How to clean a wok: solutions to help you take care of yours

Understanding the intricacies of some kitchen kit items, like knowing how to effectively clean a wok, is important if you want to keep your cookware in good condition (and your food as tasty as it should). Yes, maintenance is the key. But sometimes it is not so obvious how to take care of particular pieces of kitchen utensils.

The trusty wok is a perfect example. It might not be used for every meal, but this specialty cookware, believed to have originated in Han Dynasty China over 2,000 years ago, is undoubtedly a kitchen staple. While their original heavy cast iron shapes have been replaced by lighter metals, which are easier to maneuver in heat, a classic feature remains: woks are difficult to clean.

Unlike many other types of casseroles, before its first use, a good wok must be “well seasoned” (as professionals say), that is, a protective layer or patina is built up on the surface. metal, through a process designed to create a natural non-stick coating. Obviously, this is not necessary with designs made with non-stick surfaces but, with more classic style woks, it is the road to longevity.

Even so, if things get too hot in the kitchen, the ingredients can stick or burn, making the wok itself less efficient and the foods you cook with less flavor. When this happens, the task of keeping your wok sparkling clean isn’t always easy. Luckily, we’ve discovered the best tips for cleaning a wok, so you can keep cooking with ease.

wok on a baking sheet full of cooking food

(Image credit: Getty Images)

How to clean a wok after use: 4 simple solutions

Whether or not you seasoned your wok before using it (more on that later), there is a tailored approach to how to properly clean a wok after cooking is complete, no matter what state it is in. find. Our four proven cleaning solutions each address a specific problem, allowing you to return your wok to like new with as little hassle as possible.

1. Use hot soapy water for daily cleaning.

If you’re just looking to maintain your wok on a daily basis, cleaning it couldn’t be easier. Well, it might if you put it in the dishwasher, but we strongly advise against it; While a handy part of any kitchen cleaning routine, the dishwasher can be aggressive on specialty kitchen kits, such as woks. Instead, hand wash yours with hot, soapy water and a soft cloth. If there are any sauces or stubborn ingredients that won’t separate from the surface of the pan, let it soak for a few minutes before gently buffing with a scouring sponge. Finally, rinse, dry and store. Easy.

2. Clean rusty or sticky woks with salt.

If you remove your wok from the back of a cabinet, where it has been unloving for longer than you want to admit, it might look a little worse with wear. Whether it’s a bit of rust, or it’s become sticky to the touch (due to insufficient cleaning before), this salt-based cleaning technique is a real savior.

Put your wok on medium heat and add a cup of salt. Stir the salt around the pan in a circular motion, using a metal spatula, for about 20 minutes. Remove from the heat, throw in the salt and let cool. Once the wok has cooled, wipe it down with a little oil, any rust or sticky surfaces should be magically gone.

If you don’t feel like using salt to remove rust from your wok, there is another way: simply soak your wok in hot, soapy water for a few minutes, then rub it gently to remove any rust and any chipping. If necessary, you can use a scouring sponge such as metallic wool, but be careful, this may remove some of the accumulated patina (seasoning) on ​​the surface of your wok. If so, simply re-season your wok, per our instructions below.

3. Use vinegar to clean a non-stick wok

If you’re worried about damaging a non-stick surface, this wok cleaning technique is for you. Instead of using abrasive cleaning products, we suggest you create a cleaning “cocktail” that will allow you to gently clean the surface; the acidic nature of vinegar makes it a great option for dissolving stubborn deposits.

To do this, add half a cup of white vinegar, as well as a cup of water, to your wok. Heat gently over low heat on the baking sheet for about ten minutes, then let cool. Rinse the “cocktail” with hot, soapy water, using a soft cloth – any previously stubborn debris should now come off easily.

While your vinegar is out, you can also learn how to descale a kettle or clean a dishwasher using this wardrobe essential.

4. Use dishwasher tablets to remove hard and sticky foods.

For super stubborn food scraps, which won’t budge from the surface of your wok, you may need to remove the big guns – the dishwasher tablets. Note: not the dishwasher itself! While these awesome little inventions might not be your first thought when it comes to cleaning a wok, they’re great for removing tough stains or burnt food. This is because the enzymes they contain are specifically designed to loosen food debris.

Half fill your pot with water, add a dishwasher tablet and bring to a boil on the baking sheet. Simmer for ten minutes, before removing from the heat and leaving to cool. When the wok is cool, wash it with a soft cloth and hot soapy water. The dishwasher tablet should have done the hard work for you, so this step only requires a light touch.

a wok with food in it

(Image credit: Getty Images)

How to season a wok

If you’ve invested in a new wok to make your favorite Chinese recipes, or just want to keep an existing recipe, knowing how to properly season this specialty kitchen item will come in handy. Ideally, a stainless steel or cast iron wok should be seasoned before its first use, so that it is in perfect condition from the start.

Seasoning a skillet essentially means oiling and heating the interior surface, to create a non-stick barrier. This will provide longevity, as well as better cooking conditions for tasty meals.

This first seasoning won’t last forever, especially if you’ve used some of the more rigorous cleaning methods above, such as rust removal. So, chances are you will have to go through this process more than once, but trust us when we say it’s worth it.

1. Wash your wok in soapy water

For best results, start with a clean surface. Simply wash your wok in hot, soapy water, buffing it lightly with a scouring sponge in a circular motion. This will remove any dirt or debris from the factory or workshop and ensure that the interior of the wok is ready for use.

2. Heat your wok on the baking sheet

Then heat your wok on your stove until hot, turning and tilting it to make sure all surfaces are heated evenly. Depending on the metal of your wok, it may darken or turn blue-black when heated; this is normal and is caused by the burning of impurities. Contrary to what your gut is probably telling you, this is actually a good thing. In order for the entire wok to be properly seasoned, you need to make sure you get even color throughout the pan.

3. Cool and rinse your wok

Once colored enough, remove the wok from the heat and let it cool away from the hob, so that it is not affected by residual heat – we advise you to leave it for about 10 minutes before touching it again. . Once cool, wash the wok again in hot soapy water before drying it well.

4. Oil your wok

Heat the wok again, this time over medium heat, and add a tablespoon of oil to the pan (olive oil is best, but any cooking oil can work). Wipe off the oil over the entire interior surface with a few pieces of paper towel, using tweezers to hold them if you prefer. Make sure there is no oil in the bottom of the wok, then remove from the heat and let cool completely, before storing until needed.

If you’ve splashed oil on your cooktop in the process, fear not, our guide on how to clean a stove can help you get yours back to pristine condition.

You can season your wok every few months, but cooking it regularly will also ensure that you maintain it properly. The constant use of a lot of oil and directly applied heat produces a coating which over time becomes non-stick.


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