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Dec 25, 2009 11:25 AM

carbon wok, what is step 1

Santa brought me a carbon wok. It talks about removing the lacquer with lacquer remover.
Read on line on another cooking site that all I need is "lots of hot soapy water."

Thoughts on this??
Friend who has one said he doesn't remember doing anything special to his and "seasons" it as he goes since he uses it 2-3x/week.

Am I being a bit obsessive about this??

Thanks for any suggestions.
Merry Christmas.

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  1. When you say "it talks," do you mean instructions that came with the wok? I've never heard about needing a lacquer remover. I bought a new carbon steel wok about a year ago and just scrubbed it well with Comet before seasoning.

    Good video here on seasoning after cleaning:

    This is essentially what I did at the very beginning and then just seasoned as I went along, as did your friend. But at least at the beginning you need to pay attention to what types of dishes you're cooking in the wok. Deep fat frying, for instance, will season your wok faster than dry frying will.

    You might also try a technique I learned from Fuschia Dunlop which got my wok beautifully seasoned in no time. She recommends that before you cook a dish, even after your wok is well seasoned, you heat the work until is just begins to smoke, add a few tablespoons of oil, swirl it around as much of the wok as you can, and when the oil is smoking, pour it out. Then add your cooking oil and begin preparing your dish. I now do this every time I use my wok and it's about as nonstick as would could hope for.

    2 Replies
    1. re: JoanN

      >>"it talks,<<
      Sorry, the little instruction booklet that came with it "talks" about using a lacquer remover.

      >>even after your wok is well seasoned, you heat the work until is just begins to smoke, add a few tablespoons of oil, swirl it around as much of the wok as you can, and when the oil is smoking, pour it out.<<

      I heat it "dry" until it smokes??? add the oil and then heat it again until it smokes??? I just want to be sure of the steps.
      Thanks for the info. I think this is going to be fun.

      1. re: fjs08

        Yes. Exactly right. Heat the dry wok until it just begins to smoke; add oil, swirl, and heat just until the oil begins to smoke; pour out oil and start your recipe.

        You bet it's going to be fun! Head on over to the Home Cooking board and take a look at some of the Fuschia Dunlop threads.

        Cookbook of the Month has been around for more than three years now and this may have been the most successful month ever. Great inspiration, great recipes.

    2. Frank,

      You must have been naughty because Santa got you a wok with lacquer coating. Most carbon steel woks simply has oil coated on it and you need to remove the oil using soap/detergent and hot water. However, today some carbon woks come with a lacquer coating. The reason is that a lacquer coated wok is much more attractive than oiled wok. This is partially to avoid unfamiliar customers to get a handful of oil when inspecting a carbon steel wok. A lacquered wok is clean and great looking in the stores, but it is much more difficult to deal with when you get it home.

      You are not obsessive, you can read how much people hate the lacquer woks from Typhoon:

      You will need to remove the lacquer coating completely or it will slowly fall out into your foods bits by bits.

      18 Replies
      1. re: Chemicalkinetics

        >>Santa got you a wok with lacquer coating<<
        Yikes. Got it at BB&B. I may just take it back and look for something else. Seems like a royal pain.

        1. re: fjs08


          Are you sure you can return a cookware after you cooked with it? It is not the end of the world if you cannot return it, and not all lacquer surfaces are equally difficult to get rid off. I was just saying that many users dislike the Typhoon one. In the case, you get to return it and want to shop for another carbon steel wok, there are better options from your local Chinatown, Asian supermarkets or the infamous Wokshop. Here are some woks sold by the WokShop. I own this particular one:

          1. re: Chemicalkinetics

            That's the wok I have as well. Bought mine for a few bucks less in Manhattan's Chinatown, but that's not a bad price at all. My previous wok didn't have that side handle, a feature I like a great deal. Mine is also flat-bottomed, even though I cook on gas. I like the steadiness of it.

            I hadn't heard of woks with lacquer coating. Guess they're not too prevalent in Chinatown. Good to know about, although I expect the one I have to last a good, long time.

            1. re: JoanN

              Hi JoanN,

              I don't think that lacquer thing is popular in Chinatown. I have never owned one, but read/heard about it. The lacquer surface is great for store display. It is pretty, clean and protect the wok form rust, but it is tough to get rid of. I remember the first time I shop for a carbon steel wok in SF Chinatown, I got oil all over my fingers when I inspected the woks. I thought it was disgusting, but I now know better. It is better (for the buyer) to buy a wok which is oiled than lacquered. On the other hand, you know fancy stores like Williams Sonoma will never display an oiled wok.

              :) Are you sure you got the same wok as the one I have? I have seen many other similar carbon steel woks here in New Jersey Asian supermarket and Philly Chinatown, but they are not exactly the same as the one I got from SF Wokshop. There is one noticeable difference. The wooden part of the helper handle (side handler) on my Wokshop wok is not rotatable. The is because the wooden part is not symmetric (see attached photo). For all the other ones I have seen around here, the wooden part rotates.

              I also find the helper handle comes in handy from time to time.

              1. re: Chemicalkinetics

                You're right. My helper handle does turn. Although I'd not been aware of it until just now since it does take some pressure to get it to turn. It's never been a problem when cooking with it.

                Looking at your photo, it seems as though yours is perhaps more sturdily built than mine and that would certainly account for the difference in price. But I've used mine a lot since I bought it, the seasoning is slick and black and almost completely nonstick, and I've been very, very happy with it.

                1. re: JoanN

                  The Wokshop price is not the cheapest and is not the most expensive. For example, I bought a Dexter Russell S5198 Chinese chef's knife from the Wokshop for $40:


         is sells it at $46, while a kitchen supply store in Philly Chinatown is selling at $27. So the price difference may simply be due to the price settings from the sellers. When I told that kitchen supply owner that people are selling the knife for $40+, he was shocked and said "Who does something like that?!" -- he said it as if it is a crime.

                  I am glad that you like your wok. I also like mine a lot as well. It is my most used cookware -- just because I stir fry a lot.

              2. re: JoanN

                Got mine at BB&B. Took it back. Asked the manager if they have non lacquered carbon steel ones and he just smiled and said he really didn't understand what I was asking. Now this is NE Ohio, so I'm not surprised. <g>.

              3. re: Chemicalkinetics

                >>re you sure you can return a cookware after you cooked with it?<<

                I just took it out of the box...never tried to cook w it. Took it back to BB&B this am. First return of the day<g>. Got a store credit. Heaven knows my wife will use it <g>. Maybe by tonite<g>.

                I own this particular one:<<

                THAT'S the one I actually have in my "cart." I sent them an email asking if it is lacquered, but it's really early in NorCal so I didn't expect a response yet.
                Since you own it, is it lacquered, or do I just have to clean it up a bit to remove the oil and just season it. I'm excited again!!!!

            2. re: Chemicalkinetics

              It's in the box and ready to go back.
              I've been checking online this morning and found a place called The Wok Shop.
              I plan on calling them to find out if their woks are lacquered or more "original."
              Seasoning is one thing, but this lacquer thingie seems a bit over the top.
              My wife told me to just get on Crate and order a "brand name" but that defeats the entire purpose of wok cooking.. to me at least.

              1. re: fjs08


                Actually, the link I put up above is also directly to Wokshop. The Wokshop is a very nice place. I used to visit there when I lived close in San Francisco. The woks I got from the Wokshop are not lacquered, but you should check with the Wokshop just to be sure, either by phone or email. Tane Chan is very good at getting back via email.

                Here is a good excuse. Tell your wife that you are getting a carbon steel wok from the Wokshop because they are made in USA. :P
                Well, these three are anyway:


                Some say the Wokshop goods are overpriced. While I agree that you can find cheaper prices if you shop around in Chinatown, I won't say the Wokshop prices are high in a general sense. They are probably still cheaper than Bed Bath Beyond, Macy's or Williams Sonoma.

                1. re: Chemicalkinetics

                  >>Some say the Wokshop goods are overpriced<<
                  ROFL> I'd pay $ 29 to my house. The big boys with their fancy brand names "start" around $ 100 Saw an All-Clad copper core for around $ 300... I WON'T be complaining of $ 30<g>.

                  1. re: fjs08


                    That is an excellent point. I was thinking along that line shortly after submitting my last reply. I saw an All Clad copper core saute pan on sale in TJ Maxx for $200+. That is on sale.

                    It is good that you were able to return it. For some reasons, I was mistaken and thought you have heated it to oil smoking point and started peeling the lacquer coating, but now I know you were just asking about the procedure, and describing what you have done.

                    I would wait for the Wokshop to give you an official reply just to be 100% sure. Christmas holiday may delay her response a bit, but Tane Chan is usually quick and responds within 24 hours. In my experience, that wok should not have any lacquer coating. It has a light coat of oil applied to it, which means you do not want to be wearing your fancy dry-cleaning coat while taking it out of the box. :) You will need to clean it a few times with detergent/soap and hot/very warm water. Now, I have my own little thing. I wash it 2-3 times with detergent and hot water in the sink and then I dry it and apply a layer of cooking oil with paper towel and then wash it again with detergent 2-3 times. The oil part is not very logical, but it serves as a meter to let me know if my detergent and hot water are really removing oil. Everyone has their own little twist. I know other people include a step to boil water in the wok and dump the boil water out as part of their method.

                    Because the Wokshop has a shipping fee to it, you may want to consider getting a few things along. Here is the WokShop approximate shipping fee by weight:


                    Here are some suggestions. A wok ring is not bad. I have a flat bottom wok, so I don't need it to cook, but sometime I have used it to season my wok on stovetop because it makes it easy to tilt the wok to its side and season the sides.


                    A lid may be of use. Most of the woks sold from the Wokshop does not come with a lid:


                    A wok spatula or a a wok ladle:


                    Finally, maybe a wok cleaning whisk:


                    Finally, the Wokshop sells through yahoo store and, but you will pay less on shipping if you buy through yahoo.

                    Let us know if that wok is lacquered or not. Thanks.

                    1. re: Chemicalkinetics

                      Sent Tane an email and she was very quick to respond.
                      I ordered the one you have off of her site.
                      I have to go now to see if it came yet!!!! <bg>
                      Thanks again.

                      1. re: fjs08


                        Very funny about checking to see if your wok arrived. Actually Tane Chan is very quick in term of shipping things out. I won't be surprised if she ships it out later today. Good to know it is not a lacquer coated wok. Best of luck.

                  2. re: Chemicalkinetics

                    Before I forget, I'd like to thank ChemicalKinetics and Joan for your help this morning.
                    This is a great forum.

                    1. re: fjs08

                      I mentioned Fuschia Dunlop above. Just about a year ago, two of her books, "Revolutionary Chinese Cooking" and "Land of Plenty" were Cookbooks of the Month over on the Home Cooking Board. Cookbook of the Month has been going strong for more than three years, but those two books were probably our most popular. If you're interested in Chinese cooking and you don't have them, you're in for a treat. Take a look at this link and read some of the reports:


                      Nearly all of the recipes are simply outstanding and have become staples for many of us. There are also in that main thread links to many online recipes so you can get a sense of what the books are like before you decide whether or not to purchase them. But I'll tell you that those books and the marvelous recipes therein are probably why my wok got seasoned so well and so quickly.

                    2. re: Chemicalkinetics

                      I visited the Wok Shop and a couple other wok sources in SF just a few days ago. My opinion: Wok Shop is not overpriced at all. Yes, you can find cheaper woks, but you will get what you pay for. Wok Shop's steel woks are heavy gage (looks like about 2 mm or close to it) and a 14" goes for about $20 (some say this is overpriced?). Similar prices for cast iron. No Joyce Chen, Le Creuset, or Sur la whatever here, and no teflon. You want cast iron or steel? Flat bottom or round? Loop handles or long? What size? Here's your pan.

                      And their woks are not lacquered (at least none I looked at). I was checking out the selection and a guy says "be careful with the woks". I was a bit pissed at first because I thought he meant not to damage his precious cookware, but he just wanted to keep me from getting my hands dirty from the oil.

                      1. re: Zeldog


                        I personally don't think they are overpriced as in an unfair way. I certainly won't have bought so many things from the Wokshop if I think they are overpriced. For example, I bought my chopping block from the Wokshop:
                        Actually, I bought three, but I destroyed two.

                        Still, I have read people think they can get it cheaper. Sometime, I think as a soceity we have stepped backward on practicality. It is easier to deal with an oiled wok than a lacquered wok. Yet, we are moving slowly toward the lacquered route.

                2. Okay, I am very experienced with carbon steel and woks, and just purchased the Asian Fusion Stir Fry Pan from BB&B (which is a GREAT 12" wok!!), and wow--the lacquer coating was quite intense. They said to remove with steel wool soap pads and that did indeed removed a lot of the lacquer, but not all of it...

                  What did remove it all was to unscrew the bamboo handle from the wok, and then bake the lacquered wok for 30 minutes in a 500F oven. The lacquer vaporizes off (with almost no odor), and the steel turns a light gold. It comes out all ready for seasoning!

                  If you can't remove the wood/bamboo handles, I have also done this is the past by wrapping the handles in wet paper towels and then foil over the paper towels. This method can affect the finsih of the varnish on the wood somewhat, but no worse for wear.

                  Another issue I have noticed with some woks (Helen and Joyce Chen woks always do this) is that the high all over temps from being in the oven expand and contract the rivets that hold the handle holder to the wok, permanently changing their size, and therefore the handle will never be "factory tight" again--still fine to use and some will be barely notice, but the very slight wiggle of the handle drives me nuts...! I like my pans and woks ROCK hard and ultra steady!

                  But again, the high temp bake is a really easy and simple way to remove those stupid lacquer coatings from carbon steel pans and woks.

                  1 Reply
                  1. re: toddster63

                    toddster63 - did that successfully remove all the lacquer? Thanks :)