Kitchen Tips

Seasoning and Caring For Your Wok

A wok is a tool used extensively in Southeast Asian and East Asian cuisine. The different cooking techniques for which woks are used include stir frying, steaming, pan frying, deep frying, boiling, braising, searing, stewing, and many more.

There are 2 main types of woks, woks with long handles or those with ears. The long handle woks are more common nowadays as they allow cooks to comfortably hold the wok steady, cook and toss with ease.

Seasoning and Caring For Your Wok
Image Courtesy: Alpha used under the Creative Commons Licence

Woks are used in the preparations of several dishes such as Tofu Kecap, Stir Fry Green Beans and Pork, and Traditional Fried Rice. If you’re planning a meal around these dishes, it is useful to know the right way of seasoning and caring for your wok.

In terms of materials, woks can be made from stainless steel, cast iron or carbon-steel. Of the these, carbon steel is a good choice as it is light and eay to maneuver. It also heats more quickly and evenly compared to the other materials . However, carbon steel woks need to be seasoned before being used.

Seasoning a carbon-steel wok

Ingredients:

1 bunch scallions, chopped into 2-inch pieces
1/2 cup sliced unpeeled ginger
2 tablespoons grape seed, canola or peanut oil.

Equipment:

1 unseasoned 14-inch carbon-steel wok
Stainless steel scrubber
Liquid dish soap
A Spatula

Washing the New Wok:  New woks have to be scrubbed inside out using a steel scrubbing pad, some dish soap and hot water to remove oil.

Drying the new Wok: Dry-clean the wok over low heat and let it dry for one to two minutes, until no water droplets are visible.

Prepare the wok space: Turn on the exhaust fan, cut and set aside bowls of scallions, ginger, and oil and a small cup of water near the stove.

Heating the Wok: Place the wok on a high flame. After a minute or two, flicker droplets of water to ensure the pan is ready for stir-frying.

Oil the wok: Lift the pan off the heat, add 2 tablespoons of oil and carefully swirl it to coat the bottom and sides.

Adding the Aromatics: Put the wok back on the burner and empty the scallions and ginger into it.

Reduce Heat and Stir-Fry: Reduce the heat to a medium flame and stir-fry the spices for 15 to 20 minutes. Smear the aromatics up the sides and all the way to the edges. Add an additional table spoon of oil if the mixture becomes too dry.

Watch the Colour: The colour of the steel gradually changes from shiny new silver to mottled light yellow-brown. A tinge of blue, bright yellow or even black colours may be seen at times. This indicates that the wok is becoming smoother.

Cool and Wash: Turn off the burner, bring down the wok, remove the aromatics and let it cool to room temperature. Then rinse it off with some hot water. Be sure to avoid dish soap.

Drying the Wok: Set the wok over low heat and let it dry for 1 or 2 minutes, until no water droplets are visible. The wok is now seasoned and is ready to be used for cooking. However if the bluish yellow colour does not evenly coat your pan, do repeat the process above until you get an even colour, indicating you have an even layer of protective coating

After seasoning

New woks absorb a lot of fat which indirectly helps in seasoning the new wok. Therefore, cook anything that uses fat, such as stir-fries, deep-fat frying, and cooking bacon. Avoid steaming, boiling, or poaching or cooking anything with acids such as tomatoes, vinegar, and lemons for atleast 5 times, to allow the protective layer to build on your wok.

Caring for your wok

After several using your wok several times and over time the seasoning on a wok may start to look splotchy, feel gummy, or develop rust spots. At such times, fold three layers of paper towels into a pad, slightly heat the wok, swirl in 1 1/2 teaspoons oil and 1 tablespoon salt. Scrub all over with the pad of paper towels until the gumminess and rust spots are gone.

Caring for your wok

Image Courtesy: Cybergate9 used under the Creative Commons Licence

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