Woks are generally always used to stir-fry over high heat – which can be a recipe for a sticky disaster if your wok isn’t well seasoned. Here’s our advice on how to keep your cast-iron wok from sticking and in its best shape for years to come.
Wok cooking has a certain unique flair compared to other cookware. Even though the options are limitless, you can pick a wok pan to use on electric stoves or an option to use on fire, so it makes it accessible. The wok toss is both useful for cooking and a fun trick you can show off at your next dinner party.
Tossing crisp veggies and soft rice noodles around a smoking hot pan over a high flame is super satisfying but can quickly become a sticky, burnt mess if you do it incorrectly.
We’ve outlined a few fundamental basics when it comes to wok cooking so that your food slides in your pan perfectly every time.
#1: Keep your wok adequately seasoned.
All cast iron cookware needs well-layered seasoning, oil that is baked onto the iron to create a non-stick surface. The best woks will be thoroughly seasoned, as each layer of oil adds a bit more protection and improves its ability to cook without sticking.
Build up a solid layer of seasoning by rubbing the oil in the pan, removing the excess, and baking in the oven. Repeat until the surface is jet black with lots of shine.
You can also buy pre-seasoned cast-iron woks and save yourself the work of building up the seasoning. Always do a quick re-season after you cook in cast iron.
#2: Choose the right oil for the job.
Not every oil can withstand the high heat of a wok. Low smoke point oils will smoke and burn under high heat, which affects your food’s flavor and emits harmful toxins into the air.
Instead, choose a high smoke point oil that can handle high heat without burning for the best results in your wok.
Best and Worst Wok Oils
- Best: Canola oil
- Best: Grapeseed oil
- Best: Peanut oil
- Worst: Olive oil
- Worst: Flaxseed oil
- Worst: Walnut oil
#3: Get it hot.
You’ll be heating your wok to high heat for stir-frying, but don’t add your oil in yet! If your oil is scorching hot before you add in your ingredients, it could burn the aromatic ingredients instead of extracting their delicious flavors slowly.
Heat your wok empty before adding in your oil, then quickly start adding other ingredients once the oil hits the pan for the best cooking results.
#4: Use the right utensils.
There are utensils specifically designed for a Chinese wok, as its unique shape requires a unique utensil. Get yourself a long-handled wok spatula so that you can easily dig into the wok and keep your ingredients moving quickly. A wok ladle has a slightly different angle, making it ideal for scooping up oil, water, or stock.
Try to use wooden or silicone versions of these tools, as metal utensils can rub away at your hard-earned seasoning.
#5: Don’t overfill your wok.
A wok does its job well because its tall sides offer a ton of surface area so that each ingredient gets adequately heated and cooked. Overfilling your wok with too many vegetables releases too much water into the dish, and it will be challenging to avoid sticking as constant stirring will become tough.
Be mindful of how many things you’re throwing into your wok. If you want to double a favorite recipe, cook in two batches instead.
#6: Cook in a particular order.
If you toss all of your ingredients into your stir-fry at once, some elements will get burnt or undercooked, as they all have different cooking times.
Instead, add the firmest vegetables into your dish first, let them cook, and add the softest last so that each part of your dish cooks to perfection. You can also chop the firmest ingredients into smaller pieces so that they cook a little faster. Rice noodles are incredibly delicate, so don’t add them until close to the end.
Final notes: Perfecting the Wok
These principles can help you make the perfect wok meal without your pan sticking.
Remember, when using your wok to stir-fry:
- Make sure your wok has a proper, non-stick base seasoning;
- Pick a high smoke point oil that won’t burn;
- Fully heat the wok before you add your cooking oil;
- Use wok-specific utensils;
- Don’t add too many ingredients into your wok;
- And cook your vegetables from hardest to softest.
We hope you enjoy making countless stir-fries in your wok!