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Step by step instructions on how to season a wok. You will learn both how to season a carbon steel wok and as well as how to season a cast iron wok.
But wait, before the cooking begins, the wok needs to be properly seasoned so you get amazing food like these charred lo mein noodles every time.
What is Seasoning a Wok?
Seasoning your wok means that you are getting it ready to cook in. It basically just means you are developing a protective coating on the inside of your wok.
This protective coating is what helps to develop a thick, nonstick cooking surface perfect for forming crusts and char on foods.
Watch the web story on how to season a wok.
What Kind of Oil to Season a Wok
Any high smoke point oil will work to season your wok. I prefer to use vegetable, canola or peanut oil for seasoning either carbon steel or cast iron.
How to Season a Carbon Steel Wok
Step 1: Once you receive your carbon steel wok, the first thing you'll want to do is wash it with a mild soap and water. The wok will probably come with some oils in it and you'll want to wash those oils away.
Step 2: Once it's washed, towel dry the wok thoroughly and wrap the wooden handles with foil (this will prevent them from burning during the seasoning process).
Step 3: Set the wok on a gas burner (yes, you will need a gas stove or a standalone propane burner to do this correctly) over HIGH heat. It should be as hot as it goes.
**Keep anything flammable off the stove so you don't start a fire.
As the wok heats, it will start to smoke and turn darker in color. The smoke is due to the residual oils burning off - this is a good thing!
Step 4: As it gets hotter, the carbon steel will start to turn bluish in color. Using a pot holder, carefully tilt the wok so every surface area gets time over the heat and turns a bluish color.
Step 5: The whole wok should be blue when it's done. Turn off the heat and let the wok cool to the touch.
Step 6: Wash again with mild soap and water and lightly dry. Return to the heat, this time heating over medium-low heat.
Step 7: Let the wok dry over the heat for a few minutes (there should be no dampness left anywhere on the wok).
Step 8: Add 1-2 tablespoons of vegetable oil and swirl around CAREFULLY until the wok is coated with oil.
Step 9: Remove from heat and use a folded paper towel to wipe off the oil (let it cool slightly first to avoid burning yourself).
Step 10: Place the wok back over high heat and heat until it is smoking again. Remove from heat and let it cool slightly.
Step 11: Wash the wok lightly with just water and dry over medium heat on the stove.
Step 12: Repeat the oiling process 1-2 more times and you will see a nice patina already beginning to form.
Every time you cook, lightly coat the wok with vegetable oil and wipe clean with a paper towel after washing. This helps the patina get deeper each time you cook.
**IMPORTANT - if you have used vinegar or other high acid foods in your wok, make sure it s promptly washed after cooking as the acidity will wear away your patina!
How to Season a Cast Iron Wok
The same steps for seasoning any cast iron skillet can be used for seasoning a cast iron wok.
Personally, I prefer to use a carbon steel wok because it is lighter and easier to use. However, if you have or prefer a cast iron wok, below are the steps for seasoning it.
But before we start on the seasoning steps, here are some tips about cast iron you'll want to know:
- Never wash it with soap, only water.
- Never put cast iron cookware in the dishwasher.
- Always rub a very thin layer of vegetable or canola oil on the cooking surface before storing for the first couple months of use. This helps keep it patina and helps prevent rust.
- Always thoroughly dry the cast iron before storing. Use a towel and/or the cooktop over medium-high heat to dry.
Step 1: Wash the cast iron wok with soap and water (this is the only time you will wash it with soap)
Step 2: Dry it thoroughly with paper towels
Step 3: rub a very light layer of vegetable oil all over the inside cooking surface of the wok.
Step 4: heat the wok on the stove over high heat and let it smoke for about 20 minutes.
Step 5: CAREFULLY remove it from the heat (it will be incredible hot) and use a towel to wipe off any excess oil.
**You can repeat the steps above to develop a second layer of seasoning on your wok.
Let it cool completely then store. I always recommend coating it with a very thin layer of vegetable oil before storing each time until a nice patina has developed on the wok.
How to Revive an Old Wok
I know, sometimes life takes over and we realize it's been forever since we used out wok! Don't fret, it's easy to get the wok in working order again with just a few steps.
- Wash it wild mild soap and water and scrub it clean to remove any residue that might be on it (ahem...dust...ahem).
- Place the wok over high heat to dry. Make sure it is totally dry before removing it from the heat.
- Rinse and scrub the wok lightly with just water this time.
- Place over medium heat to dry again.
- Once completely dry, pour 1 tablespoon of oil in the wok and swirl around to coat the surface. Remove from heat and let cool slightly.
- Use a paper towel to wipe the oil from the wok and make sure it is spread around all the surfaces.
You are now ready to cook with your wok again!
How to Wash a Wok
You should never use soap or dishwashing liquid to wash your wok (except when first getting it out of the box). It should also never be washed in the dishwasher
After cooking, wash the wok with warm water and a light scrub pad to remove any food residue and oil.
Dry the wok thoroughly with a towel and/or over medium heat on the stove.
Let the wok cool and rub a very light layer of oil on the surface before storing.
Start Cooking With Your Wok!
Now it's time to have fun with your new wok! You can check out any of the Chinese recipes on this site, or some of my wok favorites below:
- Braised Chicken Feet (perfect for dim sum!)
- Korean Rice Cakes
- Kung Pao Chicken
- Chinese Fried Rice
- Shrimp Lo Mein
Do you cook regularly in a carbon steel or cast iron wok? What are some of your favorite things to cook? Comment below and let me know how you've enjoyed wok cooking!
How to Season a Wok
- Wash it with a mild soap and water before starting.
- Towel dry the wok thoroughly and wrap the wooden handles with foil.
- Set the wok on a gas burner over HIGH heat (as high as it goes).
- As it gets hotter, the carbon steel will smoke and start to turn bluish in color. Using a pot holder, carefully tilt the wok so every surface area gets time over the heat and turns a bluish color.
- Once the whole wok is blue, turn off the heat and let the wok cool to the touch.
- Wash again with mild soap and water and lightly dry.
- Return to the heat, this time heating over medium-low heat until completely dry.
- Add 1-2 tablespoons of vegetable oil and swirl around CAREFULLY until the wok is coated with oil.
- Remove from heat and use a folded paper towel to wipe off the oil and make sure a thin layer coats the whole wok.
- Place the wok back over high heat and heat until it is smoking again. Remove from heat and let it cool slightly.
- Wash the wok lightly with just water and dry over medium heat on the stove.
- Repeat the oiling process 1-2 more times and you will see a nice patina already beginning to form.
- Coat the wok with a very light layer of vegetable oil to store.