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Using starchy rice water to clean cast iron pans/carbon steel woks?

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Hello, I'm pretty sure this is the right board (was debating whether it was "home cooking" or "cookware")... but I just read in "The Wisdom of the Chinese Kitchen" cookbook by Grace Young, she mentions that a lot of Chinese people traditionally used the starchy water used to rinse rice to clean carbon steel woks... and somehow the starch retains the seasoning and reduces the necessity of reseasoning the pans... does anyone have any experience with this?

It just feels counter intuitive, I'd feel like the starch would rub off the seasoning while wiping the pan and... well... the water will rust the pan if not wiped off right away. (Unless it was implied to wipe away the excess water...?)

Anyways, any input would help.,. maintaining the seasoning on my CI is such a PITA :(

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  1. Complete and utter nonsense.

    1. I would think in some areas they'd use the water because clean water was a scarce commodity, to be re-used rather than tossed out.

      1. I first read about this in Grace Young's "Breath of a Wok." In that book, she says that she saves four cups of rice rinsing water, pours it into the wok, and lets it stand for about 5 or 10 minutes. By that time, the wok has soaked long enough so that food particles can be removed easily. Also, the starch particles in the water get rid of the greasiness in the wok without the need of soap.

        I've been saving my rice rinsing water ever since--as long as I'm making rice anyway. It works. Amazingly well. The starch in the water most definitely does not rub off the seasoning. And it really does get rid of the greasiness without requiring any soap. I'm not drying the wok by hand, by the way. As soon as it's washed, I put it on a burner over low heat to dry.

        I've never tried this with my cast iron pans, just with my wok. But that's mainly because I'm usually cooking rice only when using my wok, not when using my CI.

        1 Reply
        1. re: JoanN

          Interesting. Must give it a try one day!

        2. I won't over think this. I think the starchy rice water is just something that work, but not much better than plain water. It may be one of these grandmother era technique that no one really uses anymore. I have never seen professional Chinese chefs do this to their woks.

          As for maintaining your cast iron cookware, what are the problems? Different people encounter different problems.

          1 Reply
          1. re: Chemicalkinetics

            Sorry, Chem, but plain water just doesn't cut the grease the way the cloudy rinse water from the rice does. Try it. You'll see. Believe me, I wouldn't waste the time to do it if it didn't work much better than plain water.

          2. Watching chefs clean their woks, they either ladle in water or use the nozzle/faucet in the stove area. Hold brush with tongs and wipe/scrub, dump water, add fresh water, swirl, dump water, add oil, cook. The wok is over the burner during the cleaning, the burner is on, but low heat. I think the water is hot not cold.

            For home use, add water to hot wok, clean, rinse, heat wok, add oil, distribute oil, drain, wipe, cool.

            1. Boiling potato peels, which would release starch, has been a recommended method, in the past, of conditioning carbon steel pans. De Buyer made a video showing how to condition their carbon steel frying pans with this method.
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              The starch from the potatoes probably removed mfg oils and maybe conditioned the pan surface to receive the heated cooking oil that was used for conditioning.
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              Here is the original de Buyer video showing the boiling potato peels method of seasoning the pan
              https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CgC-y...
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              I followed the instructions in this video several years ago, when I bought a de Buyer 8 inch carbon steel frying pan. It seasoned the pan perfectly. Nothing stuck after the treatment.
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              Here are some links about boiling potato peels in the process of seasoning pans.
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              http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/7418...
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              http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/775472
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              http://everydaylife.globalpost.com/se...
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              It appears that De Buyer no longer recommends the potato peel conditioning method.
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