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Woks - Buying, Caring and Use of


eatingwitheddie
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Sorry to have bothered you, I'll try to explain better without getting myself into trouble with people who think about chemistry all the time, unlike me these days.  I guess at the atomic or molecular level you could say all things have pores.  However, I think the whole point of heating oil on a reactive iron surface (carbon steel or cast iron) is to cause the oil to undergo polymerization and adhere by forming bonds with the reactive substances in the iron (maybe iron oxide if I had to guess), in effect sealing off the reactive part of the metal with a thin sheet of polymerized oil.  I think the heat is working more to change the structure of the oil in the presence of the metal, and not as much to change the structure of the metal itself.  That's what I was trying to say, but maybe I should have just kept quiet.

Anyhow, oil and heat on reactive iron is a good thing!

regards,

trillium

I shouldn't have used the word 'bother'. It's just that I'm trying to rethink the whole 'seasoning' process so I can understand what actually is taking place ---- and your answers are doing just that. They have been a help. Thank you.

One other question-- Is 'spun steel' the same as 'carbon steel'?

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[ I can't wait until I have money and can move someplace with a gas stove.  In fact, I think all of the woks I've seen my family use are the spun carbon steel.

And when you have enough money to buy one, make sure that the biggest and hottest burner is at least 15,000 btu., otherwise, stick with an electric stove. Anything less is almost useless.

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A Camp Chef 70K btu burner works very well for those of us that don't have the btus or ventilation for that kind of cooking indoors. Plus you get to use a bigger wok, and you don't suck down as much cancer-causing vapors. It just gets a little tiring to hold the wok and do the flipping around thing. I see that they sell wok rings for the burners now, but they seem kind of flimsy.

When we were in Thailand we were very enamored with these stands that were built to be plugged into a propane tank. They had a wok ring already built in so both hands were free and the flames came out of the ring, plus the ones below the wok, it also came up to a more comfortable height. I wish we had taken pictures so we could get someone to rig one up here.

regards,

trillium

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  • 4 weeks later...

Don't know if it's been mentioned upthread, but my family fries finely grated coconut (we get that from the grocer's) to season a wok. Lots of oil is produced from the frying. Fry till the coconut is burnt.

TPcal!

Food Pix (plus others)

Please take pictures of all the food you get to try (and if you can, the food at the next tables)............................Dejah

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  • 8 months later...

This weekend, I seasoned my new carbon-steel round-bottom wok using Kasma Loha-unchit's method. I seasoned it on the stovetop using palm oil (sold as "organic vegetable shortening") at Kasma's recommendation, because it doesn't turn gummy at high temperatures like polyunsaturated vegetable oils.

I heated up the wok, brushed a coating of oil over the surface, and tilted the wok, subjecting each part to intense heat to burn on the oil. I intermittently used a paper towel to spread the oil around whenever it started beading up.

It worked great for the most part - I got a deep, even, red seasoning after about forty five minutes, then cooked a meal, then seasoned it again, getting a beautiful black patina after another half hour or so.

However, as I seasoned the last areas during the second round, some of the black seasoning near the center of the wok began to "bulge" a tiny bit, and then flaked off when I brushed it with the paper towel, leaving the bare steel exposed.

I re-seasoned that area, but as I did so, it started flaking off in another spot. This keeps happening - as soon as I finish re-seasoning a bare spot, the coating starts to flake somewhere else, always in the bottom third of the wok, never up around the sides.

What is going on? Do I just need to stop stressing and do some serious stir-frying?

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  • 2 weeks later...

I seasoned my wok a few days ago. I would like to post my experience to share with all of you.

Preparation

I did some research on this subject, and I really like reading the section of the book:

"The Breath of a Wok : Unlocking the Spirit of Chinese Wok Cooking Through Recipes and Lore"

by Grace Young. Page 47 to page 56. Section heading: "Recipes for Seasoning a Wok"

The Breath of a Wok : Unlocking the Spirit of Chinese Wok Cooking Through Recipes and Lore

There were different methods to season a wok presented in this book. Some methods are for cast iron woks, some for carbon-steel woks. I decided to try the "Tane Chan's Oven Oil Method" (Tane Chan is the owner of "The Wok Shop") because I like the even tan produced by this oven-baking method instead of the traditional burning-over-stove method. I also like the "Julie Tay's Chinese Chive and Pork Fat Stir-Fry Method", which uses chive to absorb the metallic taste of a new wok. So I take a hybrid approach. Here's how I did it.

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Though a new wok can be seasoned with vegetable oil, experiences of other fellow forum participants suggested that using animal fat produces the best results. Also, _john commented that "The lard you can buy in the store is refined and has almost no flavor". I decided to benefit from these experiences to make my own lard.

I bought about 2 lb of pork belly.

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Trim away the meat portion. Save it to make Sichuan Dried Fried String Beans or Mapo Tofu. Also trim away the pork skin. Save it if you want to make some Chicharron.

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Cut the pure fat portion into 1/2 inch by 1/2 inch cubes (or smaller).

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Use a pot, set stove to high, add in all pork fatty cubes. Continue to heat for 10-15 minutes to extract the oil from pork fat.

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The pork fat sure produces good smell while heated.

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Strain off the remaining pork fatty cubes. They shrink quite a bit. Save them to make the Singaporean/Malaysian Char Quay Tiew if you like. :biggrin:

The oil is what to use to season a wok.

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I bought about 6-8 oz of Chinese chive. They will be used to absorb the metallic taste from a brand new wok.

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Cut the chive into 2-inch length.

Execution

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Since I bought a 16-inch wok with a long wooden handle and I planned to use the oven method to season it, I needed to unscrewed the wooden handle from the wok first.

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Use a stainless steel scrubber and liquid dishwashing soap to scrub off the thin layer of machine oil put on the wok surface by the factory.

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Scrub off the machine oil thoroughly under hot water, both outside...

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And inside.

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Since the side handle is made of wood also but it cannot be detached, wrap around the handle with a wet kitchen washcloth to prevent it from burning in the oven.

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Use a paper towel to wipe dry both the inside and outside of the wok. You can see that paper towel picked up the metallic grey color from the carbon steel. Don't be alarmed, this is to be expected.

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Place the clean wok over the stove - set at low heat. First dry it for 1 minute or so.

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Use a clean paper towel, dip into the pork fat.

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As you can see, the center of the wok already started turning brown even after only 1 minute of low heat burning. Use the paper towel to start smearing the pork fat evenly over the inside wok surface. As the pork fat gets heated, it produces a lot of smoke.

Make sure you open all the windows in the kitchen, turn on the exhaust fan and set it to max. It also helps to set up a cooling fan to blow the air inside the kitchen to the outside.

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The wok bottom will turn darker and darker. Keep spreading the pork fat evenly until you have covered every inch of it.

Pre-heat the oven at 450F for 5 minutes.

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Cover the wet kitchen cloth with a couple of layers of heavy aluminum foil to prevent it from catching fire.

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Line a couple of sheets of aluminum foil at the bottom of the oven to catch the oil drips during seasoning.

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Bake for 20 minutes at 450F. Some smokes will be produced during the baking process. Be sure to keep the exhaust fan and cooling fan on.

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This is how the wok looked after the first round of baking. One thing that I don't like this oven-baking method is that since the wok is placed motionless inside the oven, the pork fat just rains down to the rim and creates an uneven, "umbrella" look pattern on the wok surface. With the conventional open-fire burning method, you may continue to spread the pork fat around the surface so the oil is distributed evenly while burning and thus the browning is even. This method seems to have such a short-coming.

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After taking the wok from the oven, let it sit on the counter and cool off for at least 5 minutes. Then start washing it and scrubbing it with the stainless steel scrubber as if you are starting over. However, don't use any more soap while washing from this point on.

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After washing, wipe dry both the inside and outside of the wok with a paper towel. You will most likely see that the paper towel still picks up some metallic grey color from the metal. This is to be expected. The metallic color will fade after a few rounds of baking.

Here is where I differed from the Tane Chan's method: Heat up the wok over slow heat on top of the stove. Use a new paper towel and spread another round of pork fat on the wok. Make sure you cover the entire surface evenly.

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Add in the chopped Chinese chive and stir-fry it. Use a spatula to move the chive around. As you cook the chive, supposedly the chive will absorb the metallic taste from a brand new wok.

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Tilt the wok at different angle over the burner. Try to spread the chive over every inch of the wok.

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Continue to cook the chive for 3 to 4 minutes, keep tilting the wok at different angles. Afterwards, discard the chive. Scrub the wok again under hot water. Wipe dry with more paper towels.

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Repeat the same process: Wipe dry the wok with paper towel. Use a clean paper towel to dip in the pork fat and spread it evenly over the wok. Bake it at 450F for 20 minutes. Let it cool on the counter for at least 5 minutes. Start over again.

Repeate this process 3 to 4 more times total. With each cycle, remember to unwrap the aluminum foil and take out the kitchen washcloth. (Be careful as the washcloth is probably steaming hot.) Rinse it under cold water to cool it down and rewarp it for the next cycle with the aluminum foil on the outside.

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For every added cycle, the color of the wok get more and more brown.

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This is how my wok looked after the last round of baking. Even the bottom side of the wok got a grey-brownish color too.

Finished!

The wok has been seasoned, now ready to be used for cooking!

Just a comparison:

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This is how the wok looked when bought brand new.

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This is how the wok looked after seasoning. It has a dark tan color and oil sheen on the top. With proper seasoning, food will not stick to a wok during frying.

After each use, only use hot water and a bamboo brush to clean the wok. Do not use soap. A wok will continue to season and age to become better and better.

W.K. Leung ("Ah Leung") aka "hzrt8w"
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Hey looks pretty good! I think you went the right direction by seasoning with the oven because you don't have a wok burner yet. If you had a wok burner and were able to season the wok outside the burner method is preferable for the exact reasons you mentioned. I'm not sure what your research has found but I like season with the burner method each time I cook with a new wok for about a month or so.

What I like to do is cook things that I know will not stick (no noodles, eggs, or sauces that include starch e.g. corn starch) and when I am done cooking I plate the dish, use the wok brush to remove any bits of food, then use a paper towel to get the surface as clean as possible, return the wok to the burner and season it once, let it cool slighlty and use a paper towl to apply a very thin layer of oil for storage. My theory is that by keeping the wok hot for a long time while cooking, not cooling it off too much by using water to clean it, and immediately seasoning it on high heat you maximize the oil's ability to penetrate into the metal's "open pores". This is something I have heard mentioned in several sources. I think a well seasoned wok can be cleaned with mild soapy water with no problem, but with a young wok I prefer cleansing by fire :wink:

I hope you saved the rest of that pork fat for further cooking and seasoning :smile:

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Ah Leung & _john :

The both of you are appreciated for your sharing this important experience with fellow eGulleters.

It brings back memories of the dramatic effects incurred when needing to purchase new or replacement Woks at Chinese Restaurants in Hong Kong. Our Woks were ordered from a specialty shop in "Kowloon City".

Our head chef would advise the shops owner several weeks in advance to allow him time to prepare the amount of Woks we required. Since we generally purchased several dozen in various sizes when the shop owner had accumulated enough Woks he felt met our Chefs criteria he would call and arrange a appointment.

The Head Chef, together with several assistants and the head pot washer would go to the shop and check every single wok personally to see if it was up to their standards Apparently since most were hand made the Woks had many variations.

It would often require several trips to accumulate the needed Woks. During this time the Chef's apprentices were become worried about their ability to properly season the new Woks up to the standards of the head Chef. The seasoning process always took several days spent under the watchful eyes of the Chef and Head Pot Washer (in charge of the process) with much being done outside with a Oven and Bellows to adjust the temperatures.

By the time it was done the Woks looked almost the same as the ones in service, except they were heavier and not as thin as the older well worn woks. They were brought into service gradually, sometimes requiring additional seasoning. Due to the high heat on the ranges plus the instant cool downs while being flushed with water and brushed then being used again the Carbon Steel did not last as long as you would expect, but for Wok Hei, Flavor and constant cooking nothing else compares.

I imagine that a correctly seasoned Wok would last at home for years and I enjoy using it much better then cast iron that is not as adaptable.

Irwin

I don't say that I do. But don't let it get around that I don't.

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  • 3 weeks later...

I don't know why you didn't just render the pork fat in the wok, you would have gotten a slight head start. As with all seasoning, it's not a one day thing. Gradually, as you cook more food the seasoning will darken and even out.

PS: I am a guy.

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I don't know why you didn't just render the pork fat in the wok, you would have gotten a slight head start.

One reason is using the Tane Chan's method, it calls for baking the wok in the oven (after smearing lard/oil on the wok surface) upside down.

W.K. Leung ("Ah Leung") aka "hzrt8w"
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  • 1 month later...

Firstly, as a relatively new e-gulleter and a brand new explorer of these forums in particular I would like to take a moment to gush about just how great they are. There.

I have recently been trying to season my wok but have met with a flaking problem.

As an aside, anyone care to explain wok hei to me?

Edited by Gabriel Lewis (log)
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Sounds like your wok is not seasoned, but caked with too much burned on oil residue at the bottom of it. Seasoning a wok does NOT mean coating it with baked on layers of oil, like layers of Teflon coating. Re- season it but wipe it clean after each heating.

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Ben's right, I think. Good seasoning techniques stress that you're only putting on the initial seasoning, not putting on "the" seasoning. That you can only earn over time and with care.

I wonder if the two of you didn't completely clean off the industrial lubricants before you started your seasoning process. Perhaps that's creating a layer of moisture that expands during heating.

Chris Amirault

eG Ethics Signatory

Sir Luscious got gator belts and patty melts

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I too had considered the possibility that in my zeal had added too many layers of oil. I cannot speak for Jesse but I for one am sure that I removed all industrial protectants; my wok has been seasoned and scrubbed bare several times. Ben are you suggesting that I only burn in one thin layer of fat per heated session? Could you elaborate a bit on what you mean by "Re- season it but wipe it clean after each heating."? It's not like I've been trying to slather on the oil and burn in a perfectly seasoned wok in one session, I always make sure the wok is wiped of any excess oil before applying another layer. Although from you suggestions it seems I am probably trying to stick on too much seasoning too fast. I simply have been trying to achieve a more or less even patina with minimal sticking from the outright. As for seasoning over time, I believe carbon steel woks season more or less the same as cast iron pans do and there are two schools of thought on this, to quote Fat Guy:

There are many schools of thought regarding how best to season and maintain a cast-iron pot. The extremes are, on the one hand, allowing carbonized surface matter to accumulate over time thus forming a second organic skin over the metal, and, on the other hand, trying to keep as little carbonization as possible from occurring and using the organic material merely as a way to smooth out the surface irregularities.

Although I would imagine wok seasoning generally favors the first method...

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In a previous thread on the topic of seasong a wok, I and others posted a couple of methods.

BTW, don't turn this into an obsession, because even if you don't season a new wok, it will become so after a dozen or so (non-acidic)dishes. As long as you don't scrub it with detergent.

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  • 7 months later...

hzrt8w thanks very much for this tutorial. I bought my new wok a few months ago and procrastinated for many weeks before finally jumping in yesterday to season it. I used pork fat that I'd been saving all along. I also used your chive trick - only I used leeks; not sure if it still worked but I figured it was worth a try.

The end result is a nicely browned wok, but the inside defintely has drip marks. Do you think this is because I didn't get the fat well-distributed (I believe I did) or because of the upside-down-in the oven method?

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The end result is a nicely browned wok, but the inside defintely has drip marks.  Do you think this is because I didn't get the fat well-distributed (I believe I did) or because of the upside-down-in the oven method?

Yeah. The drip marks are inherant to the oven baking seasoning method - because we can't stick our hand in there to spread the fat more evenly.

Now if I were to season another wok again, I will probably use the conventional "wok on top of the stove" method.

And I found that I really need to continue to season my wok once in a while.

W.K. Leung ("Ah Leung") aka "hzrt8w"
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This is a great tutorial. For those who are lazy, or for those who don't want to smoke up your kitchens, I've been very happy with the pre-seasoned cast-iron wok that Lodge now sells:

http://www.amazon.com/Lodge-Pro-Logic-14-I...8&s=home-garden

It weighs a ton, so it's harder to manuever than carbon steel, but it retains heat like nothing else.

-al

---

al wang

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I've seasoned a few woks ... and more than a few cast iron pots and pans!! I also had the chance to discuss wok seasoning with Grace Young, who was the celebrity chef for a dinner we had in Philadelphia 2 years ago.

First, the new Lodge pre-seasoned pans are seasoned with a vegetable oil that is sprayed on, baked, and then recycled a few times for additional layers. It's some kind of adaptation of an aerospace technique for coating very thin layers ... and it works beautifully -- there is no evidence of drip marks or any kind of variation on the surface. I don't know if they rotate or vibrate the pans while baking or if the use of many thin layers simply masks any drip trails -- I haven't convinced them to tell me how they do that!

I use several modifications -- first, because of religious reasons, I can't use pork fat ... so I use canola oil for seasoning -- high flash point and minimal residual flavor. I cook with either corn oil or canola (I can't use peanut oil because my daughter is severely allergic to peanuts ... and in any case, peanut oil is probably the most highly flavored of the high flash point oils).

Second, I do the first couple of rounds of seasoning on the stove top -- this allows me to get a uniform coloration going. I stir fry chives (haven't tried leeks) during this process -- lesson from Grace! I then do a few rounds in the oven ... the drips are not as visible once you have a dark patina started. I clean the wok in between with a slurry of kosher salt and oil, which is very mildly abrasive and gets rid of some of the drip pattern, but also helps the oil penetrate into the metal (this trick comes from Madeline Kamman's "The Making of a Chef", where she talks about how the French season cast iron). This effectively minimizes the one disadvantage of the oven technique.

Of course, now that I also have a propane wok burner outside, my next wok can be done "stovetop" only ... although I actually prefer the oven version because it will season inside and outside, which the stove technique won't do.

Anyway, FWIW, that's my experience. BTW, Ah Leung, beautiful job, both photographically and technically ... that's a very good looking wok!

Regards,

Jason

JasonZ

Philadelphia, PA, USA and Sandwich, Kent, UK

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  • 2 weeks later...

I also bought a wok from Tane Chan and used the salt seasoning method first, then unsatisfied, seasoned it using the gas stove-top method. The problem is, the outside of the wok isn't seasoned at all. I figured there's no reason to season the outside, since no one cooks on the outside of the wok (do they?) :huh: but the BF keeps telling me I need to season it on the outside.

The problem is, my oven isn't working right now, so I can't exactly do the bake method. How would I go about seasoning the outside without my kitchen catching on fire? I would thinking spreading any type of oil on the outside of the wok and then putting a flame to it would be um...dangerous?

nakedsushi.net (not so much sushi, and not exactly naked)
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