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How to Care for Your Carbon-Steel Wok

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from Fine Cooking #117, pp. 66

by Grace Young

New woks have a thin factory coating that must be removed before the first use. To do this, wash the wok inside and out with a stainless-steel scrubber, dish soap, and hot water. Rinse and dry it over low heat.

Next, season the wok to protect against rust and start a patina. Turn on the exhaust fan, open the kitchen window (it’s difficult to remove all of the coating, so any that remains will give off a strong smell as the wok heats), and heat the wok over high heat until a drop of water evaporates on contact. Swirl in 2 Tbs. vegetable oil and add 1/2 cup sliced ginger and a bunch of scallions cut into 2-inch pieces. Lower the heat to medium and stir-fry with a metal wok spatula, smearing the ginger and scallions over the entire surface, for 20 minutes-the long stir-fry creates a good patina. Discard the solids, wash the wok with a soft sponge and hot water, and dry over low heat. The seasoning process may change the wok’s interior color-it can have a yellow, black, or blue hue. Every wok reacts differently.

Once the wok is seasoned, don’t use soap to clean it. Instead, soak the wok in hot water for 5 minutes to loosen stuck-on food. Then wash the interior with hot water and a soft sponge (to protect the patina), and the exterior with hot water and a scrubber sponge. Dry over low heat before storing.

Should your wok’s patina ever disappear due to improper maintenance or a moist-heat cooking methodyou can always reseason the wok.

Once you’re ready to cook with your wok, don’t be afraid to experiment by using your wok for more than just stir-frying. Read the article 4 Ways to Cook with Your Wok for instructions on how to steam, smoke, stir-fry, and deep-fry using a wok.

Behind the Kitchen Door: Tour Grace Young’s kitchen to learn about the design details that make her space ideal for wok cooking.

Photo: Scott Phillips


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  • Wokky | 09/03/2019

    I bought a carbon steel wok at an Asian outlet and washed it with soapy water. I've used it mostly with my steaming baskets but once for a stir fry. I thought I would simply now follow your instructions for seasoning and preparing it. is it too late?

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