How to Clean and Care for a Wok

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How to Clean a Wok with Steel Wool

This may not sound like the instant quick fix that you were hoping for, but it works in removing rust! Sometimes, all you need is a steel wool and a bit of elbow grease to whip a rusty wok into shape:

Step 1: Soak

Bring your rusty wok to your kitchen sink and fill it up with warm water. Let it soak for a few minutes before proceeding as this will soften as much of the rust and burnt food as possibly to avoid vigorously scrubbing.

Step 2: Scrub and Rinse

Grab your steel wool and gently scrub away the rust in fast circular motions. As the rust comes off, you will notice that the water will get dirtier. When this happens, just give your wok a good rinse and fill it up again.

For this step, you can also use a soft sponge or a scouring pad to remove lighter and less serious rust and burnt food stains.

After making sure that all the rust has been removed, give the carbon steel wok a final rinse under some hot water and towel dry the pan with a dry cloth or a paper towel.

Step 3: Heat

When the carbon steel wok is wiped, place it over medium heat to let it completely dry. Letting the pan sit over heat can also let you see if you've missed any rust spots. Should this be the case, simply repeat the same steps until no more rust remains.

Step 4: Re Season

Now that you have a newly cleaned wok with no more rust stuck, it's time to re-season your wok to make a protective coat that will help slow down the formation of any new rust. This step also helps the nonstick surface of your carbon steel wok recover from the abrasive scrubbing.

With your carbon steel wok still on medium heat, get a paper towel and dip it into some vegetable oil. Then, wipe a very thin coat of it around your wok. For this step, feel free to wipe the paper towel all over your wok with a pair of tongs to avoid getting burned.

The layer of oil should be as thin as possible. Should you see any excess oil gathering and pooling at the bottom of your wok, grab another paper towel and wipe it out.

One round of this re seasoning process should be enough to let you stir fry confidently, but feel free to repeat this oiling and heating process a few more times to make a longer lasting coat and barrier, which will help in preventing rust from accumulating again.

How to Clean a Wok with Baking Soda

Unsurprisingly, baking soda can also be used as an alternative to clean rusty woks, provided that the rust and burnt food stains aren't that severe or serious. Here's how to clean a wok with rust using baking soda:

Step 1: Heat

The first step will be to place the rusty wok on medium high heat. Leave it on for a while to make sure that the entire wok has been heated before going to the next step.

Step 2: Add Water and Baking Soda

When your wok has been sufficiently heated, add a bit of water and a couple of tablespoons of baking soda. Make sure that everything has been mixed together and let the mixture boil before turning off the heat.

Step 3: Scrub

When your wok is completely cool, get your sponge or scouring pad and begin to scrub away the rust patches. 

Step 4: Dry

When all the rust has been wiped off, rinse your wok and pat it dry. As an optional step, you can also put your wok back onto low heat or medium heat to make sure that any remaining water has evaporated.

How to Prevent Rust from Forming on Your Wok

While it's useful to know how to remove rust from your carbon steel wok, it's also helpful to learn about the different ways that you can care for your wok and stop rust from accumulating to begin with. Here are more tips on how you can take care of your woks and prevent rust from forming.

Tip 1: Make Sure to Always Dry Your Wok

The easiest and most obvious way to slow down the formation of rust is to make sure that you never store your woks wet or damp. After properly cleaning and washing your wok, wipe it down thoroughly with a clean cloth or paper towels before putting them away.

Another way that you can dry your wok is by placing it on some heat to make sure that no water remains.

Tip 2: Don't Use Dish Soap as Much

It may seem counterintuitive, but you shouldn't be relying on soap to clean your wok. A well-seasoned wok should be easy to clean with just water and a wok brush, especially when you make it a habit to clean your wok right away while it's still hot from the stove.

While soap may not be the worst thing for your wok, it can slowly wash away the seasoning that you worked hard to create, so make sure to avoid it whenever you can. Some instances that could use some dish soap would be when you've used your wok to cook meat, seafood, thick sauces or any other greasy food. 

Anything else may not need dish soap like you initially thought and might just be able to get by with some hot water. An example would be when cooking vegetables or anything with a light sauce.

Tip 3: Keep Your Wok Well-Oiled and Dry

After cleaning and drying your wok, you should heat it on your stove and apply a light and thin coat of cooking oil to its surface. This will help keep your carbon steel wok free of rust and ready to be used. 

Tip 4: Store Your Wok Well

Something we don't often think about is how we store our pots and pans, but this is important when it comes to keeping your wok nice and rust free.

Make sure to store your woks in a dry place in the kitchen to avoid any rust or oxidation from occurring. It's also worth mentioning that you shouldn't keep your woks in any humid environment like basements or attics as the dampness could cause rusting over time, especially when exposed long term.

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