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Old 07-22-2005, 05:51 PM   #1
Assistant Cook
Join Date: Jul 2005
Location: Northern Ireland
Posts: 3
Wok problems

Hello all. I've never visited a cookery forum before, but problems with old and new woks are starting to drive me up the wall (though hopefully my membership here will mean more than a few free answers ;)).

First of all: old woks. I have a non-stick 'Ken Hom' wok, but at this point in time it's got a permanent black crust on the bottom. There's also a large stainless steel wok which is kind of the 'family' wok. Sticks a little, but generally cleans up well.

New wok: a replacement, bought from an asian supermarket (The Asia supermarket, in Belfast) a couple of days ago to replace the non-stick. It's not a brand-name wok, and all I know from the shelf label is that it's 13" and flat-bottomed. It's steel. Carbon steel? I don't know. That's a new term to me.

This is the first wok I've decided to treat right. After reading up a couple of books, I seasoned it (and the stainless steel wok) with sunflower oil and a little salt.
First problem: due to the weight of the handle, it doesn't sit flat on the stove. This caused a patch of burnt black discoloration at the heavier side. Should this have happened? Is it much of a problem?
Second problem: after letting it cool, one book said to wipe it clean before heating again. The thing is, the burnt oil at the bottom was quite sticky. This happened with the stainless steel wok too. As well as making it hard to wipe, would this cause any problems?

I did that a couple more times (leaving out the salt), and everything seemed okay. Then I tried cooking with it.
Third problem: One chicken chow mein later, it had a layer of burnt food on the bottom, similar to what I would have got with the stainless steel wok. Everything I've read about woks mentions that they should be given a simple wipe clean; but I can tell you that it took a lot more than a quick wipe to shift that mess.

A long soak and a scouring pad eventually helped (although I know that's not the ideal method). I figured I'd just start over with the seasoning and hope it worked a second time, but then I saw that the wok had started to rust in places. More scrubbing. A rinse, then a thorough drying.

Fourth problem: maybe I'm going mad, but it seemed like a yellow patina (rust?) had appeared between scrubbing and drying. More scrubbing, and I saw the puddle of water in the bottom turn slightly orange. Dried again. Same yellow tinge.
I tried it again a couple of times, finally giving up and coating it with oil before setting it to one side. Then I came online.

I'm convinced I'm doing something wrong, or misinterpreting something. Or can the wok actually rust that quickly?
I've read the carbon steel wok topic a couple of pages back, so I'm geared up to try seasoning again; but for the rest, I need help!


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Old 07-22-2005, 07:39 PM   #2
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OK, first, you can't season Stainless steel.
Second, yes the yellow patina is rust. Scrub it off and start over.
I seasoned my wok by taking the wooden handle off so I would not fight the weight. then I seasoned it as instructed. Do not allow the oil to pool at the bottom, that is why it built up in to a sticky patch.

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Old 07-22-2005, 10:08 PM   #3
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Location: Massachusetts
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Start with a shiny clean wok. After cleaning and washing, dry it on a burner. Coat it with oil ALL OVER. Cover every inch of the metal with oil to prevent rusting.

Then place it on the burner to season it. Let it get good and hot on a med-low flame and leave it on for a while.

The point of seaoning is to carbonize the oil and "bake" it into the surface. A successful wok seasoning will eventually lead to a hard black carbon layer on the metal. This is what keeps the metal from rusting. Wipe the wok with a light coating of oil before storage.

When you cook with the wok, trasnfer the cooked food to a platter and put water into the sizzling hot wok. This will cause all the food buts to release. I use a teflon safe scrub sponge to clear off all the remaining food bits (no soap) and dry the wok on a burner to prevent rust. Coat it with a light coat of oil every time before you put it away.

The coating will grow and spread as you use it. you can see the black coating grow as you cook.

Try using Asian peanut oil. It has a great flavor and a very high smoke point.

When you cook, get the wok really hot, THEN add the oil and let that get hot too (just starting to smoke). Then add the food and stri-fry. This sequence will help keep the food from sticking.
"If you want to make an apple pie from scratch, you must first create the universe." -Carl Sagan
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Old 07-23-2005, 05:53 AM   #4
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Join Date: Jul 2005
Location: Northern Ireland
Posts: 3
Originally Posted by SpiceUmUp
OK, first, you can't season Stainless steel.

Thanks for the advice! I'll try it out ASAP.
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