Seasoning Cast Iron Wok, Salt Pork Experiment (Updated)

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After spending over 20 years teaching wok cooking, researching and understanding cast iron woks, it still surprises me how many misconceptions, mistakes, misunderstandings there are about this ingenius material!  I was introduced to using a cast iron wok through my mother who bought her first one in Malaysia as a young bride. She taught herself how to cook and I learned to cook from her and so glad I did.  My Wok Star project was born because of her.  I wanted so much to help others be successful in wok cooking and even went so far as to ‘preseason’ cast iron woks prior to shipping to customers because I didn’t want them to do it incorrectly and mess up their woks! Another reason is that I wanted folks to not have any obstacles to starting their journey into wok cooking and just have FUN!

Seasoning a cast iron wok from China if not done correctly, can make you very sick because they put a ‘finish’ to prevent the wok from rusting during shipping. I’ve read many horror stories on Chow.  It’s also not that hard to do, just time consuming and a little smoky. It’s the most important procedure to set up your wok for a lifetime use.

My good friend and top Asian food blogger, Bee Yinn Low of rasa malaysia asked me to write, Seasoning a Cast Iron Wok p. 19 in her new cookbook: Easy Chinese Recipes: Family Favorites From Dim Sum to Kung Pao.  Many readers have found me through her book, so thanks Bee.

I was also a lucky tester for her Fish Fragant Eggplant. Of course cooked in my wok, perfect for deep frying.

 

 

I DON’T use pork fat so my Jewish clients won’t have to worry.
SaltporkI was experimenting seasoning a new cast iron wok with cured salt pork. Wow, tons of fat.  I wanted to see the difference in seasoning if any between animal fat and canola oil. I’ll use this wok for my own use at home. I also needed to reseason a wok that an unnamed venue had put in a dishwasher!  I nearly had a heart attack, it ripped off all my patina, it’s not the same. It went down to bare metal, ouch.
I’ve changed my ‘seasoning’ technique a little with the help from many youtube commenters!  They sure don’t scrimp at telling you their thoughts. Here’s my husband’s amusing video on Care and Feeding of your Wok with over 62,000 views!

Well, the result of seasoning with pork fat was not very satisfactory for me personally.
MY REASONS AND TIPS:
1. You have to wait for the hunk of fat to dissolve, it took a lot longer. I found it quite dangerous with splattering.
2. The pool of fat prevented the heat from “burning”(seasoning) the cast iron wok. You have to pour out the fat first.
3. Make sure you have a glass or plastic container BEFORE you start seasoning.
4. Wait for fat to cool PRIOR to pouring into a glass or plastic container to prevent cracking or melting the container!
5. Do NOT throw lard down the drain which can clog and make everything back up.
 

I still prefer just using vegetable oil to season. It’s quick, cleaner and not so smoky. Here’s an interesting article on the Chemistry of Cast Iron Seasoning with flax seed oil and one post that makes sense!  I can’t wait to try using flax seed oil to see how slick it makes the seasoning process! Thanks Renee, a twitter and #LetsLunch friend for reminding me of this article.

 

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