A lot of people think that a wok is just a pan. But if you've ever cooked with one, you know that's not the case. A wok is a special type of pan that's designed for stir-frying. It has a wider base and sloped sides that make it easy to toss ingredients while cooking. Plus, the shape of a wok helps to evenly distribute heat, which is important when you're working with high temperatures. (Check out our article on "Choosing the Best Wok for an Electric Stove" if you're in the market for a new one!)
If you're going to invest in a wok, you want to make sure you season it properly. Seasoning is the process of treating the metal so that it develops a patina, or protective layer. This patina prevents the wok from rusting and makes it non-stick. Most importantly, it gives your food that unmistakable wok hei flavor—the smoky, charred taste that can only be achieved by cooking over high heat in a well-seasoned wok.
How to Season a New Wok:
The first thing you need to do is wash your wok with hot water and dish soap. Be sure to scrub the inside and outside of the wok with a sponge or brush to remove any manufacturing residue. Rinse the wok well and dry it completely with a clean towel.
Next, heat up your oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit. Place the wok upside down on the top rack and let it heat up for about 15 minutes. This will help to remove any residual moisture from inside the wok.
While the oven is preheating, pour about 1/2 cup of oil into a bowl. Olive oil or peanut oil work well for this; just make sure you Avoid using vegetable oil, as it has a tendency to smoke at high temperatures. Dip a clean cloth or paper towel into the oil and rub it all over the inside and outside of the wok.
Once the wok is coated with oil, put on some oven mitts and carefully place it back in the oven upside down on the top rack. Bake for 30 minutes, then turn off the oven and let the wok cool completely before taking it out.
Doing this once is usually enough to season your wok, but if you want an extra-protective patina, repeat the process 2 or 3 more times. Just be sure to let the wok cool completely between each coating of oil.
By taking the time to season your new wok properly, you'll ensure that it lasts for years to come—and that every meal you make in it tastes incredible!
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