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Chat Leftovers: Washing woks

Don't forget your auld acquaintances today at 1: It's our final Free Range chat of 2009. Guest chatters David Hagedorn, who wrote today's story about restaurant regulars, and chef Tom Mueller of Pineapple Alley Catering, who took part in our last-minute hors d'oeuvre party challenge, will join the usual suspects. You come, too, and we'll spend the hour fielding whatever questions you want to throw at us.

Or most of them, at least. Try as we might, we can never respond to all of them during the allotted time. Here's one we couldn't get to last week:

This carbon-steel wok has a glorious patina. (James M. Thresher for The Washington Post)

I keep reading that once your wok is well seasoned, you should not wash it with soap and water. But exactly what is it that makes it clean when you just wipe it out without using soap? My 12-year-old is pretty apprehensive about food safety and is likely to be concerned it isn’t clean enough.

A well-seasoned wok is a thing of beauty that soap and hard scrubbing will only mar. Over time, it develops a patina that's so hard and impervious, it's almost like a lacquer. Simply wipe off the surface and you're good to go, because there are no evil germs below the surface. They just can't get there.

But not everyone's wok is perfectly seasoned. For them, and for your nervous 12-year-old (say, who runs your kitchen, anyway?), do this. After you're finished cooking, wipe out the wok with a damp rag, put it back on the burner and get it good and hot. There go any remaining bacteria: They're fried! Then dump in some water and swish it around for a few seconds, brushing the sides gently with a soft brush. There goes any remaining crud sticking to the inside! Dump out the water, return the wok to the burner to dry it out, and it'll be clean as can be. Wipe on a little more oil if the seasoning is wearing thin, and you're ready for the next stir-fry.

-- Jane Touzalin

By Jane Touzalin  |  December 30, 2009; 7:00 AM ET
Categories:  Chat Leftovers  | Tags: Chat Leftovers, Free Range, Jane Touzalin  
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