The Complete Guide to Maintaining Your Wok: Seasoning, Cleaning, and Storage Tips

A wok is one of the most useful pieces of cookware to have in your kitchen. Not only is it versatile and perfect for stir-frying, but it can also be used for deep-frying, poaching, and steaming. If you want to make sure your wok lasts for years to come, you need to know how to properly season it, clean it, and store it. In this guide, we walk you through the steps necessary to keep a carbon steel wok in great condition!

Wok on a cooker


What is a wok and why do you need to maintain it?

Woks are great for a huge range of foods and are very common in Asian kitchens. A wok’s bottom is usually rounded and has deep walls that slope upwards, allowing the contents to be moved around easily . A wok is also perfect for tossing foods by shaking the pan, as the round shape and sloped sides make it easy for the food to slide against the rounded walls. It’s a great way to cook food evenly and quickly.

Although you can buy woks with a nonstick coating, the best woks are made from carbon steel and require you to season them from time to time to create and maintain a nonstick coating. If you don’t maintain carbon steel woks correctly they will rust. Maintaining a wok is not difficult and requires only a few simple steps. By taking the time to do this, you will prolong the life of your wok and be able to enjoy using it for many years to come!

It is worth pointing out that good woks are fairly robust and even if they are not maintained for a while and become rusty you can, with a little work, restore them back to nonstick in short time.

Creating your own nonstick coating or “seasoning” allows you to create a robust non-stick coating that can take high temperatures (unlike most commercial nonstick coatings). Even if this coating wears away through use you can simply redo the seasoning process and you’ll have a wok that is like new again.

Why is Carbon steel one of the best materials for woks?

Carbon steel has a number of properties that make it very good for cooking with. For woks in particular there are two to focus on

It is lightweight – this makes it easier to lift the wok off the heat to toss the food. This is important when making a stir fry which you cook on high heat, but need to keep movingso that it sears but does not burn.

Carbon steel heats up uniformly and retains heat well – because of the shape of a wok all the food settles at the baseso you don’t want hotspots that may burn the food. You also want to reain as much heat as possible when lifting the wok to toss the food, so that the food cooks quickly. If you take a peek in a professional kitchen or restaurant you will most likely see carbon steel woks and pans in use there.

Using a wok to cook

What should you consider before you buy a wok?

If you are thinking about cooking acidic foods in your wok you be aware that acid can and will strip away your seasoning. This means that if you are planning on cooking something like a lemon chicken then you should either use a commercially coated nonstick wok or be prepared to re-season your carbon steel wok more often.

If you plan to cook acidic foods often, a carbon steel wok may not be the best choice for you.

How to season your wok for the first time?

If you are buying a carbon steel wok you will need to season it when you receive it. While it is not a complicated process it is worth following the correct process for best results.

To season it for the first time you need to:

  • Wash the wok in hot, soapy water. This is to remove any residue or dirt that may be left on it from the manufacturing process.
  • Dry the wok thoroughly with a clean cloth.
  • Place the wok over medium heat and let it heat up until it starts to smoke slightly.
  • Remove the wok from the heat and add a teaspoon of oil to it.
  • Use a paper towel or clean cloth to rub the oil all over the inside and outside of the wok.
  • Place the wok back on the heat and let it smoke for a few minutes.
  • Once again remove it from the heat and rub more oil into it.
  • Repeat this process a few more times until the wok has a dark patina or sheen to it.
  • Once you are happy with the seasoning, remove any excess oil with a paper towel and your wok is now ready to use!

Over time the seasoning forms a thicker patina. This layer gives you a nonstick finish as well as protects the wok from rusting.Proper use and seasoning over time will make this layer thicker and more durable.

Note: if you think you have messed it up you can just try again, remember if you have a carbon steel wok it has a good chance of outliving you! Seasoning will not damage the wok and can be done as and when you feel it needs it.

How to clean your wok?

When you clean your wok after use you should not use soapy water as this will remove the nonstick layer you have worked so hard to create. Instead, use the following method:

  • Wash it with hot water and a sponge to get rid of all of the food.
  • If there is any stuck-on food then you can add a little bit of salt to the wok and use a sponge to scrub it off.
  • Rinse the wok with hot water again and dry it with a clean cloth or paper towel.
  • Once it is dry place it back on the heat for a minute.

How to prevent food from sticking to your wok?

The best way to prevent food from sticking is to make sure that your wok is properly seasoned. If you do this then the food should not stick to it.

Another thing you can do is to make sure that you heat the wok up before adding any oil. Next, add the oil to the wok.  Allow the oil to heat up for a few seconds before adding the food.

Remember that a homemade nonstick coating is not quite as effective as a commercial nonstick coating but it does allow you to cook food at much higher temperatures without any worry of the coating breaking down and shredding potentially harmful materials into your food.

Stir-frying in a wok

How to store your wok so it lasts for years?

While Carbon Steel woks are very robust, you do need to look after them, more so than your other nonstick pans. It is because they last so long that you need to maintain and store them properly.

The best way to store a wok is to hang it up, so that it can’t easilyget dented or damaged.

If you do not have anywhere to hang it up put it away somewhere where it will not get damaged. Take care not to let it get scratched by storing other cookware on top of it or items in it

Any chipping and scratching will damage your nonstick coating not to mention make your wok look tatty.

Make sure that you dry the wok properly after each use and before you store it away, to guard against rusting.

Do you have to season a wok every time you use it?

The short answer is no. You don’t have to season your wok every time you use it but if you do ir regularly for the first few months of use, this will help to develop a robust nonstick patina that prevents the food from sticking.

How do you know when your wok needs re-seasoning?

If you have followed the process described and then used the wok, you’ll be familiar with the way that food doesn’t stick to it and slides around easily. Remember to heat the oil in the wok until it is very hot before you start to cook, this drives out all of the moisture in the pan and helps stop the food from sticking.

If the food has started to stick a bit more, it’s time to re-season your wok!

If you are using your wok to cook acidic foods then you will need to season it.

Can you put your wok in the dishwasher?

No, no, never ever! Using a dishwasherwill strip away all of the seasoning that you have built up. The wok is more likely to get damaged or dented as well.

Is it necessary to season a stainless steel wok?

Stainless steel woks don’t need to be seasoned like carbon steel woks, but it is still a good idea to do so. Seasoning a stainless steel wok will help to keep the food from sticking, and it will also make the wok easier to clean.


Woks are a great addition to your kitchen and will open up additional methods of cooking.

Carbon Steel woks are some of the most robust and versatile woks you can buy but they need to be maintain and looked after them to ensure that they last, sometimes longer than you will! Proper seasoning, cleaning, and storing will ensure that your wok becomes a lifelong friend in the kitchen.

Written by Sebastian, editor and owner of

Please leave a comment - I love hearing from you!
2 Comments to "The Complete Guide to Maintaining Your Wok: Seasoning, Cleaning, and Storage Tips"

  1. Monica Miner

    Hello, I found this information comprehensive -completely explained the reason for taking care of a carbon steel wok and how to do it. I have purchased one recently that is pre-seasoned, but it was not explained that I need to continue to re-season it. It is a very beautiful piece of cookware and very versitile, so I am happy to find out how to care for it correctly and why. Thank you!


Please leave a comment - I love hearing from you!

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *