Over on the Home Cooking board we’re cooking from Fuchsia Dunlop’s books, “Land of Plenty” and “Revolutionary Home Cooking.” She has a tip in those books that others might well know but that I hadn’t seen before in any of my half dozen Asian cookbooks. She explains how to season a new steel wok: scrub off any junk, heat over high flame, smear with towels soaked in cooking oil; repeat twice. Okay. That’s standard.
But what was new to me is that before each use she recommends you heat the wok until it smokes, add a few tablespoons of oil and swirl it around to cover the cooking surface, and wait until the oil starts smoking. Pour out that oil, and then add fresh room temp oil to begin cooking. She says this is what professional Chinese chefs do to avoid having food stick to the wok. And dad gum, it works!
I had to replace my old steel wok about six months ago and getting my new one (with wooden handles so it can’t go into the oven) properly seasoned has been a long, slow process until now. I’ve only made two recipes using Dunlop’s season-before-cooking technique and the wok has been brilliantly non-stick during cooking, a snap to clean, and after only two recipes is getting that patina that can take years to acquire. This is one of the best cooking tips I’ve read/heard about in a long time and if you’re not already doing it, I strongly recommend it.