To keep foods from sticking to them, cast-iron and carbon-steel woks need to be “seasoned,” or repeatedly sealed with oil to build up a nonstick patina. The simplest way to season a wok, according to pad thai contributor Corinne Trang, is to stir-fry aromatics like garlic, ginger, and scallions in oil in the wok (here’s Corrine’s recipe for Authentic Pad Thai). Since this is the first step in most stir-fries, you are essentially seasoning the wok every time you use it. (If the wok is brand-new, though, the manufacturer’s instructions may call for special initial seasoning steps.)
To maintain the patina, use salt, not soap, to clean the wok. Immediately after use, scatter a large handful of coarse salt all over the inside of the wok and go enjoy your meal. Meanwhile, the salt will absorb any residual oil or sauce. After dinner, scrub the salt around with a paper towel to knock loose any particles. Rinse the wok clean with very hot water. To prevent rust, thoroughly towel-dry the wok or dry it on the stove over low heat before storing.
CooksClub Members: We tested nine woks available on the market. Login to test drive our top picks.