How to Wash a Wok

Oleh : JasaQQ

Learning how to wash a wok sounds simple. And it is simple once you know what to do. But over the years, we’ve come across many misconceptions when it comes to wok care—not just the seasoning process, but also washing after daily use. 

Whether you’ve got a brand new wok or a rusty old one, we’ve shown you how to season a wok properly and care for it. But we still get questions all the time from people wondering about black bits on their wok, or difficulty maintaining a shiny patina.

To clear up any lingering confusion, we put together this definitive guide (with a short video!) on how to wash a wok. Proper daily care and routine use will keep your wok well-seasoned and ready to use for years to come.  

Note!

Our focus is on the carbon steel wok, which we recommend in our article on choosing and buying a wok. Lightweight and quick to heat, carbon steel is the best wok material, but another common one is cast iron. It retains heat well but can be quite heavy (and brittle at thinner gauges) which makes it difficult to maintain a high heat while cooking. In general, principles for washing carbon steel and cast iron woks are similar. If you have a cast iron wok, you can follow the same steps laid out in this post. 

How to Season a Wok and Daily Wok Care by thewoksoflife.com

Routine Wok Washing: The First Principle of Good Chinese Cooking

In a restaurant kitchen, chefs often wash their hot wok right away using cold water from a faucet directly over the cooktop. Steam pours out of the wok as the water hits it, and the chef immediately cleans the wok with a scrub brush (working the brush in a circular motion). 

After washing, the wok is then lifted and tipped forward to drain the water and any debris out into a built-in drain on the stove. How nice is that? During busy times, the wok is going non-stop, so this convenient setup is key.

At home, however, there may be longer gaps between cooking sessions, so it’s important that every time you use your wok, you wash and store it properly. Rust is enemy #1. Many of our tips are designed to help you avoid it. (That said, a rusty wok can be saved! See our wok seasoning post for more info.)

How to Wash A Carbon Steel Wok

First of all, NEVER put your wok in the dishwasher. You may be tempted, but don’t do it! 

Now that we’ve got that out of the way…

Step 1: Cool your wok slightly 

Once you are done cooking, let the wok cool down to a manageable temperature before you transfer it to a sink. I say manageable, because sometimes when I’m in a rush, I transfer my hot wok to the sink—holding the handle with a dry cloth—so I can wash it right away. Generally, it’s best to clean a warm wok while grease, oil, and food bits are still soft.

Don’t let the wok sit for very long with sauce or excess food in it, as it may begin to rust. This is especially important when cooking with acidic ingredients (citrus juice, vinegar, etc.). Believe it or not, these acidic ingredients and even just water can form rust on your wok very quickly! 

Step 2: Scrub your wok 

Once it’s in the sink, if there is a thick residue of sauce or crusty bits, use your metal spatula to gently scrape them off with some water. This helps avoid gunging up your sponge. Don’t worry about any minor scratches to the wok. 

Scraping bits of food off of wok with spatula

Once it looks like the wok is free of thick residue, grab a scrub brush or a sponge with a scouring pad on the back. (We recommend using the pad on the back of your sponge.)

Using light yet firm pressure, scrub the wok in a circular motion, starting in the middle of the wok and continuing up the sides. Make sure to clean the entire surface. If your wok is extra greasy, you can use a small amount of mild dish soap.

Scrubbing wok with scouring pad

The goal is not to make the wok one even color or to shine it up. The wok surface should simply be smooth and free of residue. Run your fingers along the surface of the wok to check! The wok may still feel slightly greasy. This is okay. But if you feel any bumpy bits, keep scrubbing. 

Give everything a good rinse. If you’ve got a good sprayer attachment on your kitchen faucet, rinsing will be a snap (rather than maneuvering the wok under the faucet). Tilt the wok to pour off any standing water, give it a quick shake, and return it to the stovetop.

rinsing wok

Step 3: Dry Your Wok 

Always dry your wok before storing! This is possibly the most important step. If you don’t, it can quickly form rust. 

You can also towel-dry it to speed up the process.

The most surefire way to dry out the wok completely and prevent rust is to heat the wok on the stove until completely dry and moisture-free. This also dries the bottom of the wok, preventing rust from forming on the outside. If you skip this step, the next time you grab your wok, it may have a thin film of rust on it. 

Step 4: Oil Your Wok 

This step is somewhat optional if you cook with your wok often (daily or a few times a week), but it’s recommended if you use your wok less frequently, or if you want to build your wok’s patina more quickly. 

Spread 1 teaspoon vegetable oil around the perimeter of the heated, dry wok, and wipe the entire surface down with a paper towel. Make sure you get every spot! 



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