How to Clean a Wok

After cooking, it takes only a few seconds to get your wok back in shape.

Published Sept. 22, 2022.

Every time you use your wok for anything from deep frying to stir-frying—and also when you help a thin layer of oil bond to the pan after cleaning—you are improving its protective, naturally nonstick seasoning. 

And although your new wok may look brown and blotchy for ages, eventually it will turn black like a well-seasoned cast-iron skillet. Be patient; it’s a process that takes time (and cooking lots of delicious meals). 

But in order to get there, you’ll need to properly clean it every time you use it. 

Once you’ve stir-fried a gorgeous dinner and you’re ready to serve, hold on. It’s important to clean your wok while it’s still warm. Take three extra seconds to clean your wok and you’ll be able to relax over your meal.

Here’s how.

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How to Clean Your Wok

If your wok is well seasoned and no food is stuck, follow these steps to clean it.

  1. Run the hot tap in your sink, to minimize thermal shock when the hot wok hits water.
  2. Rinse your still-warm wok inside and out, and if needed, scrub lightly.
  3. Wipe dry, and return wok to the still-warm burner to dry thoroughly. Go enjoy your dinner. 
  4. After dinner, turn burner on medium to medium-high. Add a tiny amount (no more than ½ teaspoon) vegetable oil, and wipe it around the entire interior of the wok with paper towels until it seems to be gone. (It’s not.) The wok may smoke a little; that’s OK. Heat bonds that oil to the pan’s metal surface, adding a very thin layer of protective seasoning that keeps it naturally nonstick and rust-free. If you like, tilt the wok to apply direct heat to the sides, too. 
  5. Continue heating for a few minutes, wiping if any oil beads up, then switch off the burner, leaving your clean, happy wok in place until it’s cool. That’s it. No, really! You’re done.

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How to Get Stuck Food Off a Wok

If your wok seasoning is still new-ish, and some food is stuck, remove the food you’re going to eat, then add one to two cups of water to the wok, and return it to the stove. Boil for a few minutes, which loosens stuck food so you can scrape it off. (Don’t worry about scratching the wok; it will be fine. As award-winning wok expert and author Grace Young says in her Wok Therapist video, “Scratches give your wok character.”) Rinse, then proceed as above.

What to Do If Your Wok Rusts

If you leave your wok wet, rusting can happen fast. No big deal. The rust will disappear as soon as you get a layer of oil bonded on. Just gently scrub off the rust with the scrubby side of a sponge or steel wool, rinse well, fully dry and oil the wok as above.

We invited the wok master Grace Young into the test kitchen for an epic wok-off.

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