There are several methods to choose from when seasoning a cast iron wok. Generally, when a wok is purchased, it comes with a coat of factory seasoning. This seasoning primarily protects the wok from damage during the shipping process. To season the wok for cooking purposes there are three different ways to season a cast iron wok: the stovetop method, the oven method, and the salt method.
The reason for seasoning a wok is to infuse flavors into the foods you cook and prevent those foods from sticking to the wok. Cast iron is a porous metal. So when you heat it up, the pores open. This has a twofold effect on cast iron. The open pores allow built-up flavor in the pores to release into the food being cooked and it allows the flavor from the food being cooked to absorb into the pores.
This seasoning, as it is called, produces a non-stick quality to the cast iron wok and allows those flavors to soak in, and adds depth to the next foods being prepared in the same wok. The best way to achieve this flavor is to initially prepare your wok and to cook in it often. The more you use the wok, the more non-stick it becomes. Plus, the more seasoning a wok absorbs means that the wok will add more seasoning to your food.
How to Season a Cast Iron Wok on the Stovetop
The first step in seasoning a new wok, no matter the seasoning method is to scrub the factory oil off of it. Preheat your burner to high heat while you clean the wok. Scrub the wok with warm water and a mild dish detergent using a scouring pad. Allow the wok to drip dry and place the wok on a hot burner. The burner will dry the residual water from the wok and open up the pores. The wok, as it heats up, will change color. That is normal; the more a wok is used, the darker it becomes.
As the wok is heating, turn it in different directions so that the entire wok gets evenly heated. Dip your fingers in water and splash the inside of the wok. If the water sizzles and evaporates in a second, the wok is sufficiently heated to be seasoned.
Next, add two tablespoons of oil with a high smoke point to the wok. Peanut oil and grapeseed oil works the best. After you add the oil, wipe it around the inside of the wok with a paper towel. Another option is to add thinly sliced ginger and thinly sliced scallions to the wok. A two-inch piece of ginger and 1 ½ cup of scallions will do the trick. This not only adds incredible flavor and aroma, but they also help spread the oil around.
It is a good idea to season the outside of the wok as well. The outside of the wok will not affect the flavor of the foods being cooked but this light coating will protect the exterior from rust. After the interior of the wok is covered in oil, return it to a medium-high heat burner. Once the oil stops smoking, that part of the wok is seasoned. Turn the wok in different directions to ensure even seasoning throughout the wok.
The wok is properly seasoned once it turns a matte black color. When the seasoning is done, wash it under hot water. A wok brush is recommended for this step as it won’t remove the seasoning. Then, place the wok over the burner to remove all the water particles.
How to Season a Cast Iron Wok Using the Oven
The oven method is straightforward. Preheat the oven to 450℉. While the oven is preheating, perform the initial washing. Next, line a sheet pan with aluminum foil and place the pan on the bottom rack of the oven. Oil the interior and exterior of the wok with a high smoke point oil using a paper towel. Once the oven is heated, place the wok, inverted, on the top rack. The sheet pan will catch any oil drips and prevents flare-ups.
Bake the wok for 20 minutes. Once it is done, allow the wok to cool enough where you can touch it. Wash the wok with warm water and place the wok on a warm stovetop to complete the drying process.
How to Season a Cast Iron Wok With the Salt Method
The salt method utilizes kosher salt to produce a dark patina (seasoning) in the wok. Pour one cup of kosher salt into the wok and place it over on a stovetop burner that is set to high heat. Shake the kosher salt around for 20 minutes or stir it around with a wok spatula. Make sure to push the salt up on the edges and around the bottom.
After 20 minutes, pour the hot salt into the sink to allow it to cool before you discard it. Using a paper towel, lightly season the wok with the oil of your choice with a paper towel.
How To Season a Cast Iron Wok With a Wooden Handle
The first step in seasoning any wok is to wash the initial factory oil from the interior. If the wok has a wooden handle, the preferred way is to use the stovetop. If a stovetop is not an option, you can either unscrew the wooden handle or wrap the handle in aluminum foil.
If the wok is to be seasoned in the oven, unscrew the wooden handle and bake the wok at 450℉, inverted (see above). If the handles are not removable, wrap the handles with wet paper towels and then wrap the handles with aluminum foil. This protects the handles from scorching and ruining them.
How Do You Season a Cast Iron Wok Without An Oven?
There are several methods for seasoning a wok. The methods are largely dependent on personal preference. Usually, the oven method is preferred because it’s the simplest way. However, the salt method and the stovetop method are just as easy and will season the wok more thoroughly. By using the stovetop method or the salt method, you can actually watch the process happen and you will have more control over the finished product.
As mentioned above, you can season your wok with a high smoke point oil. You can also season the wok with salt and add the oil once it’s cooled. Using the oven method is a “set it and forget it” method. While the alternative methods require more attention, they generally produce better results.
How Do You Use a Cast Iron Wok For The First Time?
After the initial seasoning of the wok, it is time to put it to the test. If the wok is properly seasoned, it will have a noticeably different color. A brand new wok will be slightly silver. The more a wok is seasoned, the darker it becomes. This doesn’t mean the wok is scorched. The dark color ensures that the wok is non-stick, it will add flavor depth to the food, and the wok is properly protected.
Acidic foods can be cooked in a well-seasoned wok. You can even poach eggs and boil water in a well-seasoned wok. However, you should avoid these cooking techniques with a newly seasoned wok. Although the wok is seasoned, it will not have enough coats of seasoning to provide surefire results immediately.
The first time you cook in a wok, you should cook food that requires oil. Cooking with oil also seasons the wok, and the more you fry with it, the more layers of seasoning the wok will acquire. After the initial seasoning, fatty foods or fried foods should be cooked three or four times before any other cooking methods are used. At this point, the wok will have a darker patina, which means that it is perfectly seasoned.
Do You Have To Season The Wok Every Time You Use It?
It is recommended to season a wok after every use for at least one to two years. The initial seasoning will leave a copper color to the wok which means it is seasoned. A fully seasoned wok is a deep black color. The goal in seasoning a wok is to produce this color. This time frame is general, as it depends on how much you use the wok, and how many times you cook fatty foods or fry in it.
After the initial seasoning, a wok needs to be seasoned after every use until this deep black color is achieved. Cooking with fatty foods or frying foods in the wok will also season the wok. After the color is achieved, so long as the wok is properly maintained, it doesn’t need to be seasoned after every use. The exception to this is if rust appears or if food has been burnt onto the interior of the wok.
If rust appears in the wok, it has been exposed to moisture. This usually means the wok was put up wet. If this occurs, you can scrub the rust off with steel wool. Whenever rust is scrubbed off, the seasoning is removed as well. If rust needs to be scrubbed off, it is best to scour the whole interior of the wok and reseason it. That way, the seasoning will remain even throughout the interior.
The same rule applies to burnt-on food. If steel wool or hard scrubbing is required to remove food particles, the seasoning will rub off as well. If only a portion of the wok is scrubbed in this way, that one spot will have less seasoning than the rest of the wok. If this is required, make sure to scrub the entire surface and start the process over. It may be heartbreaking, but the wok will have even seasoning and no hotspots.
What Is The Best Oil To Season A Wok With?
The best oil to season a wok with is any oil with a high smoke point. The smoke point of an oil is when the oil starts to smoke. At this point, the oil breaks down and leaves off-putting flavors in the wok. Since a wok requires high heat and time to season, a high smoke point oil is recommended. Simply put, a high smoke point oil means that the oil takes longer to smoke.
Soybean oil is the best as it has a smoke point of 450℉. Grapeseed oil has a smoke point of 420℉. Avocado oil and peanut oil are also good choices. These oils are best for their smoke points. The next step is based on personal preference. The oils not only season the wok, but also infuse flavor into the food being cooked in the wok.
Whenever a wok is seasoned, ginger, garlic, and onions can be added to enhance the seasoned flavor of the wok. The great thing about cast iron is that flavor can be added and flavor can be taken away from the seasoning process. If an unwanted oil is used, or an unwanted garnish, simply scrub the seasoning off and start over. Seasoning a cast iron wok is straightforward and flavorful. The best thing to do is experiment with different combinations and choose the one you prefer.
My name is Jason Phillips and I cooked for many years, primarily aboard Merchant Marine vessels and in fast-paced commercial kitchens. My passion for culinary arts led me to attend a culinary arts academy in 2019 where the instructor piqued my interest in food and beverage writing.