Friday, September 21, 2007

How To Season A Wok

My old wok has sprung a hole, after 10 years of servitude. I hunted for a new cast iron wok everywhere but could not find a thin one (like my old wok), which would be easy to handle and heat up quickly.

I was at this shop in Karamunsing (ground floor) when this lady who owns one of those Beaufort-style restaurants (the one near Tshung Tsin School) walked in. She was very helpful and told me the carbon steel ones are light and good, provided you season them well. If you don't, the wok will rust easily and the food you cook it in will smell of the industrial oil (or whatever it is) they have coated the wok with. She said never season it like what they tell you in the magazines; your food would smell of the industrial oil. Woks, according to this lady from Hong Kong, should be seasoned The Cantonese Way:

IMG_1108

Love my new wok: big with deep sloping sides and only costs RM27 (US$8).

1. Use paper towels to wipe away the protective oil.

2. Wash and scrub the wok with steel wool, inside and out. Wipe it dry.

3. Put it on the stove, heat it till it begins to smoke and pour in, say, 1 cup of veg oil.

4. Add white tofu (I used 8 pieces since my wok is big) and garlic chives and fry for about 20 to 30 minutes.

5. Throw away the tofu and chives, wash the wok without soap and wipe it dry. Smear some oil all over. It's seasoned and ready to be used.

Verdict: I still detected industrial oil in the first dish I cooked with the new wok although nobody else in the family did. Typical. Of them. After 2 more times, the wok worked fine. It is good to deep-fry the first couple of times so the oil will really seal the surface of the wok. The more you use the wok, the deeper the color will go, until it develops a shiny black patina and a permanent non-stick surface develops. I have yet to buy a bunch of bamboo skewers to wash the wok with. Apparently you should use the bamboo/lidi brush (they do that in the restaurants) and never use washing detergent which will cut too deeply into the surface of the wok and take away all the oil, making the wok vulnerable to rust. Unless it is super dirty, just wash with water and a brush.

20 comments:

Greg Wee said...

HI! Is it better to cook in wok like this? I know in restaurant they have those black cast iron ones. I have one mum got for me it has this nano technology thingy whick looks like just plain carbon steel and you dont need much oil and washing minimal as it does not recommend detergent.

Aunty linda told me about cast iron ones but i had not fully understand the benefits of it.

Terri @ hungerhunger said...

this wok will turn black in time like d restaurants'. i have a stainless steel wok which i don't like bc it'll never develop a on-stick oil coating like a cast iron or carbon steel wok n it burns my food too.

bryan said...

Tofu, the wonder food!

raina said...

Thanks for the very helpful tips!

Terri @ hungerhunger said...

welcome dear. i'm learning too.

Anonymous said...

You should season the wok until it's totally black. Get it as hot as you can and spread a thin layer of oil on with a paper towel and keep heating until it's burned away. There's loads of smoke. Repeat until the wok's all black.

Had mine for 10 years and it only cost me £4

Kin said...

Hi Terri, Can you please tell me what is the name of the shop in Karamunsing that sells this type of carbon steel wok? Am interested to get one too. Many thanks for your tips. Does it give you the kind of 'wok hei' as in the traditional chinese cast iron woks?

Terri @ A Daily Obsession said...

Hi Kin! the shop is opposite to the side of Fuji (sells electrical goods, in front of the elevator) on the ground floor. Oh, it is a great wok. mine has a deep brown-black patina even after washing. My maid doesn't use detergent n i don't use it for steaming, just for frying. u'll like it :)

Terri @ A Daily Obsession said...

and yes, it gives 'wok hei' bc the metal is thin n heats up n cools down very quickly.

Terri @ A Daily Obsession said...

anony: just saw ur comment; thanks for the tip!

MarkG said...

That's interesting. I've never heard of seasoning a wok that way.

I tried seasoning mine by covering it with coconut oil and baking it at 205 degrees Celsius for an hour and a half, but it's still not black (my apartment smelled good, like movie theatre popcorn, though).

Pretty Little Pixie said...

Hi, I never knew about the mechanical oil so I cooked (yesterday) but I never got greasy or dirty when touching it :S I live in Norway and sometimes things are a bit back to front here (you will NOT find ANY tofu here I can promise you that:C ) and after freaking out and before knowing what (not) to do I washed mine like 3 times with boiling water and dish washing liquid. And now it's rusting >_< !! I only have margarine, no vegetarian oil or any kind of oil. I don't know what to do, my boyfriend recommends to take it back to the store but I have no clue what to say :S "Hi, I was a bit stupid and ruined this pan".
It wasn't expensive so I guess there's no REAL harm. Just wondering, how dangerous is that protective grease layer ? I might have poisoned my boyfriend O_o

Terri @ A Daily Obsession said...

prettylitlpixie: not sure what oil they use (china being china) but i don't like the taste. u can get a wok in norway but not tofu??

i think basically the tofu was used to 'inaugurate' the wok. next time you get a new wok, choose smthing absorbent n cheap to cook, then throw it away.

btw, my wok is now beautifully black-bronzed n food doesn't stick at all. i LOVe it.

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Wok-ache said...

Hi, I was given an old Chinese wok which has already been seasoned. The problem with this wok is each time I wipe it with oil (after heating it and before putting it away) the paper towel will turn brown and have black specks on it. If I wash the wok with soap, the paper won't be so brown but the black specks will still be there. Some people say to keep using the wok and the black specks will go away but they don't. I think the black specks could be carbon and thus harmful if ingested. Would you have a solution to this problem? Thanks!

terri@adailyobsession said...

wokache: i think what you get is wok rust, bc old fashioned chinese woks are made of raw iron n they rust easily. i would advise using the wok for frying n deep-frying only. DO NOT use it to steam or boil bc tt would take away the coating of oil tt builds up with constant use. i don't like to wash my wok with soap, preferring to scrub it with a natural bristle brush and rinse with water. last tip is you must wipe the wok dry each time after using and cleaning so that there won't be water to cause rusting. i also keep my wok covered with a big wok lid. i hope this helps...

Anonymous said...

Hi there,

My sis bought a wok online and it smells really bad. I tried to season it by putting it on the burner and adding oil but the smell just got worst. Is the industrial oil you're talking about suppose to smell this bad? Did your wok smell like some kind of toxic chemical like hers?

terri@adailyobsession said...

anon: yes, my wok had thick industrail oil tt smelt bad but i wiped it off, washed in dishwashing liquid n seasoned it like in my post. the first couple of times i detected slight smell in my fried fish (the first few times, cook only oily dishes, it's another way to season the wok) altho my family didn't. but it went off pretty quick.

Drunken Pig Boxer said...

I clean my wok by pouring salt into it and scrubbing dry with a paper towel. That loosens the food bits. Then you dump out the salt, rinse and heat dry.

For seasoning, I scrubbed the wok clean with soap and water, dried it, and then filled the wok with a thick (say, half-inch) layer of salt and heated for 30-45 minutes on the stove. After the wok was blackened, I tossed the salt, let the wok cool, and then coated with oil and heated it to smoking once. Done, and without too much smell.

roncar6 said...

Hey Drunken Pig Boxer - Thank you so much!!! I've had my wok for more than 20 years and it always had a metal smell which transferred to my food. I apparently never seasoned it properly. Prior to reading your post I had washed, dried it and coated with a small amount of vegetable oil. So when I coated with salt (I used kosher) it stuck really well. I used only probably 1/8 inch, and heated for about 15 minutes. The metal turned dark pretty quickly and the smell began to go away. I let it cool then rubbed all the salt out with a paper towel, added more vegetable oil to coat along with a clove of garlic (I wanted to be sure the smell went away)burned the oil in for only about 5 minutes. Let cool, then rubbed out the oil with more salt and a paper towel. I've learned my lesson - will never use soap and water again. I'll clean it out with salt as the abrasive and a paper towel, re-oil and store. Thanks again!!

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