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I've been using my wok for about a year now, and recently it's developed a kind of patina around the bottom of the cooking surface.

Messy looking wok

I've tried to follow the care instructions as best I can, taking care to wipe it down after use, and only scrubbing it with cleaning fluid when it gets really dirty. If I have to scrub it down I typically wipe some oil over it whilst heating very gently in order to "re coat" the wok. I don't know if this is typical wok care procedure, but I'm following the care guide that came with this particular wok.

The wok is made of cast iron, and is sold by Le Creusset, information here.

The patina has gradually become more noticeable over time, but it is not flaky, cannot be removed easily by scrubbing and/or washing up liquid. It doesn't impart any kind of negative flavour into the cooking, so it hasn't put me off using it.

Does anyone know what this is, and how best to remove it?

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I've seen people use bricks to clean their woks. Could try that –  elssar Feb 15 '13 at 17:06
    
A patina that "is not flaky, cannot be removed easily by scrubbing and/or washing up liquid. It doesn't impart any kind of negative flavour into the cooking" is just what you want! –  TFD Feb 15 '13 at 20:28
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3 Answers

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A patina is expected in this type of cookware. Even the Le Creuset web site discusses it at this link:

http://www.lecreuset.co.uk/Help-Advice/Care--Use/Care--Use-Cast-Iron-Satin-Black-Enamel/

Don't try to remove it. It's the sign of a seasoned pan and is helping, not hurting.

If you really feel the need to try to remove it, Le Creuset makes a cleaner for their enamel cookware you could try. We've used it on our pots and it works quite well.

http://www.crateandbarrel.com/le-creuset-enameled-cast-iron-cookware-cleaner/s242309

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I hadn't considered the possibility that the colouration was a good thing, but you're absolutely right; from your link: "Allow the brownish black patina to build over the cooking surface as this greatly enhances the cooking and release performance of foods from the surface." So I'll just be leaving it where it is. –  Andy F Feb 18 '13 at 9:05
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Some years back I cooked on a friend's Le Creusset but it had a teflon coating. Sure yours doesn't?

If it is bare metal then changes in color and carbon accumulation are normal especially in the area that receives highest heat.

Cleaning would be as per your wok/cast iron protocols -leave it hot and dry and lightly oiled- but looking new is not desirable.

So sorry, no advice how to remove marks but if you allow the wok to mature without aggressive scrubbing, it will eventually go nicely dark again (but never new looking)

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Its hard to tell from the picture, exactly what the surface of the wok is, and the website doesn't provide much help either. It seems that it is coated with something; Le Creusset seems to do enamel and teflon nonstick coatings. Both of these coatings are common and provide a nonstick effect, but neither work terribly well for high temperature stir-frying, which is traditionally done in an uncoated steel pan. If you are sure that it is a patina, on the surface, and that the surface is not being damaged, you should be fine to cook on it. Perhaps you could carefully use a scotch-brite pad to remove the residue, but I would only do this if the pan were enamel coated, and still very carefully. In fact, I would advise against trying to remove the residue, and instead remember to use a fairly liberal amount of oil, and to preheat the oil before adding food to the pan.

Traditional steel woks can, as mentioned, be cleaned with a harsh abrasive such as sand or a stone. I would not recommend treating your pan this way, however, unless you want to risk stripping the coating.

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