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Sep 23, 2012 02:25 PM

Home stir-frying with a wok, is it possible? Not enough BTU?


I would like to get into wok stir-frying at home. But after reading the board, and viewing some videos on Youtube, it appears to me that home wok burners aren't powerful enough for real wok stir-frying.

The most powerful wok hob I could find is this: (see the attached image


It has a 6.0 kW dual control wok burner. I am from Europe, 6.0 kW equals to 20473 BTU.

Is 20473 BTU enough for a wok? I really could not find a more powerful wok burner for indoor home use.

Can I stir-fry good food using a very good carbon steel wok and this 20473 BTU wok burner?

By the way, another issue is that the gas quality is not the best here, so it affects the produced heat level in a negative way.

I don't want to win a cooking competition, I just would like to cook/stir-fry delicious and healthy meal for myself.

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  1. What is "real" wok cooking? Most of the people who cook with woks (Chinese) do not have expensive pro-style ranges. I wouldn't (and don't) let the equipment snobs discourage me from using my wok. The main thing is just to preheat it and not put too much in it at once. The burner you have is sufficient.

    8 Replies
    1. re: GH1618

      "What is "real" wok cooking?" That's a good question, I just read on several places that the "pros" recommend 100-120K BTU wok burners. But this indoor wok burner can only produce fifth of it.

      I an a newbie when it comes to wok stir-frying. I will buy a wok set and a wok burner in the next 1-2 weeks, so any advice is welcome. I move to a new home and I shop for the kitchen equipment now. I am considering that Siemens ER326AB70E 6.0 kW wok burner because it is the most powerful wok burner I could find for indoor use.

      1. re: Charybdisz

        I wish I had something that nice. Will you have exhaust ventilation?

          1. re: Charybdisz

            It's recommended, because you can produce smoke with wok cooking, as well as a lot of heat.

            1. re: Charybdisz

              For indoor WOK cooking (or cooking with any really high BTU burner) you want a really good hood (600~900CFM) that vents outside to remove any smoke or odors. You will also need the corresponding fresh air intake.

              1. re: Sid Post

                How many CFM do I need for this Siemens 20 000 BTU wok burner?

          2. re: Charybdisz

            That burner will work better then what most home cooks use with their WOKs. It will also work nice for large pots of water for pasta.

            In terms of BTU's, a lot of people are happy here in the USA using an outdoor turkey fryer or similar burner that puts out 30,000BTU's. That Siemens unit looks like a very good option for you considering where you live and the fact that you want to use it indoors.

            You aren't running a professional Chinese restaurant so, don't worry about getting a 100K+ BTU burner to use with 20 or 30 inch WOKs. With smaller batches of ingredients I doubt you will notice the difference in BTU output in the quality of your cooking.

            1. re: Sid Post


              Don't you know a wok hob which is more powerful than this Siemens 20 000 BTU? For at home, indoor use of course.

        1. You should do just fine.

          1. I agree with GH1618.
            Just as one can grill a steak by searing it in a cast iron pan heated up to 800C at home or have the same steak at Ruth Chris that seared their steak to 1800C. The end result can be pretty close! Likewise with stir frying with a wok. At home, one might not achieve the desired 'wok hay' effect by inflaming the oil while tossing, thus creating that 'smokey' aroma and taste, however, as GH1618 eluded to. If you 'pre-heat' the wok ( DO NOT USE NON STICK WOK! get a decent Chinese one that can take higher pre-heat temperature ) and DO NOT OVERLOAD. You should be able to get some pretty decent result!

            5 Replies
            1. re: Charles Yu

              pre-heat the wok on the same wok burner where I will cook the food, or in an oven? For how long should I pre-heat it?

              I also read that pros use non stick woks, I am considering the Joyce Chen Flat-Bottomed Wok (14 inches), and its product description says: "Traditionally Woks are uncoated. They are simply seasoned with a little oil before their use and thereafter periodically. The advantage of being uncoated is that higher temperatures can be reached which are in turn transferred directly to the food. On the downside Non Stick coatings make cleaning far easier and helps maintain the appearance of the Wok. If you are a very serious Asian Cook then use uncoated, otherwise Non Stick will make your life easier."

              1. re: Charybdisz

                JUST SAY NO TO NON-STICK WOKs!

                A properly seasoned "raw" iron WOK won't stick. You can also use metal wok utensils without hurting the finish. Considering the fumes from Non-Stick pans can kill pet birds from cooking eggs, I can't imagine what sort of toxic gas I'd get from a non-stick WOK at much higher temperatures.

                In terms of sticking, clean up, etc. it's easier then stainless steel for me. Even stainless steel isn't too hard with the right technique. My De Buyer Mineral pans are every bit as non-stick as your better non-stick skillets.

                1. re: Sid Post

                  The only way you are going to kill a bird with a non-stick pan at egg cooking temperatures is to add the bird to the scramble, and it will be the heat that will do it in...

                  Non-stick pans are totally safe at their designed cooking temperatures. There are new ceramic based finishes that are designed to work at higher temperatures up to the flash ignition point of cooking oils.

                2. re: Charybdisz

                  Just let the wok heat up with a little oil in it on the burner where you will cook. I usually put some garlic in the oil to flavor it, which will get overcooked, then strain it out before continuing. Stick a common bamboo chopstick in the oil to test the temperature. When it is hot, bubbles will come out the end of the chopstick.

                  A plain carbon steel wok is best. The appearance of the wok is nothing. A well-used wok is an ugly wok, in my opinion.

                  1. re: Charybdisz

                    And you don't need a flat-bottomed wok with a wok burner.

                3. Yes. It is possible. I agree with GH's point and I have mentioned this many many times. Yes, it would be great to have high BTU stove for stir fry. However, wok was invented thousands years before high BTU stoves were available and even most Chinese in today China do not have crazy pro style ranges.

                  Nevertheless it is important to stir fry at high temperature. The way to ensure this are: (a) preheat the wok to the desirable temperature and (b) do not over crowd the wok due to the limit BTU stove. If necessary stir fry in two batches or three.

                  Ultimately, it is about the temperature. The power (BTU) help to achieve the temperature, but there are ways to circumvent.

                  1. Buy a cheap, plain steel wok and don't try to cook too much at once. Whether you need a stand alone wok burner depends on what range you've got to cook on and how much you're going to wok cook, IME. In my previous home I cooked on a run of the mill 70's era gas range. It didn't really have the BTU to do wok cooking well--I have no idea it's output. Obviously it cooked, but it wasn't great at anything that needed really high heat much less wok cooking. IME newer generation, non-fancy gas ranges have much, much better output, but YMMV.

                    In this home I have a pro style range with 30K BTU burners. That is plenty to get the job done in a wok. That said, I also have a stand alone, 130K BTU commercial wok burner which is like a jet engine. It works as amazingly as you'd expect, but unless one is wok cooking every single day (which I don't), it's unnecessary and would be the first bit of kitchen real estate I'd reclaim if I needed the space for something else. That something else would probably be induction.
                    I also have a 1500cfm hood, which, as someone else pointed out, is as or more important than the cooking appliance.