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Zeppa

Seasoning a wok

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Zeppa

I'm sorry if this has been discussed before - I haven't found it. I used to have a wok and have just bought a new one. Only after I started seasoning it did I see how many videos there are online. I think I did not scrub the factory coating off hard enough. So after putting it on the gas for about 30 minutes the bottom and lower sides are OK, bluish-grey, but all around the top it is brown. I will try to attach a photo, but the photo does not show quite how tan-coloured the top sides are. Should I just reheat it and go ahead with the oil burning, or should I get some steel wool and scrub the top sides again? I used a metallic scourer. 

It is the 12" carbon steel one here - I got it elsewhere - and comes with instructions:

https://schoolofwok.co.uk/shop/woks

 

Many thanks for any advice. 

 

IMG_9989.jpg

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Zeppa

Thanks, Shelley. I would still like to know whether I have burnt off enough of the protective oil or whatever it is that has to be burnt off. If no one knows, I will just go ahead with applying the oil. I don't think the one abcdefg describes needed anything burning off. Or maybe I will just google some more.

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Shelley

You need to read further down the topic, many types of wok seasoning was discussed. Or ask @abcdefg in that topic.

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abcdefg

That looks like a fine carbon steel wok, @Zeppa. Thanks for bringing up this topic again. It's one of my favorites. Every time I use my wok it keeps getting better and better. A pleasure to use, it has raised my quality of life. 

 

12 hours ago, Zeppa said:

I think I did not scrub the factory coating off hard enough. So after putting it on the gas for about 30 minutes the bottom and lower sides are OK, bluish-grey, but all around the top it is brown.

 

I agree and think you are right; there is probably still some protective coating left. I would scrub it again with coarse steel wool and then season it over long heat, low to medium, on the gas burner. This time an additional 20 or 30 minutes should do the job.

 

It's better to do that now than it would be to have to backtrack and do it after a month or two of use when you find things sticking. Furthermore, if you and I are both wrong, and the brown really isn't protective coating, nothing has been lost through the additional scouring and seasoning. You will have taken the wok back to bare metal and then bonded it at a molecular level with good cooking oil. 

 

One trick which helps with this seasoning process is to cook some jiucai 韭菜 towards the end (after starting with just plain oil.) Buy a couple bunches. Use a small handful and rub it around a lot inside the wok together with your high-smoke-point oil, such as peanut oil or canola oil, until the jiucai blackens. Scrub that out dry with crumpled newspaper or paper kitchen towels. Don't rinse; just repeat that over and over. 

 

Obviously it's a smoky process, so turn on a vent fan, open the windows, and turn off the fire alarm. Best of luck! A good wok like yours (or mine) is a long-term investment. Will bring lots of cooking pleasure and can eventually be passed down to future generations. 

 

 

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Zeppa

Shelley, I did scroll down and skimmed the whole thread and my problem wasn't discussed - I did that before I replied to you. And I was sure abcdefg would see this new thread. At the same time, I didn't want to force him to reply but just to put an open question for anyone who was kind enough to answer. It also seems a bad idea to duplicate this message in the other thread, which I hadn't found. Thanks again for linking to the thread. 

 

Thanks very much, abcdefg. I will see how it goes. I did also write to the School of Wok, whose Jeremy Pang did a small video actually showing the steel/wire wool. Their instructions did not use that term. My gas stove may not be quite as strong as yours. I have seen recommendations for using an outside gas stove. I had the wok on high heat for 30 minutes with the ventilator on and the smoke detector did not react. I was worried when you said to turn them off, as this is not easy. However, if it was OK yesterday it will be OK another time, I hope. I am not sure about the jiucai as I may not be going to Chinatown this week. I did have some when I made some kimchi recently. I'm attaching another photo from London.

IMG_9960.jpg

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anonymoose

Stupid question maybe for the experienced, but after each cooking session, how do you clean the wok? Just wipe it down? Doesn't that leave a flavour that will contaminate the following cooking session? Or is it that the ingredients are practically the same for every dish, so it doesn't matter?

 

I'm thinking of investing in a wok, but it sounds like a lot of hassle. May get one next time I'm in China.

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abcdefg
1 hour ago, anonymoose said:

Stupid question maybe for the experienced, but after each cooking session, how do you clean the wok?

 

Not at all a stupid question. Please have a look at the last part of this link, where I just updated cleaning tips this morning:

 

https://www.chinese-forums.com/forums/topic/51217-wok-and-chopsticks/?page=2&tab=comments#comment-434116 

 

It's really not much trouble to take care of a wok. The initial seasoning is a pain, but after that it's really simple. A non-stick wok is even easier to maintain, and many home cooks prefer one. Personally, I prefer a plain steel one because it works better with high heat and I like that ingredients which are cooking have enough "traction" to be able to push them up the sides briefly where there is less heat when adding new items to the bottom center where it is hottest. 

 

The pictures in the recipe I posted last week show what I mean: add new items to the center while pushing partly-cooked ingredients up the sides a bit. 

 

https://www.chinese-forums.com/forums/topic/56195-a-yunnan-take-on-kimchi-fried-rice-泡菜炒饭/ 

 

 

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Shelley

@anonymoose Personally I wash mine with hot soap and water and rinse well and dry well. I don't scrub it with anything harsh, just a kitchen sponge. When I bought mine it came with a bamboo tool that is like a brush with large bristles, as this is quite rough I think you are expected to clean it thoroughly.

 

Before my next use I coat the wok with the oil of my choice, heat it up till smoking turn off the heat and wipe round with paper towels. Then I just use it as normal.

 

Even though I do this it has still built up a patina of oil and is wonderfully non stick. Mine is a plain old steel one.

 

It is a useful thing to have in a kitchen.

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anonymoose
3 minutes ago, Shelley said:

Before my next use I coat the wok with the oil of my choice, heat it up till smoking turn off the heat and wipe round with paper towels.

 

Sounds like hassle.

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abcdefg

 

19 hours ago, anonymoose said:

Sounds like hassle.

 

Using a wok is not some kind of complex "foodie" thing that can only realistically be tackled by a dedicated few. It's not something which requires huge concentration and it isn't shrouded in mystery. It's something done many million times every day by ordinary people all over Asia. People without any specialized kitchen equipment or training. People who don't even care very much. They are just whipping up some basic vittles to feed the family. 

 

Sometimes YouTube video shot in the west makes it seem like religious zeal is involved. Suggests that one must utter certain sacred chants or incantations at just the right points; must hold your mouth exactly right, slowly breathe in and breath out, not scratch or blink.

 

Every day I see ordinary people cooking with a wok: a shopkeeper fixing lunch while smoking a cigarette or a mom cradling a cell phone against one ear while stirring things one-handed as a small child clings to her skirt. 

 

For what it's worth, I don't go through the same process that @Shelley described above. I just put the wok on the flame and add oil after it gets hot. Tilt the pan to spread it around. Then proceed to cook. And the cleanup can easily be abbreviated as: wash it out, dry it, put it away. No arcane rituals or rites. 

 

If I've given you the wrong impression that using a wok requires some sort of tricky Oriental kung fu or culinary talent, I apologize for misleading you. There is no huge mystique. It's just a tool; usually an entry-level tool at that. 

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imron
4 hours ago, abcdefg said:

There is no huge mystique.

You won't sell many books with that attitude, and who will want to watch your TED talk then? :wink:

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abcdefg

Oops! You're right. The cat is out of the bag.

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Zeppa

I'm still not happy with my wok. I bought some steel wool but it isn't working very well. I have done a web search again and decided that it has a lacquer coating and I have burnt it further on. Steel wool has taken a bit away, but not all. Here is information about a similar one:

 

http://londonwok.com/wok-seasoning-tips/

 

It seems that I need more than steel wool to get it off now. I have got a kitchen blowtorch, or maybe acetone would be easier, but I am seriously thinking of going to See Woo and getting one without a lacquer coating. I bought this one online for speed, but I still can't use it one week on and the manufacturer has not responded to my query. It looked extremely pretty, and that will have been the coating. 

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Shelley

That seems a shame, but yes an uncoated one might be the way to go.

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Zeppa

I posted a question to the manufacturer on amazon and the reply was 'Hello, yes this wok does come with a lacquer protective coating that needs removing by seasoning. All instructions come with the wok'. 

Well, the instructions looked good, but they just said 'give your wok a good scrub with a metal scourer', so I used a metallic scourer by Spontext, but I see it says 'non-scratching'. I told the manufacturer to mention steel wool. I may be obliged to review the wok but I will think about that.  Clearly this practice is getting more common outside Chinatown.

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abcdefg

@Zeppa -- Can you just return this one and start over? Seems to me it's defective. It would not be reasonable to expect any user to do more than you have already done.  

 

13 hours ago, Zeppa said:

Well, the instructions looked good, but they just said 'give your wok a good scrub with a metal scourer', so I used a metallic scourer by Spontext, but I see it says 'non-scratching'.

 

Those instructions are confusing to say the least. A metal scouring pad can't be "non-scratching." Here's the kind I've always used. 

 

5abc73facce6c_IMG_4262wokscourpad.thumb.jpg.e15b107c94977b9059451ec672682b57.jpg

 

The method in the video to which you've linked looks sensible. Looks as though it should work. 

 

Sorry to say I don't know what else to suggest. What a bummer! 

 

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Zeppa

Yes, I made more than one mistake here. I am quite talented at learning from lots of mistakes. I recognize the type of scouring pad you show but I haven't got one. Here is my equivalent (Spontex not Spontext!) and three grades of wire wool I now have:

 

I think my best bet is to get a refund and buy elsewhere, a wok with machine oil coating that's easier to remove. I've now read a lot of comments and realize the lacquer coating is really hard work to remove, above all on the outside of the wok. 

 

The instructions were defective. The seller is School of Wok, who do Chinese cooking classes in London. Funnily enough, I was looking at the site of a food etc. delivery firm, Ocado, which I use, and they sell the wok too, but on their site the seller's instructions are far more detailed:

 

https://www.ocado.com/webshop/product/School-of-Wok-Carbon-Steel-Wok-with-Bamboo-Handle-12/331901011

 

It says here that the wok should feel rough once the lacquer coating has been removed. Mine still feels smooth all over the outside and top. I am sure the bottom inside is OK now. 

 

The users' reviews on Ocado are usually very reliable, but here as on amazon they have some idiot who doesn't know that carbon steel rusts!

IMG_0014.jpg

IMG_0013.jpg

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abcdefg
3 hours ago, Zeppa said:

Funnily enough, I was looking at the site of a food etc. delivery firm, Ocado, which I use, and they sell the wok too, but on their site the seller's instructions are far more detailed:

 

https://www.ocado.com/webshop/product/School-of-Wok-Carbon-Steel-Wok-with-Bamboo-Handle-12/331901011

 

It says here that the wok should feel rough once the lacquer coating has been removed.

 

Agree that those are excellent instructions. Thorough and clear. I have saved a copy for future reference. 

 

One of the problems I've encountered with things like this, seasoning a wok or breaking in a new Yixing clay teapot, is that everyone on YouTube is a self-proclaimed expert. If they have done it one time with halfway decent results, they are more than willing to preach the gospel to anyone who will listen. Don't find a whole lot of humility. 

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