Wok Seasoning Flaking Off? Here’s How To Fix It

If you’ve seasoned your wok a few times and the black coating is coming off the pan surface, you may be wondering if it is faulty in some way. But don’t despair, there are ways to fix your wok seasoning flaking off and prevent it from happening again.

The main reason why the seasoning on your wok is flaking off is that it’s not properly bonded to the metal. This can happen when the pan is newly seasoned, used with acidic ingredients, or cleaned with a harsh detergent and a scourer.

To fix a flaking wok, simply clean the surface and re-season it.

I’ve put together this post to help you restore your traditional carbon steel or cast iron stir-fry pan so that you no longer have to worry about the black coating coming off your wok. Read on to find out what you need to do.

Why Is The Seasoning Coming Off My Pan?

Note that we’re talking here about a wok that has been seasoned with oil rather than a pan that has had a non-stick layer applied during manufacture. If you have one of these and the coating is flaking off, it’s best to replace it.

For steel or cast iron pans: if the seasoning isn’t properly bonded to the metal, like when it’s newly seasoned, it can start to flake off when:

  • You use a scourer or strong detergent to clean the pan
  • Stir-frying highly acidic ingredients
  • Using metal utensils.

As you probably know, woks are best used very hot! Seasoning a new wok or restoring the patina on an older pan is an important part of using and maintaining a traditional wok made from carbon steel or cast iron.

The process involves repeatedly heating a very thin layer of oil covering the entire cooking surface of the wok until it forms a patina, which is a protective carbonized layer. This barrier protects the metal from rust and corrosion while providing a natural non-stick surface to cook on.

The good news is that it’s relatively easy to fix a flaking wok by simply cleaning and reseasoning it. The process is very similar to seasoning a new wok, but you’ll need to make sure the pan is clean and free of any old seasoning before you start for the best results.

How To Fix Wok Seasoning

As we know, you can fix the seasoning patina on your wok fairly easily by cleaning it up and going through the whole process as if it was a new pan, but you may also be wondering if you could solve the problem by just adding a new layer on top of the damaged one.

Can A Wok Be Seasoned Again?

You can try seasoning a wok again without removing the previous patina completely, but it may not work very well as the original seasoning underneath is not going to make a stable base for the new layer.

You may also end up with an uneven cooking surface where some of the underlying patina remains while other areas have gone back to bare metal.

It’s best to remove as much of the damaged seasoning as possible by cleaning it with salt and a paper towel as described in the next section.

How To Remove Wok Seasoning

If you’re going to reseason your wok completely then it’s important to clean it first to make sure the new patina can bond properly with the metal surface. You can do this in 2 ways: with cooking oil and coarse salt or with oven cleaner.

Place the wok over a high heat on the stove and add a tablespoon of oil. Once hot add several tablespoons of salt. Then, carefully using an old dishcloth, rub the salt into the oil until you have a nice paste.

Continue to scrub all over the inside and outside of the wok until you see the black color starting to fade. Then, pour out the oil and rinse the wok under hot water until it’s clean.

For a wok that has some really hard-to-shift deposits on it, or is very rusty, you may need to resort to using some oven cleaner. Leave for a few hours then scrub with a cloth with rubber gloves on.

Once you’ve done this, dry the wok with a clean paper towel and then place it back on the stove over a high heat until all the water has evaporated. A completely dry wok is essential for the next part.

How To Reseason

Now that you have prepared your wok it’s ready for reseasoning. If you’ve cleaned it up properly then this will be the same process as seasoning a new pan.

There are two main methods used, either on the stove-top or in the oven.

The most common way I’ve found is to do this on your stove-top, heating the entire pan by turning and tilting it over a high heat until it’s smoking hot. Then simply take it off the heat and apply a very thin layer of cooking oil with a high smoke point (e.g. vegetable or canola) over the entire inside surface using a paper towel.

Once coated, heat the wok up again in the same way but over a medium-low heat until the oil starts to smoke. Remove from the heat, wipe it out with a clean paper towel and then repeat this oiling and heating process 3 times.

When the paper towel no longer has any black residue on it after wiping, your wok is seasoned and ready to cook with.

You can also season your wok in the oven. This may take longer but is less hands-on and in fact, some people prefer doing it this way even if they have a gas stove.

This method from Cooks Illustrated is one of the best I’ve come across and even though the piece talks about cast-iron skillets, it can also be used for carbon-steel woks and pans as well.

One important thing that is not covered in the article is to make sure you remove any wooden handles first. If the handles do not come off then protect them by wrapping in a damp cloth followed by foil on top.

How To Prevent Wok Seasoning Coming Off In The Future

There are a few things you can do to help prevent the seasoning from flaking off in the future:

  • Make sure you season your wok properly before first use and add a new seasoning layer fairly regularly.
  • Avoid using harsh detergents and scourers when cleaning it. Rinsing out with water, wiping dry with a cloth or paper towel, and heating it up for a few minutes is all that’s usually needed.
  • If you do need to wash it, opt for gentle dish soap and a soft cloth or sponge.
  • Avoid cooking too much with acidic ingredients such as tomatoes or vinegar as these can break down the seasoning.
  • Use a wok ring if you have an electric stovetop. This will help prevent hotspots which can cause the seasoning to blister and flake off.


It’s not unusual for the black coating on carbon steel or cast iron woks to flake off, especially if it hasn’t been seasoned properly or not maintained well.

The good news is that it’s very easy to fix by simply cleaning and reseasoning the pan. Just make sure you follow the steps carefully and you’ll have a wok that’s as good as new in no time.

Tom Hambly

Tom Hambly is the founder of Boss The Kitchen. With a background in cooking and building websites, he enjoys running this site to help other cooks improve. About Tom Hambly.

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