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Problems with a wok-style pan...

I'm having problems with this wok-style pan I bought in an Asian market. It was not expensive and seemed like a good deal.

The problem is there always seems to be a metallic taste to anything I cook in this pan. I have cleaned it several different ways after use including scrubbing with salt and a sponge.

After cleaning, I have tried wiping it with a drop of veg oil on a paper towel or spraying it with PAM and wiping. There is always a black residue on the cloth/paper towel as shown in the photos.

Anyone have an idea of what's going on here? There was no label to indicate what kind of metal it is.

Should I just junk it?


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  1. How many times have you used it?

    When you break in a new wok, you're going to get some sticking and residual metallic taste. It's inevitable. But the more you use it the better it gets. Some suggest actually "seasoning" your wok in the same way one would "season" a cast iron pan. You can do this, but it's wholly unnecessary as the more you use the wok the more seasoning it gets.

    Just keep using it and try making things that aren't so neutral in flavor.

    2 Replies
    1. re: ipsedixit

      Thanks for the suggestions. I've used it at least 30 times. The dishes I cook aren't neutral, rather they are highly flavored - sichuan style, black bean sauce, etc.

      I really dislike the metallic flavor it adds plus the grungy black stuff. I've had other carbon steel woks and have never had this problem. Should probably cut my loses and get rid of it... Too bad because it has a good shape and seems to cook evenly.

      I'd like to season it like a conventional wok but it has what looks like a plastic handle that I doubt is oven safe...

      1. re: RWCFoodie

        If you've used it 30 times, I'd say something isn't right.

    2. Is this carbon steel? If it is stainless steel, then you should have much metallic taste. If it is carbon steel, then you will have some metallic taste until it is seasoned. The fact that you said it always has a black residue on the cloth and paper towel leads me believe it is carbon steel. The black residue is probably oxide. I would season it. No need to use the oven method, use the stove top seasoning method. Oven seasoning method is not as good anyway.

      The more I look at the photo, the more I am not sure about the material. When you bought the pan, was it already dark color?

      *Edit* Now, I wonder if it is anodized aluminum.

      1. I just gotta ask since you didn't mention in your OP: are you using soap at all when washing? Just water and heat would be good, maybe stop using salt as well. You could be wearing away any seasoning that builds up during cooking by cleaning it TOO much?

        1. Curious -- just picked up a carbon steel wok last week. (Fairly inexpensive 14-inch hand-hammered wok at Fein Bros. in Milwaukee).

          After initial seasoning (washed off mineral oil that wok was packed in, smeared inside with veg oil, heated over gas burner until oil darkened -- just in the middle) have used it two-three times and have had no issues with metallic taste, sticking or anything (and one of the dishes was with egg!)

          While I have a hard time believing it's the wok, seems something is not right. Best of luck.

          1 Reply
          1. re: MikeB3542

            Looked at photos -- it looks like the wok is pretty much unseasoned, so you would be cooking on bare steel. There are videos on line that show how to initially season a wok, but here's the basic procedure:
            -Open up windows, turn on kitchen vents. There is going to be some smoke
            -Get the wok VERY hot
            -Pour in a few tablespoons of veg oil into the hot wok
            -Using long metal tongs and a wad of paper towel, smear the oil around the bottom
            -The oil will smoke profusely and the bottom of the wok will start to darken.
            -Slowly turn the wok on its sides so that the darkened area spreads up the sides.
            -Add more oil if needed -- change paper towels as it starts to char.
            -No need to blacken the wok all over, just the middle.(Unlike a cast iron pan) The color of the darkened area will be somewhere between russet and honey.
            -Your wok should be good to go -- to clean just use hot water and a paper towel. There should be no need for detergents or scrubbing.

          2. Thanks to all of you for your suggestions, etc. I will try seasoning on the stove top and will report back.

            Please note:
            1) No markings to tell what the metal is, I believe it is carbon steel.
            2) I have never cleaned it with soap/detergent, just washed off cooking residue, rinsed, dried on stove top over low heat, lightly oiled, scoured with salt recently to see if it made any difference (it didn't).
            3) Unfortunately, I am using a glass top electric range - no other options available, that's one of the reasons I chose this pan - it is flat bottomed with no ridges, etc. on the bottom/outside.
            4) The color as it appears in the photo is the way it looked when purchased.
            5) How can you tell if it's carbon steel or anodized aluminum - keep in mind, there is nothing on it to identify a manufacturer, etc. and I'm not going to take it to a lab! It is definitely not stainless steel (I think it's made out of old Chevys...)
            6) I will try MikeB3542 seasoning suggestions

            Thanks again to you all!

            9 Replies
            1. re: RWCFoodie

              RWCFoodie: "How can you tell if it's carbon steel or anodized aluminum ...?"

              A not infallible test is to strike it sharply with a hard object. Carbon steel woks usually make passable bell sounds; aluminum ones are more likely to go "thwack."

              1. re: Politeness

                Or just try sticking a magnet to it?

                  1. re: Chemicalkinetics

                    I now see that Jvsgabriel below got there already!

                    My guess is that it's a really low grade steel full of impurities and may never work, as all the normal seasoning advice here is sound.

                    1. re: Robin Joy

                      sorry should have just replied to the specific post vs. to the OP for the magnet.

                      1. re: Robin Joy

                        Robin Joy: I think you're right about the quality although I have now discovered that it is "pig iron"...

                        1. re: RWCFoodie

                          Pig iron? That's an intermediate product when smelting. You would take the pig iron, mix it with other stuff to get wrought iron, cast iron, or steel, depending on the process you use. But pig iron is the first step after raw ore. I've never heard of trying to actually make something out of pig iron - it's way too brittle. It seems more likely that it might be just really poor quality cast iron. Even coming out of China from a really low quality factory, I don't see how it could be actual pig iron.

                          I wish my dad was still around. He'd know. Metallurgy is not my thing (outside of working with silver a little) but it does seem more likely that it's poor quality cast iron, maybe with too high carbon content, but not actual pig iron.

                          That would be really weird! I'm kind of aghast if that's the case! If it really is pig iron, there's no hope for it, just get rid of it!

                          1. re: ZenSojourner

                            ZenSojourner: I will scan the actual label that states "pig iron" when I get back on Monday - but what you've stated is what I deduced from some extensive web searching on the subject... I believe it explains the black stuff and metallic taste to food cooked in this pan.

                            1. re: RWCFoodie

                              No need to scan it. From what I read (see my other posting further down) it's just cast iron. I don't know why they worded it that way. It may be really BAD cast iron, but I bet that's what it is. Pig iron would be just too weird!

                              It could be soot from your seasoning attempts rubbing off.

                              Let us know what happens when your friend seasons it.

              2. I am going to suggest you season your wok the chinese way.Buy some fresh pork fat and 1/2 lb of chinese chives.Heat up the wok then add the pork fat.Move it around a few times to cover all surface.Hold the chives roots and use the ends like a brush to rub the wok.Move the pork fat around again it will pick up the black dust till it is fully covered.Discard pork fat and chives. Rinse and repeat till the pork fat does not pick up any black dust.Usually takesat least 4 times.

                1. After seasoning, I would use it to boil water a couple of times to make sure it is clean. Never use detergent. Use high heat to kill germs. This should help.

                  1. Sorry to hear that the pan is so much trouble. Here is a way to see if it's a steel pan vs. an aluminum one. Just use a magnet, if it sticks then it is some kind of metal (ferrous metal), and if it doesn't then it is most likely aluminum (non-ferrous metal). Now for SS vs. carbon steel, get it wet, and then just wipe it down with a damp cloth. Then leave it to sit for some time. If there are little rust marks then it is some kind of bare steel and of course no rust then it's SS. Not 100% but in most cases you will be able to tell. Sometimes if the bare metal has a coating of some sort then it won't rust, for example if you have laminated knife, only the very edge which is bare will start to discolor.

                    In your first picture, the bottom of the wok seems to be warping upwards, is this the case? Or does it just appear to be this way cause of the lighting and coloring of the pan? If it is warping, it may not be a bad thing to just toss it, metal might be too thin on the bottom, which will lead to just a lot of trouble with sticky foods due to uneven heating.

                    Here is a twist on the tradition Chinese/Asian way of reseasoning a pan...clean it off really well inside and out. Then turn the burning on high, and set the pan on the burner. Just leave it there, be patient,it will start to turn color. If it is a carbon steel pan, then you will start to see all sorts of different colors: brown, blue, black, purple, all colors are good. Try to move the pan to get all the sides and edges to turn color. Careful it is super hot, use your oven mitt, make sure it's dry or else you will steam yourself. Be patient and turn on the exhaust fan to high, open the windows, and close all the doors in the house, this process gets super smokey due to the high heat. Do NOT add oil when this hot, it will immediately flame up on you and you will get tons of smoke.

                    When the entire pan has changed color, let it cool off till it is just warm, and then wipe down with a lightly oiled paper towel. Let it sit for a bit, and then wash the pan off (with or without soap, it's up to you), then repeat the process, this time making sure to get all the unevenly colored spots. You will notice that the pan should be super dark by the second time. When I get a set of new carbon pans, I will take pictures of the color differences before and after the process.

                    This way minimizes the super smokey part of the vaporized oil, which is not good for you or the blower. See that sticky oily stuff on your exhaust grate, that gets into your lungs as well, not good. Many women in rural China get upper respiratory tract infections and the like from inhaling the fine particulates of the oil and from their wood burning stoves.

                    Hope this helps. Let us know what happens.

                    6 Replies
                    1. re: Jvsgabriel

                      Thank you Jvsgabriel and everyone else for the detailed information and suggestions on these types of pans and how to season them, etc.

                      Since my last post I actually found the original "label" that was inside the pan when I bought it! I didn't think I had anything but it was in the bottom of my pots & pans cupboard. I must have saved it for a reason: And now I can answer the questions as to what kind of metal it is, etc.
                      I'd like to scan the label in and attach it to this thread but only know how to add photos, not scans...

                      The pan says, among other things, "Cast iron woks suitable for induction heaters and gas stoves" - this is probably the main reason I bought it - that it can be used on a glass-topped electric range, which is unfortunately what I have.

                      It also says "Made of high quality natural pig iron," "Energy effectivity (SIC) up to 90%, perfect way for energy and time saving. Heat up quickly and evenly, less lampblack, will not be out of shape even if dry heated. The World Health Organization recommend to use Chinese Cast Iron Woks."

                      Another part of the label says "How to Use: Before and after use, please wash it with water and wipe up. If it will not be used for a long time, please spread it with oil for for rust-proof purposes."

                      Last but not least, the mfg. is Nanhai Jiayi Electrical Appliance Co., Ltd. based in Nanhai, Guangdong, China as well as a website www.jiayidq.com - I'll check to see if there's any more info on what to expect from this pan and will report back if I hear anything...

                      1. re: RWCFoodie

                        Great. Now you know it is the Chinese cast iron.

                        1. re: Chemicalkinetics

                          Chemicalkinetics: so does this mean that I should try the various suggestions for seasoning or just junk it as it might be full of impurities??? Have tried googling pig iron which I think I understand is perhaps a forerunner to cast iron. I'm not a technical type so much of what I've read simply befuddles me...

                          Maybe I should stay with my trusty, 30-yr old 6 piece All Clad Ltd. (except I don't have a stir fry type pan in that set and they are just too expensive).

                          1. re: RWCFoodie

                            It is really up to you. It seems you have seasoned carbon steel woks before, so your unpleasant trouble is not due to lack of experience. Cast iron actually makes great woks according to many people. On the other hand, most cast iron woks I know look a single piece with a round bottom:


                            I think you have tried everything you could have and maybe you can just put it in the garage and revisit it some other time. Meanwhile just get a normal carbon steel or cast iron woks.

                        2. re: RWCFoodie

                          "Cast iron woks suitable for induction heaters and gas stoves" . . . It also says "Made of high quality natural pig iron,"

                          Whew! It's not actually pig iron. I don't know why they labeled it that way, but all that actually means is that they used pig iron in the process of making the cast iron. That's pretty normal. In fact that's what you have to do to make cast iron. It's raw iron to pig iron and then you use the pig iron to make wrought iron, cast iron, or steel.


                          Maybe they're trying to plug into the idea of "green" cookware or something. Maybe there's a cultural bias against using recycled goods so they're trying to say it's "all new" metal (which it actually probably isn't, since they usually add scrap iron to make cast iron from pig iron, but I guess you could get scrap iron from other stages of the smelting processes). Who knows, but the wok really is cast iron. It may not be GOOD cast iron (or maybe it is, who can tell from a picture, LOL!) but it is cast iron.

                          Wow, I was getting kind of weirded out there, LOL! That would have been really freaky to find a factory trying to skip the normal smelting processes and make stuff directly from pig iron, LOL!

                        3. re: Jvsgabriel

                          Oh, by the way, the bottom is not warped - it's just the way my crummy camera (and camera user) and the lighting made it look...

                        4. Um.. that really, really looks like it's got a non-stick coating. The rivets shouldn't be all that different from the metal on the inside.

                          2 Replies
                          1. re: ThreeGigs

                            ThreeGigs: Nope, no nonstick coating. That's one of the reasons I bought it... Really don't care for non-stick pans.

                            1. re: RWCFoodie

                              I am chinese and always use "raw iron" or cast iron wok for stir fry. The wok you have does not look like the traditional chinese cast iron wok. So if you try my suggestions from earlier posts and it doesn't solve your problem. Then I will throw the wok out.

                          2. So here's the latest news: A friend who has a commercial wok station built into his home kitchen has offered to try to season it there - he feels my problems stem from trying to do this on my miserable electric stove... I'll be giving it to him on 12/6 so I'll report back with the results!