How to Restore a Wok
There are several reasons a wok may need restoration: a wok that isn’t used for a long period of time may rust, and a wok that is improperly cleaned won’t keep food from sticking to it. But a good-quality wok shouldn’t just be thrown away; its age is actually one of its benefits, and once properly cleaned and seasoned, your wok will be like brand-new. That deep black patina on a wok actually imparts flavor, and it’s an essential ingredient in Chinese and Thai cooking.
Wash the wok in the sink using very hot water, mild dish soap and a soft sponge to remove rust and any stuck-on food. Do not use a metallic sponge or steel wool; cleaning tools that contain metal fibers damage the coating on the wok and may cause pitting, which causes food to cook unevenly.
Dry the wok thoroughly with clean paper towels. Place the wok over low heat for two to three minutes -- before adding oil -- to finish the drying process.
Pour 2 tablespoons of peanut or corn oil on a clean paper towel and lightly coat the inside of the wok with it. Heat the wok over medium heat for 15 minutes to season the inside. The wok should turn a deep black color by the end of the allotted time.
Remove the wok from heat and allow it to rest at room temperature until it is cool enough to handle.
Dry the inside of the wok fully with paper towels, but do not wash it with hot water. Allow the light coating of oil to stay on the inside of the wok to keep food from sticking. Store the wok in a cool, dry place after drying.
- For woks that are extremely rusted, fill the inside with warm water and bring it to a rolling boil on the stove top for about 10 minutes to loosen stubborn rust. Wash the wok with mild dish soap and a soft, nonmetallic sponge in the sink after draining the boiling water.
- If food starts to get stuck on your wok after regular use, you can clean and reseason it as necessary.
- Never allow a wok to air-dry; air drying can cause rust to form.
- Some wok handles can get very hot during the seasoning process, even though they are not directly over the flame. Always wear heavy oven mitts to protect your hands when taking the wok off of the heat after seasoning it with oil.
- Woks that have cracks should be discarded, as they cannot be repaired.
Christopher Godwin is a freelance writer from Los Angeles. He spent his formative years as a chef and bartender crafting signature dishes and cocktails as the head of an upscale catering firm. He has since ventured into sharing original creations and expertise with the public. Godwin has published poetry, fiction and nonfiction in publications like "Spork Magazine," "Cold Mountain Review" and "From Abalone To Zest."
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