Written by Author: Chef Michele, Blog

Squeaky Clean A Carbon Steel Wok Now! (100% Working)

Do you know what sucks? When you have a carbon steel wok and you don’t know the proper cleaning techniques to maintain it for long.

And you end up spending more time cleaning than actually cooking with your new wok.

I am here to solve that issue. No more hard work in cleaning a carbon steel wok. In this article, you will only get tips that actually work, and steps that get you to result.

You are asking is that even possible? Yes, why not, in my chef training days I have learned several such tips to keep things fast and running in a busy kitchen.

So, sit tight, I am going to give you some mind-boggling easy ideas to keep your carbon steel wok like new, without hard work.

Carbon Steel Wok Cleaning and Maintenance

I have used several carbon steel woks throughout my chef career and I know for a fact that they allure you with their shine but once you end up using them, it is pretty hard (if you don’t know the tricks) to get the initial look back. 

Here we will discuss all that is essential and less time-consuming to clean our carbon steel wok like a brand-new.

A clean and well-maintained wok is a Chef’s dream and rightly so. But most people tend to throw them away once they start catching rust or their seasoning becomes rough. This is not the right way to treat your carbon steel wok!  

The essential art to maintain a perfect wok in your kitchen lies in some age-old techniques that have been followed by generations of Chefs across the globe. The methodology to accomplish the same completely depends on the processes that you use to clean your wok.  

The most important tip:

If you’re using a detergent to clean a seasoned carbon steel wok then you’re surely making a big mistake. Soap or detergent leads to oxidation and thus, leading to the rusting of your wok. Here we will be exploring the various ways of cleaning and maintaining a carbon steel wok in depth.  

How To Clean A New Carbon Steel Wok? 

Woks are generally made of thin metal so that they can effectively retain heat while cooking. Keep in mind, new woks generally come with a thin factory coating that you need to remove before the first use.

You need a stainless steel scrubber, some type of dish soap and hot water to do the same. Now, make your new carbon steel wok ready for usage by following the below-mentioned steps: 

  • Clean the inside of your wok thoroughly using the stainless steel scrubber and soap 
  • Rinse the wok with hot water and go for a second round 
  • After you have completed, rinse the wok and let it dry over low heat.

See this video to know more on cleaning a new carbon steel wok and seasoning it properly

Avoiding Rust to Make Cleaning Your Carbon Steel Wok Easy: 

Woks are generally made of carbon steel that has around 0.2% to 2.1% of carbon content in its composition. It looks like used, rustic, lived-in material compared to stainless steel that looks shiny and is generally immune to rusting.

However, carbon steel is an excellent material when it comes to high heat cooking. But it is easy to catch rust on carbon steel wok and we can’t deny this fact. Hence, we need to be extra protective of our carbon steel wok to avoid the need for hard cleaning. 

You should also know that there is an ideal way of cooking in a carbon steel wok. As woks are made with thin metal to retain as maximum heat as possible, they are meant to be used on very high temperatures. It allows your food to be crunchy yet fresh.

This process of cooking helps in releasing the moisture from your food quickly that in turn, gets evaporated due to the high heat. 

If you cook at temperatures below the recommended limit (100k – 150k BTU) then the moisture released from the food would not evaporate and your food would end up boiling in it instead.

Using this faulty method of cooking in a wok would also mean that the moisture would eat through the seasoning and result in forming moisture on the surface of the wok.

This is one of the primary reasons for rusting and trust me you don’t want to deal with a rusty carbon steel wok. 

So, it is advisable that you look out for these things if you want to clean a carbon steel wok without much hassle. 

How To Clean A Carbon Steel Wok After Cooking? 

You need to clean your wok thoroughly after every cooking session. However, it is necessary that you avoid soaps or cleaning detergents to clean the same.

If you are not cooking something extremely sticky and your dish involves generous amounts of oil then it is better to leave your wok without washing thoroughly as your wok is already seasoned by the oil used and washing the same would mean damaging the seasoning on its surface. 

It is also necessary that you store your wok in a proper place and always allow it to dry after cooking before storing the same.

However, do not continue to do so over longer periods of time as this can lead to over-seasoning of the surface. Break the cycle by occasionally cleaning the wok. 

Vinegar is a great cleaning agent. We all have that in house and often wash or clean things with it.

When it comes to cleaning a stainless steel wok, vinegar works wonder. However, on a seasoned carbon steel wok, using vinegar is a disaster.

I am addressing this issue because most of the wok owners are into ‘5 minutes craft things’ and have used vinegar to clean a carbon steel wok, at some point in their life. And that needs to stop with you.

Take a look at this video, how this guy badly affects his seasoned carbon steel wok while trying to clean it with vinegar. 

How To Clean A Burnt Carbon Steel Wok? 

Well, this is one of the trickier parts of maintaining a healthy carbon steel wok.

Oh, the pain we have on our faces by thinking about the burnt food in our wok every single time.

But mistakes are only human and it is how we bounce back from them, is what matters the most!  

So, like a good Samaritan, I would be helping you guys to figure out how to clean a burnt carbon steel wok.

The process to clean a carbon steel wok with burnt food involves using Kosher salt or coarse sea salt, paper towels, and a plastic pan scraper. 

Here is the process of cleaning your burnt carbon steel wok with the above-mentioned apparatus: 

  • Start by sprinkling some coarse sea salt or kosher salt on the surface of the wok 
  • Thoroughly scrub the wok with the paper towel to remove the burnt food from the surface. Keep scrubbing until the surface of the wok becomes clean and spotless. Don’t use a scouring pad or steel as that can damage the seasoning of your wok.  
  • You can also use a plastic pan scraper to remove some of the more stubborn burnt spots if the paper towel fails to do the job. 
  • After you have managed to make the wok spotless, you can now rinse it and let it dry. 

See this video, to understand the process more clearly. However, the wok in this video is slightly burnt, but don’t worry, for tough stuck-on foods, the above-mentioned process will work just awesome. 

How To Clean A Seasoned Carbon Steel Wok? 

Cleaning a seasoned carbon steel wok is easy if you know the right ways of doing so.

The trick to cleaning a seasoned carbon steel wok is to have generous access to hot water and a simple sponge.

Remember to avoid using any soap or detergents that may end up damaging your seasoning.  

  • Rinse the wok in hot water and keep it filled with the same for some time so that the sticky food crumbs on the surface of the wok can properly loosen up.  
  • Now, use the rough side of the sponge to rub off the dirt from the surface of the work and rinse it with hot water again.  
  • Continue this process until your carbon steel wok is thoroughly cleaned and then wash it off properly.
  • Let it dry under low heat and then proceed to season the same (if the patina has lost its touch). 

As mentioned earlier, it is very important that you keep your carbon steel wok properly seasoned for preventing wear and tear or rust.

This is so because once the seasoning on the surface of your wok gets damaged, the moisture released from the food you’re cooking would come in contact with the surface of the wok and thus, eventually leading to rust and stickiness.  

Watch this video to properly follow the seasoning process of a carbon steel wok.

How To Clean A Rusted Carbon Steel Wok? 

This is the most important part of learning to maintain your wok for a long period.

Most people discard their woks when they show signs of rusting. However, this is unnecessary if you know how to clean that rust.

I have a dedicated article on how to clean a wok with rust where I have addressed some additional issues too.

If you are in a hurry, I have summed up some of the essential tips for you. However, make sure to read that dedicated article to maintain your once rusted carbon steel wok better.

Here we will go through the step-by-step process of removing the rust on carbon steel wok.  

In order to clean the rust from your wok properly, you need a few pads of fine steel wool, some type of liquid detergent, and fine sandpaper if possible.  

  • Thoroughly rinse your wok with water 
  • Use the pads of fine steel wool and liquid detergent to scrub off the rust from the surface of the wok. 
  • Rub off the dirt with the fine sandpaper, rinse and again continue the process until all the rust comes off 
  • Again, rinse the wok and let it dry 

Continue to re-season it after it has completely dried by following the earlier mentioned process. Remember to generously scrub the surface of the wok with the detergent and fine steel wool in order to retain its original shine and quality as much as possible.  

Watch this video below to understand the steps more clearly.

Wrapping Up 

With the help of the above-mentioned tips you can effectively clean a carbon steel wok and maintain it for a longer period. Trust me, it only improves with time if properly taken care of and just requires a minor section of your time daily after cooking. It also helps you to save a lot of money that you may otherwise be spending on getting a new wok. 

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