A well-seasoned wok

It ended up taking me seven rounds of seasoning, a total of 21 hours, to get my new wok the way I wanted it. I’ll admit, it is gorgeous and will likely never have to be re-seasoned. However, I still think 21 hours is a ridiculous amount of time to spend on the project. (See “The NOT simple way to season cast iron” for more details about this adventure.)

Before I show you the after photograph, let me start by showing you my inspiration. The following is an image from the phenomenal book The Breath of a Wok by award-winning cookbook author Grace Young. The image was taken by photographer Alan Richardson and is of Chef Danny Chan’s wok that he uses at home. Author Young admits that his wok is the “most extraordinary wok I have ever seen” and that its color is “a delicate teak tone reminiscent of the color often found in Chinese silk scroll paintings.”

My wok isn’t exactly teak colored, but it isn’t black. It’s somewhere between a rich golden wheat and the color of a glass of Bordeaux. It’s beautiful, and will hopefully serve me well over the next few decades.

Now, for comparison, this is where I began on Monday:

And, this is my wok now:

This photograph doesn’t do it justice. You can’t see the nuance of golden colors in it (the gold dots are a reflection of my kitchen lighting), you can’t feel its smooth texture, and you certainly can’t see the time I put into it. I am incredibly excited to cook with it this evening, but most importantly I’m thrilled the inane seasoning process is behind me.

The first five meals that I make in it will be stir-fry dishes with high oil contents. I may even fry up some bacon in it. I know from my experience with cast iron skillets that the iron continues to be very thirsty when you first use it, so I want to make sure I’m making foods in it that quench this thirst. I’ll wait to make rice in it for a month or two.

To clean a wok (or any iron cookware), I put water in it to soak while my family is eating dinner. After dinner, I’ll immediately wash it with a mild detergent and a soft sponge. Similar to what I do with my cast iron skillets, I’ll dry it with a towel and then pop it into a warm oven (roughly 200ºF) for 10 minutes. If I didn’t use my oven while making dinner, I’ll quickly heat up the wok over a stove burner on low for the same amount of time. I’ll take it out of the oven or off the burner, wait until it’s cool enough to touch (usually about the same amount of time it takes me to load up the dishwasher) and then I’ll wipe a very thin layer of olive oil or avocado oil into the inside of the wok with a paper towel. You don’t want it to be greasy, you just want a bit of protection for the iron while it’s in the cupboard.

3 comments posted

  1. Posted by HonkyTonkFoodie - 08/12/2011

    I don’t know a single thing about woks but I think it is beautiful! The transformation alone made me gasp out loud. Well done!

  2. Posted by Gillian - 08/13/2011

    My iron frying pans are never this good. I’m marking your post for review. Thanks

  3. Posted by Nancy - 08/25/2011

    Thank you! I’ve never had success seasoning my wok before. The oil always dripped and left a patchy coating. This method gave perfectly smooth results, even on the previously missed spots. Minimal smoke in the kitchen to boot!

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