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I bought a wok at a Goodwill a little while ago and haven't really used it for much yet. I don't know how to determine what material it's actually made out of. I suspect it's just got a teflon coating on it, since it's fairly light and both the inner and outer sides of it appear to be different materials. I don't want to use it at high temperatures in case it's got a non-stick coating, so it's kind of important to figure out if it is. What would be good determining aspects of the different, most common wok materials?

Edited to add: The outer side of it is a dark, grooved, almost matte black, while the inner side is a slightly ligher shade, almost more grey. The reason I was first thinking it might be teflon is that there's a light scratch on the inner side where a much lighter, steely surface shows through.

Pictures: 1 2 3 4

edit to add: After getting a carbon steel wok, I can confirm that what I had here was definitely not anything like that. Comparing my old wok to ones in stores, it seems the one pictured here almost certainly has some kind of non-stick coating, and so isn't very good for a wok's high temperatures.

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can you post a picture? according to the description it does sound like it is nonstick but I would need a picture or a model number to know for sure. –  sarge_smith Oct 25 '11 at 12:33
    
I second the request for a picture. Is there a brand marking? You might have a good carbon steel wok on your hands, but without seeing more, I wouldn't say for sure. –  talon8 Oct 25 '11 at 14:48
    
Added some pictures finally. –  Doug Kavendek Nov 5 '11 at 3:17
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Looks kinda like teflon to me... –  talon8 Nov 6 '11 at 4:26
    
Pretty sure thats teflon. –  rfusca Nov 11 '11 at 15:44
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2 Answers 2

up vote 9 down vote accepted

Check the bottom of the pan; often useful information is stamped there. Like the brand, sometimes even model number. Assuming nothing useful:

Steel and iron are ferromagnetic. That is to say, a magnet will stick to them. Both are unlikely to be Teflon-coated (edit: though Wikipedia informs me they exist). The black (which is hopefully somewhat shiny) is seasoning (cooked on oil). Iron would probably mean cast iron, and would generally be heavy (my cast iron wok weighs in at well over 10lbs). So, if they magnet sticks, you probably have steel.

Some stainless steels are ferromagnetic, but most aren't. Stainless is also unlikely to Teflon-coated. But it'll probably be shiny, at least on the outside. So, if not magnetic, its probably aluminum. Aluminum is probably coated.

Teflon isn't the only coating that may be used. It could be anodized aluminum as well (which, I guess, may not technically be a coating). Or one of the newer nonstick coatings. They all look different: Teflon is very dark gray to black, anodized is light gray to dark gray. The newer ones unfortunately are numerous and some can be any color. (Your description of the color sounds like Teflon to me).

You could also try cooking a scrambled egg in it; start it in a cold pan. Teflon in at all good shape will release the egg very easily. Seasoning will, unless very good, probably have you cursing.

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I don't think I was able to find any identifying markings, but I'll look again when I try a magnet on it. It could just be selective blindness on my part. And the egg idea sounds great. –  Doug Kavendek Oct 26 '11 at 14:18
    
There's no marks on it at all, but the bottom is really scuffed up, so maybe there were once marks there. The handle has a slight "Taiwan" etched into it. Turns out magnets stick to it, and so do eggs -- tried frying one and it just bonded completely to the pan, had to soak it to get it out. –  Doug Kavendek Nov 11 '11 at 14:43
    
@DougKavendek: Sounds like carbon steel to me, then. But that picture sort of looks inbetween seasoning and teflon :-( ... and Wikipedia informs me that there are actually teflon-coated steel/iron woks :-( And that there is Xylan as well... –  derobert Nov 11 '11 at 15:20
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Woks are generally only useful at high temperature, and are generally made from thin plain steel

The inner coating should be the "seasoning" that is just oil baked on at high temperature. This accumulates from normal use. Any scratches can be repaired by wiping with cooking oil and heating to a high cooking temperature. This normally happens each time you use it to cook :-)

If the wok has a Teflon coating, it will be of no use for most Chinese dishes

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I wouldn't necessarily say that woks are only useful at high temperatures. I use my woks for steaming, braising, deep frying... all of which are done at much lower pan temps than a quick stir fry. I have also seen woks made out of every material (as a matter of fact my mom has most of them). –  talon8 Oct 25 '11 at 14:46
    
Woks are definitely made from Teflon-coated aluminum. I used to own one. I switched to cast iron. –  derobert Oct 25 '11 at 19:24
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