how to season a wok

Knowing how to season a wok correctly is essential if you wish to make the most out of your cookware. Whether you have a carbon steel or stainless steel wok, you should season it because the process will give your dishes a ton of flavour.

However, seasoning a new wok may seem complex to beginners. They think it requires the skill and expertise of a chef, which is beyond their capability.

That’s not the case. We’ll guide you through the wok seasoning process and show just how easy it is in this post.

Seasoning a Wok: What to Expect

closeup of a black pan on a stove

Why is wok seasoning so important? With a wok, you will be cooking on high heat. You want to make sure nothing sticks, or it will ruin the food.

A seasoned wok is going to become non-stick all on its own. That will make the wok easier to use during the entire cooking process.

When you buy brand new stainless steel woks, or even those made of carbon steel, you will see them as all shiny and looking pretty cool.

You don’t want it to be like that. Instead, it takes on a different colour as a wok becomes more seasoned. It goes from that shiny look to a light brown colour, and finally, parts will be black. That is actually what you should be aiming for.

With a wok, you will be cooking on high heat. You want to make sure nothing sticks, or it will ruin the food.

Brand New Woks and Factory Oil

Whether you purchase stainless steel or carbon steel woks, they come with a thin layer of an oil coating. While you may think that this will be perfect, you want to really get rid of that as quickly as possible for you to season a wok correctly.

Factory oil is applied to new woks to protect utensils in warehouses or stores. It is not there for any other purpose.

Hence, the oil should be removed when you season your wok.

How to Season a Wok: Step-by-Step Instructions

Step 1: Wash the Wok

washing a cookware

The first step is to wash your wok. Remember, it will have gathered dust while sitting in the shop or the warehouse. You don’t want to start cooking with your wok with all of that rubbish sitting there.

So, take your brand new wok, and wash it using mild dish soap.

What Is a Wok

This is where some elbow grease will be required, as you need to get that factory coating off the wok. You will need a scouring pad to break up the surface for this step.

Remember, removing this coating is going to be a crucial part of successfully seasoning a wok, so don’t skip it.

Step 3: Dry the Wok Thoroughly

After washing and scrubbing, you need to dry the wok and dry it well. It must be completely dry before proceeding to the next step. You may want to use some paper towel or a dishcloth to do this part.

Step 4: Add a Thin Layer of Oil

You are now ready to start seasoning a wok by adding a thin layer of oil. For this, you might want to use a paper towel again as you are going to wipe that oil all over your wok. Ensure to spread the oil evenly.

You just want to use some cooking oil, and don’t worry too much about the type. A high smoke point oil is only needed when cooking with a wok, so don’t get confused. However, consider using vegetable oil, as this is one of the best options out there.

Step 5: Place the Wok Over High Heat

With your new carbon steel wok or cast iron wok, you need to place your new wok on a burner over high heat. This should be the highest heat possible to season the wok properly.

The critical part here is to heat the wok evenly. Make sure to rotate and tip the wok, so the flame hits your cookware’s bottom and all sides.

You may notice some smoke coming from the oil, but that’s absolutely fine. If it bothers you, then use peanut oil, as it’s less likely to smoke at a lower temperature.

Once the wok is hot enough, you then need to take it off the heat.

Pro Tip: To check if your wok is hot enough, sprinkle a few drops of water onto its surface. If the water evaporates within a second or two, you’ve preheated it correctly.

Step 6: Let It Cool

It would help if you now let your wok cool. This won’t take very long, but it’s essential it’s nice and cool for you to complete the seasoning process.

Once it has cooled, take some paper towels, and make sure to wipe away the oil that is left on your wok.

Re-Seasoning Your Wok

But the final point we need to make right here is that you need to re-season your wok regularly.

Coating your wok inside with some canola oil or any other type of oil and then heating it up will lead to a protective coating developing over time. This turns your wok into a full-on non-stick pan that you can put on any stove and use at even high temperatures. Additionally, using your wok regularly helps develop a beautiful patina as well.

Things to Remember When Seasoning a Wok

Using your wok regularly results in a better cooking experience every single time you use it. A non-stick wok is a staple in Asian cooking since the food doesn’t stick even if you’re cooking at medium-high heat.

Remember, you will use most of the wok’s surface when cooking. A wok is designed for you to stir the food all over the cooking area. It distributes heat across its surface to make all the ingredients cook evenly.

That is why you need to make sure you season your wok correctly. There’s no point in getting your new wok and only coating the bottom. When have you ever done a stir-fry, and everything stays on the base?

So, seasoning and maintaining your wok is also going to include your understanding that we are talking about the entire cookware. You will be taking your wok spatula and moving food around, and you want it to be able to come into contact with that carbon steel and cook the way you want it to.

When seasoning the entire wok, you don’t have to worry about making a mess or paying too much attention to the cooking part. Carbon steel woks and cast iron woks, will make cooking more fun and enjoyable, but only when you season them correctly.

Essential Tips on Seasoning Your New Wok

Now that you know how to season and maintain your wok, here are a few tips to help you complete the whole process with ease.

Never Use Low or Medium Heat

The first tip is to never use low heat or medium heat during the seasoning process. You want your wok to be as hot as possible. That will get that oil to coat the wok and turn the cooking area into a non-stick surface.

Use Plain Oil

Don’t add oil that has been flavoured with garlic, chives or green onions, thinking it will give it a nice coating. That’s a waste of oil, and that’s not what we are aiming for. It is best to reserve the aromatics for when you are cooking with your wok. 

Use the Wooden Handle

Woks come with a wooden handle. For safety and convenience, make sure you have a firm grip on the wooden helper handle when moving the wok around.

It would help if you had a lot of control and the ability to tilt the wok to get the desired results.

The wooden handles make this job a whole lot easier, so if possible, go for a wok with two handles.

Keep Your Woks Dry

Make sure to keep your woks dry after each use. The seasoning process and using your woks regularly will help prevent rusting, but you also have to ensure that your pan is dry when not in use. Wipe off any excess oil or moisture with a clean rag or paper towel before putting your woks back on your kitchen shelves.

Let’s Get Cooking!

Seasoning a wok properly ensures your stir-fry is bursting with flavours. Seasoning and caring for your stainless steel and carbon steel woks may seem challenging at first, but it will definitely be much easier in the long term. If you follow this guide on how to season a wok without skipping a single step, you’re on the right track!

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