Whether you’re whipping up pad Thai for Friday night dinner or making a copycat version of your favorite Chinese takeout, you’re likely using a wok. But because the round-bottomed pan isn’t something you use every day, you probably have questions, like how to clean a wok—especially if it gets rusty or crusty.
The two most popular types of woks are carbon steel and cast iron and while they each require different cooking techniques, both kinds need to be cleaned and cared for the same way. Below is our easy guide on how to clean a wok correctly.
How to Clean a Wok
First things first: You should never use soap (or any other harsh cleaners or metal scrubbers) on your wok, or you’ll remove the patina. Instead, scrub the interior of the wok gently with hot water using a regular kitchen sponge or a wok brush.
Then, dry off the wok with a towel before placing it on the stove over low heat until there are no more visible water droplets. Make sure the wok is completely dry before putting it away to prevent it from rusting.
How to Remove Rust or Hardened Food from a Wok
If your wok ends up with rust or burned-on food, soak it in warm water for about 5 minutes to loosen up the particles. Then clean it as you usually would (aka with a gentle sponge or cleaning pad).
You can also use steel wool for particularly difficult-to-remove rust or food, if necessary. However, scrubbing with an abrasive sponge will likely remove some of the patina in the process. That means that you’ll need to re-season your wok afterward to restore its nonstick surface. To do so, follow our simple step-by-step guide to seasoning a wok.
Ready to use your sparkling clean pan? Here are our go-to wok recipes.