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Dec 1, 2010 09:57 AM

Tabletop wok burner?

I got a great new cast iron wok and love it. I first used it at my parents house during the holidays on their blazingly hot commercial stovetop. Worked like a champ. My gas stove here in Denver... not so much.

I attempted a stir-fry last night and alas my stove wasn't up to the task. I added the ingredients slowly so as to minimize cooling of the wok but to no avail. The wok still ended up cooling too much and I ended up with a somewhat soggy dull dish. Had I added ingredients any slower I would have overcooked the early ingredients while some were left out.

I have to accept, as is often suggested here, that my stove just doesn't get hot enough to keep the wok blazing. While buying my wok at the Wok Shop in San Francisco I saw a small tabletop stove. It was a single burner powered by butane cylinders. These stoves seem to be rated around 7,000 btu

I have found several similar burners locally and online and am thinking about getting one. Have any of you tried such burners? If so, were they hot enough? Were they significantly hotter than your home stove?

Thanks in advance!

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  1. Those butane hot plates are mostly used for table side hot pots (Japanese Nabe, etc) and grilling (with a matching grill accessory). I haven't used a home gas stove in a long time, but my impression is these butane burners have about the same power. I have seen higher power models at a large Korean grocery (HMart), as well as smaller ones.

    1. They are not going to be hotter than your gas stove. "Commercial" cooktops have burners that run 15,000BTU or better, residential models are about 7500-9000.

      Those are not intended for stir-fry use and if they were then you'd use a can of butane in about a minute. They're supplemental burners for hot-pots (you'll also see them in use for omelet stations at hotels and for catering events, but cooking eggs is a fairly low-demand task).

      1. They're too punky to bother with, as noted. A friend hacked a propane-powered burner for outdoor wok duty but it's not for the timid--or under-insured. Are you letting the wok get hot enough? Can you adjust height with the ring--assuming you're using a round-bottom version?

        5 Replies
        1. re: Kagemusha

          Thanks for the responses. I Used the wok ring with the wider side facing up, allowing the wok to sit as close to the flames as possible. I heated the wok until it was smoking significantly.

          There is an Hmart in town and I'll zip over there tomorrow to see what they've got.

          I may look into the propane burner. I am not heavily insured but as a firefighter I posses a completely false sense of confidence in my ability to tame flame. What could possibly go wrong?

          1. re: mmmcqueen


            The butane burners are completely underpowered for wok cooking. I've had to use them for events and found my pan cooled down rather quickly after food gets added. You'll be highly disappointed.

            Just set up my jet-burner wok stove outside last month, it's a completely different cooking experience. I've worked on Garland commercial ranges before, these jet-burners are at least 5 times more powerful. I can finish my stir fries in less than a minute with the authentic "wok-hay" taste.

            In terms of using a rigged up propane burner indoors, unless you have a commercial-grade exhaust system, you're gonna be dealing with a whole lot of fumes that will set off your smoke detector in an instant. I'm assuming that you being a firefighter you must have one installed in your home!

            As well you must have seen videos of grease-fires getting completely out of control in an instant. I rigged mine up on concrete cinder blocks with nothing flammable around because when you stir fry with such power "flame-ups" are common (not to mention highly desirable for that wok hay flavor).

            See previous post below:

            1. re: doctorandchef

              Not just the fumes.. you are going to put out a lot of CO..which tends to be bad for the constitution.. don't you guys tell local residents not to haul their gas grills inside in the winter?

              1. re: grant.cook

                Charcoal fires produce a lot more CO than well tuned gas burners.

                1. re: paulj

                  Charcoal fires with outside of an open chimney in a house are generally ill advised, right? CO outside - fine, CO inside - blue people

        2. While the 7K BTU burners definitely won't help with your wok, I know what will: Turkey fryers. The burner on those are plenty powerful, and the pot holder doubles as a wok ring. You might find some for cheap after Christmas, but a halfway decent one isn't that expensive to begin with.

          1. You think YOU have it bad, range is crippled by being small, propane, AND at 8200 ft elevation!

            The cast iron wok (bought thanks to advice from the nice folks on this board) has helped a lot. I cook for only 1 or 2 people, so i can make it work, with breaks between ingredients for it to reheat.

            But really I didn't even begin to get Wok Hei until i got an outdoor burner. It's shielded from the wind anyway, and at least I don't have to stand out in the cold for TOO long. Looked into an indoor wok burner, but way too expensive, and would need to replace my propane line, it's only 3/8" and can't flow enough gas for a big burner anyway.


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