Wolf Cooktop For Wok - OR - Can I do better?
Hey.. we use a WOK for 90% of our cooking at home and need to upgrade our cooktop, and could use some advice! I think we found a solid solution (within budget) but wanted to run it by some of you to make sure in case we could do better.
If you're familiar with WOK cooking, you know that "heat" is critical. Restaurants with special Wok burners can range over 100,000 BTU's, all the way up to 250,000 BTU in China.
I know I can't get anything close to this for home, and, our budget of $5000 for everything (incl installation) is pretty limited. That said, trying to do the best I can.
So... what I've come up with is this for our limited space kitchen/island that'll only accommodate a 30" cooktop is as follows:
WOLF - two 15" integrated modules, including one 15" gas cooktop and one 15" multifunction cooktop with Wok Grid & 22,000 BTU burner. All totaled, including install just under $5000 including downdraft ventilation with oversized 900 (or I could go 1100 CFM) blower that'd route the grease, smoke etc. outside). Yes, I know, a overhead hood ventilation is way better, but can't do it because the increased cost (with install) and the fact that my ceiling leads to an "loft" upstairs rather than the outside.
I'd like to have 22,000 BTU (at least) and this seems like it'll be a good set-up but... can I do better with any other brands, e.g. bluestar, viking, etc. ? I looked at Miele but they didn't seem to have an equivalent.
Any thoughts or suggestions? Love to hear 'em. Thanks!!
We bought a wolf cooktop, although I wasn't focused on the higher BTU's as we don't stir-fry our food very often. Wolf has the best of the compact cook tops imho and their adjustment for heat at the lower end (with lots of simmer option) was what sold us. So you should be sure you can get the gas flow as you want. For quality, the sealed type of burner in the high-grade steel has proven excellent.
What I really wanted to tell you was about the outside vent. We *have* to vent outside for gas cooktops (building code). We were pleased to find that the ductwork could go up and then at an angle, since we're unable to go straight up to the roof (bedroom and ensuite bathroom in the way, due to a split level). We bought a Faber "telescoping" hood. It turns on when you pull it out and has 3 fan settings. This is the model:
The trick is that the bend in the ductwork has to be gentle and that you have to be sure the installer insulates the venting pipe. It was a flexible sort of metal 'coil' and in our cold climate, doesn't work without being wrapped. There was enough room in the wall to work it through alongside the sink vent pipe. Don't know if this will help, but at least it might give you some other options.
Any downdraft powerful enough to pull any smoke produced by the wok will also pull heat from the burner due to the sideways airflow. Your 22,000 BTU wok burner will feel like a 15,000 BTU burner because of this, and it'll heat unevenly to boot.
Nothing says you must route a hood duct upwards. I've seen the duct routed down a wall behind the stove. If you have a duct that'll work with your downdraft, see if you can get a duct from overhead to down to wherever the downdraft ducting would have gone.
Have you considered doing your wok cooking outdoors? I use a turkey-fryer type burner fueled by a 20-lb. propane bottle and with a wok ring fastened to the burner grate with automotive hose clamps. Under $100 for burner, bottle, hose, regulator, ring, and clamps. Another advantage is not having to clean up the oil that gets spattered out of a properly heated wok.
I think there is a tendency to get psyched out by restaurant-style techniques and equipment. A little perspective please. Outside of restaurants, who in China has a stove that puts out 100-250k btu/hr? Restaurants need that kind of output since they are doing hundreds of meals per night in very large woks. (30 inches diameter and larger).
First off, a smaller wok, say 14-16 inches diameter, just doesn't need that sort of power.
At home, since you are only trying to turn out one meal, you can "cheat" by trading time for power by heat-soaking the wok, and working the ingredients in small batches to reduce the inevitable temp drop.
It lacks the drama of cooking on a very high output burner. Will it be restaurant quality? Probably not, but I bet it would be pretty darn good. We're talking home-cooking, which is better than anything you get at a restaurant anyway!
Like deepsky, where I live (Wisconsin) has way too few days of the year when cooking outside is an option.That said, the King Kooker with the wok adapter looks pretty sweet -- not so much for everyday but awesome for entertaining.
Yep, that King Kooker looks cool. I checked it out after reading your reply. I think if we were more "casual" wok users in a different climate, it'd be a good solution.
As for China, it's interesting. There's a lot people there who still cook on 1000 y/o design traditional hearth stoves with "stoke holes", fueled by rice stalks. These stoves apparently produce substantial heat.
As for here, I just know that my electric stove isn't cutting it... and the expense for me to converting to gas isn't just the cost of the wolf range. A big part of it is also the installation of the ventilation, and the new granite top I'll need for my island.
Right now, when I attempt to use a WOK, it's more like I'm "steaming" them stir-frying. One thing that HAS HELPED is this: I was using a round bottom wok with a wok ring. I picked up a flat bottomed cast-iron wok and it definitely gets hotter. Cooking smaller amounts at a time also helps, but really slows me down.
You're right about home cooking. :-)
I can't comment on the Wolf. Myself I went for the Bluestar cooktop, that only set me back maybe 2,500---I don;'t remember any more. But I do do a lot of wok cooking on it and find it to be excellent. The 22,000 btu burners seem to be fine for a 14" wok, and the design of the grates is perfect---you simply remove the upper part of the grate assembly (that normal pots sit on) and put the wok on the lower part. It holds the wok perfectly, and gets the bottom of the wok to within an inch or so of the gas flame. The wok is hot as hell and the cooking couldn't be any better IMO. I also use the same setup to deep fry these days (french fries, fish, etc) and it is the best deep fry arrangement I ever hit on.
Worth a look.
PS You can't use the wok ring and round botton wok on an electric stove. Only gas.