Seasoning a wok makes food less likely to stick when you cook with it; you’ll also have more flavorful dishes and an appealing patina. I’ll take you through each of the wok seasoning options I’ve used on my own woks over the years.
What are some ways to season a wok? You can fry salt and potato peels, stir-fry aromatic vegetables, bake your wok in the oven, or season it on your stovetop.
In today’s guide, I’ll take you through each wok seasoning option so yours can be ready to use for all your cooking adventures for a long time to come!
4 Ways to Season a Wok
Have I convinced you to season your wok? I hope so!
Without further ado then, let’s discuss your methods for seasoning a wok per the intro.
1. Frying Salt and Potato Peels
This first seasoning method is recommended for old and new woks alike.
You can either create that coveted patina or deepen it with this method (after all, who says you only have to season a wok once?).
The next time you make a potato dish from scratch, hold onto the peels. You can store them in a plastic freezer bag and then store them in your fridge or freezer.
In the refrigerator, potato peels are good for about three days, but the same peels can last between 10 and 12 months in the freezer.
For this method, you’ll need the peels of at least two whole potatoes.
It doesn’t matter what kind of potato peel you use, from Russet potatoes to sweet potatoes. Just keep the peels.
Then, gather 2/3 cup of fine sea salt and 1/3 cup of vegetable, peanut, or canola oil.
If you don’t have sea salt, by the way, then traditional table salt will also work.
Wash, clean, and dry your wok (I’ll talk more about cleaning woks a little later). Then add the above ingredients.
Put your wok over medium heat and allow the ingredients to cook for 10 minutes.
To help the seasoning process, press and stir the potato peels and salt throughout the wok all the way to the rim.
The peels will begin sizzling. If they stick, don’t try to force them off unless the potato peels have been in one spot for too long.
After about 10 minutes, the potato peels will be a black, crispy mess, but that’s okay. That’s actually what you’re trying to achieve.
Turn the heat source off, remove the salt and potato peels, and rinse off your wok.
Don’t use dish soap to clean your wok at this point. Simply grab a clean, soft sponge and wipe away the potato peel residue.
Turn your heat source back on to low or medium-low and use the flame to dry the wok.
Open your vegetable oil, pour some on, and rub the oil into the wok. It’s officially seasoned.
2. Cooking Aromatic Vegetables
Your next option for seasoning a wok is to grab your favorite aromatic vegetables and let them do all the hard work.
I recommend green onions and ginger. You can use one or the other, but both are better.
Other veggies you can try are chives or garlic.
You’ll need a bunch of onions but be sure to cut them into two-inch portions before you begin.
Leave the ginger unpeeled but slice it and add half.
If you prefer garlic or chives, you want both these in three-inch pieces.
Combine those with two tablespoons of vegetable, peanut, or canola oil.
Turn on your heat source to medium and add all your veggies and the oil. Stir-fry them over the next 15 minutes.
You can leave the veggies on the wok for up to 20 minutes, but don’t do it any longer than that.
As you did with the first method, press on the vegetables all over the wok. A turner or wooden spatula will help to this end. A hard wood spatula will likely last longer.
To learn more about the types of wood that kitchen utensils are made from you’ll want to read my article, What Wood Are Kitchen Utensils Made From?
Once the veggies begin to turn crusty and dry, you can power off your heat source.
Allow the wok several minutes to cool and throw away the spent vegetables.
Rinse out your wok using water and clean up any food residue with a clean sponge. Don’t use dish soap.
3. Baking the Wok in the Oven
Your third option for seasoning a wok is to bake it.
If your wok has removable handles, it’s best to detach these before you bake the wok.
You should only need a screwdriver to loosen the handle screws enough that you can take the handle right off.
As for those woks where the handles don’t come off, then be sure to take a layer or two of foil wrap (kitchen aluminum foil) or even an old dish towel and encircle the handle.
Next, preheat your oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit.
Take canola oil or flaxseed oil, about two teaspoons, and apply it on the inside and outside of the wok.
Turn your wok upside down and place it on the top rack right in the center. Bake it at 425 degrees for 30 minutes.
When the time has elapsed, turn off the oven but don’t immediately pull the wok out.
Give it time to cool, anywhere from 15 to 30 minutes (use your discretion).
Like food cooks in the oven even when the oven is no longer on, your wok will continue seasoning.
Once it’s cooler to the touch, take the wok out and wait another 45 minutes for it to be fully room temperature. Reattach the handle if necessary.
Slice one large onion and mix that with two tablespoons of grapeseed, peanut, or canola oil in the wok.
Put the wok on your stovetop and warm it over medium heat.
Press the onions into the wok for about 10 minutes. By that point, the onions will be charred.
Throw away the burnt onion bits, wipe the wok with a sponge but no dish soap, and allow it to sit over low heat for two or three minutes to dry.
4. Seasoning on the Stovetop
Your last option for seasoning a wok is to use your stovetop.
Once again, you’ll need to either remove the handles of the wok or cover them in a dish towel or aluminum foil to prevent damage and charring.
Open your windows, turn on a ceiling fan, and make sure your kitchen hood fan is running.
Turn your stovetop on to high heat. This will open up the pores of the metal wok.
The wok may begin smoking, which is why I recommended all the fans and ventilation before. This should prevent your smoke alarm from going off.
Take the wok and direct it towards the flame from all sides, including the exterior all the way to the edges.
If the wok begins changing color, then keep it up!
Now turn off the stovetop and give the wok adequate time to cool.
Grab a paper towel and coat in oil with a high smoke point. You don’t want to douse the paper towel in oil, but it should be nice and moist.
Rub the oil on both sides of the wok, then turn the stovetop back on to medium-high. Hold the wok over the flames and the oil will smoke.
Repeat on the other side of the wok. The wok color will have darkened and turned matte.
This dark patina is what you’re trying to achieve.
To clean the oil off the wok, use hot water from the tap and a sponge.
How to Prep a New Wok Prior to Seasoning It
If your wok is new, then it likely came coated in factory oil. You can’t season your wok efficiently if this oil still remains, so you’ll have to remove it. Here’s how.
- Using mild dish soap and a sponge, scrub away at all the factory oil. It will come up black on your sponge. You might need something heavier-duty like a scouring pad as a backup.
- If the factory oil still won’t come off, then here’s what you do. Pour three-quarters of water into the wok and then mix in ¼ cup of baking soda or salt. Boil the ingredients for up to 15 minutes on the stovetop.
- Dry your wok over medium-low heat.
The Benefits of Seasoning a Wok
While it would be wonderful if woks came pre-seasoned, they do not. That’s a job you’re responsible for.
Rather than think of it as an additional responsibility, embrace this chance to make your wok truly your own and to increase its efficiency as a kitchen tool.
After all, seasoning a wok carries with it these perks as mentioned in the intro.
Creates a Nonstick Surface
Does a wok start out as nonstick? Some do, but most do not.
You’ll find this out the hard way if you try to cook on your wok without bothering to season it first.
Your meal will stick, leaving burnt bits on the pan that are very difficult to remove after the fact.
When you season a wok, you introduce that nonstick quality. From then on out, food will slip right off the cooking surface of the wok with ease.
Lends Dishes Deeper Flavor
There’s a reason why so many chefs, both home chefs and professionals, will reach for the wok over other kitchen tools.
A well-seasoned wok makes such flavorful dishes that it’s the natural choice to use when cooking.
Taking the time to season your wok allows for better flavor transfusion. You’ll notice that your veggies taste yummier, rice bolder, noodles stronger, and fish fresher.
Makes a Beautiful Patina
I saved what is probably the biggest reason to season a wok for last, and that’s for creating a patina.
A patina is more than a natural color change to the wok. It creates a protective layer or coating that safeguards your wok each time you use it.
Rust? No way! Corrosion? Not at all.
The patina maintains the quality of your wok so that your investment lasts you for a long time to come.
Oh, and the flavor enhancements I was talking about in the paragraphs above? The stronger the patina, the more pronounced that effect.