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How to Clean a Wok

A stainless steel or aluminum wok can usually be washed in the dishwasher or in the sink, the same way you would wash a frying pan. However, if your wok is made of carbon steel, standard steel, iron or cast iron, it will have a seasoning. Any pan with a seasoning requires special cleaning techniques to ensure that the patina – the seasoned surface layer of the pan – remains intact. Here are the steps to cleaning a seasoned wok:

  1. A large cast-iron wokRinse the wok in warm to hot water.
  2. Use a sponge or wok brush to remove any remaining food particles from the inside surface.
  3. Use steel wool to clean the exterior of any burnt or encrusted food that may have spilled over. Or, if you like, you can leave the food particles on the outside, where they will burn and create smoke that will add additional flavor to your wok dishes.
  4. If you need to sanitize the wok to meet regulations, you can briefly submerge it in boiling water, but avoid soap or other chemical detergents that could damage the layer of seasoning.
  5. Dry the wok with a towel. If the towel shows brown or black smudges, the wok is either dirty or it needs to be seasoned again.
  6. Put the wok over medium high heat to remove any remaining moisture and burn off any remaining oil, thereby creating an extra layer of seasoning.
  7. Allow the wok to cool. A stiff wok brush
  8. (Optional) If the wok is likely to be left in storage for more than a week, use a brush or paper towel to cover the wok with a layer of oil or lard that will protect it in storage. The best oil to use is peanut oil or canola oil, because they are inexpensive and have a high smoke point. 

By properly cleaning your wok, you will ensure that the patina keeps its integrity. This is especially important for wok cooking, where the high cooking temperature makes it easy for food to stick to the pan if it is not properly seasoned. Make sure never to scrub the interior seasoned surface of your wok with steel wool or any other metal scrubber, or it will damage the seasoning.

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