Wok is an indispensable tool when making fried dishes. Also because they are exposed to a lot of heat, food and grease, they get dirty easily. However, if not cleaned properly, your wok will wear out and deteriorate over time. So how to clean a wok properly? Find out with KITCHENBAR in the article below!
Why is the Wok Made of Carbon Steel? What are the Benefits?
It gets a bit technical when you really dive into the depths of steel alloys and the percentages involved in different metal components. But all you really need to know is that carbon steel is steel with a carbon content between 0.2% and 2.1%.
You may be wondering how carbon steel differs from stainless steel. Stainless steel has added chromium to it which makes it rust free and gives it a shiny look. Carbon steel is less shiny and has a more rustic, lifelike appearance.
- Gets hot quickly: carbon steel is an amazing conductor of heat. It absorbs heat and gets super hot, super fast. This is very important for woks, as many dishes made with woks require a very fast, very hot cooking process. You don’t have to wait long for the wok to reach the desired temperature.
- Cools quickly: carbon steel also cools quickly as well as heating up quickly. Some other common cookware metals take a while to cool off, but carbon steel will quickly return to room temperature. This is great because it means you can clean your wok faster without having to wait for it to lose heat.
- High heat resistance: the wok is not sensitive to heat. You can blast them to the highest temperature your stove can muster and they can take. In fact, they are designed to withstand high heat.
- Non-stick: the beauty of a carbon steel wok is that over time, with each cooking and each oiling it develops a non-stick coating. It’s not completely non-stick, but since you’re likely cooking with oil and very high heat, food is less likely to stick anyway. This is where the proper cleaning methods come into play, as you could damage that lovely non-stick coating if you don’t get into the wrong cleaning habits.
- Durable: carbon steel is really hard and can be mounted around hot stoves, fast without breaking. It won’t crack or scratch if you accidentally drop it or scrape it with a metal tool.
- Lightweight: compared to similar metals like cast iron (heavy!), Carbon Steel is light and easy to toss around. This is great for cooking very hot, fast foods because you can easily lift the wok and shake and shake well.
- Works with all hobs: carbon steel is compatible with all hobs including induction.
How to Clean a Wok
Uncoated Carbon Steel Wok
Wash and maintain your wok before using it for the first time
Use a sponge and hot soapy water to scrub the wok. Rinse the wok and dry with a clean cloth. Place the wok on the stove over high heat until the wok begins to smoke. Careful not to burn yourself, rotate the wok so that it is all exposed to high heat. Dip a paper towel in the oil and hold it between a pair of tongs. Rub an absorbent towel over the wok.
Uncoated carbon steel woks are usually coated with a light oil to protect it from tarnishing or rusting. Scrubbing the wok will remove this coating before you’re ready to use it.
Soak the wok in hot water
Fill your sink with hot water. After the wok cools a bit, place the wok in the tub to soak for a few minutes (or up to 30 minutes if the food is really cooked). Soaking your wok will loosen food debris, making it easier to clean. Avoid excessive heat when cleaning the wok to avoid warping. For example, do not place a very hot wok in a basin of cold water, or you may damage the wok.
Use a sponge to clean the wok
Use a kitchen sponge, scrubber, or wok cleaning brush to scrub away food debris and residue. You can only clean the wok with hot water and a sponge. But if you like, you can use a little dish soap on the sponge when cleaning. Avoid using an abrasive sponge, such as steel wool, as this can damage any protective coating on your wok.
Rinse the wok with hot water
After you have scrubbed the food off the wok, rinse the wok completely with hot water. Look at the wok again and check for any leftovers that you might have missed. woks that are too dirty may need a scrub and rinse at this point.
Dry the wok on your stove
You’ll need to get rid of all the moisture on the wok or it could rust. Let the wok dry, return the wok to the stove over medium-low heat. Keep the heat on the wok until all the water has evaporated. Let the wok cool before you handle it again. You can lightly rub a layer of vegetable oil on the surface of the wok before storing. If your wok is rusty, you need to scrape off the rust and repaint it as you did before using it for the first time.
Fill the sink with hot soapy water
You can use regular dish detergent to clean non-stick woks. Place the wok in the water and submerge the wok if there is a lot of food debris on the wok. The sooner you wash the wok, the easier it is to clean. Avoid letting your wok sit for long periods of time with leftover food on it.
Scrub the wok clean
Use a soft sponge, scrubber, or wok brush to gently clean away any food debris. Avoid using abrasive sponges, like steel wool pads, as they can destroy the non-stick coating. If you don’t rinse the wok completely, a layer of oil can build up on the wok, causing it to stick over time. To remove the sticky layer, simply scrub with a wok.
Wash the wok
Rinse the wok with cold water and check to make sure you’ve completely removed all traces of food debris. If not, wash the wok and rinse again. If a bit of stubborn food sticks to the wok, soak it in hot soapy water for a few minutes before scrubbing it again.
Dry the wok
Dry the wok with a soft cloth and store it until you’re ready to use it again. If you can, hang the wok. If you need to stack other woks inside the wok, be careful that they don’t scratch the non-stick surface. Unlike uncoated woks, you don’t need to season or dry the wok after cleaning. Non-stick coating will protect the metal of the wok.
Remove Rust or Hardened Food
If your wok is rusty or the food is burnt, soak the wok in warm water for about 5 minutes to wash away the debris. Then clean it as you normally would (aka a sponge or gentle cleaning pad). You can also use steel wool for particularly hard-to-remove rust or food stains, if needed. However, scrubbing with an abrasive sponge will likely remove some of the rust in the process. That means you’ll then need to re-season your wok to restore its non-stick surface.
- Don’t put your wok in the dishwasher.
- Never use abrasive cleaners or brushes or rough clothes.
- If you see rust spots appear, gently remove the rust and repeat the seasoning process.
Cleaning your carbon steel wok properly will ensure that it lasts longer, no matter how much you use it. By paying careful attention to the cleaning process, you can be sure your wok will remain in excellent condition and will be ready to go the next time you feel like cooking in it!
How to Store and Take Care for a Wok
After you learn how to clean a seasoned wok, it’s time to properly store it. Just like your stainless steel cookware, make sure your wok is clean and free of water or moisture before storing. Once your wok is clean (and maintains its shine), you can store it along with your other woks. If you live in a place with natural moisture (or don’t use the wok very often), apply a very thin layer of oil to the surface to prevent rust before storing. Your wok should always have a slightly shiny and slightly oily surface. A thin layer of olive or vegetable oil will help preserve the ingredients and keep them in good condition.
Carbon steel woks and woks can be a bit messy, but they are very durable. You can stack, hang, or display your collection of carbon cookware without worrying about scratching, breaking or chipping. And if you see a little rust develop between uses, don’t worry. Follow our tips on how to remove rust from steel or scrub away the rust and reapply oil or wax to get it working again at wok speed. Remember, try not to use dish soap! woks that have been properly seasoned will only need a thorough cleaning. For more tips, see our article on carbon steel re-welding.
Phew, and that’s a long post. KITCHENBAR hopes that this article will guide you how to clean a wok properly and preserve them for a long time. If you are interested in other issues, check out our other articles!