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Jul 13, 2012 08:08 PM

re-seasoning wok -> just reseason the bits or scrub and redo whole wok?

I think I see a few spots on the cast iron wok where seasoning has come off. They are kind of brown, rest of wok is black. This is a wok I bought last month, seasoned, and have been using about 3-4 days a week since.

Question is: to re-season it, do I have to scrub the whole thing off, back to grey, in order to season up (dear god pls say no), or can i just season the bits where seasoning has come off?


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  1. When you move your finger across the "bare" or "naked" spots, do you feel any noticeable height difference? If not (and mostly not), the continue to season. I don't season "just" the bits. I would just heat the wok with some oil, swirl around, and call it ok. In other words, most likely, you don't need a full blown seasoning.

    Free feel to attach a photo.

    2 Replies
    1. re: Chemicalkinetics

      no, no noticeable difference in height.

      ok gotcha.

      i think i'm gonna do a reseason of whole surface without scrubbing clean (i.e. scrubbing everything right off) some time in the next few days. but i have pork lard, so i will use that.

      1. re: timpani_mimi

        I have not read the others replies. Anyway, yes, just season it once more without stripping the current seasoned surface.

    2. Without pictures, it's hard to know what really needs to be done. What do you really mean by the seasoning has come off?

      High heat cooking some meat would probably "fix" your problem.

      1. heres a closeup of the bits i think are losing their seasoning. they are just next to the flashspot. if i use my nail and rub on them, they get bigger - thats why i think they are bits with seasoning coming off. i'm not sure though..

        17 Replies
        1. re: timpani_mimi

          My wok had a similar issue, but it is carbon steel, not cast-iron.

          In any event, I didn't scrub it, but just seasoned it again on the range (which I continue to do ever 3 or 4 times I use it). It has never filled in completely, but it is seasoned enough that it doesn't stick there.

          The best way to season a wok is to take it to a chinese restaurant and ask them to do it -- you'd be amazed how much better 150,000 BTU can season a wok than a 5,000 BTU home range.

          1. re: brokentelephone

            hrm. ok - thanks.

            your suggestion to season a wok at a chinese restaurant is ideal, and i agree of course. but i don't know if i have the balls to bring my (i suppose half-seasoned) wok to a chinese restaurant, maybe i'll try to cultivate a relationship with one close by to my home, and see what happens in the future if i need to reseason the wok again.

          2. re: timpani_mimi

            It looks like you aren't getting the pan hot enough when you season. The seasoning should adhere to your WOK but, yours obviously isn't. Your seasoning should be much darker and consistent and hard to scrap off with a metal spatula using pretty aggressive force.

            How are you cooking with it and seasoning? Are you using a stove top? A high BTU turkey fryer or oven (assuming no wooden handle) may be your answer. Don't be gentle with the heat, though don't heat stress shock it either (slower even heating to >500 degrees for cast iron should do the trick).

            Seasoning a wok on a conventional electric cooktop is very difficult for almost everyone. If that is your only option, apply thin coats of canola oil and open the windows and disable the smoke alarm! ;-) Tilt the WOK sides directly into the high heat and "burn/blacken" the canola oil several times and you should have a very smooth very hard black surface.

            1. re: Sid Post

              What do you mean by "It looks like you aren't getting the pan hot enough when you season?"The wok isn;t meant to be seasoned all the time unless the seasoning comes off. Its meant to be seasoned once, well, and then used. Do you mean to say that I didn't get the pan hot enough when it was first seasoned? I don't think this is the case because the work was beautifully darkened and has been used quite a number of times without any problems since, and I've had no problems with the non-stick aspect of things. I still actually dont. Nothing sticks - eggs, rice, etc. I cook with one or two table spoonfuls of oil. I saw a youtube video of a guy cooking scrambled eggs to prove that cast iron woks can be non-stick. Yeah - just like that. When it was seasoned, the wok was heated very hot, and I used pork lard- the wok was heated and tilted all the way around, it turned from grey to dark copper to black, then it was brushed with lard, cooled completely , and done again - altogether three times. Then the pork and chives were fried in it. It was tedious, and it smelled.

              I don't use an electric cooktop, that is the flat kind that runs on electricity, right? I use gas, and I don't t know how much BTU it is, or what a turkey fryer is. However it is wok ready because the burner itself came with a wok stand. It is hot.

              My question was actually I can just do this again and pay special attention to the bits that look like seasoning came off, or whether I must scrub ALL the seasoning/coating off the wohle wok, and then season again. To add to this, doing the latter would mean redoing the whole pork and chives thing (or pork lard and onions, or whatever variation of the many ways already recommended on youtube, blogs, etc) several times (three times or more). WHereas what I am asking is - since i think only a few bits of areas have seasoning wearing off, can I just season from this point on , i.e. without scrubbing all the seasoning off.

              1. re: timpani_mimi

                The pans I have seen with a similar appearance to yours were improperly seasoned. Those pans didn't get enough heat all over to really "set" and "lock in" the seasoning.

                No, you do not need to start all over. Put a very thin layer of pork lard all over the WOK and then get it screaming hot on your gas burner. It should go from light to dark brown and then turn dark black. It should be very hard to chip or scrap the black seasoning off.

                Do you know how hot you cook with the WOK? Again, based on other experiences with pan of similar appearance I'm guessing you are cooking or frying at ~350 degrees Fahrenheit. I would aim for 450~500 to really season your WOK. Watch some of the youtube videos on seasoning a WOK at a Chinese restaurant. The ones I remember were brand new WOKs that went from a shiny surface to dull grey to black.

                Next time I buy a steel WOK, I'm going to see if I can "tip" a Chinese cook to season it for me if my Turkey fryer isnt handy. My turkey fryer is a propane powered burner of 60,000 BTU's. It isn't as powerful as a Chinese Restaurant burner but, it is a lot more powerful then even the best home gas burners.

                1. re: Sid Post

                  apologise if this is a repeat post, but i reloaded and don't see my reply to this.

                  i will be re-seasoning later this week.

                  i have already watched quite a few vids about seasoning woks before doing it, and also read several articles. The wok was seasoned and turned the same colours as the articles have described. Grey - dark brown - black (completely).

                  i understand the suggestion that the wok was not seasoned properly and that is why seasoning is coming off. however, do note that a wok is a "living" thing in some sense and many advisories state to reason if season comes off, i believe that does happen.

                  so i have another question: what about the point that by looking at this closeup picture of a suspected spot where seasoning is coming off, the guess is that cooking in this wok is done at a heat that is 350 deg fahrenheight? That is onlya bout 170deg celsius. What does cooking or not cooking at very high heat have to do with seasoning coming off? a wok is not just used for high-temp frying, it is used for several other types of dishes. Wok hei is not achieved by heating up your wok to very high heat and cooking foods for long periods or time; with high heat, you cook fast to impart sear and flavour to the food. To cook with high temp without deep frying would not be the same action as seasoning the wok (high heat till very hot , rub oil all over into the whole surface, cool and repeat).

                  Furthermore, how can i "aim for 450~500 to really season my wok"? is there some kind of practical test to determine the temperature of the wok? I only have a meat thermometer that i think goes up to about 200 deg celsius, and i'm not sure if i should use it to test the temp of the wok becz i myself believe the temp is higher. how does anyone check the temperature of their wok when seasoning exactly? anyway - how is this important? I checked the stove as well and can't find what the BTU is. there is no manual either. the standard test for whether your wok is hot enough is to use the water bounce test and that works for me when cooking. the "cold oil" when poured in sizzles within 5 seconds. anyway i don't think any of this part about how hot the wok is when cooking is relevant to seasoning coming off, so please enlighten if possible.

                  1. re: timpani_mimi

                    Most cooking is not done at the extremely high temperatures a WOK is typically seasoned at. My limited WOK seasoning is done at much higher temperatures then I normally cook with.

                    When cooking on a fire or most home use propane/butane/natural gas burners are going to cook around 350F/175C which will help build the coating slowly over time (i.e. repair spatula scraps). Sure temperatures can be run higher but, in most parts of the world where things are fried, boiled, steamed, etc. with a WOK is not at the very high temperatures (>260C/500F) in a commercial kitchen for WOK HEI

                    High temperatures (>250C) give you the coating you want in 10~15 minutes versus weeks or months of normal cooking. My ancestors built the wonderful seasoning of their cast iron skillets over decades. I want to use my WOK, DeBuyer raw iron, Lodge cast iron, etc. today, not in my retirement years or decades from now so I'm in a hurry and use the fast high heat methods.

                    My ~70 year old mother has finally given up on cheap aluminum teflon skillets and surprised me by following my advice and bought a DeBuyer Mineral "fry pan". Her seasoning experience has been similar to yours. In our last phone call, I gave her the same advice I'm giving you, though see is using an oven to get the heat consistently high enough.

                    First don't use your meat thermometer. It just won't work correctly for many reasons.

                    ""cold oil" when poured in sizzles within 5 seconds."
                    If it really takes 5 seconds for your room temperature oil to sizzle you are definitely not hot enough in my opinion. I want canola oil to start smoking very quickly and sizzle almost immediately. I don't want the pop and splatter (hazardous) of cold oil in a hot pan but, it should start to sizzle almost immediately.

                    To avoid the splatter problem, an oven works very well. Coat the WOK (crepe pan, skillet, etc.) with a thin layer of oil or fat and put it into a pre-heated oven at 260C/500F (exact temperature is not critical, what matters is the proper temperature range 240~280C). Chinese restaurants that season WOKs are essentially doing this with their HIGH BTU burners as they move the WOK around in the "heart" of the flame.

                    Peanut oil, pork fat, etc. all have different smoke points so, keep that in mind when you look for 'instant' smoke from cold oil.

                    In terms of WOK HEI, you are essentially searing the surface of vegetables, rice, meats, etc. like you would a steak or piece of chicken in a skillet or on a grill. This like frying works to maintain your WOK seasoning. The difference is that this is a slow "maintenance" process for a seasoned WOK. It will work eventually for seasoning a WOK but, most people want the seasoned WOK QUICKLY which means we accelerate the process with an oven or high BTU burner where we put years of seasoning on in ~15 minutes.

                    1. re: Sid Post

                      your reply is confusing me a bit. wok hei refers to the flavour achieved while cooking. seasoning is to give a non-stick coating for cooking - two different things. although i suppose i myself believe there is a correlation between them. but they are not the same thing. wok hei depends on heat, and skill of the chef. not on the seasoning. i dont know if i made my point clearly but the point i wanted to make was that just becz some seasoning came off doesn't mean that it wasn't seasoned at high enough heat. seasoning does come off sometimes. The other point i was trying to make is that i don't understand how looking at a patch where seasoning came off could help anyone tell what temperature the person cooked at.

                      about the oil sizzling point, i don't think i said i was using canola oil. i use peanut oil to cook (and pork lard to season, not to cook) which is a good 100 degree s F higher in smoking point then canola oil. sometimes i use something generic called ""vegetable oil" and that sizzles faster. also, i do not at all look for ïnstant"' smoke from cold oil, nor should anyone. once your oil smokes you are very close to burning it and will have to turn the flame down if you actually want to cook anything anyway. and btw i hope it is clear that i am not literally talking about cold oil - i am referring to the hot wok cold oil idiom. the oil sizzle is just a noise showing the oil is ready for use - from dripping oil in, then putting the bottle down and reaching the first ingredient to drop in the wok (ginger, spring onions, etc), and pick up the the spatula to start stir-frying, for me 5 seconds is corrrect. if the oil sizzles straightaway upon contact, it is too hot and you can adjust down fast enough and will burn the garlic or ginger the moment they are dropped in. this is not the way to cook anything. in any case, i am not sure what this point is about. if not hot enough, then i can just heat the wok for longer before putting the oil in and the oil will sizzle faster because the wok will be hotter when the oil hits. i just did a test to check the exact timing and realized that it was about 3-4 seconds. i'm not sure if you are trying again to say that my stove is not capable of getting the wok hot enough. it definitely is hot enough for cooking correctly .

                      I have completed the reseason already, on the stove. i became very intrigued by this talk of temperature and decided that i just wanted to see for myself - and to risk using the thermometer i had - i know that it has a max of 200+ celsius, but i couldn't find the packaging the therm came in to confirm how high exactly, so i just risked it. to see how hot the wok would become, we put the tip of the thermometer consistently to the top inside edge of the wok when tilting the wok, i.e. away from the hottest part of the wok touching the flame. we watched the temp climb to 250 deg c and stopped measuring after that. smoke was swirling out of the pan like a geyser. so i believe that is about 480 deg F (and it went higher, i just stopped checking at that point). when cooling, i compared the temp on the inside center of the wok vs the top edge and noted a difference of about 10-12 degrees Celsius.

                      spots are gone, wok is nice black colour with some bronze areas around top edge, i left them in there and didn't tilt all the way, because i like the graduation in colour and because i don't really need strong non-stick around the edges of the wok. however its dark now and i want to see it in natural light tomorrow to double check it. so i hope i can post a pic tomorrow. and comments are welcome.

                      i think the first pic i posted gave the wrong impression, the wok is black in general, with a few spots. i see a pic of a "well-seasoned wok" (that is their description) at (the text of this article is and i feel my wok looked better than that, and looks better than that now.

                      thank you very much to everyone who commented on this post.

                      1. re: timpani_mimi

                        Sorry if I confused you. Seasoning versus cooking are different.

                        It sounds like you found what I was trying to say though. You got the WOK really hot and used peanut oil and got a nice dark seasoning. Peanut oil is hard for me to find in small quantities so, I use canola oil with a lower smoke point for most things.

                        Now that you have a great starting point, your WOK seasoning should last a lifetime. You may loose some of it cooking certain things but, you will build it back when you cook proteins at high temperature to give them the "kiss of the WOK".

                        1. re: timpani_mimi


                          So busy these days that I don't have time to read through messages especially the long one. I have not had the time to read through all your exchanges with Sid Post, but I just want to say that you are in good hand.

                          If he has say it, then I will say it. Try to do high temperature wok seasoning on a stove. Do not worry about lower temperature the oven method (I remember you asked about it).

                          1. re: Chemicalkinetics

                            Hey Chem!

                            I think there was a little bit of an English communication confusion. timpani_mimi seasoned again with real high heat and peanut oil if I read things correctly and seems to have this issue solved. No Chinese restaurant needed!

                            It seems to be dark now in that part of the world so, we will have to wait for Sunrise tomorrow in their part of the world for updated pictures.

                              1. re: timpani_mimi

                                Very nice. Now, test it and see how it works. :)

                                1. re: timpani_mimi

                                  It looks great! You really did a great job this time around.

                                  Be sure to post a follow up after you cook with it a few times!

                                  1. re: Sid Post

                                    Sid Post, you did a great job walking through the process with timpani, and trouble shooting on a step to step manner.

                    2. re: timpani_mimi

                      just a correction: bits don't come off if i use my nail and rub on them. i just thought they were, but i measured, and used my nail, and they are the same size. its just my imagination i think. i tried using a coconut bristle brush also, but they aren't getting bigger. a couple of days ago when i was steaming a fish, the plate i was using to prop up the steam plate had a sharp edge that dug into the wok, i think thats what kind of scraped off those bits of seasoning.

                    3. If you're so inclined, you might want to try deep-fryingt food in it a few times, and just wipe with a paper towel in between deep-fry sessions. I wouldn't worry about starting from scratch unless it becomes obvious that reseasoning it isn't working.

                      1 Reply
                      1. re: EWSflash

                        hrm. ok - thanks. so the deep frying action will kind of burn some of that oil back into the pan, is that correct? i'll try this if the reseason isn't satisfactory.