Incompetent Carbon Steel Wok Seasoner Throwing in Towel - Seeking Fdbk on All-Clad Wok/Stir-Fry Pans
I give up. My 3rd carbon steel wok just got hauled to the curb in the recycling bin and I've come to the conclusion I'm completely unable to season them no matter how many instruction videos/manuals/blogs I read!!
I've read previous threads on woks and don't want to get a cast iron one because of the weight. I love my All-Clad cookware and wondered if anyone has their wok or stir fry pan. If so, what do you think?
I am sorry to hear this. I am sure you have tried everything you could have. If you ever decide to give it another try, make another post.
Depending what kind of cast iron wok, some are very heavy and they are not only difficult to move around, they also take a long time to heat up which means they don't work for the stir-fry technqiue very well.
I have some reservations for stainless steel woks, just because meats tend to stick to the wok very easily, which makes it difficult to stir fry. It is not a problem if you mostly cook vegetables. For meats, you just have to put more oil in a stainless steel wok than a carbon steel wok.
I looked at an All-Clad Wok yesterday and found it to be too heavy.
How much heat do you have on your "Wok burner"? I have an aluminum Wok from Calphalon but, you need a REALLY HIGH heat source to work with it.
Ok, here's the sad story:
The first wok was a cheapy I picked up in Chinatown. I brought it home and washed it, then put it away knowing it needed to be seasoned before using. When I pulled it out a month later, it had rusted. I was a bit put off by this but looked online and found you could sand it down. Did this then proceeded to season by rubbing w oil and using the stove top method. I did this twice and then proceed to use the wok. Food had a strong metallic taste. Tried to use it a couple more times and had the same issue. I tossed the wok.
Wok #2 - Purchased at a restaurant supply store. Seasoned according to web instructions using stove top method. Didn't seem to be seasoning evenly and there was a persistent sticky residue that just seemed unsanitary - this was still an issue after about a dozen uses. Out it went.
Wok # 3 - found a "professional" carbon steel wok that had a factory lacquer coating. Lacquer is applied to protect and prevent rusting but, is to be removed, over low heat prior to seasoning. Trouble was, the lacquer just wouldn't come off uniformly. After repeating the process for the 4th time and making minimal progress I ran out of patience and gave up.
cue the violins!!
You still have not explained exactly HOW you were attempting to season your wok. Saying that you "[s]easoned according to web instructions" is meaningless b/c there are so many instructions floating out there on the web as there are stars in the midnight sky.
But that said, let me go through each of your wok seasoning efforts.
#1. Why did you sand the rusty wok? If a wok is rusted, wash it with warm water and soap, then scrub it with a stainless steel pad. Then rinse with hot water. Then set the wok on the stovetop, fill with some water, bring the water to a boil and let it simmer for about 10 minutes. Then clean with soap and water and scouring pad again. That should remove the rust. If you were sanding it I fear that you might have sanded away some of the steel, but who knows.
#2. As noted above, need to know exactly HOW you were seasoning your wok. Need more specifics.
#3. You can remove the lacquer using the method I outlined above in #1. Works like a charm. Again, you need to explain HOW you were trying to remove the lacquer.
All of that said, let me pass along how I generally season a carbon steel wok.
After washing and cleaning the wok as outlined in #1 above with soap and water, I heat the wok on the stovetop to get it screaming hot. If you are doing this inside, open the windows and all the vents and leave the women, child and aged at the movie theaters for a couple of hours. Let the wok heat up (or burn) until you begin to smell a chemical odor emitting from the stovetop, and the wok should take on a brownish or bluish hue on the surface. Now it's hot enough.
Now cut up some scallions into roughly 1 inch pieces and rough chop some ginger root (about a handful or so). Make sure both are bone dry.
Make sure your wok is still smoking hot, then use a good oil with a high smoking point. We use pork fat or grease. But you can use other things, but just make sure the oil has a high enough smoking point.
Coat the wok with your choice of oil or fat. Tilt the wok around and work with it to make sure the oil coats the entire surface. Then add the scallions and ginger. Stir fry the scallions/ginger ALL AROUND THE WOK SURFACE, trying to reach the very top. Do this for about 20 minutes, but no less than 15.
Then discard the scallions and ginger. Use a soft sponge and warm water (no soap) to clean your wok. Then heat up your wok on medium heat until dry.
Your wok is now seasoned.
Understand a few things about woks, and cooking with woks.
When using a new wok, the first few times will have a slight metallic taste that will go away as you use it more and more.
Soap is a wok's worst enemy, next would be steel scouring pads.
At our restaurant, we almost never "washed" our woks. Just a bit of warm water, swish it around, dried with a cloth and boom, you're ready to go again for another round.
Carbon steel is the way to go. Don't give up.
Sincere thanks for your wonderful instructions, your confidence is infectious and if I do get the courage buy another carbon steel wok, I'll definitely use your method.
To answer your questions:
Sanding the rust on the wok: poor choice of words on my part. I used a wool based scouring pad
How I seasoned: similar to your method but not exactly. I heated the wok on high. When it turned blue-ish and water droplets bounced and evaporated immediately, I used long tongs to hold a cloth that I'd dampened with oil. I rubbed the oil on the entire interior surface and then, turned the heat to low for 15 minutes. Per your method, it sounds like I should have left it on high.
Thanks very much for taking the time to assist me with this.
Seems like you have tried many times. Well, in the case that you may want to give the carbon steel wok another try. Here are some of my comments to your three woks.
When you see minor rust, you can just scurb it off with a brush. Bar Keeper's Friend is an excellent cleaner to remove minor rust as its acidic nature dissolves the rust. Bar Keeper's friend is just great to have overall, especially if you have stainless steel cookware. The metalic taste is normal for a new wok, it will eventually go away. Some people believe that you can get that taste off by stir frying onion or scallion. Stir fry them at high heat and to point that they start to turn black. Stop and toss the burned food away. Clean.
The sticky resiude is a sign of imcomplete seasoning. Basically, the oil is turning from liquid to gummy substance, but was stopped before it gets a chance to turn into hard solid. This can be resolve by putting the wok on stove top and seasoning long or put in the oven and bake longer (whichever was your method)
I hate lacquer. I would have tossed that thing out like you did.
I swear by Bar Keeper's Friend. Its one of those products that when I'm using it I always think, what on earth would I do if they ever discontinue this!!!!
That said, for whatever reason, I didn't even think of using it on the wok. Your point around using the scallion certainly supports ipseixits method of seasoning above. Of course all this dialogue is making me think I should give this (gasp!) another shot.
I didn't have induction last time around so maybe I'd get better heat this time.
Maybe I'll pay someone to season it for me!!
Carbon steel is a popular material for Chinese wok really because (1) it can handles high heat, (2) it is relatively nonstick once it is seasoned. A stainless steel wok can handle high heat, but meats stick to it. A Teflon wok is nonstick, but it cannot handle high heat. The thin cast iron woks (as oppose to the thick one) are excellent choice too. Many people claim that seasoning on these thin cast iron woks is easier than the carbon steel woks.
It is my opinion that it will more difficult to season on an induction stovetop because the heat does not travel as far up. Consequently, it is more difficult to season the side of a cookware. You can always use the oven method as illustrated here:
I personally still like the stovetop method because it gets much hotter.
I just stumbled on this youtube and it is a competition between a wok vs a skillet for fried rice. Both use relatively weak stovetop. One use a wok and there other use a skillet. Watch 3:55 for wok and watch 4:20 for skillet. What you will notice is that much of the wok surface is not actually for heating the food, rather for maneuvering the food. Fried rice is a good obvious example, but most stir fry dishes can benefit from the shape of a wok.
Of course, if you can get a real restaurant stove, that will be better: