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Jul 14, 2012 05:12 PM

got a jet engine to wok, now what?

On an impulse, I walked into a random strip-center grocery store that took up about 700 sq ft while driving through a local, heavy Vietnamese neighborhood (??? lots of Phat and Ho signs everywhere, I couldn't stop giggling immaturely), and amongst all the flies, I walked up to a lady with glasses behind the register. I asked her about wok burners, she didn't really understand me, leaned over to a patron and the two grunted with each other. The lady nodded, motioned me to follow her, went to the back, pulled out a kind of dusty box amongst a bunch of other boxes, and showed me a propane-based burner, made in Taiwan. 35 Dollar she said. I looked it over, and in addition to flaking "paint" (??), saw a bunch of rat #1 and #2, which explained some of the rust. $25 I said, and pointed at the.. uh... "patina". We settled on $30 cash.

It plugged right into my bbq's propane tank, I opened the valve, and lit a match.. holy.. let me write that again.. holy crap. I set my wok on it... it smoked in under 5 seconds flat. The sound is pure awesome.

I'm relatively new to wokking, and so far have learned how to get by on my wimpy western stove.

I don't know how to use this thing... most internet recipes, etc, assume a wimpy stove.

Help?! :) I have these ingredients currently in my fridge:
Chicken breast, garlic, galanga, baby bok choy, green beans, shitake mushrooms, bell peppers, kale, carrots, celery, fish sauce, soy sauce, mirin, and plenty of regular spices and fresh herbs in my pantry.

Do I just cook like normal? Protein on oil, take out, veggies on oil starting with longest cooking and ending with aromatics, then return protein and wrap up with sauce? I'm guessing I can now do more than 1/2 portion size in my 14" wok... I'm scared.

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  1. Most of the techniques are the same just faster ( much faster) and it is a good idea to start simple till you get a feel for it. You may want to be a little more generous with the oil at first as well.

    1 Reply
    1. re: chefj

      You weren't kidding about moving much faster.

      I put the thing on high, waited about 20-30 seconds, and dropped my grapeseed oil in (I don't have peanut oil). Within about 3 seconds, it lit on fire. Turned the heat off, waited for the flame to die down, cleaned out the black gunk, and tried again, at about 1/3 the power.

      When the chicken was seared but not done, I removed it, and then went to oil + veggies, added chicken back, sauce.. and, well *shrug*. It was "okay". The chicken was very tender, but everything else was, well.. just okay; some items burned a bit. A lot of smoke during veggie phase. Need more experience, but prep really takes a lot of time compared to the old way I used to do it.

    2. Hi, jedovaty:

      I, too, have pimped my wok burner (like 180,000 btu--I think it alters the Earth's rotation).

      1. OUTSIDE.
      2. Away from any structure you won't mind replacing.
      3. LONG propane hose.
      4. Attach stove to a STABLE metal or masonry table.
      5. ALWAYS mistrust the stove's valves/NEVER leave the tank valve open after cooking.
      6. Learn to dive and roll.

      Knock Yourself Out,

      12 Replies
      1. re: kaleokahu

        Thanks for the safety tips :)

        Here's what my first setup looked like, I'll probably need to pull the bbq out a bit. Funny how the burner dwarfs the wok.

        1. re: jedovaty

          Hi, jedovaty:

          That looks like a pretty stable design. What are the multiple control knobs for, concentric rings of jets?

          I'm usually not Sam Safety, but these rigs can be scary. Here's another bit of advice... If you don't have a pressure regulator on the TANK end of the hose, get one. Don't just buy the first one you see, otherwise you will only un-pimp the rig with a too-wimpy BBQ regulator. What you need is an *adjustable* regulator that is btu-rated high enough for your highest desired hob setting. After your trial-and-error period, set the tank regulator to the *lowest* setting that will attain your "highest" (sane) heat with the stove valves WIDE OPEN. Even if all this saves you are your eyebrows, it is worth it. Seriously, unregulated tank pressure + wide-open stove + unsuspecting helper = disaster/tragedy.

          It bears repeating: LONG HOSE. Look at your photo, and envision a grease fire enveloping the tank. If this happens, you will shit yourself (and your ass will be all that is left uncooked).


          1. re: kaleokahu

            Cool, thanks. The burner came with an adjustable pressure regulator, I like your idea toning it down -- probably more so protection for myself, I won't let anyone touch my BBQ after what happened last year.

            I don't think I'm going to have any use for something so powerful anytime in the near future, but it's been a fun experiment. I may end up getting a 35k btu propane stove instead (think catering), might be safer, a little smaller, etc.

            The knob on the left controls the main burner. The knob on the right controls some thin brass line that runs from the knob section up to the burner. No idea what this is for - originally thought it might be a pilot light, but I couldn't get it lit. Any ideas?? I can take a pic if needed.

            1. re: kaleokahu

              Here's a closeup of the brass line. No ide what it is - but if I open the valve, it shoots propane out too hard to allow it to "flame".

              1. re: jedovaty

                It's a pilot light for the main burner.

                1. re: jedovaty

                  Hi, jedovaty:

                  Chances are, the brass line is a pilot, but then again, pilots aren't usually valved that way. Have you tried closing the R valve all the way and just barely cracking it open to light? Another thing is that good pilots have some sort of thermal cutoff, so that if the pilot flame goes out, NO gas will be delivered anywhere; to enable gas flow to the main burner, a thermocouple has to be heated by the pilot for a few seconds. But you just light off the main burner without waiting, right?

                  Can you give us a close-up of the jets themselves?


                  1. re: kaleokahu

                    Here you go. Sid wrote it's a pilot light, I guess that makes sense.

                    I just can't get the thing to light, even when slightly cracked open, the stream is way too fast and blows the flame out.

                    1. re: jedovaty

                      a 'choke'? (after 20+ years I'm getting reacquainted with 2-stroke engines and such - they are NOT my friends) but it may well have to do with the air flow into the flame. just guessing here. start off high and immediately reduce if it is.

                        1. re: acgold7

                          Hi, ac:

                          I'm no authority on true wok burners, but this type of array is what I seem to see in all the commercial units I've looked at lately.


                          1. re: kaleokahu

                            As long as they make the cool afterburner sound, I'm game :D That's the best part about this whole experience!

                            1. re: kaleokahu

                              Yes, those are definitely the newer cooler (hotter) ones. I remember the older 300,000 BTU burners with like ten concentric rings that shoot flames to the ceiling when the wok itself is removed. Now I think they max out at about 160K.

              2. whoa you're hardcore. (and I'm jealous)

                trial and error, trial and error.

                1. You can cook like normal except of course the timing should be shorter. You should also able to cook more food at at a time. The amount of food you should put in a wok is limited by a few things, such as the power of your heat sauce, the size of the wok and your ability to toss the food using a wok. Your jet engine pushes your first limitation higher, but you still have two other limitations.

                  6 Replies
                  1. re: Chemicalkinetics

                    Yes; I can toss and stir pretty fly in my 14" ajido, but it's going to take some time to figure this out, like hill food said above, trial and error.

                    What I don't like about this method: so many dishes, and prep time takes long (even if I'm decent with the knife), and have to setup everything outside. Given the slow startup, not sure how often I'm going to do this. In theory, should be quick, but practice, I'm kind of lazy!

                    How do you others do this so often? Just find your own system?

                    1. re: jedovaty

                      <I can toss and stir pretty fly in my 14" ajido>
                      ? I meant how much food you can put in a wok depends on several factors. One of which is your ability to toss the amount of the foods.

                      <setup everything outside>
                      I can imagine setting up everything outside is a pain. And you cannot make correction on the fly. For example, you realize that you really want to add another green onion. Now what? Run back to the kitchen? I doubt it. Whereas in your own kitchen, you can chop up something really quick in a few seconds. Yeah, I don't think I would like the situation you are in -- by setting outside, unless you have a kitchen outside.

                      I think you will also find the wok is sitting too tall. If you don't know what I am talking about, you will soon find out. :)

                      1. re: Chemicalkinetics

                        Ah, got it. I'm guessing I'll be able to do more than 1/2-1 portion with this setup, which is all I could do on my stove; in my efforts last night, I did about 3-4 portions at once, and the chicken actually came out "right", but the veggies and sauce will need work. My favorite part is that I don't need a wok ring, tossing was much, much easier and quieter without ll the banging (my stove is made from some coated metal).

                        You are right; at 6' height, I was shrugging up just a bit in holding the wok and my stir-fry "varecha" (I don't know how to translate that word to english, but it's what my mom and I call all wooden spoons and stirring devices; it's got a wooden handle, long pole, then the flat flappy area).

                        I'm going to go out on a limb and not recommend it for most people: home users cooking for 1-4 people don't need this thing, and I will say, probably shouldn't get it; it's too powerful, and ridiculously dangerous.

                        The 35k btu stoves will be safer and better.

                        1. re: jedovaty

                          <You are right; at 6' height, I was shrugging up just a bit in holding the wok and my stir-fry "varecha">

                          It would be worse if you are shorter. I think you are talking about wok spatula or wok chuan.


                          I recommend looking into wok huan.


                          Not this particular above of course, just for illustration.

                          <I'm going to go out on a limb and not recommend it for most people>

                          I won't either. :) It is powerful, but the setup just not what Chinese cooking is all about. Ask your mom, and she will know what we are talking about.

                          1. re: Chemicalkinetics

                            Ah, yes, it's the spatula that I have. I have seen that ladle in the restaurant supply store, just don't know how it would be used? I've seen it in videos, but it looks rather cumbersome, though would be useful is using liquids or rice-dishes. I just dump stuff out on a plate. What I need is a cover in case I get flames again.

                            My family is not Chinese or any other type of Asian, so it's unlikely they know what Chinese cooking is all about :) I was trying to reproduce some restaurant dishes at home, and the very small portions and high smoke gave me the desire to go for a bigger burner and outside. I actually wanted a different burner, but this was very cheap and immediately available so impulse purchase worked out. Now to learn how to tame it...!

                            1. re: jedovaty

                              <I've seen it in videos, but it looks rather cumbersome>

                              It can be. It has its advantages and disadvantages.

                              <My family is not Chinese or any other type of Asian, so it's unlikely they know what Chinese cooking is all about :)>

                              Hey, just because your family is not Chinese, it does not mean they don't understand. What are you trying to get at. :P Just kidding. Well, your mom is likely to be shorter than you, so you will find the tall setup very comfortable.

                              Have fun with the new stove. Good luck.

                  2. Wow, that thing is awesome. I might have to get one myself.

                    4 Replies
                    1. re: Shazam

                      I really wouldn't recommend it - way too powerful and dangerous. Only reason would be huge portions, lots of people, you need to boil gallons of water or oil very very quickly, or you can't afford an extra $20 to purchase a safer, lower BTU commercial wok burner.

                      In my first attempt, I had the burner near max, oil smoked and turned to fire almost immediately upon pouring into the wok.

                      Admittedly, it is helluva fun. :D

                      1. re: jedovaty

                        Gee, you're just teasing me now :P

                      2. re: Shazam

                        Here's a video my gf caught when I tried to put the grapeseed oil in:

                        See how dangerous?

                        ((begin scotty impersonation)) Cannot handle that much power, captain! ((end impersonation))

                        1. re: jedovaty

                          Yeah, you overheat it. Ha ha ha. When restaurants do it, they turn on and off the flame. So although they have very powerful thermal output like you do, they don't leave it on all the time. Anyway, as you know, the thermal output is important, but only one of the many important aspects of Chinese cooking.