Whenever you cook with your wok, its patina should become more and more refined, improving its performance and enhancing its non-stick capabilities.
In turn, this should increase the way food pours out of your wok effortlessly and quickly.
Also, a well-coated wok cleans more easily as food particles do not stick to it.
With all these benefits, losing that patina because your wok’s coating keeps coming off hurts your cooking and the meals you prepare.
Here’s how to deal with the problem.
Wok coating coming off
Wok coating comes off because the seal formed between the wok and the oil is broken, and fluids are getting between the coating and the wok’s surface. The presence of this moisture leads to flaking after the surface has dried, rather like paint flaking off a wall. To fix this problem, it is necessary to properly season the wok.
Seasoning a wok
Essentially, the coating on a wok keeps coming off because it wasn’t seasoned properly.
Correcting this problem requires repairing the bad job done on the current seasoning of the wok.
First, get rid of the bad seasoning
Begin by removing the old seasoning so you can start again from scratch.
Mix water and a few heaped tablespoons of baking soda with half of one lemon inside a pint measure.
Pour the solution you’ve just mixed into the wok and boil it steadily for forty minutes. Keep an eye on things because you will have to add more water from time to time to counteract evaporation.
When you’re done, you’ll find that most of the old seasoning will come right off as you scrub the wok with a sponge under a cold tap.
Don’t use a harsh bristle for this bit, as you don’t want to scour or mark the wok. Instead, use a natural bristle pot brush, and almost everything should simply come off.
Next, season your wok properly
Setting up your wok for re-seasoning
Now that you’ve followed the steps above, your wok shouldn’t need any extra cleaning. The untreated smooth wok is ready to be seasoned afresh, as described below.
(Note that sometimes, the top edge of the wok where the water-baking soda-lemon solution didn’t quite reach might still be a little gummed up.
It is highly unlikely that this will disturb your everyday cooking.
Still, if it really bothers you, use a heavy-duty wire scouring pad and just keep going over those bits gently.
Don’t damage the wok! Repetition is the key here, not power!
Wipe the wok dry and then transfer it onto a stove.
Protect the wok’s handles from burning by wrapping them up in heavy-duty aluminum.
Make sure you clean the area around your stove as you’re about to turn up the heat to the max.
Place the wok on a burner that you’ve set to its maximum, ensuring that you have a clean towel–or better yet, a heat-proofed kitchen mitt–at hand.
Heating your wok in readiness for its first time seasoning
As the wok gets hotter and hotter, it will change to a dark brown hue and should begin to smoke.
This is a sign that the remaining microscopic traces of invisible oil left in the wok are burning away.
After the remnant oil has burnt away, the wok will superheat.
Other impurities in those pesky microscopic cracks that humans can’t see will burn off too.
Always tilt the wok to expose only one section of it to the flame so that the wok is superheated one section at a time.
Done properly, you will see each superheated section turn black and blue as the body of the wok reaches the highest temperature your stove can manage.
Keep tilting the wok slowly until you’ve burnt off the impurities present. Make sure you superheat all wok areas and be vigilant in this step to ensure that you have an evenly seasoned wok.
Be prepared to spend quite some time on this step. It’s a crucial phase, and trying to hurry through it is the same as ensuring failure.
You must ensure that you have seen the black-blue hue develop on every part of the work.
Cleaning your wok in readiness for its re-seasoning
Switch off the burner but leave the wok on the stove. Pour a cup of water slowly into the wok to help it cool down.
After the wok has cooled, take it to the sink and use a mild detergent and a scrubbing pad to give it a gentle scrub.
Rinse the wok thoroughly with cold, clean water.
There may be some dark spots on the wok’s surface due to some manufacturing defects, but this is not something to be worried about.
Clean the excess water using an absorbent paper towel and put the wok back on the burner to dry using medium heat.
Seasoning your wok for the first time with vegetable oil
In a nutshell, the procedure is:
- Heat vegetable oil. When the oil is hot, remove the wok from the burner and shine it with a paper towel held in a spatula at first, then, as it cools down, by hand.
- When the wok is cold again, throw out any remaining oil and reheat the wok until it is smoking. Remove the wok from the burner, and this time, use water and a paper towel to polish the wok before (and this is SUPER IMPORTANT!) using heat to dry the wok completely.
- Finally, rub the still-warm wok with vegetable oil using a paper towel.
Aftercare–how to look after your well-seasoned wok
It’s normal for cooking oil residues in the wok to stay that, over time, form a lovely non-stick finish. This is the hallmark of a correctly seasoned wok.
Once you have accomplished this shine or finish, using vegetable oil and a paper towel, just wipe down the wok to clean off surface debris whenever you’ve finished cooking with it.
Complete this procedure religiously every time you cook, and your wok will remain well-seasoned for months on end.
If and when the wok begins to flake again, re-season your wok following all the instructions above.
Frequently Asked Questions About Wok Coating Coming Off
What is the best oil for wok seasoning?
The best oils for seasoning can take high temperatures without smoking. Select one of these: shortening, lard or pork fat, sunflower oil, grape seed oil, canola oil, or peanut oil.
Why do I have to season a wok anyway?
The process of seasoning your cast iron or carbon steel wok produces a sheen or patina, which is actually a protective coating on the surface of the wok. When you cook using oils, your patina gets more dense and heavy and forms organically non-stick cookware. This protects your wok from corrosion and rust and improves the taste of your meals.
Afterword: Wok coating coming off
Avoid cleaning your seasoned wok with water, and especially avoid using soap. If using water, always dry the wok thoroughly using a hot stove.
However, the best way to clean your wok is with vegetable oil and a paper towel, as described above. Add salt to the oil if you need something gritty to help scrub the wok.