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How to Season Your Carbon Steel Wok

Before you can start cooking, you need to season your Carbon Steel Wok.

By Emily Borst
Jul 26, 2022
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Not only does Carbon Steel heat up quickly, but it's also lightweight, making it a great alternative to cast iron. With regular use, a Carbon Steel Wok can develop a patina, which is a non stick surface that will keep food from clinging to your pan. If you want to build a protective coating on your Wok, you'll need to make sure that it's seasoned—even if it’s pre-seasoned.

Even though some Carbon Steel Woks come pre-seasoned, this factory oil used for seasoning is only designed to protect the cookware during shipping. This is why it’s important to season your Carbon Steel Wok before you cook with it. Read on to learn how to season your Carbon Steel Wok.

What Is Seasoning?

When a high smoke point oil is exposed to high heat, the molecules of the oil will react to the heat, forming a protective layer. This process is known as seasoning. In addition to keeping food from sticking to your pan, seasoning can protect your cookware from rust.

If you want to enjoy all the benefits of Carbon Steel, you'll need to learn how to season a Wok. While seasoning does take a little time, it's a very simple process.

How to Season Your Wok

There are two ways to season a Carbon Steel Wok: in the oven or on the stovetop. Both work well, but if this your first seasoning, we recommend starting with the oven method.

The Oven Method

To season your Wok in the oven, you'll need to use an oil with a high smoke point, such as grapeseed, soybean, or avocado oil. You'll also need a Sheet Pan, aluminum foil, dish soap, and paper towels.

1. Pre-heat Your Oven

Your oven should be preheated to the temperature that's the smoke point of your chosen oil. The smoke point for grapeseed oil is about 420F, while the smoke point for soybean oil is 450F. Double check to make sure you're heating your oven to the correct temperature.

2. Prepare Your Sheet Pan

Take your Sheet Pan and line it with aluminum foil. Make sure that the pan is completely covered. When you're done, take the Pan and set it on your oven's bottom rack.

3. Clean Your Wok

Using warm water and dish soap, scrub your pan to remove factory oil. For best results, you'll want to wash it for around 10 minutes. By washing your Wok thoroughly, you can remove the initial protective layer and prepare the pan for seasoning—this is the only time you should be using soap and water on your Wok, unless you’re re-seasoning.

4. Dry Your Wok

Use your paper towels to remove every drop of water on the Wok. If your pan is even slightly damp, it could interfere with the seasoning process. Place your Wok on the stovetop over low heat to ensure that it's fully dry.

5. Coat Your Wok in Oil

Once your Wok is bone-dry, add a few tablespoons of your chosen oil to a small dish. Increase the heat on the stovetop to medium-low and use paper towels to apply a light layer of oil to the surface of your Wok. Make sure that the pan is completely covered in a thin layer of oil before moving on to the next step—too much oil and your Wok will be sticky and won’t properly develop its non stick patina.

6. Put Your Wok in the Oven

Wipe your Wok down with a paper towel to get rid of excess oil. Place it upside down in your oven, making sure that the sheet pan is beneath it to catch drips of oil. Allow the Wok to stay there for one hour.

7. Let Your Wok Cool

Once the hour is up, shut off your oven. Leave your Wok inside the oven and allow it to cool. When the Wok has cooled, you can remove it from the oven and begin to cook immediately. We recommend kick-starting the development of a seasoning layer with a high-fat protein like bacon or steak.

The Stovetop Method

While the oven method is a great way to season a Carbon Steel Wok, you can also season your Wok on the stovetop. For this method, you'll need a high smoke-point oil, dish soap, and paper towels.

1. Clean Your Wok

Use warm water and dish soap to scrub yourWok clean. Just like the oven method, you should wash your Wok for at least 10 minutes for best results. You may want to use an abrasive sponge to completely remove the initial layer of seasoning; just not steel wool.

2. Test Your Wok to Make Sure It's Clean

After you've washed your Wok for a while, use a paper towel to check for any remaining seasoning. Swipe a dry paper towel across the surface of the pan. If there's still residue on the Wok, you should keep scrubbing, but if the paper towel is clean, you can move on to the next step.

3. Dry and Warm Your Wok

Use paper towels to dry off your cleaned Wok. Transfer it to the stovetop and allow it to sit on low heat for about four minutes. The heat should get rid of any remaining dampness.

4. Coat Your Wok In Oil

Place a small amount of your high smoke-point oil in a bowl. Dip a paper towel in the oil and apply a light layer of oil to the surface of the Wok. While it's best to use as little oil as possible, you should make sure that the Wok is fully coated in oil.

5. Heat Up Your Wok

Once you've finished coating the Wok, turn up your stove to medium-high heat. After a few minutes, turn the stove to high heat. Periodically rotate the Wok to make sure that the entire pan is heated.

6. Remove Excess Oil

As you heat your Wok, you may see beads of oil on the pan's surface. Wipe the oil away with a paper towel. Since the Wok will be very hot, you'll need to wear gloves to avoid burning your hands.

7. Wait for the Wok to Smoke

When your Wok gets hot enough, the oil will start to smoke. Allow the oil to smoke for a few minutes so that a patina can form on the Wok. Turn off your stove and let your Wok fully cool before you begin cooking.

If you're new to Carbon Steel Cookware, you may not know how to season a Wok. Whether you use the oven or stovetop method, seasoning your Wok is a simple process that gives you great results. Once you've seasoned your Wok, continue to wipe it down with oil after each use to build up a stronger protective layer.

Ready to Cook?

Try this delicious take on Chow Fun from Chef Eric Silverstein of Austin-based restaurant The Peached Tortilla based for a delicious and relatively easy introduction to cooking with your Wok.

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