How to Season a Wok: The Ultimate Guide

by R7 eagle | Last Updated:  August 13, 2021
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Selecting the type of wok that works best for you can be hard enough, but looking after it once you have found it can also be a struggle.

Once selected, determine if your wok needs to be seasoned. Why? Woks made of porous metals such as carbon steel or cast iron must be seasoned before use to prevent any rust. 

This article aims to provide you with helpful instructions on cleaning, seasoning, and caring for your new wok. To see the wok that I use every day check this link out at Amazon.

Why Should you Season a Wok?

Seasoning your carbon steel or cast iron wok will create a patina – a protective coating. Each time you cook using oil, the patina gets thicker. 

This creates a non-stick cooking surface, a natural one. This surface prevents corrosion and rust. Additionally, it improves the wok’s non-stick properties. Better yet, it enhances the flavor of your food.

Cleaning a Wok for the First Time

You must clean your wok before use. Manufacturers use factory oils on new woks to protect them from any humidity during their shipment. This is to prevent rust and ensure your wok arrives in excellent condition.

Next, you need to prepare your wok for seasoning. Thoroughly scrub it with soap and an abrasive sponge to remove all the factory oils and dust collected during transportation. 

This is the only time you will need to use soap and a harsh sponge to clean. Below we outline all the necessary steps to remove residue:

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  • Scrub on the inside and outside of the wok with your scouring pad.
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  • Rinse the wok.
  • Dry the wok with a clean and dry towel.
  • Place it on a stove-top over medium-high heat to dry. This should evaporate any water leftover.

You have now removed all the manufacturer’s oil and exposed the bare metal. Now it is time to select your seasoning oil or alternative form of lard.

Choosing Your Seasoning Oil

The best oils for use with a wok will have a high smoking point. This means that they can be used at higher temperatures and won’t burn. 

The oil should be refined and leave behind a neutral flavor. You must avoid unrefined oils with low smoking points such as olive oil or sesame oil. We recommend the following oils:

How to Season Your Wok

Any chef has their own favorite method for seasoning their woks. We explore three of the most popular, namely stovetop seasoning, salt seasoning, and oven seasoning. 

Irrespective of the chosen method, the first step is always to wash your wok so that the bare metal is exposed.

Method #1 Stovetop Seasoning 

This method is the most popular. You will need a bamboo wok brush, a range top burner, the oil, and a spatula or wok turner

It would also be helpful to keep a pair of tongs and a dry, clean towel nearby.

  1. Remove factory oil using the washing method above.
  2. Preheat your wok on high heat. The pan will heat up very fast, so ensure the space surrounding your burner is free from obstruction.
  3. Perform a water test: Throw a drop of water into your wok. If the wok is sufficiently heated enough, the droplet will evaporate immediately. Now it is ready for seasoning.
  4. Add 2 tablespoons of oil and reduce to medium-high heat.
  5. Add ginger, chopped onions and garlic (these are also known as aromatics) to the wok. This prevents your wok from smoking or fuming.
  6. Reduce to medium heat.
  7. Spread this mixture across the entire surface of the wok right up to the rim.
  8. Do this for 15-20 minutes on medium heat.
  9. If the ingredients become too dry or start to burn, add oil, but only a little at a time.
  10. Dump the mixture and allow the wok to cool.
  11. Once you can hold the wok, rinse it through with hot water, using a bamboo wok brush, or the soft side of a scrubber, or a sponge to remove any excess food particles.
  12. Place your wok back on the stove on high heat to dry and evaporate out all water.
  13. You can now store your wok until you are ready to use it. Alternatively, you could repeat this process another 3 times for a thicker seasoning result.

Method #2 Salt Seasoning

This method requires Kosher salt. The salt will develop a dark patina on the wok surface. 

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This is an excellent method for refreshing or re-seasoning a wok that has not been used for a while.

  1. Remove factory oil using the washing method above.
  2. Pour in 1 cup of kosher salt.
  3. Place the wok on stove top on high heat.
  4. Stir continuously for 20 minutes, pushing the salt all around the surface of the wok.
  5. After 20 minutes, remove your wok from heat.
  6. Dump the salt into the sink and let it cool before discarding.
  7. Wipe the wok clean with a paper towel or an oil-covered rag, spreading a thin layer of your chosen oil into the wok’s entire surface.

Method #3 Oven Seasoning 

This method works where your wok has oven-safe handles.

  1. Remove factory oil using the washing method above.
  2. Preheat an oven to 450ºF.
  3. Using aluminum foil, line an oven sheet pan.
  4. Use a paper towel to coat the wok surface with your chosen oil. Be sure to coat the outside of the wok as well.
  5. Place the lined oven sheet on the bottom rack of the oven.
  6. Place the wok on the top rack of your oven.
  7. Bake the wok for 20 minutes
  8. Remove from oven.
  9. Rinse wok with warm water using a soft sponge.
  10. Dry it on the stove on high heat.

Method #4 Wok Burner Method

This is one of my most favorite methods of seasoning a wok. All you need is a wok burner, some oil, paper towels, and a pair of mittens or gloves.

Wok Burners

Here is one of the least expensive wok burners that I have found that works well. This burner is call a Fish Fryer but I use it as a wok burner. You can find it here at Bass Pro Shops.

How to Clean Your Wok

You must always refer to the care instructions that your wok came with. Usually, copper, stainless steel, or aluminum woks are dishwasher safe. 

Carbon steel or cast iron woks need extra special care so that your seasoning efforts are not removed during cleaning.  Below are simple steps to clean your wok:

  1. Rinse in hot or warm water.
  2. If sanitization is necessary to meet specific regulations, briefly submerge the wok in boiling water, with no chemicals or soap.
  3. If there are food particles that need to be removed, lightly scrub the wok with a wok brush or sponge.
  4. Never use abrasive scouring pads, harsh washing chemicals, sanitizers, or soaps as they will remove the seasoned surface.
  5. Rinse off all loosened debris.
  6. Dry with a towel.
  7. Place your wok over medium-high heat to complete the drying and evaporating process.
  8. If you plan to store your wok, and do not intend to use it for more than a week, we recommend applying a thin layer of lard or oil to preserve the patina of your wok.

Guidelines for Preserving a Wok’s Seasoning

  • Never boil, poach or steam in your wok.
  • Avoid cooking acidic products in any newly seasoned wok. That includes avoiding lemons, tomatoes, or vinegar.
  • Never use abrasive pads or washing chemicals, such as sanitizers or soaps. 
  • You should cook, saute, and regularly fry to keep building the patina.
  • Buy a bamboo wok brush, wok spatula, and wok ladle

When you use your wok, the patina should develop further, and the performance of your wok will improve. The non-stick properties will also improve, and food will free quickly and easily. 

Cleaning will be easier too, as food will be less likely to stick. With this proper care and maintenance, your wok will last for many, many years.