If you are the average Westerner, you are accustomed to frying foods in a stainless steel or non-stick fry pan. But, if you are trying to save calories and prepare foods in a more health conscious way, you may have considered purchasing a wok.
The wok has been used for centuries in preparing Chinese cuisine. Although it can be used in a variety of applications, most people associate it with stir fry cooking. The advantage of using a wok is that only a small amount of fat is required to prepare food. Thus, food prepared in a wok is lower in fats and calories.
Unlike stainless steel and non-stick fry pans, though, the wok requires some preparation before use. This step is called “seasoning”.
1. When you first purchase your wok, you may notice some oily residue coating the wok. That is mechanic’s oil that was applied before shipment in order to prevent rusting. To remove this, you will simply wash the wok in hot soapy water. You needn’t use steel wool to scrub it. If necessary, use a bamboo brush or nylon pad.
2. Next, place the wok over a heated burner. If you have a round bottom wok, you’ll need to place it over a ring or some other object to keep it stable. The heated burner will dry the wok and open up the pores of the metal to receive oil.
3. Be careful during the next steps so as not to get burned. You must have good ventilation and keep children and pets out of the area. During the third step, you will apply a thin layer of oil or lard to the inside surface of the wok. Make sure you cover the entire area.
Use an oil that has high heat tolerance such as peanut oil.
4. Place the wok over a heated burner and wait until you see smoke emitted from the oil. In this step, you are actually burning the oil into the surface of the wok. When this step is completed, there will be some carbon residue and possibly some excess oil.
5. Remove the wok from the heat source. Allow to cool. Never apply cold water to hurry up this process. Once cool enough to handle, wipe away the excess oil and carbon residue with paper toweling until it comes back clean. Then apply another thin layer of oil.
6. Repeat the process of heating your wok until the oil begins to smoke and burn off.
7. Again, remove wok from the heat source. Let cool, and remove residue as before. You will begin to see a black patina form on the inside surface of your wok.
8. Continue these steps several times. You will know that your wok has been sufficiently seasoned when the black patina takes on a shiny appearance when heated without the application of oil.
The black patina inside your wok will increase and improve with proper use and care. It is recommended that you cook foods low in starch when first starting in order to develop the non-stick quality of your pan. If foods do stick, remove them by letting your pan soak a little longer in warm water. If necessary, use a bamboo brush to remove food particles. If you scrub your pan with an abrasive, you’ll have to repeat the seasoning process.
Ideally, you will only wash your wok using soap once: when first removing the mechanic’s oil. After seasoning it, you’ll rinse it with plain hot water after each use and dry thoroughly over a heat source. Some suggest that you apply a thin layer of oil to the wok before putting it aside in storage. That is optional. The important consideration is making sure it is completely dry.
Experts in wok cooking warn against scrubbing your wok with abrasives. They also say to never cool a wok with cold water. Allow to cool by air or add hot water to the pan. If you have tried to season your pan and have ended up with a yellowish, gummy surface, there are several possiblities for cause: using the wrong type of oil or fat, applying too much oil in each step, not allowing the pan to reach smoking point and burn off the oil, and not removing the residue sufficiently between each burn step.
Although seasoning a wok takes a little time and patience, the benefits are great. The wok is a wonderful food prep utensil for making quick and healthy meals. Once seasoned, the wok is very low maintenance. Enjoy your wok and watch your waist whittle away.