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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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  • Howdy! The words "patina" and "seasoning" refer to different processes, and are not the same. Seasoning is buiilding up a coating of polymerized oil on cooking vessels, and is desirable; patina is selective oxidation of metals and is NOT desireable in cookware. If you use the right terms, you'll find more useful information online.
    – FuzzyChef
    Commented Nov 29, 2022 at 22:37

2 Answers 2

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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
    Commented Feb 10, 2013 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
    Commented Feb 10, 2013 at 21:49
  • Seasoning is NOT "tarnish". No oxidation of the underlying metal is involved; if anything, you're protecting the metal from oxidation via a coating of polymerized oil. You're confusing patina (controlled oxidation of metal surfaces for decorative purposes) with seasoning, and they are not at all the same thing.
    – FuzzyChef
    Commented Nov 29, 2022 at 22:36
  • Also - my cast iron is jet black, my carbon steel only ever gets dark brown.
    – Tetsujin
    Commented Jul 28, 2023 at 10:22
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Brown or black patina is being made over time. At the beginning the layer of patina is very thin. If you burned the oil while seasoning, you probably put too much oil. You only need about half a spoon of oil for the inside and outside of the wok.

the new patina - one week of cooking

On the photo: new patina - cooking for one week.

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