form an almost solid, plastic-like coating.
Simply not washing grease out of your wok won’t season it and will very likely lead to your pan corroding. Now that you understand what seasoning is and why it is important, we will cover how to season a brand new carbon steel, or cast iron wok.
How To Season A Wok
When you first unpack your brand-new wok, you will need to clean it to remove any dust or other muck. First, pour some water into your pan and bring it to a boil before pouring it out into your sink.
Then use warm soapy water and a soft sponge that isn’t too abrasive for cleaning the wok. Once your wok is clean, rinse it with cold water to remove any leftover soap, and then put it onto a burner at max heat.
Wrap the helper handle and main handle in aluminum foil to stop them from being burnt or discolored during the seasoning process.
Wait until all the water has evaporated out of the pan before you add your oil. Take your preferred type of oil and put a little bit onto a clean, dry, dishcloth that you don’t mind getting burnt.
Ideally, you want to choose a neutral oil that doesn’t have too strong a flavor, such as canola or regular vegetable oil.
Use this cloth to rub your oil all over the inside surface of the pan, trying to get as even coverage as possible. Then flip the wok over and quickly cover the outside in a layer of oil as well.
Keep buffing with your cloth, so the oil looks dry and there are no beads or puddles. Remember, you want an extremely thin layer of oil for seasoning, which is why you want to use a towel to smear the oil over your pan without leaving large pools.
You will begin to notice your pan discoloration as it heats up, this is the oil polymerizing to form a solid layer. This process is often very smokey, so you will probably need to open a window or turn on your extractor fan as the oil burns onto the pan.
Wait until your pan turns much darker than it originally was before taking it off the heat. Alternatively, you can leave it on the burner and wait for the pan to stop smoking before applying additional layers of seasoning in the same way that you did the first.
When adding subsequent layers, watch out that your dishcloth doesn’t catch fire, as it will get very hot.
How To Maintain A Seasoned Wok
Once you have put down three layers of oil on both the outside and inside of the pan, wait for it to stop smoking. Your wok has now been fully seasoned, although you will need to look after it if you want your patina to work as intended.
Many people think that they can just leave their wok after cooking with it, to let their cooking grease add extra layers of seasoning.
This doesn’t work and is a good way to ruin your pan. It is fine to wash your wok with water and mild soapy water, just don’t use abrasive scouring pads when doing so.
If you cook a meal with lots of spices, you may need to clean the wok twice to remove any residual flavor. After cleaning your wok, make sure to wipe it around with another thin layer of vegetable oil while it is still warm. As long as you do this, you should be able to use your wok for many years without it rusting or deteriorating.
Seasoning your wok isn’t hard, and it will make it much easier to use. Not only will it protect your pan from rust, but it will help it to develop its own natural non-stick coating.
This will make stir-frying and other similar dishes much simpler to prepare, as you won’t have to be constantly unsticking your food from the sides of the wok.