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Carbon Steel Wok Maintenance

Carbon steel woks are well known for their performance when it comes to cooking many popular Asian recipes from Pad Thai to authentic Mapo Tofu. Not only do they heat up quickly, they are also great at distributing and maintaining the heat throughout the cooking process to ensure your food is cooked evenly. The metal material of carbon steel woks also makes them very strong and sturdy in comparison to other types of woks, and this explains why they are so widely used in Asian countries for their great durability. However, while carbon steel woks are an amazing cooking tool to have at hand when cooking Asian cuisine, they also require a good maintenance for long-lasting performance. It’s important to understand how to prepare and care for your carbon steel wok before you start using it, so in this blog we’re sharing everything you need to know about carbon steel wok maintenance. 

We stock a variety of round bottom and flat bottom carbon steel woks ranging from 8 inches to 16 inches.

View our full range of Carbon Steel Woks.

Getting Started with Carbon Steel Woks

season wok
Remove the Coating:

Carbon steel woks come with a thin coating on the surface which needs to be removed before cooking. This can be achieved by simply washing the carbon steel wok with warm soapy water and scrubbing the surface with something that will effectively remove the coating without scratching the surface of the wok. Wash and rinse your wok as normal but when it comes to drying, you have two options. You can either use a clean, dry paper towel to quickly wipe the wok dry or you can place the wok on the stove and allow a gentle heat to dry it instead. 

Season Your Wok:

Despite having cleaned and removed the thin lining in your wok, it still isn’t quite ready to use. Your wok is now ready to be seasoned before it’s first use. If you’re wondering what we mean when we say ‘season your wok’, we’re not talking about sprinkling it with herbs and spices. 

Seasoning your wok is simply the process of treating the surface of your wok with hot fat or oil to create a rust and stick-resistant coating. This is actually a vital step in carbon steel wok maintenance and can be the make or break reason for having a wok in pristine condition or one that is prone to rusting. 

In fact, seasoning your wok is something that isn’t only done once, you need to season your wok throughout its lifespan and use it to prevent it from deteriorating and this of course, requires some time and effort but trust us when we say the cooking experience is completely worth it! 

How to Season Your Wok:

Here are some step by step instructions on how to season your wok:
  1. Make your your wok is clean and thoroughly dry
  2. Take some vegetable oil (roughly a 1 tsp) and spread it around the surface of your wok. You can use a paper towel to make sure you are evenly distributing a thin layer of oil all over the wok.
  3. Gentle heat up the wok and watch as the oil burns onto the carbon steel surface. The wok should be changing colour and you should notice some areas turning into a rainbow colour.
  4. Allow your wok to continue heating for 5-10 minutes until it has completely changed colour. Times may vary depending on the size of your wok and the amount of oil on the surface. 
  5. Leave your wok to cool down before repeating the process for a total of 5 times.
  6. After repeating this process several times, your wok is not thoroughly seasoned and ready to use!

    We also recommend this quick video explaining how to season your wok too:

    How to Season a Wok


    Cleaning Carbon Steel Woks (Things to Never Do):

    So now that we’ve covered what you need to do with your wok before getting started, you should also know how to maintain your wok after each use. Cleaning your wok is very simple, there’s no magic trick or process. However, there are a few mistakes that people often make that could affect the quality and durability of their wok. We made those mistakes into a short list of things you should never do with a carbon steel wok:

    • Never soak a carbon steel wok.
    • Never allow food to sit in your carbon steel wok for prolonged periods of time.
    • Never use abrasive cleaning products on your wok.
    • Never put your wok in the dishwasher.
    • Never skip seasoning.

    Soaking your wok, allowing food to sit in it for long periods of time and even putting the wok in the dishwasher can not only drastically increase the chance of rust developing but also increase the speed in which the rust develops on your wok. Avoid doing all of these things at all costs, because they are arguably the most damaging to your wok. 

    Another thing to note is to avoid using abrasive cleaning products on your wok. That means anything with harsh chemicals and also, harsh cleaning scourers and scrubbers. Not only does this rub away at the nice coating of oil you created when seasoning your wok, it also creates small cracks of surface area that might be prone to rusting quicker. Simply cleaning your wok with a sponge, soap and warm water should do the trick. Do this as soon as possible after use and be sure to dry your wok immediately too.

    And finally, as tempting as it can be, never skip seasoning your wok. This is something that should be done after every use so it’s ready for the next use. Remember that the coating of oil is protecting your wok from exposure to the air that could cause rusting, so we have to stress that this is an essential non-negotiable step for keeping your wok in good condition.

    Final Advice

    used carbon steel wok

    Our final advice is simply that carbon steel woks are made for effective cooking. They aren’t going to be the prettiest pot in your cupboard but they are going to be one of the best cookware items for making authentic Asian recipes to a great standard. So, don’t worry if your carbon steel wok is scratched up, patchy and looks very used overtime. That only means you’ve been putting it to great use. If there’s one golden rule we want you to take from us, it’s to season your wok and make sure it never becomes rusty and crusty.

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