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Nov 7, 2010 12:02 PM

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.