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I purchased a pure iron wok on Amazon -

https://www.amazon.in/gp/product/B07YX683Y5/ref=ppx_yo_dt_b_asin_title_o07_s00?ie=UTF8&psc=1

When I try to season it (coat with oil and burn it), I cannot get that black shade to persist. I observe that when I try to wipe a fresh thin coat of oil the second time, a dark residue comes out and fresh metal is exposed.

What am I doing wrong? Should I ditch the pure iron wok and get a cast iron / carbon steel wok instead?

Edit 1 : Details on seasoning process as follows :-

  1. Wash fresh wok with hot soap water to remove factory oil
  2. Let it dry completely
  3. Coat the wok with thin layer of oil and heat it on medium flame till colour changes to bluish-brownish
  4. Heat the entire wok
  5. Dab a fresh thin layer of oil and repeat the above process

When i apply a fresh layer with a cloth/paper , i see the brownish coating get deposited on the cloth/paper and if i apply little more force , the fresh metal is exposed.

Edit 2: I cranked up the heat to high flame and now i can see the black coating. But i do observe that the coating flakes off in tiny bits in the process.

  • Hi, and welcome to SA! Have a look at the tour and help center when you get a chance. Could you give a little more information on your seasoning process? – LSchoon Jul 3 at 18:52
  • Hi LSchoon check out my edited answer – Jcoder Jul 4 at 9:02
  • @Jcoder Not sure, but it sounds like your stove was not hot enough in your first attempt (or you didn't heat your pan long enough) and too hot in your second attempt. In the second try it sounds like you did not only polymerize the oil (= letting the oil go "rancid" quicky by heat such that if forms a hard layer and seasons the wok) but also burning it (= turns to carbon thus flakes off). – Ching Chong Jul 4 at 11:01
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    I was going to close this as a duplicate because we get questions of this type all the time, and they tend to get the same kind of answer (which is, sadly, usually a flat statement that something went wrong, followed by the poster's favorite method of seasoning). So I decided to write an answer explaining that yes, this is expected, and pointers what to look for while learning how to season. We can later use this question as the canonical one to close the other ones. Other people are welcome to add their answers too, but please don't just post for seasoning or stripping, these are dupes. – rumtscho Jul 4 at 12:37
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You cannot season it because you are not yet adept at seasoning. This is pretty normal, I also needed many, many attempts of seasoning pans and also many times of cooking with a badly seasoned pan and observing how it changes while cooking different foods to learn how seasoning should work. It is not impossible that it works from the first time following a description, but that is just luck.

Here are pointers to how you "read" the symptoms of wrong seasoning.

  • Underpolymerized. if it is too light, and/or too thick, and/or somewhat sticky, your seasoning is underpolymerized. Possible solutions can be the use of more heat (either higher temperature or a longer time, or both), applying thinner layers of fat, or using a fat which creates a better, less gummy finish - these tend to be saturated fats with low iodine numbers.
  • Burned. if it is too dark, and possibly comes off in thin flakes reminiscent of the ash of burned paper, then it is burned. Next time, use less heat.
  • Newly seasoned pan sticks a bit too much. If the coating looks good and does not feel gummy when cold, but your food sticks more than it should, then you may be trying to do difficult foods too early. Seasoning gets better with use, the process you followed is just an initial "nudge" in the right direction. So at first, use foods and techniques which don't have too much chance of sticking. Make sure to use sufficient oil and proper temperature when frying, and avoid things that will stick a lot, like fish or sugar-glazed food, until the pan's seasoning has gotten really good with use. Try to frequently use it for foods which improve the seasoning, such as crepes.
  • Buildup of charcoal-like flat patches on the surface of the seasoning You are using an improper technique when frying starchy foods. Use sufficient oil and heat it to the right temperature. Maybe you also have a badly made recipe, consider using a different recipe.
  • You see patches or rust appearing. This can be a bit tricky for a novice to recognize, since the color of rust and the color of underpolymerized oil can be similar. But the rust is generally dry to the touch, while the polymer is sticky and will rather peel off than disperse as sandlike particles if you try to sand it away. If you get this, the reasons can be 1) the surface was not perfectly clean before applying the oil, 2) you introduced something in the seasoning process that shouldn't come close to bare iron, such as acid or salt, 3) you put your pan through the dishwasher, or 4) your seasoning was less good than you thought, and moisture or slightly acidic food found cracks to get to the iron.

If you want to improve the seasoning, in cases 2, 4 and 5 you have to strip the pan and redo the seasoning (in case 5, you also have to remove the rust). The first case, underpolymerization, might be worth a salvage attempt by applying more heat (as you tried), but there is no guarantee it will work, so if that fails, you again have to strip. For point 3, just restrict the types of food you use the pan for until it improves. With experience, you will start getting better results. The more attentively you observe the pan during seasoning and use, the more experience you get per time unit doing these things.

The process applies pretty much the same to different kinds of pans, woks and dutch ovens, no matter if they are cast iron, forged iron, or blue steel. The smooth ones are somewhat less forgiving of improper seasoning than are the thick rough cast iron ones, you see flaking earlier. But all work best with a well-done seasoning. So it is unlikely you will see improvement if you change the pan or wok. You just have to continue learning the skill of seasoning.

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If you can just wipe it off, the oil hasn't plasticized. Maybe try it in the oven and wait until the smoke and the smell completely stop.

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