What Are the Best Tips for Seasoning a Wok?

Eugene P.

Unlike seasoning some types of pans, seasoning a wok is best done on top of a stove as opposed to inside an oven, although either method ultimately will work. The first, and most important, tip for seasoning a wok is to be very careful by ensuring proper ventilation and by handling the wok as cautiously as possible to avoid fires and burns. When seasoning a wok that is new, washing it before seasoning it is essential to removing oils and other substances that might remain from the manufacturing and shipping processes. Selecting the right type of seasoning oil also is important, because some — such as flaxseed oil — will leave an undesirable reside behind on the pan, and others — such as olive oil — have such a low smoking point that they will generate unnecessary fumes. When seasoning a wok over high heat, the entire process of heating and applying oil should be repeated several times, and the wok should be allowed to cool completely between each application.

Safflower oil is polyunsaturated.
Safflower oil is polyunsaturated.

Safety is an important aspect to consider when seasoning a wok. The wok itself will become very hot during the process and should be handled only with thick towels or oven mitts. When the oil is placed in the hot wok, a large amount of smoke will be generated, requiring good ventilation. Allowing the wok and the oil inside to cool before removing it or wiping down the inside of the wok can help to prevent injuries and fires.

The type of fat used to season a wok can affect how stir-fries and other dishes taste.
The type of fat used to season a wok can affect how stir-fries and other dishes taste.

The fat used for seasoning a wok can have some effect on how the wok cooks, its final texture and, sometimes, the taste of the food cooked in it. A Chinese wok traditionally is seasoned with lard or pieces of pork fat, sometimes combined with scallions. Most oils, such as canola or grapeseed, will work well, although olive oil's low smoking point will create more smoke than necessary and could burn, leaving a bitter taste in the wok. Oils such as flaxseed, sunflower and safflower, which contain polyunsaturated fats, will create a sticky and unpleasant coating on the wok as they heat and should not be used for seasoning a wok.

Seasoning a wok on a range top usually requires several applications of oil to get the right patina inside and to get the oil into the metal. This means heating the wok, adding the oil, cooking the oil into the metal, and then allowing the wok to cool completely. The oil then can be wiped out of the wok, and the process repeated until the towel being used to wipe down the wok comes out clean. This will help to ensure the wok is fully seasoned.

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