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Did I ruin my new carbon steel wok? Need help seasoning!

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I'm trying to season a new carbon steel wok. The directions say for the initial cleaning to scrub it in hot, soapy water to remove the factory lacquer coating. Then, you continue with heating with oil to season.

I didn't put a whole lot of elbow grease into scrubbing because the directions didn't make it sound as though I needed to. I simply gave it a wash with soap and scrubby sponge.

After one round of heating with oil, I noticed a smell that was not smoke or oil, so I was concerned I didn't get all the lacquer of and started reading more online. I read that getting rid of this lacquer was important and very difficult, and saw recommendations to boil water in the wok first for about 5 minutes to soften the lacquer, then scrub with steel wool. I tried this and the water was coming up to a boil I noticed the wok was getting black streaks down the sides and the bottom was getting quite dark. I'm really worried that I might have ruined it and it can't be properly seasoned now.

Any suggestions on where to go from here?

 
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  1. I don't think you can ruin a steel wok. Just continue with the cleaning process to get rid of the lacquer, without worrying about the marks, then season.

    I just looked at my 35-year old wok. It has lots of black on the inside. Nothing to worry about, in my opinion. A well-used wok is not going to look like new.

    1. Do you know where did you get the direction from? Is it from the manual which comes with the product? Some woks need to remove the lacquer, but some don't. Either way, it is a good idea to wash and clean the cookware first. To remove the lacquer coating, you will need a very thorough scrubbing with steel wool.

      "I read that getting rid of this lacquer was important and very difficult"

      Yes. I personally have recommended people to avoid these lacquered wok and just buy the regular ones.

      http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/6762...

      I don't think you have ruined the cookware, but I also don't know if you have completely removed the lacquer either. So you did bring the wok to boil and scrub it with steel wool thoroughly, right? I would scrub it with those green tough scrubbers if you have some. They are are much slower than steel wools, but they can do a more refine job -- getting rid off where the steel wool did not reach.

      "I tried this and the water was coming up to a boil I noticed the wok was getting black streaks down the sides and the bottom was getting quite dark."

      You get these before or after the seasoning process. It shouldn't get dark without the oil seasoning. If it did, then you need to remove it.

      1. I actually used "lacquer thinner" on a cotton rag to remove all of the lacquer from my wok. It was very easy & required almost no elbow grease to do. BUT - you have to do this outside & away from all flames or heat sources, as the thinner is very flammable & not safe to breathe. Afterwards, a good wash with soap & water is all you need before seasoning.

        5 Replies
        1. re: Eiron

          Ok, that works too. :) Yours is mostly acetone, right?

          1. re: Chemicalkinetics

            "Do you know where did you get the direction from?"
            - The directions came with the wok.

            " 'I tried this and the water was coming up to a boil I noticed the wok was getting black streaks down the sides and the bottom was getting quite dark.'
            You get these before or after the seasoning process. It shouldn't get dark without the oil seasoning. If it did, then you need to remove it."
            - I did start to season it already before I tried the boiling water thing. I only did the oil/heat once though, and that's when I noticed the smell and realized the lacquer was probably still on there despite the directions saying all I needed to do was "scrub with hot, soapy water." So it already had one coating of oil (although i washed it again before boiling) and a slightly browned bottom when I boiled water in it, and boiling the water made the bottom even darker and those black streaks up the sides.

            1. re: carolinagirl17

              "....I did start to season it already before I tried the boiling water thing...."

              Because you did the seasoning on top of the lacquer, the seasoning should have been removed had the lacquer been removed. So I don't think the lacquer has been removed at all.

              I would heat up the wok in water to a boil, and then quickly dump the water and scrub the wok with steel wool first and then with the finer scrubber. Because you have a coating of oil on top of the lacquer, I think it is made more difficult now.

            2. re: Chemicalkinetics

              No, I think mine is mostly toluene & xylene, but it's at home & I'm not. :-)

              Here's a decent description of blend(s) & strength(s)
              http://www.aldonchem.com/tool-lacquer...

              I think acetone would work, but it may not be quite as fast and/or effective as lacquer thinner. And everyone should be aware that Methyl Ethyl Keytone (MEK) is a particularly nasty solvent, so if your thinner contains MEK be extra-cautious.

              1. re: Eiron

                Toluene is cool
                It sounds like the original poster has burned a layer of oil seasoning on top of the lacquer.

          2. The same thing happened to me when I tried to season my first carbon steel pan. There were strange streaks and blotches instead of a nice even black seasoning layer. It was because I failed to get all the lacquer off. After scrubbing down to bare metal with steel wool under hot water, the pan seasoned beautifully. BTW, you can tell when you're down to the bare steel because you will see a silver metal surface that almost immediately turns slightly gold or tan (which I assume is rapid oxidation of the steel). So just roll up your sleeves and go for it!