The Care and Feeding of Woks

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Title: The Care and Feeding of Woks
Yield: 2 Servings
Categories: Information


1 Wok Information

This should answer all your questions about the care and feeding of

A Wok That Can Rust Is a Wok Worth Cleaning by Joyce Jue

Recently, a reader wrote asking if he should throw out his rusty wok
and start with a new one. Keep it! An old wok that can rust is a
wok worth owning.

Unless the cooking surface has deep pits from rust, a wok can be
cleaned and reseasoned. It should stir-fry better than when it was

Wok Talk:

Why an I writing about woks again? Because the "rusty wok" question
is the one I'm most frequently asked, followed by: How do you season

If you want to feel like a Chinese cook and produce dishes that taste
authentically Chinese, I highly recommend using a carbon spun-steel
or thin iron wok for stir-frying. Both require initial seasoning,
but regular use will maintain the seasoning and eventually produce a
shiny black patina finish.

Chinese cooks are persnickety about their woks. It takes time, care
and lots of cooking before a wok develops a patina that almost
impervious black coating found on well-used woks. The ultimate goal
is for the wok to impart wok hay, an elusive pan flavor and aroma
that is associated with Chinese restaurant dishes.

Actually, wok hay comes from cooking over extremely high heat in a
well-seasoned pan.

Finely Tuned Implement:

Once a wok imparts wok hay, it is respected like a finely-tuned

A well-seasoned wok is almost non-stick. I often stir-fry vegetables
using just a thin film of surface oil.

As the patina builds up, less cooking oil is required.

A wok is quite sturdy. It stands up to high heat better than any
other cooking pan. It seems impervious to being banged or battered -
I have accidentally dropped mine down four flights of concrete stairs
and it came through intact with patina unscratched.

A wok's worst enemies are soap and scouring pads - they'll remove any
seasoning the wok has acquired.

Until a wok takes on a shiny, smooth, black patina, the initial
seasoning must be strengthened by frequent use of the pan, and
fortified by an occasional light re-seasoning.

There is no shortcut to achieving a perfectly seasoned wok. It comes
from use.

Seasoning: To season a new carbon spun-steel wok or to re-season an
old rusty wok, thoroughly scrub it inside and out with soap and a
steel wool scouring pad to remove the manufacturer's protective
coating on a new wok, or the rust on an old one. Rinse thoroughly
with hot water. Some manufacturers apply a coating that is hard to
remove, so set the wok on the stove, fill it with water and boil it
for several minutes until the coating dissolves. Pour out the water
and scrub the surface clean with steel wool and soap.

Set the clean wok over high heat. Heat until a few drops of water
sprinkled into the wok immediately turn into dancing beads. While
the pan is heating, it will change from shiny steel gray to blue,
purple, red and, finally, black.

Dip several sheets of wadded-up paper towel into peanut or corn oil
and wipe the oil on the entire inside surface of the wok (you may
want to use long-handled tongs to hold the towels). Reduce heat to
low and let the wok sit over the heat for 15 minutes to absorb the
oil - the color changes will continue and, hopefully, the bottom of
the wok will darken. In time and with frequent use the entire wok
will turn black. if the surface looks dry, wipe with another thin
film of oil. Remove wok from the burner and let it cool.

Reheat the wok and repeat the oiling and heating process once more
before using it for stir-frying.

S.F. Chronicle, 9/18/91.

Posted by Stephen Ceideberg; December 13 1991.