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Help Me Season a New Wok!


johnnyd
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I recently purchased a Craft carbon steel 14", round-bottomed wok.

 

I want to season it properly and there is a wealth of conflicting information about doing so. I've picked out among it all what I believe is a good plan of action but still have a couple questions I bet the eG hive mind can help me answer. I've dug around in our archives and if I've missed anything I'd welcome any links to previous discussions.  Opinions, as usual, high and low, are warmly welcome.

 

Equipment:

 

865114437_IMG_20211005_1642325642.thumb.jpg.be78eb904158898e3767d1d8790234c6.jpg

 

Also on hand is a cast iron wok ring that fits my wide-format gas burner perfectly - this is high setting:

 

142056049_IMG_20211005_1646101012.thumb.jpg.ab8702e074b223d5fce8a74890b2d1a8.jpg

 

So no jet-powered high-output butane here.

 

 

Punch List:

 

  1. Scrub both sides with Scotch-Brite pad and Dawn soap until no trace of shipping coating remain. People say about a 1/2 hour should do it. True? False? Longer?
  2. Use 320-grit metal sandpaper on both sides - this apparently opens the pores so it absorbs the seasoning oil coats. Shall I use coarser/finer grit paper? Do it at all?
  3. Remove wooden handle. Set on ring and heat at high setting until (very) hot. ...or just "hot", not "very hot", how about "smoking hot"?
  4. Have quarter sheet pan with about 1/4" of good oil - I have flax and grapeseed - Which is better?
  5. Using kitchen tongs, wipe balled-up paper towel in sheet-pan oil and apply thinly - and quickly - over entire inside surface. Smoking occurs...
  6. When smoking stops, re-apply oil in the same manner - slide wok around ring so the outer edges get heat consistent with the inner bowl.
  7. Repeat a bajillion times. No, really, six? Twelve? Twenty times? A set of six, then let cool, then repeat?

 

More questions:

 

  • When is it safe to apply thin oil layers to the bottom? How many coatings go there? Same as the inside bowl?
  • I'm told the carbon steel changes color, the best being a bluish tint - unlikely owing to the weak gas flame output. What color am I looking for and is it a sign it's ready for a test stir-fry?

 

I've made what I see now are rookie mistakes in the past, like put in peanut oil and leave over night; fry up a pound of bacon, all of which leaves a gross sticky surface. Some YouTube videos have dudes burning the handles, causing oil fires... all more interested in seeing themselves on YouTube rather than seasoning a wok.

 

Intriguing Alternative:

 

Charm the Vietnamese kitchen staff at the Thai place down the street to do it for me....

 

 

 

 

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"I took the habit of asking Pierre to bring me whatever looks good today and he would bring out the most wonderful things," - bleudauvergne

foodblogs: Dining Downeast I - Dining Downeast II

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@johnnyd 

 

my few cents :

 

you do  not want to scratch the steel , while removing the ' Shipping film '

 

however , you can fix that up by using the finest wet/dry sandpaper you have 

 

im not sure of ' pores '  , but it sounds good !

 

you can do the whole wok in an over , top and bottom , at the same time

 

just wrap the wood parts w w very wet small towel or clean rag so it does not burn

 

I like flax , if its been kept in a refrigerator or is not too old.

 

if its old , it may have slowly polymerized .  it will be ' gunk-ey ' rather than

 

free flowing.

 

the key is to use very very very little oil in each application .

 

the thinner the better , you will just do more coats.  6 might be fine

 

as you will be adding coats as you use the wok for cooking.

 

I can't address if there is a difference for the first coat on hot hot steel

 

or on cold steel then right into the hot hot oven.

 

if you have a weber , might be better to do outside.

 

thin thin thin coats are what you want.

 

congratulations 

 

Im sure you are going to enjoy your results 

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Most helpful, Rotuts!

 

I don't mind removing the handle - I've already checked out if it's doable, now especially since you are recommending curing the wok in an oven.  Flaxseed bottle is brand-new.

 

  • At what temperature do I set my oven? I have a Café™ Gas 5-burner range and convection bake/roast oven, with a decent hood exhaust. If you say "hot, hot" maybe 450°f?
  • How long at temperature does the wok stay in there before the next thin,thin coating? Do I let it cool a little first? Does it matter?

 

Also, no sanding or scratching the steel - bloody glad I asked! That was gleaned probably from a "Re-store Your Rusty Wok" page somewhere - it's been a blur, really.

 

To wit: this from Grace Young:

 

New woks have a thin factory coating that must be removed before the first use. To do this, wash the wok inside and out with a stainless-steel scrubber, dish soap, and hot water. Rinse and dry it over low heat.

Next, season the wok to protect against rust and start a patina. Turn on the exhaust fan, open the kitchen window (it’s difficult to remove all of the coating, so any that remains will give off a strong smell as the wok heats), and heat the wok over high heat until a drop of water evaporates on contact. Swirl in 2 Tbs. vegetable oil and add 1/2 cup sliced ginger and a bunch of scallions cut into 2-inch pieces. Lower the heat to medium and stir-fry with a metal wok spatula, smearing the ginger and scallions over the entire surface, for 20 minutes-the long stir-fry creates a good patina. Discard the solids, wash the wok with a soft sponge and hot water, and dry over low heat. The seasoning process may change the wok’s interior color-it can have a yellow, black, or blue hue. Every wok reacts differently.

 

See what I mean? Even the instructions that came with the wok said one, maybe two coats, but I want to turbo-charge the patina out of the gate. I guess we'll see what happens!

 

"I took the habit of asking Pierre to bring me whatever looks good today and he would bring out the most wonderful things," - bleudauvergne

foodblogs: Dining Downeast I - Dining Downeast II

Portland Food Map.com

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Im a gib fan of Grace Young 1

 

Ive seen the ginger scallion before , maybe from

 

https://www.amazon.com/Breath-Wok-Grace-Young/dp/0743238273/ref=sr_1_1?dchild=1&keywords=the+breath+of+the+wok&qid=1633544310&sr=8-1

 

might fine book , but im not sure what the ginger // scallions do

 

but Im betting its be done a try-zillion time in China 

 

Thin Thin Thin Thin   is your CoPilot.

 

thicker then TTTT will not polymerize easIly

 

and just burn off .  and last for ' some time '

 

take your time , and TTTTTTY.

 

enjoy !

 

very interring the handle comes off

 

Nice   hope the ' stem ' is OK

 

dont oil that 

 

just guessing 

 

enjoy even more !

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Yup. I just ordered "The Breath Of A Wok" today.

 

Andrea Nguyen of Viet World Kitchen .com writes of 'baking' the wok upside down in a coating of 2 teaspoon flaxseed or canola oil at 425°f for 30 minutes, allow to cool in oven for 15-30 minutes, then remove and let sit for 45 minutes. Then she cooks an onion in it for 10 minutes til charred. This is immensely better than range-top curing.

 

Splendid!

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"I took the habit of asking Pierre to bring me whatever looks good today and he would bring out the most wonderful things," - bleudauvergne

foodblogs: Dining Downeast I - Dining Downeast II

Portland Food Map.com

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Save the sandpaper for your wood projects - no use here.

 

Wash down well.

 

I did potato skins, lots of salt and fried that for a while to remove the baked on crap leftover from the factory.

 

Super high heat, tiniest amount of flax oil on a cloth - rub, heat up, cool down - repeat that about 10x or so.

 

 

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2 hours ago, rotuts said:

very very very old T-Shirts

 

the ones so thin you can see through

 

close to lint-less

But those are my favorite ones to wear.

 

I’d  say to just start cooking with the fucker…

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Mitch Weinstein aka "weinoo"

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6 minutes ago, weinoo said:

But those are my favorite ones to wear.

 

I’d  say to just start cooking with the fucker…

In most ethnic cooking, regardless of recipe or vessel, I channel the imaginary grandma of that culture and try to emulate what she might have done.    Probably use her mother's pot.   Else, follow weinoo's sage advice.   Just use it over and over, cleaning with clear water and leaving oily film.   

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I agree with the previous two posts. The best way to season a wok is to use it.

And don't worry about your gas ring not being hot enough. 1.4 billion home cooks in China manage just fine with a silmilar set up to yours. See here.

Edited by liuzhou
typo (log)
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...your dancing child with his Chinese suit.

 

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Great thread!

I have no quarrel with the gas force for everyday lunch/snax/dinner duty. I plan to use it continuously and swirl more oil as I go. Should have decent patina of I keep it up!

Edited by johnnyd (log)
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"I took the habit of asking Pierre to bring me whatever looks good today and he would bring out the most wonderful things," - bleudauvergne

foodblogs: Dining Downeast I - Dining Downeast II

Portland Food Map.com

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Cooking on a wok that has not been properly cleaned from manufacturing greases/coatings is not a wise move.

 

The salt/potatoe skin method mentioned above was instructed to me when I purchase my carbon steel pans from Matfer Bourgeat.  You could see the grime coming off of the steel onto the mixture.

 

From there, it's up to you if you want to start cooking on it.  Certainly you will not see the desired results you might expect form a wok - but that depends on how much time you want to invest in properly seasoning it.

 

I have seem many Chinese chefs swear about an initial seasoning process - however with access to 5,000,000,000+ BTU burners, they just roast it openly on the flame - metal turns all shades of black/blue/red and it's done.

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1 hour ago, TicTac said:

Cooking on a wok that has not been properly cleaned from manufacturing greases/coatings is not a wise move.

 

The salt/potatoe skin method mentioned above was instructed to me when I purchase my carbon steel pans from Matfer Bourgeat.  You could see the grime coming off of the steel onto the mixture.

 

From there, it's up to you if you want to start cooking on it.  Certainly you will not see the desired results you might expect form a wok - but that depends on how much time you want to invest in properly seasoning it.

 

 

Yes, thus this posted Topic.

 

Does one cook salt/potato mixture before the oil coat/baking time and after wash/scrubbing? Seems logical.

"I took the habit of asking Pierre to bring me whatever looks good today and he would bring out the most wonderful things," - bleudauvergne

foodblogs: Dining Downeast I - Dining Downeast II

Portland Food Map.com

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12 hours ago, liuzhou said:

I agree with the previous two posts. The best way to season a wok is to use it.

And don't worry about your gas ring not being hot enough. 1.4 billion home cooks in China manage just fine with a silmilar set up to yours. See here.

 

Thank you liuzhou - I read that thread with great interest during my research last week - much appreciated.

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"I took the habit of asking Pierre to bring me whatever looks good today and he would bring out the most wonderful things," - bleudauvergne

foodblogs: Dining Downeast I - Dining Downeast II

Portland Food Map.com

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10 hours ago, johnnyd said:

 

Yes, thus this posted Topic.

 

Does one cook salt/potato mixture before the oil coat/baking time and after wash/scrubbing? Seems logical.

I suppose you could do it after - but mostly it is used to remove the gunk left over from manufacturing, prior to seasoning.

 

 

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I only scrub the wok clean using a scrubbing brush and lots of dishwashing liquid, then I blue the wok, scrub with water then oil and cook over high heat. Takes about 45 minutes max after that it will naturally begin to develop a good coating but nothing sticks anyway.

 

while I’m sure lots of ways work the simplest is to use the wok and let it happen naturally.

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On 10/9/2021 at 10:19 PM, EatingBen said:

...while I’m sure lots of ways work the simplest is to use the wok and let it happen naturally.

I bought and used my wok in my pre-eG days. Haven't used it much lately though I was gung ho in using it quite a bit originally.

I was told the wok hei would develop over time through use, and it did. 

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  • 2 months later...

Hello to All. I'm new to this forum so I'm just getting my bearings. Anyway, I just bought a new 14" flat bottom carbon steel wok. Followed several different YouTube tutorials and I guess I selected all the wrong tips. I washed and scrubbed the wok before I did anything with a metal scouring brush. Dried it then burned all the manufacturers coating off and blued the whole thing inside and out. I have a 9 kW gas burner so there was plenty of heat. Washed, scoured, and dried it again. Then I heated it up and began to spread Sunflower oil lightly over the surface until it began to smoke and blacken. Repeated this several times building up layers. I don't think I hit it hard enough with the heat but it was smoking like in the tutorials. Maybe did too many layers as well. After I was done the touch was not nice and slick. It was rough and a little sticky. I cooked my first stir fry with thin sliced pork first, followed by the veggies and then the noodles. Everything went well until the noodles. I soaked about 400 grams of quick cooking Chinese noodles in hot water, drained them, and into the wok they went. Did OK at first but then they began to stick. Nothing to ruin the meal but I had seen the pros flipping and scraping with a ladle and nothing got stuck. So I soaked the wok for a day and all the burned noodles came off easily. Second time I do the same ingredients but lowered the heat when I put in the noodles and added some water with the oil. Same result but less. I'm fairly confident this is operator error and not the wok or ingredients. My question is, has this happened to anyone else? If so, what was the solution? Throw the damn thing in the garbage or persevere until you got it right? I'm not throwing mine out yet so some tips would be welcomed. Thanks, Big Bird.

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4 hours ago, Big Bird 8855 said:

My question is, has this happened to anyone else? If so, what was the solution? Throw the damn thing in the garbage or persevere until you got it right? I'm not throwing mine out yet so some tips would be welcomed. Thanks, Big Bird.

 

Of course...you could not cook noodles until the wok really develops a good seasoning.  And you could use a lot more oil (both of which are probably taking place when you watch the pros).

 

Though often too much oil is used in the original attempt at seasoning.

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Mitch Weinstein aka "weinoo"

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Thanks Weinoo. That was my assessment. The pros use a lot more oil. But I don't really like oily noodles. I'm thinking about cooking the noodles separately in another pot but that sort of defeats the purpose of having a wok. I'm sure I need more attempts. So I'll keep on trucking. Thanks.

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On 12/17/2021 at 10:32 AM, Big Bird 8855 said:

It was rough and a little sticky.


You didn't give it enough heat.  And your layers of oil might have been too thick. Thinner layers of oil don't just produce an even coating, but they harden faster than a thicker layer of oil. The general rule of thumb is always to wipe the oil on, then carefully wipe it off, then hit it with heat.

 

Light and heat, as has been said many times, are the enemy of oil, but... heat is the friend of seasoning.  If the seasoning is sticky, keep giving it more heat- and, if you have it, more time exposed to heat.  A slightly lower heat for a longer time tends to polymerize oil a bit better than a quick blast of intense heat.  This is why I always season in an oven.  If your handles come off, like the OPs do, and your wok fits in the oven, that's how I'd do it.

You can't go too thin with the oil layers.  It's way better to have 10 microscopically thin layers than 3 goopy bumpy ones.

And, as mentioned in the original post, I'd hit it with some very fine grit sandpaper (anywhere between 320-600).   This isn't something that's normally done with cast iron, but, cast iron has a much rougher/much more grippier surface than steel.

Edited by scott123 (log)
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If you're using truly hot wok burner, then I don't think there's any point to seasoning it ... those things will incinerate any seasoning just like a self-cleaning oven. If you're using the thing at more normal sauté temperatures then you can treat it just like a cast iron skillet. The sunflower oil you're using is fine; it's got a lot of unsaturated oil that will polymerize nicely. But it will take quite a few coats (preferably very thin ones like Scott says) before it really helps. And you have to cook them on at a temperature that's past the smoke point by a little bit. A good coating is not just polymerized oil, but also partly carbonized. That means you need to make some charcoal.

Notes from the underbelly

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Thanks guys. I did give it some high heat after the first stir fry. I soaked the wok and then scraped off all the stuck noodles. That's when I tried again and I went well beyond the smoke point. The result was some little glittery flakes (charcoal) that I wiped out with a paper towel. So I knew I had gotten the thing really hot. I'm going to sand it down with some very fine grit sandpaper and do several very light coats of oil. Maybe it's a story about building the coats up over time and not being so impatient. But when you watch the tutorials, it sounds so easy.

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