In buying a carbon steel wok, I was told to season it before use. Since this was my first wok purchase, I had no idea how to season a wok, so I decided to do some research on the seasoning process.
Through my study, I discovered a seasoning process that actually works.
I discovered that there are several ways to season a wok. Regardless of the method, some things are common to all seasoning processes:
- All carbon steel woks have to be thoroughly washed and dried before seasoning.
- All carbon steel woks have to have high temperatures applied to the woks during the seasoning process.
- All carbon steel woks should be seasoned with oils with high smoke points.
- The oil used in the seasoning process is always applied in thin layers.
Seasoning a Southern Chinese or Cantonese Wok
Woks which are classified as Southern Chinese woks or Cantonese woks have two looped metal handles on both sides of the wok. These woks can be seasoned in an oven or on top of a burner. That burner can be either a gas stove burner or a wok burner.
Stove burners typically will produce about 1000-2000 BTU’s, depending on the stove.
Wok burners, on the other hand, produce anywhere from 75,000 to 200,000 BTUs. These wok burners are perfect for seasoning and stir-frying.
If you want to use a wok burner to season or cook in your wok then I recommend those in the table below.
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How to Season Your Wok on a Wok Burner
Oven Seasoning a Carbon Steel Wok
If you choose to season your wok inside your oven, here are the necessary steps:
- Wash and thoroughly dry your wok.
- Preheat your oven to 450 degrees F.
- Coat your wok with a thin layer of oil (peanut and grapeseed are a couple of examples).
- Put a sheet of tin foil on the bottom rack to catch any oil that might drip during the seasoning process.
- Once your oven reaches the desired temperature, insert your wok upside down on the upper oven rack.
- Bake your wok for about 20 minutes.
- Let your wok cool in the oven.
- Repeat steps 3 through 7 three times.
Your wok should be ready to use. You will find that your wok has changed to a brown or black color. Remember not to wash your wok with soap or put it in the dishwasher.
How to Season Your Wok in the Oven
Seasoning a Northern Chinese Wok (also known as a “pao wok” or “Peking pan”)
Woks which are classified as Northern Chinese are distinguished by one small metal looped helper handle and one long handle made of wood, bamboo, steel, or carbon steel. The seasoning process might be a little different.
If the Northern Chinese wok has a metal handle with no wood or bamboo inserts, then it can be seasoned safely in the oven, on top of the stove, or on a wok burner.
If your Northern Chinese wok has a wooden or bamboo long handle insert, then steps must be taken to ensure that the heat does not damage the wood or bamboo. If you can easily remove those wood or bamboo handles by unscrewing them, it will make your job a lot easier.
How to Season Your Wok With a Wooden or Bamboo Handle
This bamboo handle can be unscrewed to protect the bamboo. You will need a screwdriver to remove the screw. If you choose not to unscrew the bamboo handle, you should wrap the bamboo with wet towels and tin foil to protect it.
Here is a handle that can be removed by unscrewing the round ring. You will not need a screwdriver to remove this wooden handle.
If you cannot easily remove the wood or bamboo handles, then it will be necessary to wrap those handles with wet paper towels and then wrap the handle and the damp paper towels with tin foil. This will prevent the wood or bamboo handles from burning during the seasoning process.
If your wok has a wooden helper handle, it will also need to be covered with wet paper towels and tin foil to protect it when oven seasoning your pan.
Before I knew what I was doing, I seasoned my Northern wok in my oven without covering the wooden handles with wet paper towels and tin foil. Here is the result of my effort. It just goes to show you that you should research things before you do them!
How to Season a Wok on Top of Your Stove or Wok Burner
Here is another method of using a wok burner to season your wok.
If you are going to season your wok on your stove, it is best to use only a natural gas or propane stove. Electric glass tops, ceramic cookers, or induction stoves don’t get hot enough for seasoning your wok.
When seasoning your wok on the stovetop or wok burner, you do not have to worry about wrapping wooden or bamboo handles in wet towels and tin foil.
- Wash and thoroughly dry your wok.
- Place your wok on the stove burner or wok burner.
- Turn the heat on high.
- The wok will start to turn color.
- Rotate the wok around the burner so that all sides turn color from the heat.
- Once all the sides have turned color, put some cold water CAREFULLY in the wok.
- Scrub the wok with a large fibered steel wool using a set of tongs.
- Empty the water out and dry the wok.
- Carefully coat the entire wok, inside and out, with a thin layer of oil (flaxseed, grapeseed, or peanut oil).
- Heat the wok on high until it begins to smoke and then turn the heat off.
- Let the wok cool.
- Wash your wok with cold water, and your wok is ready to use!
This process might get messy, so if you have a choice, do it outside to keep peace in the kitchen!
Other Related Questions
Will Round-Bottomed Woks Season the Same as Flat-Bottomed Woks? Yes. If you use either method above, they should season the same way. Both these types of woks are made of carbon steel if they are traditional woks.
Do Stainless Steel Woks Need Seasoning? Stainless steel woks do not season well. Stainless steel is denser than carbon steel, and therefore they are harder to season. Also, you will pay more for a stainless steel wok, but you will not be able to produce the same stir-fry results, as compared with carbon steel woks. The best woks are made of carbon steel.
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