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I do not have much experience or knowledge of cooking, but I've slowly been learning.

Today I followed this recipe: Beef Stir-Fry. Besides some vegetable substitutions, I had a bit more meat and doubled the sauce ingredients. For the acid, I used lime juice for the first half (2 tablespoons), but ran out, so I used rice vinegar for the other two tablespoons.

After the meat had been cooked, I removed it and reduced the sauce. Around that time I noticed that the patina in the direct middle of the wok had been stripped.

The seasoning on this wok was pretty good (as you can see around the edges of the center), and just this week I had made another stir-fry in it that had rice vinegar in the sauce. Since I had no issues with that, I figured it'd be OK to use lime juice and rice vinegar in this recipe.

The two main differences between what I did earlier and just now was A) earlier I used canola oil instead of olive oil and B) earlier I added the sauce last instead of first.

My gut is telling me that when I reduced the sauce, the acid stripped away the seasoning, which didn't happen before because of either temperature or length of time. However, I just am not certain.

I'm mostly interested in how I can avoid this in the future, and what to do now with the wok. Should I scrape off the rest of the patina and start over? Or just continue to cook with it normally (and more carefully) to rebuild it?

  • Related, possible duplicate: cooking.stackexchange.com/questions/83513/… ? – Catija Sep 8 '17 at 20:33
  • When I've had it happen, it was because I pre-heated the pan for too long before cooking with it. But this was for cast-iron skillets ... woks are supposed to be used over really high heat, so I don't know if this is normal ... but most cooking shows I've seen it looked like there wasn't the same color in the middle of the wok. – Joe Sep 9 '17 at 2:43
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I am pretty sure the acidic sauce reduction attacked the seasoning. Short cooking time of acidic elements does not have much effect, but longer cooking times are usually harsh for the seasoning. It's not a real problem though. It will come back easily. Just continue cooking as usual. To avoid this, usually Chinese cooking adds the sauce at the end, and uses some starch instead of reducing in stir-fry dishes.

On a side note, I think that your "patina" looks more like burned oil/whatever than seasoning, but it may be because of the quality of the picture. Is it smooth ?

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