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Jan 29, 2012 03:43 AM

Have I seasoned my wok successfully?

After getting sick of non stick woks sticking, I purchased a carbon steel wok from a great Chinese ingredient shop in Leith, Edinburgh.
It was one of these:

I seasoned it yesterday using this method:

I took a steel wool and some cream cleanser (E.g the equivalent of Jif) and gave it a good scrub to get rid of the anti rust oil from the factory.

With the windows open I heated oil (cheap vegetable oil from the supermarket) in the wok on the gas stove top, swirling it around and holding the wok on an angle etc until it was a consistent black.

I then wiped off the oil and repeated the process with fresh oil.

I then wiped off that oil and put fresh oil in and stir fried some chives.

It now looks uneven to me and a little flaky. I can flake bits of black stuff off with my Iron wok spatula.

I haven't tried stir frying in it yet. Does it look like I have started the seasoning process off correctly or do I need to start again? I know from reading on this forum that the process is an ongoing one and can take months to establish a good patina but I want to make sure I am starting off on the right foot.


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  1. I just bought a new 12" flat bottom wok to replace my round bottom 14 incher that is way too big for cooking for one! I did a double seasoning. For the first seasoning, I pretty much did what you did EXCEPT I used peanut oil, not just vegetable oil. In fact, she said jokingly, just to be authentic, I used peanut oil from Hong Kong! Never mind it just happened to be all the peanut oil I had in the house. This first seasoning did nothing for the outside of my wok, so I took off the long wooden handle, then wrapped the wood helping handle in a wet paper towel and cased that in aluminum foil. Then I used a paper towel to rub a thin layer of peanut oil all over the wok, inside and out, including the flat bottom, and placed it face down in a 425F/218C oven for around 23 minutes, then took it from the oven to air cool. It now has a nice patina inside and out.

    As for layers flaking, I'm not sure what's causing that, but there is some questtion in my mind as to whether it could be the result of the cheaper vegetable oil you used. It COULD gel and then burn into a layer that would flake. The advantage of using peanut oil is that it has a very high smoke point compared to most other oils. Just a guess....

    1 Reply
    1. re: Caroline1

      Thanks for your reply Caroline1.
      I might try stir frying with it today and see how it goes. If it is going to be a problem with flaking, I might scrape it back and try the oven method (though my bottom element is not working at the moment so hopefully it would be ok with just the top element).

    2. Your oil was cooked on a bit too thick there. The ridges that you see are composed of oil that rippled and then carbonized into those shapes. No big deal. But you might do well to put the wok over very high heat with no added oil, get it as hot as possible, and then toss in some water to loosen the current excess.

      For further seasoning--the above process might remove much of the current stuff--work with very thin layers of oil, and then maybe let the pan cool and repeat the process. Keep your eyes open for occasions to cook up a bit of fatty stuff just for seasoning. Cook some chives or sliced onions in oil, chicken fat, bacon, whatever, always keeping the oil thin and spread around.

      Remember that seasoning is about bonding a thin layer of oil to the metal. Any extra oil is simply piled on top of other oil rather than operating as seasoning.

      2 Replies
      1. re: Bada Bing

        Thanks for your reply Bada Bing.
        I cooked with it at lunchtime and a lot flaked off so have now scrubbed off as much as I can (with steel wool and salt). I will do what you suggested to get the rest of the current stuff off and then re-season but in the manner you suggested. Makes a lot of sense to use a thinner layer.
        Will post a new photo once I have done this.
        Thanks again.

        1. re: Bada Bing

          I have had my wok so long (1970s) that I don't remember how I did the first seasoning, but to maintain it, I get a 3 lb. package of bacon trimmings when I can get a good buy, chop it up and pile all of it into the wok to render. Keeps the wok nice and shiny.

        2. "I can flake bits of black stuff off with my Iron wok spatula."

          Seasoning surface should be very thin. This means you have developed carbonized curd. Remove them.

          "Does it look like I have started the seasoning process off correctly or do I need to start again? "
          You probably don't need to start all over from scratch, but you will need to remove the black flakes and season the wok with hot oil one more time.

          As Bada Bing has said, it is a common mistake to put too much oil for seasoning. You only need a very thin layer. Do it a few times, and you are ready to go.

          1 Reply
          1. re: Chemicalkinetics


            The stovetop seasoning method you have used can wok. It is faster than the oven method and produces the kind of seasoning needed for a wok. I have done the oven methods many times, and I have done the stovetop method many times. You can combine them if you like. However, if I have to pick one or the other for seasoning a wok, I would say the stovetop one is better.

          2. I agree with the other posters that you used too much oil. You should definitely not be able to swirl it around. IME, the best way is to put about a tablespoon of oil in the wok or pan and then use a folded-up paper towel to spread it all around to form a very thin coating or film -- so thin that it doesn't run down the sides. Baking on 3 or 4 such layers should give you a nice, smooth, glassy, iridescent-looking finish. Good luck!

            23 Replies
            1. re: tanuki soup

              Thanks guys for all your advice.
              I have scraped off, steelo'd, and boiled off as much as I could and ended up with what you see in the first photo.
              I then put a very thin film on and baked it in the oven as per Caroline1's post.
              I then used the technique that tanuki soup mention with the thin coat applied with a paper towel and did that 2 goes.
              I then stir fried some chives and now have a nice non stick surface that doesn't have all of that gummy oil build up.
              I think this is a lot better than it was. Am I on the right track now?

                    1. re: Caroline1

                      anyone else have examples of this "patina porn"? :)

                      1. re: doctorandchef


                        Go type to find the videos.

                    2. re: Jazrotorman

                      Oh god -- I have a BAD case of wok envy!

                      1. re: CindyJ

                        Fortunately, the very BESTwoks are also the cheapest woks. If that was true of all cookware, we'd all be cooking with copper! <sigh>

                        1. re: Caroline1

                          I won't go as far as the best woks are the cheapest woks. There are still good and bad woks. It is just that money can only get you so far in term of a wok. Once you hit above $15-25 for a carbon steel or thin cast iron wok, then it is all about skill of handling of a wok and skill of seasoning a wok. A $200 copper wok is worse than a $20 carbon steel wok.

                          1. re: Chemicalkinetics

                            Exactly my point. And a teflon lined wok is NOT a wok, no matter how it's shaped! The "value" of a great wok comes from the care and handling by the cook who owns it. Teflon or enameled cast iron woks can't breathe. No "breath of the wok" options there.

                            1. re: Caroline1

                              "The "value" of a great wok comes from the care and handling by the cook who owns it"


                      2. re: Jazrotorman

                        Good job! Sorry I'm late to the game but I would suggest giving it another 1-3 treatments, to just thicken up and even out the layer of polymerized fats (seasoning). You can't see them with the naked eye, but there might still be tiny imperfections that would benefit from at least 1-2 more treatments. Then ... your wok should become really bulletproof and super slippery.

                        1. re: jkling17

                          Thanks. I will give it another couple of treatments tonight.

                          1. re: Jazrotorman

                            I gave it another couple of treatments tonight and then thought I would test it's non-stick ability by stir frying some diced chicken breast (with no marinade or anything on it).
                            I suspect I may not have used enough oil (I used about half a tablespoon for the amount of chicken in the photos).
                            I heated the wok (on a high heat on my gas hob) until it just started to smoke and then put in the oil and then the chicken. It immediately stuck to the wok.
                            My kitchen was very smoky - I don't have an extractor fan so need the window open and it is very cold at the moment!
                            The chicken ended up being kind of char grilled!
                            There was a lot of stuff stuck to the wok.
                            I added water to the hot wok once I had finished cooking the chicken and let it boil a bit and used a soft plastic brush to clean it. I repeated that process a few times and the end result was that it is not shiny but has a dry sticky coating on it.
                            I then went through the seasoning process again with oil on a paper towel etc but that dry sticky coating is still there.
                            Where did I go wrong? Do I need to give it a good scrub to get rid of that dry coating and start the seasoning process again? Was I too stingy with how much oil I used? Was my temperature too high?

                            1. re: Jazrotorman

                              Welcome to the learning curve. What gas mark for what you are cooking. How much oil to use. The almost constant need to stir the wok. Hence the term stir fry. I am going through the same routine for my recently replaced wok. Based on the smoke, I think you were a tad high on the temp.

                              1. re: INDIANRIVERFL

                                Thanks for the feedback Indianriverfl. I will drop the heat a bit and increase my oil level a bit next time.

                              2. re: Jazrotorman

                                Darn. It looks like we'll need to take a step back. Honestly, I'm used to seasoning cast iron and - falsely assumed - that it was pretty much the same to season carbon steel as cast iron. It is not. Sorry about that!

                                Here are some resources, to help you get it right: It seems that there should be a heat treatment BEFORE using any oil.

                                One thing to bear in mind (and this is true for cast also) - is that as you keep going through the seasoning process, you'll notice that your paper towels are getting black residue on them. Once it IS seasoned properly, this will no longer happen. The black will stay on the wok/pan and only oil will come off onto your paper towels. This will give you a definitive notion of whether it is fully seasoned or not.


                                I love those super high btu burners ... sweet. I hope this helps!

                                1. re: jkling17

                                  Thanks jkling17. I have just finished watching those videos and have just applied some steelo pad to get the dry gunk off.
                                  I have just heated the wok dry for a while, and then applied a light coat of oil with a paper towel over the heat. Will let that cool and repeat and then will repeat a few times tomorrow as well. Thanks again!

                                2. re: Jazrotorman

                                  "I heated the wok (on a high heat on my gas hob) until it just started to smoke and then put in the oil and then the chicken. It immediately stuck to the wok."

                                  The wok wasn't quiet seasoned enough. Don't worry. You will get there. I am busy right now, but if you continue to have problem, then I will walk you through steps by steps.

                                  1. re: Chemicalkinetics

                                    Don't trust chemical ... he's a sith lord ...

                                        1. re: Chemicalkinetics

                                          Performed some more seasoning on the wok tonight and tested stir frying some chicken breast again with a bit more success.
                                          I did two more runs of heating the wok and then applying peanut oil with a paper towel, letting the wok cool between applications.
                                          Heated the wok, added more oil than yesterday's attempt so that the whole of the base of the wok was covered (used about a tablespoon) and turned the temperature down slightly. There was less smoke and the chicken was not charred as it was yesterday.
                                          Made cleaning it easier afterwards as well. I think I am on the right track now but I did wimp out when making my Thai red curry tonight and I used a Teflon wok (I feel ashamed to admit this but I was too scarred about having to give the new wok a good scrub afterwards and lose all my hard work seasoning it!).