Carbon steel wok pans have porous metals like cast iron and carbon steel, which need regular upkeep now and then. You need to season yours before cooking to prevent rust—and get the most of your steel wok! So, how to season a carbon steel wok pan? Read on to find out.
How to Season A Carbon Steel Wok Pan?
Although there are easier methods of seasoning a carbon steel wok pan, here’s a proven method you can do at home:
1. Clean your Carbon Steel Wok
This step is the only time you’re allowed to use an abrasive sponge or scrubber. After all, you’d want to have your carbon steel wok pan as clean as possible.
So, clean the wok thoroughly using regular dish soap and hot water. This removes all the grime and unseen dirt, giving you a good surface for the oil you’ll put later on.
Also, I suggest avoiding using dish soap if it’s not your first time cleaning the wok.
Exposing a carbon steel wok pan to soap can degrade its coating over time. And with this, you’ll need the season the wok again!
2. Dry the Wok Pan
Dry off the wok thoroughly using either a microfiber or paper towel. I recommend doing this before you add the oil and heat the wok. It frees the kitchen tool from debris, giving you a clean surface for the oil coating. So, ensure your wok’s completely dry!
3. Coat the Wok’s Interior with Oil
Coat the carbon steel wok’s interior with at least two tablespoons of oil to begin your seasoning. Oil will be your main ingredient, making for a great protective layer.
Not to mention, it adds a lot of flavor to your dishes!
I recommend using oils with high smoke points like peanut or canola oil as carbon steel wok pans get hot.
You can coat the oil in any way you want, but it’s best to use a barbecue brush for an even spread.
4. Heat the Wok
Place your stove at the highest temperature and let the wok heat up for at least 10 minutes. And if you notice the oil smoking a bit, don’t panic. It’s perfectly normal!
But to prevent you from burning the wok pan down, here are some indicators you need to remember:
- Heavy smoke indicates that the carbon steel wok is too hot.
- Evaporated water shows that you’re just at the right temperature.
You can test this out by flicking a little bit of water in the carbon steel wok. With this, your wok might turn black, blue, or brown. Either way, all of these are normal.
5. Allow the Wok to Cool Down
I recommend letting the carbon steel wok cool down rather than using a towel. Doing this ensures the oil coating is in its best condition. Not to mention, it saves you some labor work. Regardless, try to let the wok cool down between five to ten minutes for the best results.
6. Rinse your Wok
When rinsing the wok, don’t use soap or any other cleaner.
And yes, this applies to both non-abrasive and abrasive cleaners. After all, we’re aiming to preserve the oil coating.
Using soap or other cleaners can strip off the oil, leaving you with a soapy and oil-less wok.
You wouldn’t want to repeat the process, don’t you?
7. Heat the Wok Until all the Water Disappears
Place your carbon steel wok on top of the stove again and let it sit until all water evaporates. This makes the wok solidify all the remaining oil onto the surface. As a result, the protective oil layer becomes more robust than ever!
8. Finish Up, and Let your Wok Cool Down
After all the water in your wok evaporates, let it cool down. And that’s it! You’re done.
If you notice your carbon steel wok changing colors with further use, don’t worry. It’s supposed to happen.
So, even if the carbon steel wok doesn’t look like the shiny pan you bought a few months ago, don’t fret! After all, the non-stick surface will improve over time, prolonging the wok’s lifespan.
Finally, you can always redo the process if you see the protective oil layer stripping off. Luckily, this shouldn’t be a recurring theme as the layer of oil can last much longer as needed.
Other Ways to Season a Carbon Steel Wok
If the seasoning method above doesn’t work for your carbon steel wok, here are two alternatives to try:
Seasoning a Carbon Steel Wok in the Oven
This is the best seasoning method for carbon steel woks with oven-safe handles. It’s safe, convenient, and fast! Below is a quick overview of what you need to do.
- Wash the wok. As mentioned earlier, washing your carbon steel wok is a priority. It removes all the unwanted factory oil, making it easier to create a more robust protective layer.
- Preheat your oven. Turn your kitchen oven on and let it preheat to 450 degrees Fahrenheit.
- Line it. Line your sheet pan with some aluminum foil.
- Coat the wok. Using a paper towel, coat the whole carbon steel wok with oil. You can use lard, shortening, or other cooking oils. And yes, this includes the outside of the wok!
- Place the pan and wok in the oven. Put your aluminum foil-covered sheet pan on the oven’s bottom rack. After, place your oiled carbon steel wok on the top.
- Let it bake. Bake the work and sheet pan for at least 20 minutes.
- Rinse. Wash the wok with plain, warm water.
- Dry the wok, and you’re done! Dry the carbon steel wok on your stovetop over high heat.
Seasoning a Carbon Steel Work with Salt
This is the best method if you’re looking to re-season a wok in storage. It uses kosher salt to develop a dark and sturdy patina. Here’s how to do it at home:
- Wash the wok. Using plain, hot water and a soft sponge, thoroughly wash the wok.
- Pour the salt. Pour at least one cup of kosher salt into the wok.
- Heat it. Place the wok on a stovetop over high heat.
- Stir, stir, stir. Grab a wooden spoon and stir the salt continually for two minutes. Ensure it reaches the upper part and sides of the wok.
- Remove the salt. After 20 minutes of stirring, dump the salt into your sink and let the wok cool down.
- Wipe, and you’re done! Using an oil-covered rag or towel, wipe the carbon steel wok clean. Make sure to spread a thin and even layer of oil into its surface for the best results.
Why Season Your Wok
Unlike stainless steel, carbon steel is weaker. It’s prone to rust and corrosion, making regular upkeep crucial. That’s why seasoning a carbon steel wok is essential.
Although there are many ways to care for a carbon steel wok, seasoning is just a must! It creates a non-stick surface that makes a wok sturdier than ever. This protective coating is also known as a patina, becoming heavier and thicker as time passes. And this, in turn, prevents rust and corrosion, prolonging a wok’s lifespan—making it last for years.
Aside from that, seasoning a wok is crucial as it also adds flavor to your food. So, as long as you don’t use acidic ingredients on the wok, it should serve you for a long time.
Carbon Steel Wok Care – Additional Tips
Seasoning a carbon steel wok prolongs its lifespan significantly. However, there are some things you need to keep in mind for the best results. Below are my proven tips on carbon steel wok care!
- Skip the abrasives. Never scrub carbon steel woks with abrasive cleaners or sponges. After all, these might damage the seasoned surface of the wok.
- Never put the wok in a dishwasher. Doing this puts the wok at risk of chipping.
- Avoid dish soap after the first wash. After you’ve washed your carbon steel wok the first time, avoid using dish soap. After all, it can wash the seasoning off the wok.
- Re-season is critical for rusting. When spotting a rusty formation on the wok, you can re-season it. It helps you remove all the rust without damaging the wok.
- Soaking is just as bad. Never soak a wok in water as it causes rust.
Frequently Asked Questions
Q: How can I season a carbon steel wok pan perfectly?
A: I recommend preheating the wok long enough until the oil hardens. And to ensure an even spread, use a paintbrush or paper towel to distribute the oil. However, don’t go over two tablespoons as you’ll be left with a sticky and vulnerable pan.
Q: How often do I have to season carbon steel?
A: It’s best to season carbon steel wok pans two to three times before cooking. If not, you’ll have to deal with a sticky pan and burnt meals. That’s why I suggest seasoning your pan more than once for the best results.
Q: What’s the best technique to take care of a carbon steel pan?
A: Avoid using dish soap or other abrasive cleaners after the first wash to preserve your pan. Not to mention, it keeps the layer of seasoning in place, prolonging your pan’s lifespan.
Q: Can I use olive oil to season my carbon steel wok pan?
A: It’s best to use oils with high smoke points for carbon steel wok pans, and olive oil does not meet that criteria. After all, the oil only has a meager smoke point of 375º to 400º. And this is not high enough. Instead, I suggest using canola or peanut oil.
Q: Does carbon steel rust quickly?
A: Carbon steel is prone to corrosion and rust, making them less sturdy than stainless steel. You may notice carbon steel wok pans rusting faster than stainless steel ones. Luckily, you can prevent this by seasoning the kitchen tool.
How to season a carbon steel wok pan? There are many methods to explore, from forming patinas through the stove or covering your wok pan with salt; there’s something for everyone! Either way, the techniques I’ve mentioned help you develop your patina over time. And this, in turn, gives you a more reliable pan in the long run.
Overall, with proper care and seasoning, your wok pan will last you for years to come. So, season carefully, and enjoy a more robust pan—and delicious meals!