Fail-proof way to season a wok, How to season a wok in oven : A happy customer's review and his secret seasoning method revealed!

in Mamma's Cooking Diary

From time to time, we received a lot of feedbacks as well as questions. One of the biggest one would be: "How can I season a wok without gas stove?" or perhaps you did try a few time using traditional methods of seasoning with no success? Now, thanks to one of our customer Romo, we are going to show you how to season a raw carbon steel wok with a household domestic oven without any open fire or flame. Below is Romo's writing (with his permission to publish).

Mammafong wok with original packaging

Romo's review

I've bought this round-bottom wok (鑊 Huò, 炒鑊 Chǎo huò, 炒鍋 Chǎo guō) as a gift for someone with no stir-frying experience, and was afraid that the wok might not get seasoned properly were I to gift it in its original shape. I did run into a small problem of my own, however, in that I currently live in an apartment with an electric range which makes it impossible for me to season the wok using the traditional gas stove techniques.

Turns out gas stove is not necessary, and in this case, when I was done, I began to feel that unless you have a powerful gas furnace, you might be better off seasoning in an oven anyway. The result at the end of the process was awesome, and the wok looked spectacularly beautiful so much so that it could be used for decoration. Hopefully, the pictures will do it justice.
Oven seasoned carbon steel wok
By the way, if you want to get a feel for how hot it gets in a Chinese kitchen, go to YouTube and type in "wok cooking by a professional Chinese chef" or "restaurant wok cooking" in the search window. You may not understand the language, but the images should leave an indelible impression on your grey matter and be a source of inspiration for the future.  
Before I comment on the wok itself, I'd like to show you step by step how I seasoned it (most of the steps have been documented with the attached pictures):
 

Oven seating process: steps by steps

1. Unscrew the wooden handle and remove it from the wok. The handle might need to be jiggled a little as there may be a small build-up of rust between the handle and the wok.
unscrew the handle from the wok
unscrew the handle form the wok, Be careful not to lose the screws :)
2. Put the wok in the sink, and add enough boiling water to fill the wok and come up to the outer edge on the other side. Let sit for 30 min.
Clean the wok with boiling water
3. Pour out the water, add detergent and scrub the wok with a stainless steel sponge for ~10 min.
4. Thoroughly rinse the wok with hot tap water to remove the detergent and residual manufacturer's oils.
5. Insert the wok upside down into an oven preheated to 500 degrees Fahrenheit, 260 degrees Celsius. Bake for 1 hr to burn off the residual manufacturer's oil that still might linger on the surface of the wok.
6. Turn off the oven and let the wok cool naturally. This will take 1-2 hrs.
Baked carbon steel wok in oven
Result of the first bake without any oil.
7. Scrub the wok with a stainless steel sponge and hot water, rinse and dry on the stove.
8. Once the wok is dry and still not too hot, apply a small amount of oil and rub on the inside and outside of the wok. Once you are sure every piece of the wok has received oil, wipe the wok with paper towel until it looks and feels dry (it will not be; the oil will have seeped into the pores of the carbon steel surfaces).
9. Insert the wok upside down into an oven preheated to 30 degrees Fahrenheit higher than the smoke point of the oil you are using (since in my case it was peanut oil with a smoke point of 450 degrees Fahrenheit, 230 degrees Celsius; I preheated the oven to 480 degrees F, 250 degrees C). 
10. Bake for an hour, turn off the oven, and let the wok cool down naturally as in step 6 above.
Mammafong Carbon Steel wok baked with oil
Second bake with peanut oil, the colour is getting darker.
11. Optional step: I washed the wok with a soft scrub and hot water, and repeated steps 8-10 even though you should not have to do it. The wok is now ready for seasoning with aromatics (onion, ginger, chives etc).
Baked carbon steel wok ready to go
Remember to reattached the handle. It's now ready to go!
12. Heat the wok on low-to-medium heat, add 2 TBS of a high-smoke-point cooking oil and wait until the oil becomes hot.
Aromatic process
Seasoning Mammafong wok with aromatics (onion, ginger, chives etc)
13. Add several thin slices of fresh ginger, 1 large sliced yellow or red onion, 5-7 green onion and/or Chinese chives sliced into 1-2-inch pieces. Stir-fry while occasionally rotating the veggie mixture around the bottom and sides of the wok with a spatula (鑊鏟 Huò chǎn, 炒菜鏟 Chǎocài chǎn) until the aromatics start to turn brown but do not become charred. Note that if you use a metal spatula as shown in the pictures, it will leave some scratch marks on the surface of the wok, especially at the bottom. Nothing to worry about, but if you want to avoid those, use a wooden spatula (木鏟 Mù chǎn) instead.
14. Discard the veggies and wipe the wok down with a piece of paper towel. In the future you may want to invest a bamboo whisk (洗鍋竹刷 Xǐ guō zhú shuā, 竹鑊刷 Zhú huòshuā) to remove pieces of food stubbornly stuck to the surface of the wok. As an aside, there should not be any metallic taste left in the aromatics (I didn't detect any in the veggies or the egg that I fried up afterward).
fry egg without oil, naturally non-stick.
frying an egg without oil, naturally non-stick.
15. The wok is now ready for your first delicious stir-fry.

Review of the wok

The Mammafong (媽媽芳 Māmā Fāng) wok is one of the nicest woks I have seen in a long time. It's made of 16-gauge carbon steel. You may wonder which gauge steel is optimal for stir-frying. Well, in a commercial setting with crazy-hot burners you'll run into thinner 17-to-18-gauge woks. For home use, several highly-rated Amazon vendors tout the benefits of 14-gauge steel as it retains the heat better due to its increased thickness. I feel that 14-gauge is a little too thick as it takes too long for my taste to heat up and too slow to cool down, plus it weighs more which might make it more difficult for some to handle. The Mammafong wok is right smack in the middle where it needs to be at 16.
About size. In as much as a 14-inch wok appears to be well-, if not best-suited for a regular-size Western range, I hope that one day Mammafong will carry the same line-up of woks in 16 inches. I have a lot of mouths to cook for. :-)
The wok, just like the vast majority of others, comes with protective oil that needs to be removed (see the seasoning instructions above). What I didn't like was that the inside of the metal tube that holds the wooden handle was not protected. I had to wiggle the handle multiple times to be able to dislodge it from the wok, and when I finally did, I discovered there was some rust on the wood as well. A minor issue that does not affect my overwhelmingly positive feelings about this wok, but still room for improvement.
On a related note, I would love for Mammafong to start selling handle replacement kits (one handle and two Phillips screws). I expect the handles to become damaged over time, and I would love to have perfect original replacements ready for deployment as soon as needed. Another great product to develop would be a wok adapter for barbecue grills. As far as I know one doesn't exist as of today (October 2019).
The wok heats up fast and evenly, with the heat coming all the way up to the edge, on an electric stove (in case you missed, do choose the flat-bottom wok for electric and induction stoves; the round-bottom wok I am dealing with here is for someone with a gas range). 
Before I forget, I thought it was a nice touch for Daphne, the CEO of Mammafong, to contact me through Amazon after purchase, and email me a small collection to family recipes in the PDF format. Thank you very much! 
 
All in all, the wok has been a joy to use, and I'm sure it'll be a welcome gift as well. In fact, I'm scheming to purchase several more units, for myself and several family members, season all for everyone, and start cooking. I can't recommend this wok highly enough and hope that with time Mammafong will expand their line-up of high-quality cooking utensils (I'll be watching closely :-)).
PS: I can't resist to comment on the few negative reviews of this wok. They all seem to have been posted by individuals unfamiliar with seasoning carbon steel and incapable of reading simple instructions attached to the wok. None of the reviews comes from a credible source and should not be considered useful, using Amazon's terminology, by those considering whether to invest in the wok or not. Please read the instructions that come with the wok if you have access to gas, or follow the steps I described in this review if you use an electric or induction range, and you'll be a happy camper.

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