How to season a wok

I’m very good at destroying things. It’s true. I’ve had two woks in the past. I followed the directions that came with these inexpensive carbon steel pans. Both times, no matter how well I cared for them, the seasoning came off and I rusted them most of the way through.

I love a good wok. A wok is so deep that you can pile the veggies into it and then crank up the heat and get a good sear on them. I’ve been wok-less for years and it’s been a major frustration.

A few years back, Gourmet did an article on the classic $15 wok. I saved the issue because the owner of the store that was profiled had instructions on how to season a wok and the instructions made so much more sense than the usual stove top method. I bought a wok and then forgot about it. Until today. Today was the day that a wok came back into my life.

I went hunting around the Gourmet website thinking that the instructions would be there, but of course I couldn’t find them so I’ll let you know what I did:

First, gather up what you will need:

A carbon steel wok

Steel wool

Dish soap

Vegetable oil

Paper towels

An old dish towel or wash cloth that you don’t mind damaging

Aluminum foil

Preheat the oven to 450 degrees F.

Your wok will have some sort of coating on the inside to keep it from rusting. Using some steel wool and dish soap, scrub the inside of the wok thoroughly to clean off this coating. Dry the wok with a dish cloth.

Now look at your wok. Does it have a wood or plastic handle? Plastic? Sorry, these instructions aren’t for you unless you can remove the handle. If you can remove the handle please do so now. If it is a wooden handle and the handle cannot be removed, wrap the handle in a wet dish cloth and wrap the cloth completely in aluminum foil.

Using a paper towel and some vegetable oil. Wipe oil all over the inside and outside of the wok. (If you like the look of the steel you can leave the outside surface unseasoned but I don’t recommend it, an unseasoned bottom was the source of my rust problems with the other woks). Put the wok in the hot oven and allow it to bake for 20 minutes. Make sure your room is well ventilated and run the range fan. This will cause smoke! After 20 minutes, remove the wok and let it cool for at least five minutes or until cool enough to handle. Using an oven mitt, grab the wok by the handle (the wok will be cool, but the handle will still be warm, be careful!) and take it to the sink. Scrub the inside of the wok with the steel wool, using hot water only, no soap. Don’t scrub enough to remove the layer of seasoning, you just want to scratch the surface up a little.

Repeat the oiling, baking cooling and scrubbing three or four more times until the wok is bronze colored. It’s now fully seasoned.

So what did I make with my newly seasoned wok? Tofu and Broccoli Stir fry from the June issue of Eating Well Magazine. Click here for the recipe, the only thing I changed was to double the garlic (I so love garlic!) and substitute honey for the sugar which I recommend. The honey made the sauce sweet but also so very flavorful. This was a delicious and easy recipe that used a lot of pantry items.

If you don’t already have a carbon steel wok, go out and get one! They are very cheap and a great addition to your kitchen. And…now you know how to properly season it! Oh and by the way… never use soap on your wok. A little kosher salt and a sponge are all you need to clean it up and keep it’s non-stick surface in great shape!



  1. Tes said,

    June 2, 2010 at 3:12 am

    I’ve never done this before even though I love cooking with wok. I can’t wait to try this on my next wok.

  2. June 2, 2010 at 1:04 pm

    ;0) shows you again, you have to keep trying. Very beautiful veggies.

  3. drfugawe said,

    June 2, 2010 at 1:48 pm

    You just keep getting better and better at this photo thing, don’t you! OTOH, I’ve slipped into this sloppy, who cares style that I guess matches my personality.

    Humm – I see you too now have Goggle Ads on your page! Well, I guess since we’re not paying WordPress anything for the use of their stuff, we can’t bitch too much – but it sure was nice to have a clean, ad free page while it lasted.

    Oh well.

    • Mimi said,

      June 2, 2010 at 2:04 pm

      I can’t see the Google Ads but I suspected they were doing it because someone clicked on one and I could see it in my dashboard. Bummer.
      Makes me want to get my butt in gear and switch to so I can at least see a miniscule profit from those nasty ads!! 😀

  4. Jeanne said,

    June 2, 2010 at 8:50 pm

    I had no idea that you had to season a wok. I’ve been wanting to get one, and now I know how to care for it if I ever do! Your stir fry looks delicious, and sounds wonderful with the honey substitution.

  5. drfugawe said,

    June 3, 2010 at 4:42 am

    Hummm. I don’t see the same ad I saw here yesterday. And the ad I saw on my own blog yesterday is gone today. I guess I just don’t understand how this stuff works.

  6. Joanne said,

    June 5, 2010 at 5:15 am

    I am the WORST at seasoning things. I have two cast iron pans. Both of which need to be de-rusted. Thanks for all of these tips!

    That stir fry looks awesome.

    • Mimi said,

      June 5, 2010 at 11:17 am

      Hi Joanne,

      I think I finally got the hang of the cast iron pan. You will probably want to season it like the wok. Use some steal wool to get rid of the rust and take the seasoning down to the naked iron. Go ahead and season it in the oven.

      The next time you use it, use it for something really awful like a huge batch of bacon or cook a roast in it. You want something with a ton of fat that will burn a little. When you are ready to clean the pan, use nothing more than kosher salt and a sponge. Never use soap. EVER. The salt will soak up the worst of the fat and help you scrub any nasty bits from the surface, but it allows the pan to keep an oily layer.

      If you cook something dry in the pan, rinse the pan with water and use the salt treatment for any stuck on nasties.

      Always use warm heat to dry the pan. I have an electric stove so I turn the heat to warm and leave the damp pan on the burner until it is just dry.

      If you lose the oily sheen (because you cooked something dry in the pan – like heating tortillas) Coat the pan with cooking spray, wipe any excess with a paper towel and then store the pan.

      This should keep your pans very well seasoned.

  7. Elra said,

    June 5, 2010 at 2:25 pm

    Very useful info, thanks Mimi.

  8. michaelbungartz said,

    November 8, 2010 at 5:49 pm

    Thanks for the tips on How to Season a Wok… I just brought my first one home today and am looking forward to giving it a try.

    Also FYI in regards to the Ads you’re seeing on your blog… From WordPress’s site: “To support the service we may occasionally show ads on your blog, however we do this very rarely. You can remove ads from your blog for a low yearly fee.”

    To remove the ads runs about $30/yr. But as you said, as you continue to ramp up your blog and start investing some money into it, it is a good idea to look into .org and hosting the site yourself depending on your vision for it.


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