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Mar 14, 2013 01:01 PM

What wok did I buy?

I bought a wok from a nearby Chinese market last weekend. I was looking for a carbon steel wok and kept an eye out for what I have seen online. But I didn't see the usual carbon steel wok at the market--light steel in color. Instead the wok I bought is black and shiny. It has long and short handles (wood) and was made in Taiwan. It did not come with any instructions for care or even a label.

The black and shiny surface (inside and out) is really slick. Did I buy a non-stick wok? Or a preseasoned one? I tried cleaning it per the carbon steel wok instructions that I found online. But it doesn't seem like the shiny slick surface is the lacquer used on carbon steel woks. I heated water in it and scrubbed, and nothing happened except I scratched up the surface. But the shiny slick surface remained. It doesn't seem like this is an issue of lacquer.

I continued with the process to see how it would react. I heated the wok and applied oil to it, but the oil didn't take. Nor was there any color on the paper towel that I used. That's when I thought--do I have a nonstick wok? There were plenty of nonstick woks at the market and I have owned one--this one doesn't LOOK like one. But the surface sure is nonstick.

Did I unknowingly buy a non-stick or preseasoned wok? If the latter, any advice on how I should treat it?

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  1. Hi tdonline,

    I cannot deduce what you have based on your description. Your best course of action is to ask the people who sold you the wok, or to talk to a neighbor who knows this. I can differentiate these woks in person, but I cannot do so based on a few words description. Your second best option is to post a photo. I can take a look of the photo and "guess" based on the construction and style.

    P.S.: If you wok looks like this, then most likely it is NOT nonstick.

    6 Replies
    1. re: Chemicalkinetics

      It looks like the wok in this link:

      Target describes their wok as carbon steel with non-stick...I don't know about mine, but I'm worried as when I tried to season it, the oil didn't take.

      1. re: tdonline

        If it is this shape, then I will give it a 80:20 chance between nonstick coating vs bare surface. 80% chance that it has Teflon coating. I have seen woks of this shape has preseasoned surface or blued surface, but that is rare.

        Once you have seen enough, then you can tell, but some of these methods are difficult to tell you through internet. For example, Teflon coating is softer compared to preseasoned coating. So you can actually "feel" the coating by your fingernail. Yet, this only makes sense if you already know what to look for. Another method is to use heat. If you heat up the wok, the preseasoning surface will get turn into vapor and get thinner and thinner, but it will reveal is pattern of rings... whereas Teflon coating will melt and curl up....etc.

        1. re: Chemicalkinetics

          Thanks for the tips. I guess, I'll just have to experiment in order to find out. As in my original post, the surface is slick and shiny but it doesn't look like teflon. So why isn't so non-sticky-feeling....I don't know.

          My wok does have rings on the sides going up. They are faint and thin, but they are. If you zoom the photo I linked, you can see the rings there too.

          1. re: tdonline

            <They are faint and thin, but they are. If you zoom the photo I linked, you can see the rings there too.>

            Yeah, I have seen those rings. Those rings alone does not really prove the coating one way or the other though.

            Oh yes, there is one more test you can do. If you put vinegar into the wok and heat it up, then you can tell. Vinegar will eat through preseasoned layer or blued layer, but it don't do anything to nonstick Teflon coating.

            1. re: Chemicalkinetics

              Yep, it's Teflon.

              Boy, do I feel dopey. Not only do I not have a carbon steel wok, I now have a scratched up nonstick wok.

              Lesson learned. Thanks to everyone for your replies.

              1. re: tdonline

                There is still a chance that it is carbon steel. If it is lacquered, then it can withstand. Anyway, at this point, I think you are better off just forget about this wok and get a new one. Of course, make sure the next one is a real carbon steel. As for this wok, you can always use it as some kind of a vessels.

                You can use it to steam food.



                You can use it for decoration.


                You can use it for whatever.

                Good luck.

      1. re: GH1618

        Yeah, something of that shape is more likely to be nonstick.

        1. re: GH1618

          I can't tell as there's a lid in the photo. I have owned nonstick woks for years so I know what they look like--usually. Maybe non-stick woks look different in Taiwan?

          I trashed my NS wok as the surface was getting pretty scuffed up. I wanted to get away from non-stick cookware thus the shopping for a carbon steel wok. I can't figure what I bought though!

        2. Sounds like a non-stick wok. Please STOP trying to season it. You'll either ruin the coating - such as it is - or send unhealthy fumes into the air. (Hope you don't have any pet birds. . . .)

          1. I have a wok a friend bought me awhile ago
            -it is 14" and looks exactly like this picture-what kind is it and does it need to be seasoned?

            I have checked online and can't get much info.

            -I think it is called a pow wok or Beijing wok

            thanks !

            6 Replies
            1. re: madeliner

              If it looks like the attached photo, then it is almost certain to be a carbon steel wok. If it is black like the photo, then it has either been preseasoned or blued. Either way, it means you need to season it, but with a much less intense seasoning process.

              I would just heat up the wok on stovetop, pour it some oil, swirl around, and that should be ok.

              Yes, it is a pow wok also known as Beijing wok or Northern wok.

              Good luck.

              1. re: Chemicalkinetics

                Thanks for the reply, so glad it isn't a nonstick or something like similar. yes it has that shiny black coating like the picture-the coating is almost similar to lacquer - there are scratches here and there on it too, almost looks like paint so wanted to be sure before using it...

                will season it the way you described


                1. re: madeliner

                  There is always a chance that it is nonstick, but it is rare for this style of wok. This style of wok is professional design (or traditional), so they don't tend to be Teflon nonstick.

              2. re: madeliner

                I have purchased a wok similar to the above - I bought it at the Asian grocery as it was the only wok that looked like a "Wok" to me - it was also the only one of its kind and it was unlabeled except for "Taiwan" It came with no instructions or descriptions.

                The smooth black coating scratched easily but has proved difficult to remove in full

                I have made considerable effort to remove it but there is some stubborn residue

                is this stuff the Lacquer I have read so much about here on CH? The store had other woks that were silver-ish steel with a clear coating and others with a thick black textured coating this leaves me confused.

                I grow weary of scrubbing with steel wood - apparently this stuff is neither oil or water soluble - it is evil

                As cleaned it is revealed that most of the wok has a very slight texture of concentric rings except the very bottom which is smooth and darker than the rest

                some of the black stuff is still visible in the crevices of these rings do I need to get it super clean or was it a "seasoning" that can stay

                is there something that this stuff is soluble to? I hesitate to blast my wok with carbon-off or oven cleaner if I don't have to.

                1. re: JTPhilly

                  Acetone will dissolve lacquer.

                  If you're SURE it's not Teflon, you can burn it off, too, self-cleaning oven style. Doors and windows open, hood running at max.

                  If you're unsure whether it's Teflon, DO NOT do this--PTFE combustion products are VERY toxic.

                  1. re: kaleokahu

                    Yes, it is definitely not Teflon. the whole wok inside and out was coated in the same paint-like substance

                    it is similar to what you would see on "pre-seasoned" CI skillet if memory serves

                    unfortunately I do not have a self cleaning oven

                    I can try to wipe with acetone and see if it will dissolve the remainders. It is mostly gone.

                    I am so used to cleaning and reconditioning vintage skillets and consider it part of the fun but with a brand new pan its just annoying.

                    Its a cool looking wok though with the welded hollow metal handle - it feels official LOl all the other woks looked like toy woks.

              3. carbon off would not budge the stuff, either would acetone just elbow grease with steel wool and BKF and boiling it with baking soda

                Here is the pan as clean as I can get it - now time to season - I do wish I knew what that horrible stuff actually was

                I am under the impression that the whole wok is carbon steel but you can see the bottom plate is dark and machined differently - is there a name for this "part' of the wok

                just from cleaning it and boiling water in it I am excited to get this thing seasoned and start cooking - it is so very different than all my western skillets.