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Jun 21, 2010 08:07 PM

Wok seasoning....

Finally got my first wok, carbon steel of course, and I'm having some issues with getting it seasoned. I read some recommendations online and they were similar to the instructions that came with it. I used an outdoor burner and peanut oil for the process and repeated it several times throughout the day. When I was done it was beautifully black and what I thought was correct.....anyway, I sauteed some onions and stufff and the black layer began to come off - see pic. Did I get it too hot when I was seasoning it, making it get too black?????

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  1. Ha ha ha. For a moment, I thought you melted and twisted the wok. Really, I thought it is a picture of the bottom of the wok. I thought I saw a concave and convex surface. :P

    When you said the black seasoning coming off, do you mean it is slightly scratched off? That is normal. If you are talking about large flakes coming, then you probably have over-seasoned the wok and builded a seasoning surface too thick.

    Let me ask it in another way. When you move your finger across the surface which has the black layer comes off, do you notice a depth difference? If not, then it is normal. If you feel a clear depth difference between that of the black surface and that of the bare surface, then the layer is too thick -- my opinion.

    Some here may disagree.

    2 Replies
    1. re: Chemicalkinetics

      Actually, some big pieces, flakes, came off and there is definitely a depth difference. I've been told I used too much oil and heat. Looks like I'll be throwing some elbow grease at this one and starting over....

      1. re: kirkg

        I have made the same mistake several times before. There are several ways around this. Maybe the cheapest and fastest way is just to buy another new wok ($15-20).

        However, there is something to be said in saving a wok and not giving up on it. In that case, there are three ways to do. One is via mechanic, removes the blackened seasoning surface by pure force, use a sandpaper or scrapper and just work on it. Two is to put it in self cleaning oven and bake out all the surface, but this will unlikely to work for your wok because it has a wooden handle. Three is to burn off the seasoning surface on your outdoor burner or any burner really. It will create a lot of smoke, but it may be the easier way. Prepare to have use a oven glove and have a fire extinguisher next by just in case.

        P.S.: I have burn off seasoning two times on my stovetop, so I know this works.

    2. My experience is you can't season anything in a day. It's a gradual process.
      That's not "seasoning", looks like it's burnt oil.

      1. Yeah, looks like too much oil too fast, so the layer is overthick. But if flakes are coming off, more flakes are bound to follow.

        Try getting it blazing hot and then toss tap water in there a few times. That might dislodge it, if you're patience. You could soak it in white vinegar too and then start over afterwards.

        1. Full disclosure - I learned to cook from my mom who introduced me to using a cast iron wok which resulted in my teaching wok cooking (over 17 yrs.). I also market a Kit with a 15" thin walled, lightweight, preseasoned, round bottom cast iron wok set and instructional discs. I have gotten to know a LOT of woks while I was doing R&D for my project. Your wok looks like a thin, steel wok that was already black when you bought it right? This is not carbon steel. It looks too overall 'black'. If it was cheap, I would just buy another wok but this time, get a thin walled, 3 lb. CAST IRON wok. If it's not convenient, practical and accessible, you won't end up using it. Also need portable butane gas stove if you have electric. Flat bottom woks on electric doesn't solve problem of instantaneous heat control - CRUCIAL for wok cooking. Hope this helps. Would like to hear your decision how to resolve this problem. Also like to know if your wok was already black when you first bought it? I've seen these.

          5 Replies
          1. re: Eleanor Hoh

            I'm confused, I thought that carbon steel was best for wok and other fast response cookery, does it not conduct much better than cast iron?

            1. re: andrewtree

              There are certainly competing philsophies on this one. I belong to the carbon steel camp. From a thermal conductivity point of view, the carbon steel and cast iron are not extremely different. Though, cast iron may be slightly better. However, carbon steel woks are usually made thinner, so the cookware conduct heat better because of it.

              1. re: Chemicalkinetics

                Apologies for not following up on this thread. I agree there are 2 camps: those who love carbon steel and those who love cast iron, however...

                Proof is in the pudding...
                Numerous folks who have used carbon steel and converted to cast iron share my view that texture and flavor of food cooked in a cast iron wok is very different. They were surprised with their great results.

            2. re: Eleanor Hoh

              My wok was as far from black as possible, Helen Chen Wok, with a very clean steel look. Definitely carbon steel and advertised as 1.8 mm thick I think. Definitely not on the light side. I am fully responsible for all that black! I also have nothing but gas, no electric stuff here.

              1. re: kirkg

                One thing you haven't mentioned is 'washing out' the factory oil PRIOR to seasoning. If your wok is from China, it is crucial to wash that out first. I've heard people get sick from seasoning without doing so.

                Even though Grace Young and I differ in our opinions/philosophy about which woks we like, she does a great job of showing how to season a carbon steel wok here:

            3. Thanks for posting this. You may have stopped me from doing the same thing. One thing I read said when you can fry an egg on it without sticking, you're done. Don't listen to them. You will end up scraping fried egg off the bottom of your wok like I did.

              Here is where I stopped. I did 3 coats of lard, inside and out, and baked it in the barbecue for 10 min between coats. (remove the handle) The final coat was in the house and it smoked a lot but the smoke didn't last long. The coating doesn't scratch off but it does show some fine marks. It's a non-stick coating that will pick up flavour over time.

              4 Replies
              1. re: wenjo

                That isn't seasoning. It's varnish like you see in a car engine. You want to turn that into carbon and baking it on a BBQ isn't going to do it. You need 500-550 degrees of heat. There is no short cut.

                1. re: wenjo

                  That isn't right, although I won't say it is completely wrong. This is a pseudo seasoning surface, not very stable. However, you may able to start cooking with it. In time, it can turn into the real seasoning surface.

                  1. re: Chemicalkinetics

                    Fair assesment.
                    I still contend you can't fry an egg on any seasoned surface with no oil.