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Wednesday, September 12, 2007

4 of 7 Random Things About Me Meme: I Own Two Woks and How To Season a Wok

#4 of 7 random things about me?

7 Random Things Meme 4.1

I own two woks. Well, technically I own three woks, but the one that goes with the blue lid you see in the picture has rusted over and is now used as a potting bowl when I garden. I just gotta say, Ming Tsai, you make crappy woks. But the lovely blue matching lid and set of four plates, four rice bowls, four dipping saucers, wooden spoon, and cheapy cookbook were just too much of a bargain to pass up. Especially since it was on clearance at Target. So I guess the few months I was able to cook with your wok made it not such a bad bargain. And the ceramic handles with blue dragons on them, does make the wok a very pretty potting bowl. Alright, moving on.

The wok you see pictured above is 16-inches in diameter and made of black steel. Purchased for $9.99 at A Chau Supermarket in Fountain Valley if anyone's interested. It's great for making fried rice and stir-fries. The huge lip makes it perfect for frying anything since oil splatters stay within the range of the wok. Well, that's if you only add a few inches of oil at the bottom and don't fill it up when you fry. The helper handle on the other side actually doesn't make it that unwieldy. Indispensable is the bamboo wok cleaner which easily removes any food particles. I had absolutely no complaints about this wok.

But then I started getting wok envy. What about carbon steel woks? Are they so much better at conducting high heat, essential for the "breath of the wok" cooking? And 16 inches is a whole lot for a woman to handle! A nice 14 inches would perfectly fit my blue wok lid. I saw this carbon steel 14-inch baby at the San Gabriel Superstore for $12.99 and had to get it.

7 Random Things Meme 4.2

And because I've had several inquiries about woks in general, this is the perfect opportunity to show you how to season a wok. Seasoned properly, your wok will essentially be non-stick for life. Look at that shiny surface.

7 Random Things Meme 4.3

Most woks from China will have an odd industrial oil coating. I'm not sure if that's to keep it non-stick, but proper seasoning will take care of that anyway. Plus, the smell is pretty nasty and I don't want whatever that oil is remaining in my food. A few heavy squirts of dishwashing liquid and scrubbing still didn't remove it. Yuck!

So, here's what you do. Do not do this if you have woks that come with non-stick coatings. After washing the wok, fill it up with water and put it on the stove. Dump a whole lot of cheap tea leaves, and even a cheap tea bag or two, and set it to boil. Do this very carefully as I don't want to be responsible for any burns! The tannins or acids or whatever in the tea will start to break down that oily residue.

7 Random Things Meme 4.4

After half an hour or so, or if the water boils (there's actually so much water that my wok never did quite get to boiling so I was safe), turn the heat off and let the water cool down.

Then discard everything and wash again with soap.

Wipe dry and add some coarse salt. Take a paper towel and rub in the salt to remove any remaining residue.

Repeat the tea or salt as necessary if you still smell the industrial oil.

Now your wok is ready for the final step. Turn your stove on to high heat. Let any remaining water burn off. When the wok is hot, pour a few drizzles of sesame oil around the rim and let it trickle down. Turn off the heat, and with a paper towel, rub the sesame oil all over the inside of the wok. Do this while the wok is still hot. Now it's ready for cooking.

Your wok will slowly get darker and darker as you cook with it. You can see how dark my wok has gotten after almost a year of use.

7 Random Things Meme 4.5

Remember to always repeat the last step to ensure your wok stays non-stick. Some people advise not washing with soap ever again. That thought grosses me out. My usual routine is to use the bamboo wok scrubber to remove any stuck food particles. Then a very light squirt of dishwashing liquid and a quick scrub is all that's necessary. With the wok still wet, I put it on the stove and let the water burn off before applying the coat of sesame oil.

As for cleaning the bamboo scrubber, I squirt a whole lot of dishwashing liquid on the ends and rub it between my hands until the individual bamboo strips are clean. Shake and let air dry.

As for this new carbon steel wok vs. my black steel one? I actually prefer my old one! Huh! It conducted heat better, the helper handle made it less unwieldy than the smaller carbon steel one, and I think I'm just more used to cooking with it. But, I've been using the smaller wok lately to cook smaller amounts of food so it came in handy after all. And sometimes, a girl just needs two woks.

Hope that helps if you're considering whether to purchase a wok or not.


Update June 3, 2014:
I actually have several more woks added to my pantry. Bought a thin cast iron one and another 14-inch carbon steel wok with a flat bottom. I seasoned them using the boiled tea and salt method, but now I rub coconut oil at the end. I use coconut oil on my other cast iron and black steel pans too.

The woks that get the most use in my kitchen are my original black steel wok for frying and the newest carbon steel flat-bottomed wok for stir-fries.

San Gabriel Superstore
1635 S San Gabriel Blvd
San Gabriel, CA 91776


  1. Nice wok ;-) same one I have to bad m stove sucks....I need one of those cone shape thing a majig so my wok can site on the stove correctly.

  2. Is it really random if it's exactly what I wanted to know? Excellent post, WC. I need all the tips I can get :-)

    (oh, and this is nikkipolani, who, for some reason, can't post as before, linking to my wordpress site)

  3. Wow, nice tip about using the tea to clean you're wok. I still have no wok, and my wok envy of you is getting worse!

  4. You shd have posted this earlier, maybe 2mths back? Ha, coz I threw away one wok, and another wok is starting to rust and blister - all because I did not season it well :(
    To console myself, those were not expensive.

  5. Ooooh, random people can leave comments again! I wasn't able to yesterday.

    Thanks for the info on woks. It's awesome that your blog provides recipes, how to stuff, restaurant reviews and more! I think I might have to get a real wok. My "Fun Wok" I got from 99 Ranch is more of a skillet or something. Did you prepare/clean the larger wok the same way you did with the carbon steel one?

  6. I am looking forward to seasoning my next wok now! :)

  7. wok seasoning? very interesting. enjoyed your post.

  8. Hee hee. Good way to recycle a crappy wok. I've got a 22-inch carbon steel monstrosity that a friend gave me for my wedding. It's pretty good for deep frying stuff. I've got smaller ones too, but you know how size obsessed guys are. =b

  9. nice! so any more dishes from that good looking wok of yours? =)

  10. that last wok is beautiful! i need to take better care of mine for sure, the tea leaves i'll try to see if i can get mine looking better. i always find the cheapy woks the best too :)

  11. my, what beautiful woks you have!! anyway, i got a kick out of a chau supermarket.

  12. Bill,
    My stove sucks too. :(

    Anne (or Nikki), hehe,
    So are you gonna do it? Buy a wok? :)

    Ah, I guess there's worse things to be envious of? :P

    Can you scrub out your wok and try seasoning it?

    Yes, I prepared the bigger wok in the same way and it's been years and years and I have no problems.

    I must admit, I think I partly bought the second wok so I could do this! Hehe!

    Hehe. I know you were just fascinated!

    22 inches? Whoa! And I thought my 16-inch wok was too big.

    Yes, lots of other dishes! I just have to get off my butt and post about them. :)

    Yes, no need to spend money on non-stick stuff.

    When did you go to A Chau? I don't remember taking you?

  13. This such a useful post! *bookmarks* I'm so embarrassed I don't have a wok, I really need to get one.

  14. Cindy,
    You're welcome!

    You don't? They're so cheap! Now I feel excessive for having two!

  15. First of all, thanks for the "How to" sections. It makes this blog unique.

    I got myself a carbon steel wok and it was shiny silver. I followed your directions, but after first use and reoiling it again, it stained. I'm not sure if it's the sesame oil or if it's rust that just formed after one use.

  16. Jing,
    The wok isn't supposed to stay silver. It'll turn darker and darker with use. That's all part of the "seasoning" of the wok. If you look at my Mango Chicken Curry post, you'll see that my shiny silver wok is now quite black. As it should be. So don't worry about it and just enjoy.

  17. Thank you so much! I was just worried cos it was orange and looked like rust.

  18. Jing,
    Oh no! Orange I would be afraid is rust. Unless it's more brownish like what I have? If it is rust, just use a scrubber and get it all clean and re-season again.

  19. ^Yes it was turning orange at few spots while I was heating the wok. But I did scrub it off and reseasoned it. So far I haven't seen it since and it browned properly. I shouldn't be worried now right?


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