If you head down to any roadside food stall and check out their woks, you’ll notice that they all look like they’ve been through the wringer. Stained in varying shades of yellow, blue, brown, and black, they have a permanent oily sheen to them which testifies to years of heavy use. This is the seasoning, created by a coating made up of fat and oil which has bonded with the surface of the pan to produce a non-stick cooking surface and add subtle flavours to everything cooked in it. In this article we’re going to cover methods to help you start the seasoning process on a brand new pan.
Seasoning a wok
1. Wash the wok
This process removes factory oil which keeps the wok in good condition during transit. Use steel wool, soap and hot water and scrub the wok thoroughly inside and out.
2. Dry the wok
Use a dish cloth to wipe up as much water as you can, then place the wok over low heat to cause the remaining moisture to evaporate.
3. Heating the wok
Once there is no remaining moisture, turn the heat up as high as you can. Rotate the wok around its sides as well to ensure even heating.
4. Reduce heat and add the oil
Once the pan is well heated, pull the heat down to medium, wait a couple of minutes, then add 2 tablespoons of oil. You want to use an oil with a high smoke point; we recommend peanut oil, canola oil or grape seed oil. Swirl the oil around to coat the wok.
5. Add aromatics
Once the wok is coated, throw in freshly cut scallions and ginger. Stir fry the ingredients for 15-20 minutes, add oil if the mixture becomes too dry or starts to burn. Make sure to smear the mixture all the way up the wok.
6. Watch the colours
As you stir-fry, you should see the wok begin to develop patches of yellow, brown and even black. Don’t be worried, this simply means that the coating is beginning to develop!
7. Cooling off and washing
Remove the wok from the heat and allow it to cool down. Remove the aromatic mixture and rinse the wok with hot water. Dry it over low heat again. Your wok is now seasoned and ready to go!
8. Caring for the wok
When you wash the wok, always use hot water and a brush to remove any leftover food then dry it thoroughly. Avoid cooking acidic foods like tomatoes and vinegar in your newly seasoned wok until you’ve built up a decent layer of seasoning, as the acid will wear away some of the seasoning.
Seasoning a cast iron pan
Similarly, you can build up a layer of seasoning on a cast iron pan; albeit in a slightly different fashion. Wash and dry your pan in a similar method to the wok, then follow the instructions below:
1. Oil the pan
Get some cooking oil (vegetable or canola oil is good) and rub it into the pan, including the handle if it’s metal. Once you’ve covered the entirety of the pan, use a paper towel to polish the pan until it stops looking greasy. Excess oil can make getting a consistently smooth layer of seasoning difficult, so make sure to be thorough!
2. Heat the pan
Place the piled pan upside down in a 200° C oven and leave it for 30 minutes. Place aluminium foil underneath the pan to catch any drippings. Inside the oven, the heat polymerizes the fat to the pan, giving you that seasoning you’re aiming for. (If your cast iron pan has a plastic or wooden handle, remove this before placing your pan in the oven.)
After half an hour, remove the pan from the oven and rub it with oil again, removing excess oil as before. Then place the pan back inside the oven for another 30 minute session. Repeat this process 3-5 times to build up a good layer of seasoning. Once you’re satisfied with your pan, allow it to cool off and you’re ready to start cooking!
The easiest way to keep you cookware well-seasoned after you have carried out these processes is to use your cookware regularly. Each time you cook with oil, vegetable fat or animal fat you actually add another layer of protection and flavour to your cookware.