How To Season A Wok on a gas stovetop using high heat, high smoking point oil like canola oil, and aromatics like ginger and green onions.
Please note that there are many methods of seasoning a new wok. This is an indoors stove top method for seasoning a carbon steel wok that is not pre-seasoned. It is a tried and tested method for the home cooks with limited gas stove fire power. There is no need to remove the wooden handle because the wok will not be placed in the oven.
I finally succumb to getting a new wok after resisting it for a while but I am glad I did. My new wok is a beauty and I know I will get a lot of use out of it. Anyway, I needed a new toy in my kitchen and a wok is such a versatile utensil that everyone should consider if they want to prepare great stir fries.
I already have two very well seasoned woks. Both are flat bottomed woks because I only had electric stoves up until now. I purchased the 14-inch double handle wok after moving to this country many years ago. The lighter 12-inch single handle wok was purchased in 2016 when I showed how it can be seasoned on an electric stovetop. This smaller wok is of a lighter gauge and is perfect for flipping food.
Using a High BTU Gas Stove in How To Season A Wok
When we built our new house here in Colorado 2 years ago, we put in a high BTU (British Thermal Unit) 6 burner gas stove so that I can go back to using a gas stove. This stove is amazing with three 18,000 BTU burners in the front and three 15,000 BTU burners in the back. It is powerful and perfect for my wok cooking. We also purchased a wok stand for it because I guess we knew someday I would eventually go back to using a round bottom wok.
Single Handle and Double Handle Woks
Back in Malaysia, the standard wok is a double handled wok a.k.a. the Cantonese wok. These are considered southern woks which makes sense because the Chinese population in Malaysia are mainly people from the southern provinces of China.
On the other hand, there are the single long handled woks a.k.a. Mandarin (or northern) woks attached to one side of the wok. This single long handle makes flipping food in the wok much easier. That said, it does not prevent users of double handled woks to flip their food in the wok. They do this by having a very firm grip of one of those small handles and flipping the food just like anyone would with a single handled wok.
Buying a Wok
Today, there are many woks to choose from when you are considering getting one. There are broadly 3 kinds of materials used to make woks – carbon steel, cast iron, and stainless steel. The most popular is of course carbon steel woks. It combines fast, even heating with durability. With proper use and care, these woks can be seasoned to become almost non-stick. Cast iron woks are extremely durable and is capable of holding onto heat longer but they are much heavier than carbon steel woks. Stainless steel woks are very durable but they lack the “breath of wok” taste associated with carbon steel woks.
The next thing to consider is the gauge and size of the wok. They come in different diameters – commonly 12 inches, 14 inches, and 16 inches. The most popular and versatile size is a 14-inch wok sufficient for 4 to 5 persons. I decided to get this Hand Hammered 14 inch, Round Bottom Carbon Steel Pow Wok with Bamboo Handle. Unfortunately, it is currently out of stock after I shared it on both my Facebook pages – Roti n Rice and Malaysian Chinese Kitchen. Congratulations to those who managed to get this excellent wok before it was sold out. Good luck with seasoning and cooking with it. 🙂 For those who are still looking for a wok, below are a few similar ones.
UPDATE March 26, 2021: This Hand Hammered 14 inch, Round Bottom Carbon Steel Pow Wok with Bamboo Handle is now back in stock.
Similar Products Used in How To Season A Wok
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Hand Hammered 14 inch, Round Bottom Carbon Steel Pow Wok with Bamboo Handle
Traditional Heavy Gauge Hand Hammered Carbon Steel Pow Wok (14 inch, round bottom)
Traditional Carbon Steel Wok, Hand Hammered (14 inch, round bottom)
Carbon Steel Hand Hammered 14 inch Flat Bottom Wok (Gauge – 1.2mm)
Carbon Steel Wok 12-inch, flat bottom
Traditional Hand Hammered Carbon Steel Pow Wok (12 inch, Round bottom)
The Steps Involved in How To Season A Wok
Cleaning Your Wok For the First Time
Your new wok usually comes with a layer of factory oil to protect it from rusting. To prepare the wok for seasoning you need to scrub your wok inside and out with a wire mesh scourer or steel wool to remove all the factory oil to expose the bare metal. Rinse thoroughly and wipe dry with a clean towel.
Heating up Your Wok
If you have thoroughly scrubbed your new wok of all the factory oil, there should be very little to no smoke when you heat up the wok. Even so, make sure your kitchen is well ventilated. Remove everything from the stovetop because you are going to turn up the burner to high heat.
Place the wok on the stove and allow it to dry completely. After about 2 minutes you will start to see it changing color. Slowly move or rotate the wok over the flame. The base of the wok will turn a golden brown color followed by a steel blue color. Continue to do this until the entire wok is heated through. This can take anywhere between 20 to 30 minutes depending on your stove.
Some woks will give you a very even color throughout but that is not always the case. Mine had patches of purple brown no matter how long I heated it. That is okay as long as you are able to heat up the entire wok. There was little to no smoke because I did scrub the wok really well. The wok is now very hot. Do not oil it now or your kitchen will be filled with smoke. Instead, allow it to cool and decide on the oil you wish to use to season your wok.
Choosing a Seasoning Oil in How To Season A Wok
Always choose a high smoking point oil that can be use at high temperatures without burning. Do not use unrefined oils with low smoking points like olive oil and sesame oil. In the video below, I used canola oil because that is what I have on hand. They should also impart a neutral flavor. Listed below are some high smoking point oil.
1. Canola oil
2. Peanut oil
3. Grapeseed oil
4. Sunflower oil
5. Pork lard
Oiling The Wok
After 20 to 30 minutes, the wok should have cooled down slightly but not entirely. Be careful because it is still hot. Remove your wok with mittens. Place a wok stand over the burner and replace the wok on top of the wok stand. Turn on the stove to medium high heat. Pour in a little of your choice of oil into the wok. Using a pair of tongs and a piece of paper towel, wipe the entire surface of the wok with the oil.
Aromatics Used in How To Season A Wok
Then add a few slices of ginger and some green onions to complete the seasoning. Other aromatics you can use include Chinese chives, onions, shallots, and garlic. Stir fry the aromatics over medium low heat. Try to rub them over the entire surface of the wok. After about 10 minutes, you can turn off the stove. Remove and discard all the aromatics and oil. Wipe off excess oil from the wok with paper towel and tongs.
The reason for stir frying the aromatics is to give the wok some “fragrance” because new woks do have a slight metallic scent. Hopefully, the aromatics will also absorbed whatever residual oils remaining as they are discarded before cooking a real meal in the new wok. It is like boiling water in any brand new pan and discarding the water so that whatever factory oils and coating that come with the pan are removed. Boiling water is what I do with all my new stainless steel and non-stick pans. I season with aromatics for all carbon steel and cast iron pans.
Rinsing the Wok
Rinse the wok in warm water and wipe dry with paper towels. Do not use any detergent. Here you can see that the wok is a beautiful steel blue color. Unfortunately, no matter how much I heated this wok, the coloration is not even but it will not affect its performance. Some woks will have a very even color change but not all. Perhaps, if you have a commercial stove with above 25,000 BTU, you may be able to further heat it up outside.
Heating and Oiling After Wash
After rinsing and wiping dry, place your wok back onto the stove over medium heat to dry it completely. Then wipe a thin layer of oil over the entire surface of the wok. I like to do this every single time I use the wok until it is well seasoned and its color has darken.
- 1 wire mesh scourer
- 1 non-scratch scrub sponge
- 1 unit carbon steel wok
- Some dish washing detergent
- 1 piece kitchen towel
- Several sheets paper towel
- 3 tbsp canola oil or peanut/grapeseed/sunflower oil or pork lard
- 6 slices ginger
- 3 green onions
- Using a wire mesh scourer and some detergent, scrub the wok thoroughly inside and out to remove the protective oil applied on the wok during the manufacturing process to prevent the wok from rusting.
- Then, give it a good rinse and wipe it dry.
- Before you start, make sure your kitchen is well ventilated. If you have cleaned the wok properly, there should be very little to no smoke. Turn on your stove to high and allow the wok to heat up.
- Move the wok slowly over the flame. First, the wok will start to change to a golden brown color.
- Then, it will turn a steel blue color. Depending on your stove, this can take anywhere between 20 to 30 minutes.
- Allow the wok to cool.
- After about 20 minutes, it is time to oil the wok. Turn on the stove to medium high. Pour about 1 tablespoons of canola oil into the wok. Rub a piece of paper towel with tongs over the entire surface of the wok.
- Add ginger and green onions. Also, add another tablespoon of canola oil. Stir fry and rub ginger and green onions all over the surface of the wok with a spatula.
- Reduce heat to medium low so that the ginger and green onions will brown slowly and release their fragrance.
- After 10 minutes, turn off the stove. Remove and discard all the ginger and green onions.
- Wipe the wok with paper towel to remove residual oil. Allow wok to cool.
- When wok is cool enough to handle, bring it to the sink. Scrub the wok with non-scratch scrub sponge and warm water. Do not use any detergent. Then, rinse and wipe dry with paper towel.
- Now, it is time to heat up the wok again to make sure it is completely dry. Place the wok on the stove and turn it on to medium heat.
- After about 2 to 3 minutes, the wok should be dry. Using tongs, rub a thin layer of canola oil over the entire surface of the wok with a paper towel. This will protect the wok from rusting.
- Turn off the stove and allow the wok to cool completely before storing.
- Wok is now ready for use.
A Well Seasoned Wok
Here is my wok after 2 days of use. You can see that the color has definitely darkened and a patina is beginning to form. I hope you will consider getting a wok for your kitchen. It is a very versatile piece of utensil you will enjoy using for many years to come.
Wok Update March 26, 2021
After 5 months of 3 to 4 times a week of use, my wok is now pretty well seasoned. You can see that the middle of the wok has grown darker in color. For my usage, it takes about a year for the entire wok to totally turn dark. The patina takes time to build up, so be patient.
When I do a fried rice (my preferred test), it comes out beautifully with very little to no rice sticking to the wok. After each use, I wash with only with warm water with this 7″ Cleaning Whisk and wipe dry. Then, I place it on the stove and allow it to dry completely on medium heat. After which, I wipe a very THIN layer of vegetable oil with a paper towel on the surface. On days when I am in a rush, I don’t do the last step now. I don’t need to oil my other 2 very seasoned woks but I still do the first two steps. Occasionally, I will oil them but not after every use.
Since this wok is quite heavy, I use the helper handle a lot. For this reason, I wrapped it with Natural Jute Twine so that I do not accidentally reach for it without a cloth. This worked really well for me.