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I just seasoned my wok for the first (three) times with vegetable oil. I noticed that the wok smokes a lot (as expected). What I find troubling is that the patina looks like it's blackened and burned.

To say that a different way, it seems like patina is essentially highly-heated, burned oil. Is that really what it's supposed to be? Am I supposed to "cook" it until it burns, or should I be stopping at some point prior to blackening?

(The wok is carbon steel, although I don't think that matters)

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As long as the surface isn't rough (i.e. with burned-on bits of food) then yes, the patina should be a dark brown or black.

That's more-or-less what a patina is; it's essentially tarnish, the result of cumulative oxidation, which normally happens to some metals anyway but is accelerated by the rapid oxidation of oils via high heat.

If you end up with a slick, evenly-distributed black layer, then you've seasoned it perfectly. If it's streaky or splotchy then you need to start over by scouring it down.

(P.S. Carbon steel is different from, for example, cast iron, because the latter is porous and you'll never see that perfect black, just a noticeable darkening.)

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Is it true here that, just like cast iron, bumpy/lumpy seasoning leads to cracking and uneven heating? – ashes999 Feb 10 '13 at 20:05
@ashes999: You mean uneven seasoning in a carbon-steel wok, as opposed to cast iron? It means that the wok isn't seasoned properly, which means food will stick to it. I've never seen "bumpy/lumpy" seasoning on cast iron, but cast iron cooks unevenly to begin with, so it doesn't make much difference there. – Aaronut Feb 10 '13 at 21:49

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