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Sep 14, 2006 12:07 AM

Seasoning a Wok

I am breaking in a new wok (my first). It's a carbon steel flat-bottom wok and I cook on an electric stove. I've been using the book _Breath of a Wok_ for recipes and seasoning instruction. So I seasoned it with vegetable oil but I'm not sure I'm doing it correctly. Basically, if I follow the directions in the book (swirl in oil and cook, rotating wok, for two minutes over high heat)the oil does nothing to season the wok (just looks greasy). So I started leaving it on longer and basically cooking the oil to the sides of the wok. It's taking on a yellowy-orangey color and things stick less, but does this sound right? Any tips on seasoning this type of wok on a crappy apartment electric stove?

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  1. I recently seasoned a flat-bottomed wok on the BF's electric stove, which is one of those flat-top deals, which really sux...

    So, wash with soap and water, which you did...Put the wok on the burner, and let it get HOT(so the pores of the metal open up)!!!!! Turn off the burner, pour a teaspoon or so of peanut oil, (which works better than vegetable oil if you're seasoning) into the wok, and rub it around and around and around with a wad of paper towels, til the towels stop getting color. Cool. Do it again.

    Now, each time you use it, scrub it out with a scrungie thing, or salt; try to avoid soap if you can, for now. Dry it on the burner. Do the same thing with the peanut oil and paper towels after each use. All the time. It takes way longer to build up the patina on a flat-bottomed wok, you usually only get the bottom in the beginning, and it gradually creeps up the sides. The wok I seasoned has really done well, it surprises me that it's the pan that cooks best in the electric stove (I hate electric, altho he does have an old Descoware I like, too.)

    This is gonnah take awhile, so buy a ottle of peanut oil, at least for the seasoning. It's heavier, and works better.

    1. Seasoning is easier than most people make it out to be. Bacon fat (or anything similar) is probably better for seasoning than oil because it's heavier. And tastier.

      Iron rocks... both pans and woks. Everything complicated you hear *is* correct. But the best way to season these babies is to use them. Cook in them. Cook fatty things in them. And don't scrub too hard when cleaning. But part of the beauty is that they're old-fashioned non-stick. And they're not fragile. Really easy to clean. Scrambled eggs can be kind of a bitch to clean. Then just leave some water in them over night and the eggs will come out with mild scrubbing with something vaguely abrasive, like the rough side of some of the sponges out there.

      And, yes the patina does creep up the sides. It also often disappears from the bottom of the wok because of the intense heat down there (you can simply burn it off). But no worries. It's really hard to mess up if you use the wok a lot. If not, just make sure it's dry before putting it away. Even better, wipe a little oil in it before putting it away. It can rust. That's bad. But it won't rust if you use it just once in a regular while.

      1. We have an old steel one (round bottomed) that's been around since the late 80's. I stole it from my Mom b/c she wasn't using it, and then it'd been sitting around for years b/c we had a smoothtop electric stove.

        In preparation for using it on our new gas stove, I figured I ought to re-season it. Tried via one of the chive methods from Breath of a Wok. But I did it outside b/c I was worried about smoke- used a side burner on the gas grill.

        The method worked well, but the level of seasoning was nothing like the first time I actually used it on the stove. Bigger burner, nice cutout for it to sit down in right over the flame.

        So, I guess my point is that, if you have some way to get more heat, it makes a big difference. Recently saw an old Good Eats on squid for the first time. AB used a wok over a turkey fryer, which I now look at and think, "that really isn't overkill."

        FYI, we've cooked the mango chicken and spicy garlic eggplant with very good results. The beef chow fun didn't come out as good as I get eating out. Not sure if the seasoning was too light or if I used too much rice noodles. Enjoy!

        1. I had to replace my old wok a couple of months ago. These were the most informative and thorough instructions I could find online and followed them to a tee.

          I don't use my wok much more often than two or three times a month so it's taking a while. But the inside of the wok is turning shiny black and the black areas are indeed creeping higher and higher up the sides. It's not perfect yet, but it's getting there. As often as I can, repeat the initial seasoning procedure each time I clean it. That seems to have helped speed the process along.

          1. How to season a flat bottomed wok for electric stove tops.

            It's easy, use your oven. Here's how;
            NOTE: This method works on old or new woks especially if you want to re-season an old wok.
            1. Remove the wooden handles and turn your oven on to 425 degrees. (If the handles are not removable, wrap them in very wet water soaked dish towels when putting the wok in the oven.)
            2. Start by scrubbing your wok as clean as you can get it. (Removing all oil and the patina, if you can. Basically, just clean it as best as you can.)
            3. Dry it by placing it on the stove top burner and heat it up real good then apply peanut oil, inside and out. (Veggie oil will work also. DON'T use olive oil or unsaturated oils. Someone mentioned pig fat, lard, which is probably the ultimate in oils for seasoning.)
            4. Let it cool to the touch, wrap any wooden items in water soaked dish towel(s) and put it in the oven for 20 minutes and bake it, UPSIDEDOWN. NOTE: keep a basting thingy full of water to re-wet the towels some more after about 10 minutes. They could catch on fire so keep 'em well soaked with water.
            5. After 20 minutes, turn off the oven, open the oven door and let it cool down to room temp. Now, repeat this process 2-5 times and your wok will come out a beautiful golden bronze color and the bottom will already be turning bluish black. Eventually, after use, the whole wok will slowly turn for you. (We electric people have to wait a bit longer for the final results to show. We could also find a friend who has a gas stove and borrow it. LOL)
            I should probably mention the fact that you won't be able to clean your wok as clean as the first time and so on and, that's what you're looking for.
            6. Your first stir fry after all this prep should be some onions. So, stir fry 'em till black and throw 'em away. (There is a chemical in onions that will kill any funny taste of burnt oil or metal.)
            I thought I'd also mention that you shouldn't have to clean the wok after this 'onion burning' process, simply wipe the wok with a paper towel, inside and out and your done. (If your towel wipes clean with no black on it, you've succeeded.)
            7. Enjoy your newly seasoned wok. It should last you a lifetime.

            Oh, you can't ruin it. It can be re-seasoned as many times as you want. Only thing that will ruin your wok is dropping it and cracking it. Carbon steel is a bit brittle. So, don't drop it. LOL


            4 Replies
            1. re: thegrindre

              Hi all,
              I believe this is an old post, but it came up when I did a search on 'seasoning a wok'. I just purchased a carbon steel wok from an Asian Market and would like to perform the oven method of seasoning. that is in this post. I have a few questions though.
              Can the wok be seasoned with sesame oil?
              I have an electric oven (gas stovetop) will the oven method cause a lot of smoke? I just want to be prepared, as we have had our fire alarm go off several times due to cooking/smoking .
              Is there a method of seasoning a wok over a charcoal grill - like a Weber grilll? I'm sure a gas grill would be optimal, but we don't have one. I would prefer to do this outside if there is a lot of smoke involved in seasoning.

              Thanks for your expertise!

              1. re: dogsrus

                Seasoning over a charcoal grill will probably leave you with a blackened exterior that you will have to wash off if you plan to store the wok inside. You can use an old camping trick: coat the outside of the wok with a bar of ivory soap, and washing it off will be easy. I agree, USE your wok, and clean it by scrubbing while still warm with coarse kosher salt and a little oil with a paper towel. Leave a thin layer of oil when you store it to prevent rusting. Every so often I also take a pound of bacon, cut it into 1/4" slices and render it until crisp in the wok. For a flat bottomed wok, you might need more bacon--go for a bulk package of the trimmed ends. Save the drained bacon in a jar in the frig. for later use, pour the bacon fat into a can to discard, and use the kosher salt + oil + paper towel again. Never use soap or an SOS pad, the green scrubbies work on egg until you get your pan well seasoned. You can use any oil you want, but the higher the smoking point the better. It shouldn't smoke if you keep the temperature on medium on the stove. A friend in college used to re-season her wok by making tortilla chips--basically any process that "boils" with oil. This process also works really well for cast iron skillets.

                1. re: blaireso

                  I have been working on my wok and new cast iron lodge pan with the following method.
                  After washing with hot water and non-soaped pad or bamboo brush, I fire it up on the stove top and turn it up and then wipe lard on it, after a maybe 1-2 minutes it smokes and the lard evaporates and then I turn it off. This dries the pan also. It has been coming along very well.. and is most simple. I have tried all other kinds of method as well and the "heat it till it smokes" method is the best for me. Lard does not get sticky like oil does.

                  If you are curious I used a infrared gun to check and the pan smokes the lard at about 450F. So no use turning it up much higher than that.

                  1. re: CACook

                    Thanks maybe I'll try the lard method on medium heat. I really don't want a lot of smoke - it's a pain trying to get our smoke alarm off - once when we were having our tile removed there was so much dust that it went off and we couldn't figure out how to turn it off and ended up taking a baseball bat to it - cost a bit to get it fixed :-)
                    Thanks for your reply