I've read in a number of places that instead of doubling a recipe in a wok, just do multiple batches.

However, whenever I try to do multiple batches, by the second batch things are starting to get smokey and by the thrid I've set off the fire alarm.

I typically cook something with an egg which seems extra difficult on multiple batches, but I feel like I have this issue even when I don't use egg.

Just scraping the sides does not seem to be enough. I tried wiping down the sides with an oiled paper towel, but it just burned. Am I supposed to completely turn off the burner and wash the wok between batches? Should I just avoid egg and other things which are difficult if doing multiple batches? Will things just get easier the more 'seasoned' my wok gets? Am I not using enough oil?

Does anyone have any tricks for cooking multiple batches in a wok?

  • 1
    I do quickly wash the wok between batches (just water and a quick wipe to get it dry).
    – TZDZ
    Commented Apr 25, 2018 at 13:36

4 Answers 4


I admit that I've spent too much time in Panda Express... but you can see their kitchens from the line and how they batch their food - often switching from a main dish to fried rice (with egg) and back to a stir fry and the solution they use is to quickly rinse out the wok with warm water and scrub it lightly with a brush before dumping it and reheating the pan for the next dish.

This is easy for them since they have sinks under their woks to catch the rinse water but you can do it at home, too. This is the process recommended here

Wok cooking is done in many small batches to keep the temperature of the wok from dropping drastically when adding a lot of cold or room temperature ingredients therefore it is often necessary to clean the wok in between batches. Use warm water and a brush to rinse out the wok, discard the water and dry the wok over fire until it just barely starts to smoke before adding oil to cook the next batch.

  • 1
    Other places just have a very large supply of woks (which means they get a proper clean avoiding the risk of cross-contamination that comes with a simple rinse-and-reuse)
    – Chris H
    Commented Apr 16, 2018 at 8:20

I'm not sure re: your level of experience, so I'll stick with some basics which may help.

My hunch is that you'd be right on two counts: namely the amount of oil and if the wok is adequately seasoned. I'm assuming your wok is iron since you're speaking about seasoning. Similar to cast iron skillets/pans, adequate seasoning will help create a non-stick coating, but if you're washing your wok between uses, my sense is that it's not getting a chance to develop that seasoning. If you want your wok to be seasoned, you may be best off to go out of your way to specifically season it a few times before cooking on it as it's hard to get a seasoning going without a few starter coats, especially if you're cooking something that can strip away seasoning (e.g., acidic foods) or using utensils that are not seasoning friendly (e.g., typical metal wok utensils).

As for the oil, make sure you add it to the wok and allow it to heat up before adding your food. Remember to keep the wok nice and hot and cook over high temperature so that it cooks evenly and quickly, with quick stirring, rather than letting it rest long enough to burn/create a sticky base. Make sure your food is not wet as well. This will help the wok maintain a high temperature and cook your food quickly. If you add oil while the food is already in the pan, you're unlikely to get the oil evenly over your food and whatever excess won't get under the food to create a barrier from sticking either.

Some things also just burn easier, especially without oil. E.g., when using freshly prepared rice versus leftover rice; certain sauces, etc.

Hope this helps.


Much like what Catija said above at the Chinese restaurant that I work at and others like Panda Express we keep a large can or small tub or hot water near and ladle some in and rub it quickly under high heat with steel wool pushed around by the ladle and pour out the waste.


I would say that if things are sticking to your wok, you probably have not used it enough and have not built up enough seasoning on it. Or you are not using enough oil, or cooking with dare I say it, too much heat. If you are not moving the food enough for the amount of heat you are going to get some sticking and or burning of food. Better to cook at a slightly lower heat and stir more than a higher heat and stirring less.

The beauty of the wok is in the shape, it lets you cook and it does all the work of gathering the food to settle on the bottom of the wok, which is the hottest part. All you have to do is move the food to evenly heat it up. The pros will toss the food so it is like a dryer and it circulates the food on the hot surface of the wok then cools in the air as it’s being tossed.

I would also say that when you are cooking with a wok you need to be sure it is properly heated. Turn your burner on high or medium high, put the wok on and let it sit there till you can see wisps of smoke coming off it.

Then add some oil and let it swirl around the whole inside of the wok. You can add quite a bit of oil to fully coat the inside. Once the oil is nearly smoking, dump it into a container, you will use this oil again, once it has cooled down.

Then place the wok back onto the heat, and add fresh/cooled oil in the wok. The oil will pool and ripple when the wok is hot enough. Now add your first batch of food. Make sure you have enough oil, you can always add a bit more if needed. Cook this batch till nearly done, perhaps 90%, then remove the food into your serving plate/bowl.

Clean out your wok, wipe, scrape, brush off any stuck food particles. If you need to wash out your wok do so, and than repeat the heating, oiling, dumping and re-oiling of the wok. Then cook your next batch at 90% done, then remove and repeat, if you have another batch. When you are cooking your final batch, cook to 80% done, then add all of the previous batches back into the wok and mix everything up.

This way any batch that was under cooked or over cooked/seasoned can be mixed and heated together. I would actually turn down the heat for this last mixing, so things don’t burn. Do a final tasting and adjust your seasoning at this time. After mixing and tasting, you can serve it.

And a good way to season a wok is actually to deep fry in it. Perhaps some French fries, chicken wings, or something else that needs a lot of oil and a while to cook. Hopefully this will help with multiple batches. Better to have smaller batches if you don’t have enough fire power. But you still have to move the food around to cook evenly and prevent sticking. Hope this helps.

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