What I want to know is this: will using steel wool or another similar tool ruin the pan? Is this the best tool for removing that residue? Is the residue toxic? If so, is the pan already ruined and should I just get another and clean it more carefully from the beginning?
Sent by Robin
Editor: Robin, I showed the photos of your carbon steel wok to Grace Young, stir-frying guru. She says that, given the smell and the appearance of the wok, she suspects that all the factory coating was not removed when the wok was first seasoned. "It's easy to miss the top edge," she said. "I recommend using a stainless-steel scrubber with liquid detergent and scrubbing it several times as vigorously as possible."
Grace also recommends giving the wok a "facial" with oil and kosher salt (see directions here on how to do that). Then season it again with scallions and ginger.
"The wok is beginning to get a nice coating," said Grace, "and should be fine."
So, all will be well! Just give it another go with scrubbing and seasoning, and wok away!
(Images: Robin via The Kitchn's submission form)