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Help us wok tall (haha . . . no, really, help!)

So, I decided to season my cast iron skillet tomorrow, despite the fact that it is huge, and I have a pea-sized center of gravity, and a kitchen-loving cat, and very old oven mits. But this isn't about the skillet. It's about the wok.

Eight years ago I fell in love with a boy who came with his own wok. I know, right? Lucky girl!Unfortunately, he was a college student, and it was late, and he tried to season it with vegetable oil on an electric range. It . . . did not . . .turn out . . . well. The bottom is blackened, and the rest is, mainly, left unseasoned (there are some specks of amber haunting the surface). This valuable addition to our kitchen has lived its sad life in the back of whatever cupboard was designated for the unweildy or rarely used (hello, skillet).

I want to rescue it. I can pick off flakes of the (now) decade-old vegetable oil with my fingernail, if I work carefully at the edges. So, my questions are: what is the best method for cleaning this without harming the surface, and how to best season it properly, once I triumph.

Cleaning and seasoning. Help?

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  1. Easy to do:
    Hot water, lots of soap, copper or steel wool, rubber gloves, and lots of elbow grease. Rinse and dry thoroughly. Then season like a cast iron skillet: many threads on this, like this one:
    http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/325752

    1. This is some funny writings.

      You can season a wok on an electric stovetop. I have done it. I am not sure if you are trying to season a skillet or a wok or maybe both.

      It is very normal that the first coating seasoning surface being brown and amber instead of pure black. It will take awhile before the entire wok goes black. I really have little idea of your current wok. I don't know if it does not have much seasoning or too much burned carbonized materials stick to it. Afterall, you said you can pick the flakes off, so it sounds like you have a thick layer of carbonized materials. To remove these flakes, you can use steel wool, scurb the heck out of it. If there are only a few pieces, then you can use a hard plastic (like old credit card) to do the job instead. After this, you can reseasoning the wok. As for seasoning, there are tons of variation, but all involves a heated wok and oil. Make sure you open the window or your fire alarm may go off.

      I believe a picture worths a thousand words, so this video may help. It is one of the better ones on youtube.

      http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nDp_2x...

      2 Replies
      1. re: Chemicalkinetics

        Come to think of it. The treatment you two have given the wok is boarderline cruelty.

      2. If you have an electric drill, a wire brush on the drill can be a big time saver.

        1. Most of the advice I found online seemed to be against the use of any abrasive implements, like steel wool (which I have). Two websites advocated the use of a sponge, which gave me a nice laugh, but was not very helpful.

          The electric range would not have been a problem, save that it was a very weak one. I don't think it heated the wok enough for proper seasong. I asked my boyfriend if he tilted the pan, to better heat the sides, and he just squinted off into the distance (where his youth mockingly sits) and confessed that he couldn't remember. See, Chemicalkinetics, I had to ask, because I wasn't there. I am *innocent* in this matter.

          The oil did not adhere to the sides of the pan at all. The bottom is a blackened pool. I feel better now that I have chow 'permission' to use the steel wool.

          Or, even, a power tool! Oooh . . . a kitchen task that involves a trip to the hardware store is my kind of Saturday.

          Thanks for the links and advice, guys.

          1 Reply
          1. re: onceadaylily

            Onceaday,

            I think it really depends on what stage is your wok at, which I am not sure. You certainly do not want to use very hard abrasive when the seasoning surface has been built or that it is been built. However, if you have have a thick layer of carbonized materials (like built foods) built on your wok, then you need to remove it. So it really depends what stage you are at.

          2. While many sites may advocate a gentle touch, from what you have explained your wok fits more in line with what you would do to restore a piece of cast iron. Restoration has to occur if there is significant rust or crud(hardened food stuffs from long ago or in your case oil from long ago that never hit the point of seasoning). The objective being to get the piece as close to new as possible. Then you can give it a good washing, rinsing and drying and begin with the seasoning. With normal use and cleaning you shouldn't have to do this again.

            Some of that baked on crud can laugh at steel wool and make you think you are never going to get it clean hence my drill and brush recommendation. Keep at it and the hard work will pay off.