What is patina on a wok?

That elusive surface that impacts incredible flavour

What is patina on a wok?

The patina of a wok is the seasoned surface you build up with constant use over time; it’s essential for getting the most out of wok cooking. Why? Because the patina creates an excellent non-stick surface, and you don’t need to use a lot of oil (for stir-frying, for example). It also contributes in no small way to getting that elusive ‘wok hei’, which is the amazing, smoky flavour that infuses a dish during high-heat wok cooking. Made by polymerised fats fusing into the surface during the cooking process, a well-patinated wok is black all over the cooking surface, creating a dramatically different appearance to the grey steel colour of an unseasoned wok.

Can every wok develop a patina?

No, they can’t; you need to choose the right wok. Woks come in a variety of materials, mainly stainless steel, cast iron, carbon steel and ones with man-made non-stick coatings. Not all of these will develop a patina – stainless steel and coated woks, for example, won’t. It’s just the nature of those materials. For my money, the ultimate wok is made of pre-seasoned carbon steel and I recommend the MAKO pre-seasoned black carbon steel wok.

Why carbon steel for the wok?

Carbon steel is lightweight, durable, gets hot and cools down fast, plus it will build up a great patina.

Carbon steel is reactive, which means acidic ingredients can make them rust if you don’t have a proper, protective surface built up on them. So a patina isn’t just a ‘nice-to-have’ it’s a ‘must have.’

One of the best parts of owning a MAKO black caron steel wok is the pre-seasoned surface, that builds over time. It adds flavour, is naturally non-stick and overall enhances the cooking experience.

How do I get a good patina on my wok?

The process of building up a good surface – or patina –  takes time. There are no shortcuts, unless you buy a pre-seasoned wok. Pre-seasoned carbon steel woks have been treated with high heat and oils to create a natural non-stick surface that’s ready to go, out of the box. Otherwise, you need to do an initial hard season of your wok. Then, each time you use your wok, whether pre-seasoned or not, clean and dry it properly, making sure there is no food stuck, and then oil it before storing it away. If you are unsure about how your patina is holding up, it never hurts to do another quick season for peace of mind’s sake.

How do I keep a good patina on my wok?

  • Always use high smoke-point oils in your wok, especially when stir-frying. You need to keep building up those polymerised fats that can only happen over high heat; the more you use your wok, the better the surface will get.
  • Use water to clean, gently scrubbing with a brush to dislodge any food residue.
  • Get rid of all residual moisture by heating your wok on the stove until it is completely dry and you see whispers of smoke. Then oil your pan before storing it away.
  • Don’t stack other pots and pans on top of your wok when storing it as these can damage the surface.

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