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When I bake vegetables in my wok, I see small black specks appear on the vegetables. Does this mean that the fire is too high, or that my wok is not well enough prepared? How do I find out?

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Are you using a non-stick wok? –  ceejayoz Jul 21 '10 at 19:54
    
It is supposed to be a non-stick wok. I once cooked soda inside it because I read that you need to do that to prepare a wok, but that may have been a wrong action, not for non stick woks. The inside ( up to the level where the soda has been) looks darker than the top. –  Jan Jul 21 '10 at 20:35
    
Yeah, you don't want to prepare a non-stick wok. Chances are the burned-on soda is what's coming off. Worst case, some of the non-stick coating is flaking off too. –  ceejayoz Jul 21 '10 at 21:06

2 Answers 2

up vote 4 down vote accepted

This could be either just soot - but assuming you clean your wok well between uses, it might be that the anti-sticking layer is coming off. If it's the latter, replace the wok - this stuff is pretty toxic when ingested.

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Under normal circumstances, non-stick coating is non-toxic due to the same properties that make it non-stick. It's very non-reactive. However, it is possible to over heat the pan and cause the coating to break down. Over-heated PTFE by-products both lose their non-stick properties, and can cause flu-like symptoms in people. This can happen as low as 500F - not hard to do if you leave an empty wok on a element, but nearly all oils will start smoking before you get to that point. –  Eclipse Jul 21 '10 at 20:13
    
Of course, that means that if you have soot from burnt food in your non-stick pan, it's likely ruined. –  Eclipse Jul 21 '10 at 20:16
    
It is supposed to be a non-stick wok. I once cooked soda inside it because I read that you need to do that to prepare a wok, but that may have been a wrong action, not for non stick woks. The inside ( up to the level where the soda has been) looks darker than the top. –  Jan Jul 21 '10 at 20:26
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@Jan: I'd get rid of that non-stick wok ASAP and get a good carbon-steel wok (and season it properly so it's essentially non-stick anyway). Stir-frying is generally done at way too high a temperature to be safe for conventional non-stick (i.e. Teflon) coating. If you're seeing black specks, that sounds very likely to be the coating coming off! –  Aaronut Jul 21 '10 at 21:04

Non stick is a bad choice for a stove top wok as the temperatures produced can exceed the acceptable temperature range of the coating; if you have one of the electric plug in woks, they don't get hot enough to do a good job. In either case, get a steel wok, you can see if it's clean, and sand it or steel wool it or use abrasives on it if it gets messed up and you can get it red hot without damage.

Really really cheap ones work just as good as the expensive ones, just make sure they come with a burner ring.

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