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Wok cooking is a quick, easy, and healthy way to cook, especially if you stir-fry. Having spent the time to properly season your wok, you will want to take good care of it. Properly caring for your wok will not only make it last longer, but the seasoning will improve, the wok will become even more non-stick over repeated uses, and your food will taste better.
As a side note, if you have a non-stick wok or a stainless steel wok, go ahead and wash as you would any other cookware – hot water, soap, and a sponge. The instructions below are for a carbon steel wok. These cleaning instructions also apply to any other carbon steel pan as well as non-enameled cast iron cookware.
Cleaning a wok is a four step process. Rinse, scour, dry, oil.
Place the cooled down, empty pan in the sink and fill with very hot water. Let it sit for a minute or two.
Go at it! No soap, no steel wool. Just a traditional bamboo whisk, a chainmail scrubber, or a plastic scrubby (such as the Scrub Daddy – see below). Here are my favorite cleaning implements for this task:
This is a textured sponge. The cool thing about it is that if you use it with cold water, it stays absolutely rigid. If you use warm or hot water, it gets squishy to fit into nooks and crannies (which you obviously don’t need in a concave, smooth wok, but still…). I like the color coded Scrub Daddies. I use the green one for my wok and I never use soap on it. When I take it out to clean my wok and cast iron cookware, I know that the scrubber is completely soap-free!
This is the traditional implement used for cleaning a wok. You simply drag the whisk end around the wok. I use the same motion that I use when whisking eggs. This brush cannot go into the dishwasher, but it should simply be rinsed off after use. Bamboo is a very hard substance (it is actually a grass), and only needs to be replaced after several years of regular use.
This chainmail scrubber is a fantastic way to scrub your wok or stainless steel. It has the abrasive power to remove stuck on food (not that you should have any in a properly seasoned wok), but will not mar the seasoned surface. And it is high grade stainless steel and can be put in the dishwasher!
After scouring, if there is still some stubborn stuck-on food, fill the wok with water and put it back on the stove to boil for a few minutes. Then cool it down and repeat the scouring step.
Once your pan is clean, it’s time to dry it. Place it back on the stove over a low heat for a minute or two and make sure that all of the water has evaporated off the pan. Putting away a damp wok will result in rust spots and necessitates a re-seasoning, which can be a time consuming task, not to mention a waste all of the layers of seasoning that have accumulated from repeated use. Remember that a newly seasoned carbon steel wok is not nearly as non-stick as a well-used seasoned cast iron wok!
If you do not plan on using your now clean wok in the next day or two, apply a very light coat of cooking oil to the interior of the pan.
That’s all there is to it! A well cared for carbon steel wok will last a lifetime, and can contribute to a healthy diet by allowing you to use less oil when cooking!