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Someone gave me a wok. It's black and I scraped through the black coating so the metal is showing. I assume a regular wok (without non-stick coating) wouldn't have a black coating that could be scraped through?

Also I intend to use this wok like a wok. That is, I won't be using it at lower heats that are acceptable for non-stick coatings. My understanding, based on the "2 second google search" is that while this will destroy the non-stick coating (assuming that's what I have?), it's not unhealthy.

So my 2 questions are: How can I know for sure if this has a non-stick coating? Even if it is, am I correct in assuming it won't be unsafe to cook at high heats?

Edit: Here are a couple pictures. The only stamping on the entire Wok is "CHINA".

Wok 1

Wok 2

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  • Can you include a picture or two? Both of the wok itself, and any stampings or labels on the wok that might be identifiers? This is a case where a picture is worth 1000 words of description
    – AMtwo
    Commented Feb 26, 2022 at 13:49
  • @AMtwo Sure, see my edit. Unfortunately no stampings other than CHINA.
    – BVernon
    Commented Feb 26, 2022 at 18:41
  • “lower heats that are acceptable for non-stick coatings”: I've often heard that non-stick woks can't handle high temperatures — but mine is often heated almost to the point where ground nut oil starts to smoke, and after a year's use it's still as non-stick as ever. So either the oils I've tried aren't as refined as they seem, or the people saying that like using smoking oil… or some non-stick woks can handle high temperatures!
    – gidds
    Commented Feb 26, 2022 at 23:14
  • seasoned/blackened steel pans are easily distinguished from non-stick in two ways: 1. the black of seasoning is not the same patina as non-stick, 2. the rivets would not be so obviously silver while the pan is black. (ie. a seasoned pan isnt a uniform black-grey but is black with browns and possibly blues (from heat), and the rivets would be discoloured black-brown). the last tell-tale sign is that the base of seasoned metal pans wont be entirely the same uniform black-grey as the interior.
    – Mr Shane
    Commented Feb 27, 2022 at 21:23

2 Answers 2

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It looks like non-stick to me, judging by the way the damage looks around the edges of the scraped parts…

enter image description here

You can't season non-stick & this 'smooth' type of non-stick tends to be the 'old fashioned teflon' type, which will not be good at high temperatures.
There are modern non-stick coatings which do work at wok temperatures [& the woks are not actually particularly expensive, $£€ 25-35ish depending on size. I have one at home.]

You could test it empirically, but you'd need to do it outdoors over a grill/barbecue or indoors with good ventilation. ['Teflon' is not good to breathe.]
Subject it to one or more heat cycles as though you were going to high temperature cook or season it. This is far too hot for 'teflon' to survive, hence the ventilation - this is a 'kill or cure' method.
Rub it round with a thin layer of oil for seasoning each cycle & see how it looks after several layers.
Then once cold, leave it to soak for a couple of hours in water & see what happens if you give it a scrub round with a plastic pan-scrub.

If it survives that treatment, use it. If the surface starts to peel off, either sand it all off & treat as 'raw' pressed steel, or bin it & get a proper high-temperature one.

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    The fumes from cooking off PTFE are really rather nasty (including HF), but the material itself is far less of an issue. If you want to strip it, do it mechanically as far as possible with things like a drill-mounted wire brush or a detail sander. Wear a mask against the dust though. Finish by rubbing down with fine sandpaper and then seasoning. It's chipped badly already (which also suggests PTFE, as the coatings that can take higher temperatures are harder) so there's not much point testing it - either strip it or bin the whole thing
    – Chris H
    Commented Feb 27, 2022 at 11:39
  • @ChrisH Sure - the trouble with sanding it off isn't the 'health' issues, it's getting it smooth enough to be able to take a seasoning coat that you can get smooth too… otherwise it's going to take days to build up past the roughness of the pan. tbh, I'd give this a go, but plan to bin it & get a proper one;) It's not something I'd have the patience to DIY.
    – Tetsujin
    Commented Feb 27, 2022 at 11:43
  • I'm used to grinding and polishing optical materials, so I've got a bit of a feel for it. I've also got a stash of suitable abrasives and a selection of power tools. So I don't reckon it would be that bad - for me
    – Chris H
    Commented Feb 27, 2022 at 13:13
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That looks like a chipped and scratched non-stick coating. Uncoated woks generally look like bare metal when new. They often have a clear lacquer coating, and only darken towards black after repeated cooking and seasoning. You can also get pre-seasoned woks, but your example doesn't look like one of those either.

To be honest, plain carbon steel woks are so cheap* it may not be worth the effort of trying to use your wok or even fix it. Personally I wouldn't even try to burn off the coating. I wouldn't really want to risk eating bits of flaked off non-stick coating. If you are worried about the waste, then recycle it.

*You can get plain carbon steel woks on Amazon for under £15 GBP (around $20 USD) - I suspect even cheaper if you go to a good Asian store.

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