How To Use And Clean A Wok – Methods Of Cooking

If you’re a kitchen enthusiast or home chef, you probably pride yourself on your collection of high-quality and useful tools. Whether you currently own one or are looking to purchase a new wok, it is helpful to know how to use and clean this specialty pan.

How to Choose a Wok

The first step to learning how to use a wok is choosing a wok. To select the wok that is perfect for you, begin by looking for the right size. Most kitchen enthusiasts will enjoy a spacious 14-inch design. Without being too large, a 14-inch wok will provide the user with plenty of room for a wide array of ingredients.

Next, consider what material you want for your pan. Traditionalists may prefer cast iron frying pans, but carbon steel woks provide quick and even heating. As a bonus, carbon steel woks are incredibly durable and can be seasoned similarly to cast iron pans.

One final consideration to make shapes. While all woks provide sloped sides, some also feature a flat bottom. These flat-bottomed woks are best for conducting heat because they give the most surface area connection with the burner. Also, keep in mind that some woks will be equipped with two small hand grips while others have a long handle.

How to Season Your Wok

​​​After you’ve obtained a wok, you’ll need to do some prep work to ensure that you’re getting the best use out of your new tool. Like cast-iron frying pans, you should season woks before using them for the first time. This process provides a non-stick surface so that the foods you cook won’t stick to the ultra-hot bottom of the pan.

In addition to keeping your ingredients from sticking to your pan, seasoning a wok will help prevent rust from forming on its surface. Keep in mind that your wok will not be utterly non-stick after the first seasoning. With time and use, the patina created by seasoning your wok will increase in thickness, and your pan will become more nonstick.

Before You Season

We’ll cover three primary methods for seasoning your new wok below. Before you use any of these methods, clean your wok with hot soapy water and a steel wool scouring pad. Scrub both the inside and the outside of the wok. Then, place your wok over low heat to ensure that your pan dries completely.

To season your wok, you will need a good quality oil with a high smoke point. Some suitable oils include peanut oil, canola oil, or grapeseed oil. Lard, shortening or bacon fat may also be used. If you’re willing to pay the price, flaxseed oil can also make an excellent choice for seasoning woks and cast-iron frying pans.

Season on the Stove

The first method we’ll discuss is stovetop seasoning. To begin, place your clean wok on your stovetop and heat over high heat for a few minutes. When a water droplet dropped into the pan evaporates quickly, your pan is ready to season. You should also feel the heat radiating from the pan.

Next, add two tablespoons of oil and reduce heat to medium-high. If you are using a solid fat like lard, you can use a towel to spread the grease over the surface of the pan, wipe away excess, and let the pan cool.

season on the stove

If you are using liquid oil, add fresh cut ginger and scallions to your hot oil. Reduce heat to medium and use a heat-proof spatula to press the ingredients against the pan walls. You want to spread the oils from the aromatics all over. Continue this process for 20 minutes adding small amounts of oil if needed to keep ingredients from sticking.

When finished, rinse your pan with hot water. At this point, you can use a soft cloth or brush to remove any particles. Do not use anything abrasive. Dry the wok on the stove until all of the water has evaporated. Lastly, store it for future use.

Season in the Oven

Season on the oven

You can use your oven to season your new wok. Do not use this method if your wok has plastic or wooden handles that can burn. After you have cleaned your wok for the first time, preheat your oven to 450 degrees Fahrenheit.

While your oven is heating, prepare your pan by coating it with a thin layer of oil or lard. You should spread the oil over the entire pan, inside and out. Place the wok onto a baking sheet and put in the preheated oven. Bake the pan for 20 minutes.

Once you remove the pan from the oven, let it cool. Wipe off any excess oil with a paper towel or soft cloth. At this point, you can store the wok for future use.

Salt Seasoning

If you have a gas range, you can use the salt seasoning method to season your new wok. Just like the previous two methods, you will begin by entirely and thoroughly cleaning your new pan.

Once your pan is ready to be seasoned, add 1 cup of kosher salt to the wok and place it over high heat. Keep the container on the stove for 20 minutes continuously stirring the salt. Be sure to push the salt against the sides of the wok.

After the 20 minutes have elapsed, take the pan off of the heat and pour the salt into a heatproof container. Allow the salt to completely cool before discarding. Use an oil-covered paper towel to carefully apply a thin layer of oil to the surface of the wok.
To improve the patina on your wok more quickly, repeat any of these seasoning methods two to three times. This process will give the non-stick layer a little bit of a head start in forming.

How To Cook With a Wok

The next step in learning how to use a wok involves the cooking method you will use. Although historically, woks were used for a wide variety of cooking techniques, any techniques that use water will break down your pan’s patina. With the full range of pots and pans on the market today, it is best to save your wok for high heat cooking.

To cook with a wok, begin by preheating the pan on your stovetop. You want your pan to be very hot before adding any oil or ingredients. You can test the pan’s heat with the same water test mentioned earlier.

Add your oil before adding any other ingredients. Just like with seasoning, it is best to use an oil with a high smoke point. By doing so, you will avoid burning the fat and filling your home with smoke.

When stir-frying in a wok, you’ll add your aromatic ingredients first. The intense flavors will infuse with the hot oil and spread throughout your dish evenly. Once the aromatics become soft, push them to the side and add in any proteins you’re using. Be sure to keep pieces in a single layer for even cooking.

Turn your proteins every so often until your meats are ¾ finished cooking. Remove both the aromatics and the meat from the pan and set aside. Begin adding in vegetable ingredients in order of how long they take to cook. Typically, hard vegetables take longer than soft ones but use your best judgment.

Continuously stir the ingredients by scooping a heat-proof spatula between the food and the surface of the wok. Flip the elements in the pan over themselves. When all of your vegetables are done, add the proteins and aromatics back to the wok.

Finish your stir-fry by adding any liquid components. This will deglaze the pan and enhance the flavors of your dish. When the liquid has reduced sufficiently, dish up your stir fry and prepare for a great meal.

Cleaning Your Wok

If you correctly clean and maintain your wok after every use, it will last for a long time. The patina created by adequately seasoning your wok makes clean-up incredibly simple. After using your wok, you will start the cleaning process by adding hot water to the pan while it is still hot.

Taking care not to burn yourself, gently swirl the hot water around the wok. This process should remove any sauce or food debris from the pan. If needed, use a soft cloth or sponge to wipe away any excess debris.

To finish the cleaning process, return your wok to the stove over high heat. Allow the water to evaporate entirely, and the proceed to re-season your pan. By seasoning your wok after each use, you will protect and build up the non-stick patina.

Overall, learning how to use a wok is a simple process. Although you may not be familiar with seasoning a pan now, it becomes incredibly simple with practice. Woks make quick work of stir-frying and are a convenient way to make a delicious weeknight meal.

The Kitchen Advisor
 

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