After reading my wok post yesterday, Eater Matt Aalfs sent this query:
“I have an old steel wok, maybe 15 years old, made of thin steel with a round bottom and wooden handles. Possibly due to improper cleaning, the wok has developed a brown-black sheen on the inside, which leaves a bad taste on the food and also seems to inhibit heat transfer from the wok to the food. Can this be fixed, or do I need to start over with a new wok?”
For an answer, I again turned to Grace Young’s “The Breath of a Wok.” Below, find her recipe for cleaning a rusted or overly sticky wok. Grace says this cleaning technique works best on a gas stove, though I’d give it a shot on an electric stove if that’s all you’ve got, Matt. Better yet, find a friend who’s cooking with gas and promise to make them something delicious after you’ve got your wok in working order.
Now, before you toss out your old wok, try this cleansing trick:
Heat one cup of salt in the wok over high heat for about one minute. Reduce the heat to low and, using a metal spatula, push the salt onto the problem areas. (Note: hot salt can be very dangerous; handle it with care.) Heat the salt for five minutes. Cool the wok until the salt is just warm, about five minutes, then scrub the warm salt with a soft, clean double-folded rag on any problem spots. Wipe the wok clean, then heat the wok over high heat until it just begins to smoke. Using a paper towel, smear 1/2 teaspoon oil over the inside surface. Allow the wok to cool, then rinse under hot water, washing lightly with the soft side of a sponge. Dry the pan over low heat two to three minutes to make sure the pan is totally dry. If the problem is severe, re-season the wok [as directed in my earlier post].