Seasoning a new wok

Seasoning date: March 9, 2021

We used to have a wok – you can see a blog post here – but in a fit of decluttering a few years ago I got rid of it. I figured “a nonstick skillet is probably good enough.” But in late winter Carla was trying to cook some bacon and egg fried rice in our nonstick skillet and it was hard to maneuver the ingredients and it didn’t get as hot as we would have liked. We figured a wok just might come in handy so I did some research. The one we had – a Joyce Chen Pro flat bottom wok – was still highly rated by sites like Serious Eats so I ordered another one. You can tell COVID has strained manufacturing and supply lines; the wok we received was pretty thoroughly scratched. I figured if we returned/replaced it we might end up with the same thing. So I returned it to Amazon and bought a carbon steel flat bottom wok from The Wok Shop in San Francisco – along with the lid. I had to pay for shipping so with the lid the price came to a bit over $50.

Like the carbon steel skillet I bought in November, this wok needed to be thoroughly cleaned and seasoned to protect it from rust. The initial cleaning is needed to strip off the protective film put on to protect the wok from rusting. It took me over 30 minutes to scrub and scrub and scrub. I used liquid detergent, and Scotch Brite pad, even a steel wool scrubber. I even tried vinegar – yeah, don’t do that it almost instantly starts to oxidize the metal. Here, I’m almost done cleanning.

Initial cleaning of the wok

Once the original film was gone it was time to start seasoning. Carbon steel is prone to rust if you look at it wrong so you need to get a thin, thin, THIN, layer of oil on it for protection. I followed part of the Serious Eats method you can see demonstrated here. Step 1, get it blistering hot, so hot it starts to turn blue.

Blueing the wok

It takes a bit of work and you have to keep moving the wok around to it all done. I used some leather welding gloves I use for handling hot grill bits and a Weber oven glove. Even then I couldn’t hold it for long. But it was effective.

Blueing the sides of the wok

I thought I was done but I noticed a small rust spot.

Uh, oh. A spot of rust!

I let the wok cool down, and scrubbed the rust away and reheated that spot. Here it is with the blueing scompleted. You can still see a tiny spot of rust remaining. I can season that away.

Blueing complete.

The third and final step is to stir fry some ginger and scallions in a good amount of oil – about 2 Tabespoons. This method is recommended by Grace Young, the author of Stir Frying to the Sky’s Edge. Look on YouTube and you can see her demonstrate.

Seasoning the new wok by stir frying ginger slices and scallions

I learned my lesson from seasoning my carbon steel skillet and didn’t smoke the house up. Look closely and you’ll see I had my fire extinguisher at the ready. Can’t be too careful.

Here it is cleaned, blued, and seasoned.

Cleaned, blued, and seasoned. Ready for use

The next step is to actually use it. We’ll see that in the next post. If I didn’t do a good job, I’ll need to strip and redo it. Stay tuned.

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