Carbon Steel SOS

This is a follow-up post about my recently purchased carbon steel wok. This wok cost me $100 and thus I don’t want to throw it away. I would like to seek your wisdom.:

  1. Do I have to wash it immediately after cooking? I would like to wait until I finish eating before I wash my cookware.

  2. I seasoned the wok twice after I unboxed it. The surface isn’t really non-stick except for stir-frying vegetables with only oil. When I stir fry meat or anything with a sauce, a lot of things stick. Even garlic, when stir-fried with vegetables, sticks.

The manufacturer claims that only paper towels are sufficient in daily cleaning. For food stuck on the surface, it suggests brushing with a little bit of water. I used this approach and it failed miserably. There’s always some gunk left.

How shall I clean carbon steel with stuck on food? I know that hot water without soap is a must.

I watched YouTube videos for guidance. In those videos, the pan was subject to the egg test, which was performed without gravy. So, the amount of burnt on food was minimal. Also, I think they used newly seasoned pans without any prior burnt on residue.

  1. A website suggests using this chainlink pad. Is this too abrasive? What else do you recommend?

https://www.amazon.com/dp/B00FKBR1ZG?creativeASIN=B00FKBR1ZG&imprToken=E.ONVQk92T3wzIkvEX8FLA&slotNum=0&tag=foodal02-20&linkCode=ogi&th=1&psc=1

  1. As I cook more with my wok, the amount of burnt on food builds up (almost gooey). Also, there’s quite a bit of black soot/flakes attached to my food. How do I eliminate the soot/flakes?

  2. When cooking with carbon steel, do I heat up the pan slowly? Do I add cooking oil in a hot pan or cool pan? Do I wait till the oil smokes to add my food?

  3. It seems like I must use plenty of oil to cook with carbon steel. So, I guess it’s not really for healthy cooking, correct?

  4. Must I always use high heat for cooking with a wok? I know I have to use high heat to sear meat, but should I lower the heat to make some sauce/gravy? I plan to use this as a general saute pan because my Staub universal pan is too wide for my stove top (the periphery never heats up).

Thanks a million. I didn’t know what I was getting into when I bought this wok. I was blindly following recommendations online about carbon steel. Lesson learned.

1 Like

" Do I have to wash it immediately after cooking? I would like to wait until I finish eating before I wash my cookware." – I don’t think you need to wash right after. However, if you wait too long, the particles can dry and stick to the wok surface. Now, you will use more effort to clean and therefore rip the seasoning surface. It is not a black and white. Use your judgement.

“How shall I clean carbon steel with stuck on food? I know that hot water without soap is a must.” – Soak in water a little (not too long or you can rust the work. Clean the stuck on food using something hard, but not too hard. An old credit card is a cheap option. A plastic pastry scraper works.

image

I also use a bamboo brush which is good for general cleaning. To scraper a specific spot, a plastic scarper is better.

image

A nice chainlink pad should work too. It isn’t too abrasive because a good chainmail pad should use polished stainless steel. So it should have any sharp surface.

“As I cook more with my wok, the amount of burnt on food builds up (almost gooey). Also, there’s quite a bit of black soot/flakes attached to my food. How do I eliminate the soot/flakes?” – You don’t want too much burned on food, or you may need to restart the entire process. If you have a lot of black soot and flakes, then it sounds like your seasoning layer is not stable. I cannot see your wok, but there may be something wrong with the foundation. If so, there is nothing you an do, but to restart. Kind of like if your primer paint wasn’t done right. Your top coat paint may constantly peel off.

“When cooking with carbon steel, do I heat up the pan slowly? Do I add cooking oil in a hot pan or cool pan? Do I wait till the oil smokes to add my food?” – Heat up slowly and heat up fast are both fine. Most people will recommend cold oil to hot wok. It is argued that the difference isn’t as big as most people think. You don’t need to wait until oil smoke to add food (partly has to do with your oil smoke point too). I would suggest using water droplet test. If you add a drop or two water to the hot oil, you should able to tell by hearing that if it has reach a sizzling temperature.

“It seems like I must use plenty of oil to cook with carbon steel. So, I guess it’s not really for healthy cooking, correct?” – A well season carbon steel cookware is similar to a well seasoned cast iron cookware. You should use less oil than most other cookware. I would say… the only cookware is less sticky is the nonstick Telfon cookware. Other than that, a seasoned carbon steel cookware should need less oil than stainless steel, aluminum, glass and ceramic…etc.

“Must I always use high heat for cooking with a wok? I know I have to use high heat to sear meat, but should I lower the heat to make some sauce/gravy? I plan to use this as a general saute pan because my Staub universal pan is too wide for my stove top (the periphery never heats up).” – No, you can use other temperature.

"but should I lower the heat to make some sauce/gravy? – Depending, if you make very acidic sauce, the acid can eat up the seasoning layer.

2 Likes

Thanks for posting this thread, @droolingdoggie. I’m a few days away from purchase of a Carbon Steel Fry Pan, and your care & upkeep questions are very helpful.

And thank you, @Chemicalkinetics, for your thoughtful replies, too!

Thanks very much for your reply. It’s very detailed and helpful. My brand is Made in Cookware, which only sells directly from the internet. I don’t recommend it.

Is this your first carbon steel cookware (wok or not)?

Yes, this is my first carbon steel cookware. I didn’t want the weight of cast iron and the hard-to-clean aspect of stainless steel.

1 Like

I see. If you already have cast iron cookware, then you can pretty much season the carbon steel like how you did it with cast iron. Everyone does it differently. Some people like low temperature seasoning. I find high temperature seasoning work for me better. I guess my point is that if you have a successful procedure you like from cast iron seasoning, just try it on your carbon steel.

1 Like
“Food is a pretty good prism through which to view humanity.”

― Jonathan Gold