What does it mean to season a wok? |
Curing a wok is the process of preparing your new wok for use. The process not only cleans the wok to remove any oils or films left on it by the manufacturer, it also prepares your wok for a long life in your kitchen.
A good example of the importance of seasoning a stir-fry pan comes to mind when I remember the time my mother stopped using her old, extremely well-seasoned cast iron fry pan to fry chicken and went to a "state-of-the-art" stainless steel pan. As a child, I may not have comprehended the significance of the curing of the pan, but I do remember that the stainless pan fried chicken had no where near the flavor of the chicken from her older, cured pan. All those essences that had accumulated on her old cast iron fry pan really made the chicken taste far better. The new pan lost all those flavors. New is not always wise.
Should a stir-fry pan be cured?
Before you begin to use a wok you will need to decide if it needs to be seasoned since not all woks need to be seasoned. Some woks come pre-seasoned and some, like a stir fry pan with a non-stick surface, require no curing. If you have chosen, like some professionals and amateur enthusiasts, to purchase a wok made from carbon steel or non-coated cast iron, then you will need to cure that wok. If your wok needs are best met by one of the other materials, seasoning not only is not necessary, it is most likely not possible. Seasoning a wok is one of the most important things you can do to cook authentic Chinese or Asian cuisine. It is most likely that your new wok will provide some directions on its initial curing. Those instructions could be one of a couple of different ways to cure a wok or may include all possibilities.
The Steps for Seasoning a wok
The Beginning: Cleaning a wok.
The first and perhaps most vital step will be to clean the wok very carefully with dish washing detergent and a scrubber. It is vital to ensure that all protectants put on the wok by the manufacturer to protect the wok from rust are removed. This should be the only time you wash your wok with a detergent or soap. In addition it is the only time you will clean the wok using some type of abrasive material or scrubber. Neither should ever be used again as it will take off the seasoning you have worked years to develop.
Head on over to the Best Wok Buyer's Guide for more information on woks.
Curing a wok: Oil Method
Some manufacturers and experts recommend placing your new, carefully scrubbed wok on high heat and heat the whole stir fry pan all the way to the top edge. When heated, soak a lint-free cloth or a bunch of paper towels with peanut or corn oil and rub the whole entire inside of the wok being sure the oil saturates the metal. The hot stir-fry pan will start to smoke and the metal will begin, at the closest point to the heat, to blacken or turn to a deep bronze patina. This blackening or coloring is exactly what you are trying to accomplish and it will work its way up the sides of the wok. When the whole wok is blackened, remove it from the heat and remove excess oil. The seasoning process has thus commenced and will continuously get better as you use a wok.
Seasoning a wok: Salt Technique
Others recommend placing your cleaned wok on high heat and putting in 2-3 cups of kosher salt. Continue to stir the salt as the salt heats and the wok begins to blacken at the bottom, then begin stirring the salt up the sides of the wok until it has blackened to the edge. Curing a wok: Oven Method
An additional technique is to oil your cleaned wok and place it in a 450 degree oven for a duration of 20 minutes.
Seasoning a stir-fry pan: Optional Seasons or Spices
Yet others encourage any of the above processes with the addition of some traditional Asian spices to the salt or oil. The inclusion of fresh ginger, garlic, maybe some star anise might enhance your curing process. I do not think it totally required as these seasonings will be added in any case as you use the wok and its seasoning continues to develop with use. The seasoning of a new stir-fry pan is easily completed, but necessary. I am sure that following the information that comes with your wok is going to result in proper seasoning. Maintenance of this seasoning or patina is very essential to your continued enjoyment of your wok. This is best managed by being persistent about cleaning your wok right away after use, while still hot, and being sure to lightly oil and wipe any excess from the interior once cleaned. Remember, you should only use hot water and a soft brush to clean. Curing a wok is a simple yet important step in starting to cook Chinese food, good luck and good (Chinese) cooking.
Read more if you are ready to buy your first wok.
Related Articles -
first wok, cookware, cookery, woks, chinese food,