Follow a few simple steps to keep your wok in shape

  • By Bill Daley Chicago Tribune
  • Monday, October 4, 2010 9:34pm
  • Life

“This is a teenage wok,” declared Grace Young, glancing up from the mottled surface of the pan cradled in her hands. The wok’s splotchy complexion — not the shiny cast iron of infancy or the mocha-colored sheen of adulthood — sent a clear message: A “facial” was needed. Fast.

Young is the author of the new cookbook, “Stir-Frying to the Sky’s Edge” ($35). Helping a wok achieve the proper hue is important to her because a well-seasoned wok makes for tastier food. You use fewer tablespoons of oil; food sticks less frequently.

The self-styled “Wok Doctor” is always willing to take time to help others get their neglected, rusty or food-stained woks in shape with a simple, quick treatment that oils and seasons the pan for cooking.

To resurrect your wok

Here’s how Young rejuvenates a wok:

• Place the wok on a burner over high heat. The wok is hot enough when a bead of water vaporizes in 1 or 2 seconds. Or hold your open palm several inches above the bottom the pan; when your skin begins to feel hot, the pan is ready.

• Remove pan from the heat.

• Pour in 1 tablespoon kosher salt and 2 teaspoons vegetable oil. Don’t worry about exact proportions, but keep the salt-oil ratio at roughly 2 to 1.

• Wad several paper towels together to create a thick pad that will protect your fingers from the hot wok. Use the paper towel pad to gently “massage” the oil and salt into the wok’s surface, taking care to rub the pan’s entire interior with the salt-oil mixture.

• Wipe the wok clean; rinse with hot water. Young uses a sponge with a textured surface (Scotch-Brite is her favorite) to remove any salt crystals sticking to the wok.

• Place cleaned wok on a stove burner set at low heat. Leave wok there for 1 to 2 minutes to make sure the pan is completely dry.

• Cool before storing.

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