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Jan 10, 2006 08:27 PM

Wok seasoning problems

  • p

I received a wok for Xmas, the kind that has to be seasoned. The instructions said to scrub with steel wool to remove the rust-proof coating, then oil both the inside and outside of the wok. Then, put in on low heat (on the burner) for 20 minutes.

When I did that, the bottom of the wok bubbled and burned a bit. I removed it right away and scrubbed off most of the burnt part as soon as it cooled, but there's still a black stain on inside bottom.

Did I kill my wok? Or is it salvageable? How should I season it so that it works?


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  1. If the wok is bare carbon steel or cast iron, you certainly did not kill it. Clean the oil off and start over. This time get it hot as hell and then rub pure lard into it. Best to do this outside on a high-energy gas burner. It will smoke up your house if you do it inside. Let it cool off. Scrub it out with hot water and a plastic scrubber or a wok brush. Then do the heat and lard treatment again. Repeat another time or two. Then it should be good to go. This is just my opinion. Other people have other methods. This one has worked consistently for me.


    1. Low heat and use a paper towel folded in 4 folds and dab oil with the paper towel. Rub until it is nice and dark all over the pan. 20-30 min. After it is done use a big piece of gingner cut in half use the fresh cut part of the ginger to rub the wok for another 10 min. with a little oil as necessary.

      4 Replies
      1. re: theSauce

        So,just to recap: heat on low burner (not oven), smudge with a little oil using a paper towel, repeat until wok is dark.

        Do I have to oil the outside too? And how do I make sure I've scrubbed off all the anti-rust finish (I scrubbed for a good 5 minutes, but I'm not sure)?

        1. re: piccola

          Went back and read your post again, if your wok bubbled on the bottm it might be a pre-seasoned wok. Was the wok black when you first got it? Either that the wok might be aluminum, in that case there's no reason for you to season the wok.

          If it's not, then follow the steps below:

          First, scrub your wok thoroughly. Take a steel wool scouring pad and scrub both the inside and outside of the wok with soap. This will remove the anti-rust coating. If your new wok comes with some rust spots, don't worry, some woks comes with rust spots. Just make sure that you scrub out the rust. Wash it thoroughly with hot tap water. To make sure that you remove all the anti-rust coating, set the wok on the stove and fill it with water with a teaspoon of baking soda, boil the water it for 5 to 10 minutes to dissolve the remaining coating. Pour out the water and scrub the surface again with steel wool scouring pad and soap (remember to rinse with hot water).

          Next, roll up a few sheets of paper towel, or use a piece of cloth, and dip it in cooking oil. Use a high smoking oil like peanut or canola, this is to minimizing smoke fumes when you are seasoning the wok. Don't forget to turn on your vent. Using a pair of tongs, wipe the soaked paper towel over the entire inner surface of the wok. Or you have a high tollerance for heat use your hand (just kidding, do not use your hands). Reduce the heat down to low, and let the wok sit for 15 minutes, rub the inner surface every min or so with the soaked towel. This allows your new wok to absorb the oil and keep the wok from drying off. You want the wok to obtain a thin film of oil when it's seasoned. The bottom of the wok should be dark brown. I wouldn't worry about the sides at the top as much. You want to focus where the food will be cooked in the inner wok. If you have a 14 inch wok I would only worry about the inner 10 inches or so.

          New woks may cause a slight metallic taste to the first two or three dishes. To eliminate the taste you can rub a piece of cut ginger all over the wok. Or simply stir fry some cheap veggies (ones you don't mind tossing out) like celery with some ginger to get rid of the metallic taste also to learn how to operate and adjust to your new wok.

          Hope this will help anyone that is looking to season their newly bought wok.

          1. re: theSauce

            Wow, thanks! That's exactly the kind of detailed instructions I need.

            Based on what you said, I think this is where I went wrong last time: either I didn't properly remove the coating first, or I let the wok get too dry.

            Oh, I checked, and I do indeed need to season it. It's a carbon steel wok.

          2. re: piccola

            Well that is one way but there are others. I seasoned my cast iron wok in the oven following the rec of the Wok Shop in SF where I bought it. They offer three methodologies on their site.


        2. Frustrated newbie here...

          Ive bought a signature wokpan in carbon steel from a famous chinese cook, Ken Hen, Han or something like that, anyway, ive tried to season it 5 times now, and what ever i do or how i do it still gets more sticky than any of my frying pans ive had in my 40 year long life.

          Removed the oil from the start with steel wool, that part cant be wrong.

          Then ive tried to slowly heat it up, and apply oil step by step always with a paper towel and that stuff, it gets a little surface, gel like, not thick, but ultra thin, cool down, and repeat 3-4 times, when im going to cook some food, iex chicken fillets, it glues down to the pan like any other non oiled pan does.

          Started over again with steel wool and everything, this time i heated it up until it got blue/purple in the center, took some papertowels with oil again, regular frying oil btw, applied it, let it cool down, repeated 3 times, tried to fry some chicken again, same sticky glueing effect.

          So, what im i doing wrong?
          And i read everywhere that the sides also is suppose to get dark, no way, forget i have regular electric oven with ceramic top...

          Im very close to throw the whole thing in the garbage now i can tell you ;)


          1 Reply
          1. re: daytonabeach

            Daytonabeach Chris,

            The sticky stuffs are like those gummy oil residues next to your kitchen ventilation fan, right? If you apply too much oil, then you get that sticky oil. Basically, you heat the oil hot enough to chemically alter its structure but not hot enough to carbonize it. What I will work if I am you is to 1) not put too much oil, just wipe a thin layer of oil and season it. 2) iI you have lard, use lard. If not use an oil with high smoke point, like peanut oil or grapeseed oil, but never use a low smoke point oil, like the olive oil. 3) Assuming you are successful in seasoning the wok, stir fry an diced onion until the onion just starting to burn. Turn off the heat and remain to stir the onion as it blacken. When the wok has cooled down and the cooking is all done, throw the onion away. This does two thing. First, the burned onion does the last seasoning coating. Second, the burned oil to take away much of the iron/steel/seasoning oil residue away. You may want to repeat this burn onion trick if you think your wok still has too much metallic/burned oil scent.

            Don't give up yet. Try it one more time. A properly seasoned wok is better than any nonstick wok. It is essentially nonstick, but you can heat it up very hot, so you can do real stir fry, whereas you can never do proper stir fry with a nonstick pan.

            Here is a video which shows a properly seasoned wok is nonstick and can handle very high temperature. No teflon cookare can touch this.


          2. First, if you are going to use a steel wool, use a stainless steel wool. Second, I prefer rust proof oil on a wok, instead of the stupid rust proof coating. Rust proof coating is easy for transportation and for placing in stores, but it is difficult to get rid off, whereas rust proof oil only requires a towel and soapy water -- but you don't have a choice on this matter.

            I don't know why the instruction ask you to put on low heat for 20 minutes. I have only heard of high heat seasoning. Anyway, you have to really try to kill your wok. Your wok is fine. Just start over again. I have enclose a photo of my wok. It is normal to have a black/brown wok. I am putting a photo here, just so you know I am not making stuffs up.

            There are at least 4 ways to season a wok I know of, but I have never heard of the one you described, so I really don't know if your method works.

            Anyway, I am giving you a link to Ching He Huang's method for seasoning a wok. I actually do not use her method, but I know her method works and her video is one of the easlier to follow. A video worth a thousand words.


            1 Reply
            1. re: Chemicalkinetics

              Yeah! Ching He Huang's method works great, I've used it for years, for seasoning cast iron cookware too....better than what Lodge tells you to do. Though for cast iron I like to go thru all this 3-4 times. Still uses less propane than baking it in the oven. And I like using suet, instead of oil.

              BUT -- watch out! If you do it right, and pause to gaze at your newly-seasoned wok, that wad of paper towels you used can catch fire on its own if you just set it on the counter -- oil temp in the towel above 451 deg F. Stick those blackened paper towels in the sink, and spray 'em down with water before disposing in the trash.

              From experience (and I'm a firefighter)-- DAN

            2. I have another question about wok seasoning. I just tried frying an egg in my wok and it got stuck all over the bottom. I know that wasn't a good first food to try in my newly seasoned wok, but I don't have anything else to use at the moment, since I just recently got rid of my teflon coated frying pan. Well, after scrubbing off the stuck pieces of egg, some bits of the seasoning came off as well. My question is do I need to now scrub it all off and start at square one again? Aargh...

              2 Replies
              1. re: tinymama

                It would be best if you can upload a picture, but the answer is 99% of a "no". What I would do is simply perform a quick mini stovetop seasoning without any scrubbing off. Light scrubbing is ok, but no need to try to remove the seasoning. If you have carbonized bits and stuck foods, you can scrub those off.

                Heat the wok again and when the wok just barely start to smoke add a few tablespoons of oil and swirl the oil from side to side and do this a few time. When the oil start to start, turn the heat off and swirl the oil again. Wait for it to cool (5-10min) and dump the oil and wipe the wok with papertowel, no need to wipe it bare bone dry, just a wipe.

                (instead of waiting for the wok to barely smoke which can be differrent depending on your kitchen lighting. You can add 1-2 drops of water into the wok and listen for that sizzling sound)

                Because your wok is so new, what I would do is to do is a mini-seasoning (as opposed to full blown seasoning) before each cooking for the first several meals (like a week).

                Basically, heat the wok, pour oil, let it smokes, swril and swirl, let it cool, dump the oil, wipe, then start the actual cooking. You will notice your wok will be much more stickless this way. Don't forget to add some oil during the actual cooking. A seasoned cookware act stickless with oil, but it won't if there is absolutely no oil.

                1. re: Chemicalkinetics

                  The only way to season an authentic cheap steel wok is to cook in it period...your chasing your tails if you think oil and heat will season a wok right away,,takes a minimum of 10 cooks to start getting a proper patina seasoning.Same with cast iron..indians will never season cast iron,,,they will cook in cast iron till it seasons itself..the only way to have a coating build up that lasts forever..the quick impatient i want it now never works and the seasoning ends up in the sink.