Psst... We're working on the next generation of Chowhound! View >
HOME > Chowhound > Cookware >
Mar 21, 2010 10:58 AM

I need help on my 2 year old cast iron wok


I bought my cast iron in the SF area (the wok shop). I purchased a 16'' traditional cast iron wok.

I washed the wok vigorous before seasoning to get the rust film off the wok.

and I have had problems with it for the last two years. I could never get my wok to get to that bronze-black patina color nor its shiny state. Each time I've used it, the seasoning just comes off (I've only been trying to cook fatty foods on the wok)

I have the instructions from the wok shop how to season the wok. I tried the stovetop method (with Crisco oil, coconut oil, peanut oil, Crisco shortening, palm oil, and other suggestions Tammy gave me through email). In the booklet it states doing 450 for 20 minutes, I have done that along with several hours in other attempts.

In addition oven seasoning method was used, I have tried using 450 degree to 550 degree temperature in the oven. I do place the wok upside down and when it stops smoking it let it cool and I wash with water and dry, and then season it again.

Tried using a grill my cousin's recommendation, (btw each of those attempts I made the wok slate clean, removing all seasoning).

I also have a butane burner, and I tried to season with that, still no go...

My first attempt when I tried to season the wok, after I finished all the coating, it was very sticky and tar-like, and I knew that wasn't good (took organic chem the previous semester).

Other than that, when I try to cook fatty foods such as beacon or coconut oil, it seems to cook fine but later on in the middle of the cooking, the seasoning comes off at the bottom and the temperature isn't even that hot to the point of removing the seasoning. Using different methods and sources, I tried seasoning the wok at least 8-18 hours. Also fyi, I've only rinsed the wok, never used soapy water to clean the wok after cooking.

I used carbon steel woks, and so far I had much more success with that, seasoning on carbon steel is much more a breeze, although it wasn't my carbon steel wok.

The first two pics was last year the first attempt of seasoning the wok

Last two pics are recent seasoning I tried to do, I was able to get it non tar-like but it still has the smudgy look.

That link above, it seems that person bought the same kind of wok at the wok shop as I did. And his wok seems to work fine and as you can see, my wok hasn't been able to get that kind of patina nor as ones in youtube.

So after this long 1st post, do you guys/gals have any suggestions what I can do.

  1. Click to Upload a photo (10 MB limit)
  1. your last photo looks like a pretty good seasoning--not too different from that blog you linked--and it isn't tarry. if it works really well and consistently, you might need to adjust your expectations about appearance, because it might just be one of those quirky things in the non-conformity/unpredictable file. your account didn't describe any attempts with a slightly lower temperature than 450--and you are correct about carbon steel being much more tractable in the seasoning process than cast iron, in my experience with many different vessels.

    2 Replies
    1. re: moto

      I'll take that in consideration about the quirky things and I had someone email me about iron that is used to make the wok not being a good quality metal-iron. He mentioned about the porosity in the surface for the oil "take hold"

      I did try organic coconut oil about 300-350 degrees because the smoking point is much lower than the other hydrogenated oil products and it came sticky.

      1. re: ictown775

        both monku and cakebaker have excellent techniques for cast iron, and both utilize temp's well below 450. you should not need (not saying it can't work, just haven't tried it) a temp above, likely even equal to deep frying, which is generally 360-375 depending on the grease/oil.

    2. "My first attempt when I tried to season the wok, after I finished all the coating, it was very sticky and tar-like, and I knew that wasn't good (took organic chem the previous semester)."
      ...........from experience that seems to be the first stage I always encounter too, but I thought that was the start of the process. My experience is you'll never get an even coat of seasoning the first several attempts, you have to keep at it and it will eventually become uniform.

      Sounds like you've tried everything. I don't have a cast iron wok, but I'll give you my tip on how I season cast iron. When you're finished cooking scrape as much food crud off as you can and then "dry" wipe it with a paper towel-don't use any water. Turn up the heat to high and turn off the burner when it gets hot., Then coat it with any kind of cooking oil. When it cools off wipe off any excess oil then put it away. Half dozen times should start forming some good seasoning and you should be able to start using water to clean. Before I put it away I'll "dry" it on the stove using high heat again and coating it with oil and wiping away the excess oil.

      1. I have never seasoned a wok but many cast iron pans. It takes years for a nonstick patina to develop. I have always used solid crisco...liberally coating it inside and out and turning it upside down and leaving it for hours in a 250 oven. Once used NEVER use water...only coarse salt and a paper towel. After years of patina only then is it safe to use a little water but your wok hasn't filled in the pores yet. Then for months after each use I reseason it with crisco every few times and eventually you have a beautiful black patina but it takes work and time. It can't be done in a few months.

        1. I took a closer look at your pictures and I have some questions. How often have you used it in the past 2 years? What is the longest you've left it to season in the oven and how often? It looks like it still has some rough edges but maybe that's the picture. I'd do a couple of things at this point. Scrub it all over with either fine steel wool or fine sand paper removing rough spots and rust. Really smear it with Crisco and turn it upside down in a roasting pan (I always use a foil one like for turkeys) and leave it in the oven at 250 for 2 hours. Turn oven off and leave a couple of hours longer. Wipe wok and put away. use it as frequently as possible and each time after use while still hot pour a LITTLE water around the upper edge of wok and let it boil a second then wipe with a paper towel after turning off heat. return to heat to remove ANY moisture. It's really better to use no water but in case you can't do that I offer the minimum. once cool if any bits remain add a couple of teaspoons of COARSE kosher salt and scub and dump using no water. then smear a thin coating of crisco over inside of wok. the outside shouldn't need it if you haven't gotten it wet. when you use it next as the crisco melts wipe it out and proceed to add whatever oil you desire. but for seasoning i'd use crisco only. it looks like you haven't used it much but maybe it's just the picture. even with rust I'd expect some color change to the metal from heat exposure but I don't see any. seasoning is about consistency and time. hope this helps.

          4 Replies
          1. re: cakebaker

            Hey thanks for your responses,

            I have at least tried to use it 3-5 times a week cooking such as bacon, anything with oil and fat, I avoided using eggs, acidic foods. I tried to wait at least couple months to see if some seasoning goes well, most of the time it just flakes off and all I see is bare metal, even if when temperature is low. When I try to (just to season the bottom part or the sides), seasoning didn't really stick.

            I had someone respond to me a day before saying my wok is possibly a bad iron?

            "I am not local to you, but sometimes the iron that used to make the wok is
            not a decent quality. They need some porosity in the surface for the oil to
            "take hold.""

            Longest I had in the oven was 2-3 hours at 400 degrees. When I look at the wok (not viewing the pics), the wok is not shiny at all...not one bit. Basically its a dull brown color. And lots of the black spots.

            I'll take your help in consideration, if it doesn't work out, maybe I should just go buy a new piece ware.

            1. re: ictown775

              I have restored many badly and mean badly rusted pans so don't give up. I don't know what you mean "most of it flakes off"...what is flaking off? you shouldn't "see" the seasoning...if you do what i have advised religiously it will work. If the longest period you have tried at one time is 2-3 hours than that confirms what I originally said...not enough time even though it may seem like you've been working at it and much too high a temp for seasoning. I don't think the metal is bad at should see "bare metal" the didn't spray it with anything did you? i know pictures can be tricky but it actually looks like what you would see if you had sprayed it with something like PAM but again could be the pictures. try only crisco...both for seasoning after the steel wool and then after each use rubbing in a circular motion around the wok to really work the fat into the pores. If something is "flaking off" that is food residue not seasoning. As I said...seasoning is filling the pores of the metal and can't be seen and doesn't rub off. start over and try you'll only have to do this with a new wok and as I said there are no short cuts to this but once done you will have a beautiful wok. Also the comment "seasoning doesn't stick" confuses me...not sure what you mean except it seems that you are thinking you should be done with this by now. it is an ongoing process and you should use medium high heat not low heat when cooking. I really encourage you to start again with my instructions as I fear you want to just buy a new one and I think you'll be right back here in a couple of months with now two woks that aren't seasoned. solid crisco will work.

              1. re: cakebaker

                I mean not that it flakes off.

                To clarify, when I finish cooking, I wipe the wok with dry paper towel. After I dry, the bare metal is exposed (gray color).

                I misinterpret the one time you asked. I thought you asked one time how long you season it. The longest period of time I spent seasoning is around 23 hours.

                I do not spray either. I don't like using those aerosol type cooking sprays. However, there are some cat hair ^_^ on the wok if you look closely. Out of topic, buy my cat likes to go inside the wok.

                Just last Saturday and Sunday, I seasoned my wok from scratch, used sandpaper. The last two pics are the results of my seasoning. (used Crisco shortening, I had trouble using Crisco oil a year ago) Should I restart the seasoning again? other than that I will follow your great instructions.

                If it doesn't work out I'll just go out and buy carbon steel wok, I've seasoned those before but I actually don't have one myself.

              2. re: ictown775

                Dull brown is good! That's all you can expect and it's all you need. Read below for more info. You CAN'T (everybody who has cast iron/carbon steel problems say it with me one time) YOU CAN'T get a proper black patina and seasoning in one day. It starts as brown and VERY slowly turns black.

            2. Unless you have some strange obsession, why don't you simply get a carbon steel wok? Since you have had success seasoning someone else's wok. Actually, the thinness of carbon steel permits the desirable intense heat required for proper wok cooking. The Chinese have had pretty good luck with carbon steel for a few thousand years.

              2 Replies
              1. re: OldTimer

                lol strange obsession, I am somewhat like that...

                If i can't get something done, I try to tackle the problem and get it fix or done.

                I'm kinda ocd on that kind of stuff.

                Plus I spent money and time on my cast iron and I do hope I can resolve this.

                1. re: ictown775

                  the reason i asked about spray is the kind of concentric brown marks on the one picture. if you sand again or use brillo to really clean it should have bare metal with no color. I know I'm repeating but really coat it with crisco this next attempt. like really white. then leave it in 250 right side up for 2 hrs. then turn it over and dump out. the return to oven upside down in pan for another couple. turn off oven and let cool, Sometimes I have treated pans several days in a row before even using them. it is a lot of work but once you get through it you have the start of patina (still years to develop) but once you do it you have a great pan for life. keep going! it is the color that makes me think you haven't done it enough as even with a new pan after a few weeks there is some color change that I don't see in your wok. everything is relative so that's why I'm being so specific.