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May 28, 2012 05:12 PM

Did I ruin my wok trying to season it?

A while back I got a carbon steel wok and tried to follow the seasoning directions from Grace Young's The Breath of a Wok. I believe it entailed filming with oil, heating, washing oil off, repeat. After a couple passes I got this:

The heat has discolored the wok at the bottom, and there are lots of little orange spots around the sides that are from oil or oxidization/rust, I can't tell. They don't scrub off with steel wool. What did I do?

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  1. I see nothing wrong with the wok. It is in the early stages of seasoning, eventually it will fill in the gaps and get darker all over. Seasoning works its way from yellow to orange to brown to black.

    1. I looks fine.
      If you treat it right, it will eventually turn almost black on the inside.
      The outside isn't important.
      After 40 years of use, mine is black as night on the inside and a mess on the outside.
      And it's still my favorite and most important pan in the house.

      1. Breathe easy - your wok is just fine!!! I also have a carbon-steel wok. That I've had since 1974. And it started out looking just like yours. Don't worry about little rust spots that appear - just scrub them off. Over the years they may pop up once in awhile. No worries.

        Just start cooking in your wok & enjoying it. And kudos to you for getting a carbon-steel wok instead of one of these new non-stick modern things that frankly aren't woks at all - just round non-stick pans.

        1. First, it is very difficult to ruin a wok. You may ruin the seasoning, but it is very tough to ruin a wok beyond repair.

          Second, the wok looks fine from you photo. I couldn't tell there are little orange spots around the wok, but I take your words for it. These orange spots are most likely to be rust spots. Try to remove them whenever you see them. Once a wok is fully seasoned, then you will not ever see these rust spots. A gentle way to remove the rust spots is to use a paper towel, a bit of oil and scrub the rust spots until they are gone. The paper towel should be aggressive enough to take off minor rust spots, while preserving the rest of the seasoning surface. If the paper towel method is not working, then maybe you will need something more aggressive like steel wool or green scrotch pad:

          <They don't scrub off with steel wool>

          They should. If not, then try a bit of acids like white vinegar or Bar Keeper's Friend. They help to loosen the rust.

          1. It looks just the way it's supposed to. With time, the coating will gradually build up and darken both on the inside and outside of the wok, but it starts off very light. No wok in the universe ever started out black, but all well-loved/used ones end up that way.