How to Season a New Wok using lard and aromatic herbs and vegetables. High smoking point oil may be used as a substitute.
A carbon steel wok is an indispensable piece of cooking utensil in a Chinese kitchen. For people starting out on cooking Chinese dishes, the wok is the first piece of cooking utensil you learn to use because without a wok, there is no Chinese cuisine.
Which Wok Should I Buy?
I remember asking Mom what kind of wok I should buy when Paul and I got married. The choice of wok depended on the cooking style and size of the family. At that time, I opted for the standard 14 inch (35.5cm) carbon steel round base wok. Until the recent introduction of electric stoves, woks always had a rounded base for open flame cooking. The first wok that I purchased is still with us to this day.
Flat Bottom Woks for Electric Ranges
In Malaysia, the woks usually have 2 small metal handles. When we moved to the United States, I purchased a flat bottom 14 inch wok to be used on my electric range. At that time, I still persisted with the two small handle configuration. Recently, I wanted to employ a different style of stir frying that involved some tossing of the food in the wok. For this purpose, a long pan handle is much easier and safer than my previous wok.
I search the internet and read all kinds of reviews on woks available out there. I finally settled on this 12 inches/30cm Carbon Steel Flat Base Wok. It is manufactured in of all places, the United Kingdom! Who would have thought! It took a while to arrive from across the pond but it was worth the wait. This wok is currently out of stock but here is a similar one –> Asian Kitchen Carbon Steel Wok Stir Fry Pan, 12-inch that might interest you.
If you prefer a larger one, check out this Classic Series Carbon Steel Wok, 14-inch. It looks very similar to the one I purchased except that it has the additional steel ear handle.
How to Season a New Wok
This 12 inches/30cm carbon steel flat base wok is of a lighter gauge which is perfect for my purpose. So far I have used it almost every day for a week because I love the size and feel of it. It handles really well. To season it, I scrubbed the wok inside out with steel wool and a little soap. Then I seasoned it in the traditional way using pork lard and aromatic herbs and vegetables.
Everyday Care for your New Wok
After the initial seasoning, it had a light patina (as seen in the video). I was delighted that it quickly darken after just one week of use. After each use I cleaned the wok with this 7 inch Bamboo Cleaning Whisk and just warm water. I did not use any soap. I dried it with a towel and place it back on the stove for a few minutes for any residual water to evaporate completely. Since it is still relatively new, I then moistened a paper towel with a little vegetable oil and rubbed the inside of the wok all over with the paper towel. I usually omit the last step with my other very well seasoned wok.
I know I am going to enjoy using this wok a lot and can’t wait for the day when it becomes totally seasoned. For now, I will avoid cooking highly acidic food in it so that a nice dark patina will form like my other wok.
Get a Wok
If you are serious about cooking Chinese food, I highly recommend that you purchase a wok. It is very inexpensive as compared to all the other cookware out there. You can use it for stir frying, braising, and deep frying. Some people also use it for steaming although I personally prefer not to. If properly cared for, a wok will last more than a lifetime!
How to Season a New Wok – Update (February 11,2020)
The patina on my single handle 12 inch wok has darken considerably after 3½ years of almost daily use. It works like a non-stick pan now and is a joy to use. I have had my double handle 14 inch wok for a much longer period of time but set it aside for a while. I only started using it again after I bought the single handle wok. Now, I use both regularly. The larger wok is great for frying rice and noodles.