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Hello Seasoned Advice: I cannot find an answer on any previous posts here relating to woks about what to do if the wok is Already Rusted. I found this wok in my husband's house when I moved in - he has no idea where it came from or how long it's been there. I have no information about this wok, other than that the faded manufacturer's label indicates it was made in Taiwan, presumably by an Asian cooking supply house - has Chinese (?) characters above, then in English: "Seven S---G Co., Ltd" (the --- indicates where the label is faded and illegible) with an address, international phone number and fax number. It is black, has a welded, hollow steel handle with a hole through it for hanging, and looks to be a commercial, or restaurant-grade wok of carbon steel, well used. It was stored in an under-counter cabinet next to a leaky sink, so I have no doubt about where the original rust came from. Has about 10 small pits on the bottom and almost half of the entire upper right side of the circumference of the wok is almost one continuous thin (not pitted) area of rust.

Previously, I had spent the better part of a day alternately: scrubbing the rust (with coarse salt and fine salt), wiping with vegetable oil and heating over a high gas flame -then repeating this process 3 or 4 times until I was sure there was no rust or moisture remaining (although it is still pitted in some places at the bottom), and then another thin coat of oil to seal against moisture, heated again, then wiped. It worked very well for a couple of weeks, but as I don't currently cook Asian-style on a regular basis, after a few weeks of disuse it turned rusty again, almost worse than when I found it.

Should I be using steel wool to scrub the rust down to bare steel first, or just the salt? Using a different oil? (WD-40? Just Kidding). Oven vs Gas burner heating? How should I be storing this? (I have limited space-so most of my equipment is hanging on the walls or on a steel kitchen shelving rack, so I don't think air-flow is an issue.)

As this looks like a relatively decent piece of equipment, I want to do more Asian style cooking and be able to use it on a more regular basis. Is this wok salvageable? I would hate to have to put it on the curb and spend the money for a new restaurant-quality wok. Thanks in advance for any guidance. P.S., I have pics, but due to a software issue with my camera, I am unable to post at the moment - will try to send pics if I get an answer to this question.

  • How long did you heat it for while seasoning? It takes quite a while. One thing you can do with a new seasoned wok is use it for everything until it has a really good patina. Any thing you're frying at all with any fat or oil use the wok (don't wait to make Asian food) that way you'll get to the black all over stage quicker. Also did you let dish soap anywhere near your wok. With a newly seasoned wok you might have damaged the seasoning if you washed or scrubbed it too enthusiastically. After use you just need to give it a rinse and get any bits off, rather than washing it "properly". – vwiggins Sep 24 '14 at 15:35
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Hi Leigh Anne and welcome to Seasoned Advice! First let me say that you will probably get a few different answers as many of us have different ways of handling such issues.

Since you had what sounded like a pretty good amount of rust to start with, I would recommend a thorough cleaning with steel wool to ensure that you have removed all of the rust. Be sure to rinse well and dry thoroughly.

Regarding the type of oil, I would recommend a good quality vegetable oil. You could also use a good quality vegetable shortening. Make sure to apply a very thin layer and wipe off any excess, especially since you are not using the wok frequently. Any excess residue can become sticky or gunky when the pan is left to sit for a period.

As for gas burner or oven, that is really your choice. I personally would use a gas burner but many prefer using the oven.

All in all, it sounds like you already have a pretty good handle on this. A couple of other things you may want to consider, though. Even though you are keeping the pan in the open air, humidity may be a factor. Also, if you live near a body of salt water, salt in the air could be a problem. You may want to consider keeping the wok in a closed plastic bag. (I do this with any cookware that hangs or sits outside of the cabinet to ensure it's always clean and dust-free when I am ready to use it.)

Good luck! :)

  • Sorry about above - my mistake - @CindyAskew: Great advice about the plastic bag. Will try when I find one big enough - this thing's Huge :). – Leigh Anne Sep 23 '14 at 19:37
  • @LeighAnne, it's good info but it's not something I could do as I don't have a burner that gets anywhere near as hot as a wok burner and I don't even use my wok daily, much less over and over again during the course of a day. Re the plastic bag, I use a small trash can liner and secure with a twist tie. – Cindy Sep 23 '14 at 19:41
  • Yes, sorry about that - finger slipped to "enter" key when I cut the link to paste.. it wasn't supposed to show up here and, being a 'noob' here, I couldn't find a way to delete it. But, Yes.. good info if you use your wok often. – Leigh Anne Sep 23 '14 at 19:45
  • Even better than vegetable oil is flaxseed oil (the food-grade equivalent of linseed oil). It seals better and is more resistant to washing with soap because it polymerizes to a tough film. – Mike Oct 3 '14 at 3:01
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@LeighAnne: Regarding the selection, maintenance, and rejuvenation of woks, I recommend that you read pp. 43-48 of The Modern Art of Chinese Cooking: Techniques and Recipes by Barbara Tropp. Detailed instructions for seasoning a wok are on page 47:

page 47.

Check Worldcat.org to find a library near you that has it: https://www.worldcat.org/title/modern-art-of-chinese-cooking/oclc/35151403

  • This doesn't seem to answer the question either? – talon8 Sep 24 '14 at 15:43
  • It explicitly discusses rust, and seems a perfectly good answer. – András Salamon Sep 24 '14 at 18:00
  • Yes it does describe the process of re-seasoning a wok. But the question isn't "how do I season a wok", but rather how specifically to deal with the amount of rust that occurred, and whether there is a point at which it's unsalvageable. The OP clearly mostly had a handle of what is required for seasoning. If the answer is "you didn't do a good enough job seasoning. Try again and here's steps to do it properly." That would make this helpful. It doesn't point out exactly what she did wrong and how she can do it better. I think the answer could be improved by being a little more specific. – talon8 Sep 25 '14 at 21:18
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If you have a large amount of rust, the one thing which removes it really well is lye. Just be careful when handling it. Leave it for a while in a fairly concentrated NaOH bath, then scrub off. Proceed with seasoning as usual.

We have several questions about seasoning pans and woks, this one is probably the most interesting for you: Wok preparation and caring

  • Perhaps "fairly concentrated" should be quantified (at least for safety purposes) – Dr. belisarius Sep 24 '14 at 19:08
  • @belisarius I never actually measure it, I spread the powder in the pan and then pour in a little bit of water. It has to be at unsafe levels anyway, in the sense of: it would instantly cause chemical burns if you touch the solution. Wear gloves and googles, don't touch with aluminum utensils, don't use warm water, and dilute a lot before disposing of it, 10-20 times dilution is good, more is better. – rumtscho Sep 24 '14 at 19:17
  • Oh yes, don't do it near open flames, and do it in a ventilated space. It's unlikely that the hydrogen will form an explosive ratio with the oxygen from the air, but don't risk it around flames and sparks. And spills will damage most stuff around you, certainly all organics like wood or textile. It is best done on porcelain or similar, I do it on the bathroom floor. This is basic lye working safety, I hope that people who use it are aware of that and/or read the leaflet which comes with it. – rumtscho Sep 24 '14 at 19:23
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@LeighAnne: You may find that your gas burner works better with a wok if you remove the grate on your stove and use a wire wok ring instead. A wire ring may position and stabilize the wok better than using the grate. The only wire ring I've found is made by Joyce Chen (http://www.amazon.com/Joyce-Chen-31-0063-Chrome-Steel/dp/B00004RBTL )

In my experience, the common rings with holes in the sides don't work well. The sides restrict oxygen flow and the holes don't allow enough in. The sides also trap the heat at the bottom of the wok; they don't allow the heat to flow up the sides of the wok.

  • This doesn't seem to answer the question? – talon8 Sep 24 '14 at 15:42
  • Removing the rust is the first step in re-seasoning and using the wok. My answer regarding a wok ring will help with re-seasoning and usage because it will increase both the amount of heat and it's distribution. – Nello Lucchesi Sep 25 '14 at 16:26
  • That may very well be (and I'll agree with your assessment that the quantity of heat could be a factor). However, I don't see that this warrants being a stand-alone answer from your other one. Helpful tidbit, sure but on it's own, this doesn't answer the question. – talon8 Sep 25 '14 at 21:20

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