I've been having a hard time finding a carbon steel wok, but I got one at a discount store the other day. It's the Joyce Chen flat bottomed one. (Yes I know it's not authentic or very good, but it's actually here in my kitchen and sits on my range without falling over.)
I've seasoned lots of cast iron before, so it's no big deal to me to season... usually. The instructions said to wash in hot soapy water to remove the factory protective coating and then use oil to season it. No problem. So I washed it, coated it in oil, and put it over high heat. The bottom seasoned nicely, but the sides couldn't get hot enough to polymerize the oil. I didn't want it rusting in the pantry (thinking I had removed all the factory protective coating by washing at this point) so I pulled out the trusty blow torch, oiled a towel, and started heating the sides.
That's when I noticed that there was a strange plasticky coating all over the entire wok. I didn't notice it until the intense heat of the blowtorch acted on it. It was very thick, tough, and no way was washing with hot water and a scrub brush going to take it off. I'd need a sand blaster. There wasn't really any off odor when I burned it down with the blow torch.
So here I am wondering what in the heck is going on. Have they assumed that I can't season the wok right, and this coating is designed to prevent rusting until it finally burns down into a "seasoning" for the pan? It does seem to burn down into an okay seasoning. (Making me think this is the case is the fact that this is a product made largely for ignorant consumers who are used to stainless steel and non-stick cookware. Most of these people wouldn't ever be able to season the sides of this wok... there is wood all over it so you wouldn't want to season it in the oven like I normally do for cast iron. Without a handheld heat source I don't know how the upper part of the wok would get seasoned before it rusted.)
The alternative explanation is that the instructions aren't right and you really have to scrub this thing out with sandpaper. And if so, I have nasty plastic chemicals going into the food I am feeding my family. (Which I could not taste based on the first and only meal I've cooked with it.)
Someone please tell me if this stuff is bad or not... Thanks!