While in the local Chinese supermarket recently I picked up a new small wok for when I want to cook some separate side dishes and thought I would take the opportunity to write up how to season a wok. While the basics are the same as a gas hob a few little extra steps are needed when using an electric hob to season and temper the sides.
If you use an electric hob you will have to buy a flat-bottomed wok. Don’t be tempted by non-stick coated woks, you won’t be able to get these hot enough for cooking and there is no need to pay over the odds for some brand name wok or one endorsed by a certain Chinese celebrity chef. The best are the proper ones from the Chinese stores, this new 10” one cost just £4.50, a normal full sized one was about £8.95.
Before using your new wok you will need to temper and season it, this will give your wok it’s natural non stick surface and ensure your wok will last for many years, my large wok has had over 25 years of use and is still going strong.
Steps to temper and season the wok
- When you buy a wok it will have a thick oily coating on it that protects it from rusting during shipment and while sat on the shelf in the shop, you will need to remove this. Soak the wok in hot soapy water for 10 minutes to soften the coating then taking a wire scrubber to thoroughly scrub off the coating inside and out, dry the wok after you have done.
- Turn on the hob to its highest heat and put on the wok. First the bottom will turn black, don’t stop yet, you need to hold your nerve and leave it on longer and then it will start to turn grey. Once the bottom has all turned to grey you need to start working on the sides, hold on its side against the burner building up the same grey patina, turning it to build up all the way around the wok. When the wok turns grey the pores of the metal have opened up and it is now ready to accept oil and start to build up it’s seasoning.
- Put the wok aside and allow it to cool
- Once the wok is cool add tbsp of oil, use an oil with a high smoke point like groundnut oil or vegetable oil, and with a piece of kitchen paper wipe it all around the inside and outside of the wok.
- It’s going to get a bit smoky the next few steps so open your windows and turn on the extractor fan.
- Put the wok on over a medium high heat, allow it to get hot and start smoking, carefully swirl the hot oil around.
- Add a sliced up onion into the wok (this will help rid the wok of its new wok metallic taste). Keep frying the onion until it caramelises. Add more oil as the onions start to get dry as the oil is being soaked into the pores of the pan and building up your non stick surface. When the onions are blackened remove from the heat and allow to cool.
- Empty the wok and wash in clean fresh water, from now on never use dish soap or scouring pads to clean the pan, you will remove the patina you have just built up.
Your new wok is now ready to use, some people will complete steps 6-8 another couple times but I find once is enough to build up a patina and seasoning.
To test that your wok is now non stick heat to medium high and cracking in an egg to fry, after one minute loosen the edges of the egg with a spatula and you should be able to swirl the egg around the pan freely without it sticking.