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Your favorite Le Creuset color

Now you know why an All Clad Copper Core skillet costs over $200, or a hand made Chinese wok is $100--LC and other quality goods that have performance are worth the money...!

Dec 15, 2014
toddster63 in Cookware

Hand Hammered Wok from E-Wok Review

Sounds like it could help, Duffy. You might want to also consider the Iwatani butane burner--woks really excel on it, and I would choose it over any electrical source I have used to date...

Still tempted by Adcrafts wok induction burner, just not willing to gamble with $250 to try it...!

Dec 12, 2014
toddster63 in Cookware
1

Hand Hammered Wok from E-Wok Review

Okay, I have the 15K Iwatani (the most powerful I could find), and have used it a lot in the last 7 years, particularly when I was first starting out with Chinese in a small studio apartment). I've also used the 12K, and prefer the 15K--I do think it's tad hotter and it burns the butane tanks down to nothing, whereas the 12K wastes more propane locked away in the tank). The big Iwatani works very well for a 14" wok, as long as you are cooking for no more than about 3 people. It does use every bit of butane, as advertised, and the woks like it; they develop a nice patina (my little 13" thin walled Chinese cast iron is GORGEOUS from cooking almost exclusively on the Iwatani these years and gives great wok hei flavor). The Cen does fine on the Iwatani--it's thicker construction holds heat very well. But at 36cm, it's about as big of a wok as the Iwatani can handle.

I've also used Cen Bro wok on my electrical coil range. I use it in the wok ring with the small side down, hugging my 8" coil burner, and the wok sits on the wider end--almost touching the burner. It cooks well, but only for 2-3 people. It requires cooking ala Grace Young--cook the meat first (no more than 3/4 of pound) and let the meat brown/sear untouched for a minute on each side before stir frying--and don't OVERCOOK as you will be cooking it some more when adding it back into the stir fry at the end. Then cook your veggies (3 cups max), adding the meat and sauce at the end. With a well seasoned wok, you will get some wok hei, but don't expect the stars...! But the Cen wok does season and deliver better flavor better than any other wok I have used (over 20).

My biggest issue with the electrical coil stove and my woks is that the intense electrical heat next to the metal seems to upset the seasoning at times. It often burns the seasoning very thin at the very, very bottom where the wok touches the burner (or the flat part of flat bottom woks).

If you can swing it, as Tom34 mentioned, outdoor propane burners are the best--I love, love my 100K Taiwanese wok burner outdoors. I never use it at full blast (too much heat for even a 16" wok), and it sucks that the cast iron burner is always rusting, but with it the stars line up a LOT more than indoors and give very noticeable and delectable wok hei (or as my partner says, "The Wok God smiles").

Dec 11, 2014
toddster63 in Cookware

Hand Hammered Wok from E-Wok Review

Did anyone see Anthony Bourdan's show on CNN a few weeks ago--when he was in Shanghai?

A lot of the upwardly mobile Chinese are emulating the west BIG time. According to Bourdan who dined with a group of Chinese executives in Shanghai, enjoyed fine Italian and French cuisine in their private dinning club, having different bottles of prestiges European wines with each course. Bourdan says the Chinese are now the biggest buyers of French and Italian wines, French foie gras, and other traditonal western luxuries.

The insatiable appetite of the upper classes in China for these western luxuries has caused not only for prices to soar, but some say there may be a worldwide wine shortage as wines from such diverse places as New Zealand to the Nordic countries catch on in popularity (the NY Times published an article just today about how the warmer world wide climate has burgeoned Nordic wine production in both Sweden and Norway)...

As Chem says, dirty carbon steel woks are just not on their young and hip kitchen agendas...

Nov 26, 2014
toddster63 in Cookware

Hand Hammered Wok from E-Wok Review

Wow--thanks for the link, haven't seen that one...

But it is sad, isn't it? More confirmation that the Chinese are giving up many of their old ways with the old buildings...

On the other hand, Ken Hom and Ching He Huang did a FABULOUS documentary for the BBC a few years ago, "Exploring China: A Culinary Adventure" (which I HIGHLY recommend for any Chinese food fans), and the things they found were really surprising--fast food chains like KFC and McDonalds were popping up in the bigger cities all over China; but the Chinese considered them more of a novelty; somewhere you and the family went for more special, off beat occasions--a birthday or such. They were not considered a place or foods to be eaten on a regular basis.

They still embraced their traditional cuisine and foods very much. They just like to cook them nowadays in shiny non-stick woks and fry pans...!

You can even see this on YouTube. Asians from all over the world have posted great cooking videos showing how they make traditional dishes from family recipes at home on modest stoves. And I can't believe how many of them are using non-stick cookware.

Below is a link to a great story that tells it all: a Shanghai based reporter hurries to buy a Cen brothers wok before they are gone, and the aghast reaction of her older neighbor to the wok:

http://www.thefastertimes.com/china/2...

Nov 26, 2014
toddster63 in Cookware

Hand Hammered Wok from E-Wok Review

Williams Sonoma did not have them in stock for a few months--I know as I would check a couple of times a week, toying with buying one. It told me over and over, for a few months, that they would not be able to deliver until around the 1st of August.

I suspect they are not that big of a seller for WS. As much as we have talked around here, only a handful of us have bought them this summer. And if you were surfing the WS site, the woks for under $35 look just as good to the average shopper (the uncleaned and unseasoned Cen wok just photographs terribly), and WS markets the cheaper woks as hand hammered. And the round bottomed one for $35 comes with a nifty wooden POW handle (I've seen this "hammered" pow wok at my local WS, and the cosmetic hammering was very sparse and not to my liking).

I think it takes a real sophisticated buyer (who has not read this thread prior to buying) to pay one hundred dollars for a Chinese wok that photographs almost identically to the much cheaper woks. I'd love to know how many WS actually has in stock...? You're right in that WS doesn't make them sound limited...

Also--as I remember the 36cm wok that WS is carrying, that we have all bought, only takes the Cens 2 hours to make; so they could make 4-6 or more of these per day. It's the much larger (like 70 cm) woks for the big Chinese hotels and chefs that take the Cens much longer--like only a couple per day.

Nov 25, 2014
toddster63 in Cookware
1

Hand Hammered Wok from E-Wok Review

Yeah, it sounds crazy, and they may be out there--but no one (and I mean among the Chinese) knows of them. Everyone from the CNN website to the chefs at the big hotels in China talk about when the Cens retire--that's it for hand made woks... The Chen brothers have been very open about their sons getting jobs in the high tech industry in the big city, and the total lack of interest from the younger generation in taking over ("..too much work for too little money...")

I've done the research, and listened to others that say it's true, and I can't find even the mention of anyone else. There is some mention of one gentleman (also in Shanghai) that hand casts and then hand polishes cast iron woks, but no address or contact info has ever for been found for him...?

Let the world know if you do find someone else...!

Nov 25, 2014
toddster63 in Cookware

Hand Hammered Wok from E-Wok Review

I'm not sure how to word this Duffy, but when I see them side by side, to me the Cen woks really stand out--your can see the intense hand hammering and how it shapes the wok; and how it penetrates through the metal (inside to outside), and no part of the wok is perfect and smooth.

The stamped/cosmetically hammered woks I have seen always have some part that is pretty darn smooth--where you can tell that it came out of a machine (whereas the Cen woks have NONE of these areas). If the Town woks have enough hammered marks to totally obliterate any smooth machined areas over 2", then they are doing very well indeed...!

I have noticed the quality of the cosmetic hammering can really vary. Some are just a few hammer marks (I hate the ones that Tane sells at her Wok Shop as the "Wok Shop Hand Hammered" with the huge round hammer marks--the ball hammer that you mentioned); and I've seen some that could almost begin to pass (if you were a little far sighted) as Cen brothers woks, but still not really...

The performance is the big thing. Fried rice is a good example--with two day old cold Jasmine rice, my well seasoned stamped/cosmetic wok probably won't let the rice stick too much (but it sure did stick for the first year!), particular if I am more generous with the oil; but if it does stick, it will stick hard, and I don't dare "rub" the burnt stuck on parts back into the rice as that can ruin fried rice (whereas it's great for enhancing the flavor of braised chicken in garlic and black bean sauce). So I have to be careful when making fried rice in this 8 year old well seasoned wok, as it can came out "flat" for lack of a better word, or too oily and heavy.

Whereas when I made fried rice with same aged and cold Jasmine rice in my two day old Cen brothers freshly seasoned wok, it didn't stick hardly at all, and the rice was fluffy and light--it took so much less oil--and it was just brimming with wok hei--that scrumptious fleeting flavor you most often get in good Chinese restaurants when you say, "How the heck do they make this so GOOD!" I only get wok hei about 40% of the time, and have never gotten it with a freshly seasoned wok before this Cen wok.

And the WS Artisan wok is Cen brothers no doubt, same as e-woks were. Not hard to figure out as there seems to be NO other people--in the all of China--still hand hammering woks. Sad, but I've seen in documentaries and read that to the rapidly expanding upwardly mobile Chinese culture, seasoned woks are old fashioned and "grandmotherly"--to the modern Chinese a big shiny colored wok with a PFE loaded non-stick coating is THE modern choice to buy...! Similar to what happened to American culture after the WWII, starting in the 1950's, when we gave up grandma's old fashioned and heavy cast iron with the handles that got too dang hot...!

Nov 25, 2014
toddster63 in Cookware

Hand Hammered Wok from E-Wok Review

<<In my mind, if we are talking about stamped wok, then these made in Japan pow woks are nice.

http://korin.com/Iron-Peking-Wok>>

These are nice woks, particularly for stamped. I have had three SS (Esuesu) woks, and they were very well made--classic Japanese attention to detail. The blue carbon steek blackens with the first seasoning--and I mean JET BLACK! They were slick as heck, but there was very little sticking. A unique steel in my opinion...

Good preforming wok, yes, but still this Cen brothers artisan woks kicks their arses...!

Nov 24, 2014
toddster63 in Cookware

Hand Hammered Wok from E-Wok Review

Ooops, thanks, Chem--guess I had a 80's flash back there...!

Nov 24, 2014
toddster63 in Cookware

Hand Hammered Wok from E-Wok Review

Duffy--these "hand hammered" woks have been around for decades--they are cheap stamped woks that are then given a few hand hammered marks for cosmetic affect. For years we thought these were indeed "hand hammered and hand made" woks, and they looked the part (mainly because we had never seen better and the cosmetic effect is done well). I have a well seasoned wok of this sort that is about 8 years and cooks nicely. Though it's always had sticking problems with lean proteins and wheat noodles and sugar sauces...!

But then about 10 years ago, Grace Young and, "Breath Of The Wok" came along, and her book's cover picture of a truly hand hammered wok; Grace introduced us to the Cen brothers, and TRULY hand hammered and hand crafted woks.

Because of the popularity of Grace's book, e-Woks came along, selling the truly hand hammered Cen brothers woks online to the world (Germany and the US went truly nuts over them), and then the interest/popularity of these rare woks attracted Williams Sonoma's interest, and now many of us have truly artisan, totally made by hand hammering, woks.

Now, my $12 Cantonese (stamped) "hand hammered" wok is well seasoned and cooks nicely, and I have only used my Cen brothers truly hand hammered, hand made wok for a few weeks, but I can tell you it performs WORLDS better and different than the cheaper stamped and cosmetically hammered woks. So I wouldn't call them twins--the stamped and cosmetically enhanced under $20 wok is more like a trampy cousin--haha...!

Mind you, these inexpensive little stamped trampy cousins are decent little woks, and preform well--though mine gets very hot mainly in a ring about 5 inches up from the top. I am told and have read this hot spot banding is characteristic and totally normal for stamped woks...? Most of my other woks get very hot at the bottom, around the center, or the flat part of flat bottomed woks.

Also, is you look around you can find these stamped and cosmetically hammered woks in flat bottom versions (even with wooden POW handles) that work well on radiant ranges (though they almost always warp in the flat bottom--but can still work okay for most infrequent stir fryers that are really stir stewing most of the time anyway...)

Nov 24, 2014
toddster63 in Cookware

Must I trade my cast iron wok for carbon steel?

Smallish shop with a HUGE selection. Worth checking out...!

Nov 23, 2014
toddster63 in Cookware

Must I trade my cast iron wok for carbon steel?

They had them at MV Trading Co., 486 Barber Ln
Milpitas, CA 95035...It's where I got my 100K propane wok burner for like $69.

They are in a dominantly all Asian mall (everything from beautwy parlors to dining to a huge Ranch 99 market). It gets pretty busy during lunch hours, and parking can be a real PITA....!

Nov 23, 2014
toddster63 in Cookware

Must I trade my cast iron wok for carbon steel?

Cool, CalJoe...

I've been tempted by those cast iron wok burners (where you burn your own wood), at a large local Asian supply. They're only $19.99, but I've never carried through...!

Nov 22, 2014
toddster63 in Cookware

Cast iron - large spot won't season properly

Thanks for the link, Duffy, that was interesting article...

What I found interesting was:

"...Cooks should also be aware that that iron pots and deep-frying don't mix. Iron can oxidize fats, causing the cooking oil to become rancid. If you want to deep-fry foods, stick with an aluminum or stainless steel pot..."

Looks like enameled cast iron would be much better for deep frying. Or--my favorite deep frying pan comes from Japan (WokShop sells them), and is THICK carbon steel that is coated with a durable gold coating--non-stickish, but not really (you can use metal utensils on it). But it's great because you can add a lot of food to be fried and it doesn't lose much temperature. I wonder if the gold coating is there to prevent the metal from adding too much iron and oxidizing the fats in the oil...?

Thanks again for the link...

Nov 19, 2014
toddster63 in Cookware

Cast iron - large spot won't season properly

Yeah, this does happen a lot for the cookware when it is young--under 3 years or while still bronze/mahogany as opposed to BLACK. It's particularly pronounced for the initial seasoning and for the first couple 50 stir fries or so.

It always annoys me when I see those generic and common seasoning instructions out there (and that come with most new Asian carbon steel woks) that say after burning in some oil to initially season the wok, that you should wipe until the paper towel is clear and clean after wiping. This never happens with initial seasoning, and I have seen SO MANY posts from frustrated newbie seasoners that can't figure what they have done wrong--that the paper towel still have brownish wipes on it!

And you're right, OrangeBlossom, this isn't exactly inert, is it?

As they get older and much more seasoned--like 3 years or maybe around 500 stir fries, this does lessen. Usually around the time the wok starts to turn TRULY BLACK, and not merely deep, deep dark brown.

Nov 19, 2014
toddster63 in Cookware

Cast iron - large spot won't season properly

Something to add more to the mystery of seasoning these metals is the fact I have noticed that different woks and pans have different flavor and odor profiles.

One of my oldest woks (Chinese stamped carbon steel with decorator hammer marks) when heated until smoking, gives out a strong aroma (and it's stir fries are tasty too). To examine more closely, I've killed the heat under this wok as it smokes and stuck my nose down into it as close as I could and the aroma is very "Asian"--I can smell faint hints of ginger, and onions, and maybe a touch of sweet salty--soy/oyster sauses. I learned to cook Chinese in this wok over a 15K butane burner, so for a few years I would always start my stir fries in it by waiting for wisps of smoke, then added oil, then adding ginger or garlic to the hot oil before the food to be stir fried. Green onions were usually the first ingredient to be added after that, and Oyster and soy sauces were often among the last ingredients.

I've even fired up that wok and then killed the heat and let family and friends smell it when they argue that seasoned pans are old fashioned and dirty and filthy and silly and not worth the effort--that they prefer non-stick and stainless. Most of these people have easily been able to say that yes, they can indeed smell a gingery Chinese-ee sort of odor emanating from the heat. And of course they rave over the beef and broccoli or the Chow Fun they get made in the wok.

I also get a wonderful meaty umami aroma from my oldest DeBuyer carbon steel skillet that has cooked lots of meats and potatoes, and is also decently seasoned.

I only get these distinct aromas from my carbon steel cookware--my cast iron cookware do have odors as well, but they are milder and more generic in smell. You can't say GINGER! when you smell my small well seasoned Chinese cast iron wok, and it has seen as much ginger, green onions and soy sauce as my oldest carbon steel mentioned earlier...

Nov 19, 2014
toddster63 in Cookware

Hand Hammered Wok from E-Wok Review

The only advantage to the two ears handles is they look much better at the part of "wok". The one long handled POW wok has always, as my partner says, looked like a pregnant western fry pan. Helper handles help it to look the part of "wok"--but if metal, helper handles get too hot to handle or "help", and if wooden, they burn over high flames.

Those of us that have lived and used woks know that the long handle is much easier to work and live with in the real world, but the twin ear handles sure looks more romantic and exotic, huh?

Thanks for the Sugru tip, Duffy--never heard of that stuff, but just checked it out and ordered some--sounds AWESOME! Moldable rubber? Love the concept...!

Nov 18, 2014
toddster63 in Cookware

Hand Hammered Wok from E-Wok Review

Yeah, ChemKin, I try not to think about sitting on the fence for so long that I missed out on the long handled e-wok version. I prefer the pow style wok as well. Oh, well, thankful for what I did get...!

It's too bad--for those that don't know--that with the Cen family's wok making legacy ending (the sons moved into the high tech industry), and the heavy move in China's society toward industrialization and massive manufacturing, the availability of these special woks may be ending right around the corner...

Nov 18, 2014
toddster63 in Cookware

Hand Hammered Wok from E-Wok Review

IGNORE--DELETE

Nov 17, 2014
toddster63 in Cookware

Hand Hammered Wok from E-Wok Review

I wanted to share a few great pics I found of the Cen brothers creating these awesome woks. Haven't seen these anywhere else.

(If you're interested in seeing the photos below in higher resolution, here is the original slideshow:
http://www.smartshanghai.com/slides/t...)

Nov 17, 2014
toddster63 in Cookware

Hand Hammered Wok from E-Wok Review

DOUBLE POST--IGNORE

MODS: Please DELETE!

Nov 17, 2014
toddster63 in Cookware

Hand Hammered Wok from E-Wok Review

Okay. I haven't been exactly proud of this, BUT--I have never used or had any experience with an entirely. and truly hand hammered/made wok. This coming from a bone-fide WOK-A-HOLIC that has bought, seasoned, and used over twenty five woks in the last 10 years. Carbon steel, thin Chinese cast iron, heavy French and American cast iron, stainless, enamel, round bottom in both rounder Cantonese and the more shallow Shanghai style, spun steel, pressed steel, flat bottom, two Cantonese ear handles, POW woks with long wooden handles or long metal handles--I've bought, seasoned and used them all (except for the new ceramic woks--haven't tried one of those yet.)

And during all this time I have spent much time staring at the Cen Broths woks on the cover of Grace Young's "The Breath of a Wok", which has sat on the top of my coffee table book stack on my Noguchi coffee table for 10 years now.

In the last week I have--finally--seasoned and used a Cen brothers hand made wok (from Williams Sonoma), and it is by far the most superior uberwok I have used to date. Bar none. Even with all my wok experience, I never expected to be this surprised by this wok's superiority.

For almost a year I have been "strongly advised" by my partner to not spend one more dime on woks, so when a dear friend showed up last week with this Cen Brothers hand hammered beauty from Williams Sonoma as an early Xmas gift, well, I almost cried with joy.

I have been dying with curiosity about these woks since ChemKin first posted that these woks were, '...a high performance wok...' Having used so many woks of all sizes, materials and manufacturing methods, I wondered how much better could these hand made woks really be? I knew that the bountiful hand hammering compressed the steel, making it more dense--but how would this affect it's cooking ability? How would the intensely irregular surface (from the hand hammering) affect it's seasoning and performance?

I had learned that woks could be slightly better in terms of performance, but honestly, these Cen Brothers woks have it all. In my decent amount of experience, using woks over heat sources of all types--from electrical coil stoves to portable butane burners to 35 year old modest gas ranges to my high 100,000K outdoor propane wok burner, these "Artisian woks" from the Cen brothers stand out--the best I used, quite noticeable from the first stir fry done in them.

After I got over my wonderment at the depth of beauty from the hand hammered marks that created and shaped every inch of this wok (that suddenly make you laugh at the traditional $20 "hand hammered" woks from China--really just stamped woks with a few hand hammered marks for cosmetic purposes), I was amazed at how little machine oil was on the wok to protect it from rusting while being shipped to its new home. It was a breeze to clean with soap and a couple of SOS pads. And when clean it didn't have that hard cold smell of unadulterated, unseasoned steel that carbon steel woks have had when I thorough clean them of all their machine oil or lacquer coating. It smelled a bit more like raw cast iron--"sweeter" than steely carbon steel.

It seasoned easily, starting with a few base coats of uberthin peanut oil in the oven at 550F, and then hand burning in over my propane wok burner with more generous coats of oil (where I burnt my hands a few times as usual--or the oven mitt catches on fire!) This wok's seasoning colors tended toward grayish and charcoal, even approaching black in a few spots, with just hints of bronze or brown; rather than the more bronze-brown, with darker spots approaching mahogany, that almost all other carbon steel woks I have seasoned have veered toward. I suspect, and think I have read, these Cen broths woks have a carbon steel recipe that includes a bit more iron than most other carbon steel woks out there. I know my Cen wok has seasoned up much more like my traditional thin walled Chinese cast iron woks than anything else I have seasoned.

I did intense seasoning that not only included the oven coatings and the hand burn-in over my wok burner, but that also included stir fries of 3 pounds of fresh pork side (uncured bacon), 6 bunches of fat green onions and several large Vidala onions, all combined with copious amounts of fresh chopped ginger. All of this was done over medium-high heat, and--except for the pork-- with lots of various high smoking point oils (peanut, grapeseed, safflower) that smoked away, and these initial seasoning stir fries were done until the pork, and the alliums/ginger, were charred black and shrunken to almost nothing.

Like ChemKin posted, this wok is indeed high performance from early on, with neither rice, noodles of rice or wheat, or even lean proteins, sticking hardly at all. And what few tiny spots did very slightly stick were instantly dissolved by any sauce added to the dish (which Cantonese cooks say adds much to the flavor). Every other new wok I have seasoned and used had dramatically more sticking (particularly with white meat chicken and noodles and sauces with sugar in them--primarily oyster sauce). I did scrub with water after the dinner stir fries this week, but this wok's performance was so shockingly good that I could have easily just wiped the wok out with a paper towel and forgone any water scrubbing; usually a wok (or even a cast iron skillet) has to be much, much older, with much more seasoning established and layed down, before getting this sort of elevated "wipe to clean" performance.

What is amazing about this wok, and what truly makes it "high performance" for me is how fast it reacts to heat, despite the fact that it is slightly thicker and heavier than most woks out there. It heats up faster (producing wisps of smoke) than any other wok I have worked with. But what's even more amazing is how fast it cools down when you kill the heat underneath it. I can add a sugar based sauce (typically with oyster, or Hoisin) into the stir fry within 5-8 seconds after killing the heat and the sauce does not heavily bubble and stick to the wok! Incredible! Most woks take around 30 seconds (and all the way up to a minute or two with the heavy 14 lb. Lodge cast iron wok) before you can add a sauce with sugar--at high heat--not have it bubble like mad and stick to the wok--often adding a slightly unpleasant burnt-ish taste and making clean up harder (as in soaking which which is no friend to hard earned seasoning).

And most important of all is the wok hei that is coming through from the first meal cooked in this new wok; and while some might attribute this wok hei (from a new wok) coming from an intense initial seasoning with generous amounts of fresh pork (lard), and a few pounds of fresh alliums intermingled with a total of around a pound if ginger, please be aware that I have seasoned other woks this intensely too, and never got this result with the first few meals made in the wok. This level of wok hei (and don't forget I am using it on my propane wok burner at around 35K, which helps) from such a freshly seasoned wok (three days!) has just blown me out of the water with all my woking experience. I really wasn't expecting this--way out of left field.

I can easily see why these woks are so popular with professional chefs in China, and in Chinese hotels. They say the hand pounding makes them denser and harder so they last longer and perform better.

So if you feel like putting out the bucks, even though you can get a fine mass produced wok for $12 or less in any Chinatown--trust some one with some decent woklng experience under his belt--this wok is truly exceptional and worth the money. This isn't about buying an "artsy" and attractive product (though it is that); instead, this wok truly is a cooking wonder and has really knocked the socks off of a guy that thought he was pretty much beyond being awed and astonished by any new wok, but damn--I am! I LOVE this thing!

Starting tomorrow I am starting to give all my other woks away (I currently keep about a dozen of my favorites)--I may keep my first wok, a little 13" Chinese thin walled cast iron wok that is so well seasoned it is smooth inside and glossy shiny and as non-stick as teflon, but that's about it--this Cen broths hand hammered is just unequaled and I look forward to a joyous and delicious future together…!

Cast iron - large spot won't season properly

My chemist friend has always referred to my woks and Griswalds as, officially in scientific terms, having a "plasticized surface"...

The thing that always makes me lean toward penning the flavor enhancement on the patina (my favorite word for the polymerized fat) is that it's there whether you cook beef and asparagus in a carbon steel wok, outdoors on a propane burner at 750F; BUT then it's still there, enhancing away, in a CI Griswald skillet when you scramble eggs at a low temp, say 250F, over your electric coil stove from 1955...

I've also seen the reverse happen as well. My father is a yard sale, thrift store hound, and once bought a beautiful 12" Griswald skillet for $3 (pre E-bay days!) that had a nice thick plasticized surface--this pan had been used! BUT, everything you cooked in that skillet just tasted downright funky. Eggs and meat tasted like they were going rotten--and cornbread and pancakes tasted like they has a hint of cheap canned corned beef in their make-up; and carrots had a sour metallic hint of taste that just obliterated their natural sweetness. Cooking with butter seemed to really set the foul flavors off in the pan for what ever reason...?

We called it the "evil skillet", that ruined food, and we ended up tossing it into a dump run--at the time we didn't know about deep cleaning methods (oven cleaner, or the cleaning cycle of modern ovens) and then re-seasoning--so we just took it to the dump.

Something had happened to the patina, the seasoning, of that wonderful CI skillet and it wasn't good! Quite the opposite of what you usually get from the polymerized fat layer of such a pan, but none the less the seasoning had to have been the culprit of dish after dish being so funny tasting, almost inedible if was cooked in butter.

Nov 16, 2014
toddster63 in Cookware

Cast iron - large spot won't season properly

Thumbs up, BBQKing! Right on the money....!

Nov 15, 2014
toddster63 in Cookware

Cast iron - large spot won't season properly

Yeah, I'd dig a more scientific explanation why a well seasoned pan affects flavor so much...

I've been to a friend's grandmother's house in Chinatown in SF, and she has a 30 year old carbon steel wok that she has only ever has used on her ancient electric coil stove and this wok is true BLACK, with some extensive "caking" of the seasoning in places it's so thick...

She made a stir fry over medium heat (lower temp than I ever stir fry at) of just baby bok choy seasoned only with soy sauce and the tiniest splash of Oyster sauce, and WOW--one of the best bok choys I have ever had--only bok choy cooked for me in Hong Kong over 200,000K dragon burners can compare...

Many say the wok hei can only come from intense heat, but I've seen otherwise--the seasoning of the wok can be a BIG factor.

Nov 13, 2014
toddster63 in Cookware

Cast iron - large spot won't season properly

I have had the same experience with my crepe pan which has been mainly seasoned with butter and used at lower temps too, Duffy. The seasoning is so "delicate" and light. The sides and handle are deep black, I guess from the initial peanut oil seasoning carbonizing over the years. But the usable center of the pan is mainly medium gray with a few black splotches and never really has overall deepened in color...

But, dang, that butter seasoning sure makes thing YUMMM-EEEE, doesn't it...!

Nov 13, 2014
toddster63 in Cookware
1

Cast iron - large spot won't season properly

Thanks for the great info, Duffy. I had no idea citric acid ws so common in modern formulations--it's nice to know that...!

Nov 13, 2014
toddster63 in Cookware

Cast iron - large spot won't season properly

I wish I had a better answer for you--but NO, I don't mean that from whatever else I am doing or from what the utensils are allowing me to do, that I am getting better flavor...

It's the heavy seasoning. And it's not just my taste buds appreciating it; I get so many compliments from family and friends on the most basic dishes--scrambled eggs, hamburgers, carrots, even grilled cheese cooked on my carbon steel crepe pan. I thank them for their compliments, but I know it's from the seasoned carbon steel and cast iron; when cast iron and carbon steel were alien to me, and I used my Calphalon non-stick and stainless, the compliments on the sames dishes were much fewer and I liked the taste of the foods much less as well...

How an inert layer of carbon over metal pores is doing this I just don't know--but it does!

P.S. I am told I am a "super taster" and I believe it for what that's worth...

Nov 12, 2014
toddster63 in Cookware

Cast iron - large spot won't season properly

This is really a personal thing. Originally the advice not to use soap stemmed from the day when soaps usually had lye and other harsh chemicals. These indeed can and did damage seasoning on seasoned metal.

Modern soaps are fine and are okay for seasoning if that factor of clean is important to you (but personally if cleanliness is that big of a factor in your kitchen time, look into enameled cast iron or ceramic cookware).

Personally I never use soap on my carbon steel or cast iron; they do get vigorously scrubbed with scalding hot water and a brush, or for bad bits and spots my chain link scrubber comes out.

Once decently seasoned (6-12 months of regular use and oiling after scrubbing), they do not need to be re-oiled or re-seasoned or have touch up seasonings; regular use does all that. Some of my less than favorite woks and skillets have been stored for up to a decade and have never rusted (not even a micro dot) and still cook brilliantly tasted food after 10 years of storage. Polymerized oils do not go bad or develop bad flavors. They are very inert.

So soap if you want, don't if you trust that heating up to 300F+ degrees is going to kill anything on the metal. But to call not soaping a 'childish habit' is a bit naive and well, rather rude.

Using soap on seasoned cooking pots and pans and woks is a personal thing. Personally the best seasoned pans I have seen come from grandmothers and Chinese chefs who avoid the usage of any soap, so thats has always been my game plan to emulate them. I love those Griswalds, or French carbon steel skillets, or woks with a thick 1/8" layer of black carbon on them from uber usage--they are truly the closest to teflon I have seen and WOW--the flavor they contribute to a the food cooked in them!!