How to Clean a Wok with Burnt Food

by Bob | Last Updated:  November 19, 2020
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If you’ve got a wok with burned food, you probably want to remove it without ruining the patina. After all, the finish on your wok takes years to achieve and adds valuable flavor to dishes. The good news is that you can usually remove most food stains with a wok brush and warm water.

There are two most common types of wok available today: carbon steel and cast iron. They require different cooking techniques but can be cleaned in the same way. This handy guide outlines how to clean your work safely and get rid of stubborn food that’s baked on the sides to get started.

Cleaning a Wok

Before we get started, keep in mind that you should not use harsh cleaners or metal scrubbers on the wok. Not only can you damage the surface, but you’ll also be scrubbing through the patina. Instead, it’s best to use hot water to loosen food stains, followed by gently scrubbing with a sponge or a wok brush.

The best scrubber I found is a used plastic credit card. I first put hot water in the wok then scrub the wok with a credit card. The card is flexible enough to contour to the sides of the wok and to remove any stuck-on food.

The credit card scrub will not damage your wok or patina..besides it is cheap and will cost you nothing to use it!

After cleaning, dry the wok and then gently heat over the stove at low heat to completely remove any moisture. Store when dry and cool to prevent rusting.

Cleaning with Baking Soda

One option to clean your wok with a natural ingredient is actually by using baking soda. Baking soda is effective, and most people probably have it around their home.

Place the wok on the stove and heat to high. Fill with room temperature water and then add baking soda. You’ll probably need a few tablespoons. Bring the mixture to a boil and then turn off the heat. Soak the wok in the solution for a few hours. Finish up by rubbing the residue with a sponge or your wok brush.

This method takes a more extended time but won’t damage the finish of your wok. Also, baking soda is very effective so consider this when you’ve tried the first method without success.

Stubborn Food Stains

While this simple method is effective for most food stains, you may have a pan with more stubborn burned-on food. When this happens, you can take additional steps to get a clean wok.

Start by soaking the pan in warm water for a few minutes. The hot water will loosen the food particles. Then, re-attempt to clean the pan with a sponge or wok brush again.

Although not recommended, if these two methods don’t work, you may have to try using steel wool or a scrubber. Scrubbing your pan with an abrasive tool will probably remove some of the patina in the process. This will set your wok back, but you can re-season it again.

Wrap-Up

Now that you know how to clean a wok with burned food, you can enjoy using your wok and having it sparkling clean every time. Regular cleaning and maintaining your wok enhances the performance and helps to extend its lifespan. By cleaning promptly after each use, you’ll avoid having burned-on food or stains and make sure it’s ready every time you decide to cook.