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Oct 17, 2012 10:41 AM

Another Wok Burner question. Bear with me.

Hello Folks,
Finally decided to join after reading forums forever.

I have an electric glass top stove at home currently. Due to my very recent foray into stovetop claypot cooking, I have decided that I need to get an indoor gas stove to get the full effect. It felt like the pot was not getting hot all the way to the sides to get the full radiative effect on the food.
Anyway, now that I am going to get a flame burner for this purpose, I thought I should get one that will work with my wok cooking as well. Here's where the problems rise. What do you think is the best solution?

a) Get an Iwatani 15k btu butane burner, which runs close to $100 after tax and shipping. Is this enough for wokking? Anybody got a video of the flame? I'm curious about the flame pattern and how that affects proper heating of the bottom of the wok.
b) Get a cheap butane burner for the claypot, and get an outdoor propane burner for the wok, like the kahuna burner. Pros are I can wok outdoors and keep the smoke outdoors, and perhaps wok when camping, which realistically, is not that often. Cons are that I can't wok indoors, right next to all my condiments and what not. It's just going to be a little humbug, especially during winter months.

For a little more information, I currently wok on the glass top, with some success. However, I do have experience with professional wok burners due to my work, and therefore know what I'm missing.

Thanks in advance for all thoughts.

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    1. re: kopidrinker

      Since you know what a real WOK burner does and also "WOK" on a glass top, you realize the compromises on a small BTU WOK burner already.

      You seem to have answered your own question, BIG WOK BURNER for outside in warm weather and a small butane burner for the clay pot. For the winter months, you can continue to WOK on your glass top.

      1. re: Sid Post

        Hi Sid, thanks for your reply. I guess I'm trying to not have to do it outside if possible. Just trying to get an idea of how the Iwatani flame is like. I have no idea how many btus my glass top is pushing, not that it matters since there's limited contact with the wok.

        1. re: kopidrinker

          I have an Iwatani burner. I've never tried to wok on it, as I have a Big Kahuna burner that I use outside. Your post, however, has made me curious. Give me a day or two, and I'll try a stir-fry on the Iwatani and report back how it works.

          1. re: MelMM

            Thanks Mel,
            I look forward to your observations. Wish I could just go and check the burner out somewhere.

            1. re: kopidrinker

              Okay, kopi, I did a test and am reporting back.

              First off, as background, like you I have a glass cooktop, and like you, I bought the Iwatani for clay pot cooking. But for some reason I haven't used it, and have kept using my clay pots on the stove with a diffuser. I probably need to rethink that! And as I said above, I have a Big Kahuna burner which I use outdoors for wokking, which I use with a 16" cast iron wok. I love that setup and use it a lot, even though it is a bit of a pain to take my whole mise-en-place outside.

              So last night I tried using the same 16" cast iron wok on the Itawani burner. I was pleasantly surprised at how well this worked. I had a wisp of smoke coming from the wok within seconds, and got a good stir-fry without ever feeling like the wok cooled down too much. Is it like wokking on the Kahuna? No. But it is much better than using the stove. I will definitely use the Iwatani burner in the future when the weather might deter me from cooking outdoors.

              Today I snapped a couple pictures of the burner, with and without the wok on it, so you can see the flame. The wok is the same 16" that I used to cook last night. To take the picture I set it on the burner cold with about 2 cups of water in it, and by the time I'd taken a couple pictures, the water was starting to boil (< 1 minute). In the second photo, note the dial in the lower right, showing that the burner is not turned all the way up. In fact, it is set just above the "simmer" marking.

                1. re: MelMM

                  MeIMM, which cast iron wok do you use? Is it a lightweight traditional one or more like the Lodge cast iron wok? I'm also thinking about using a wok on my 15K iwatani. Thanks!

                  1. re: MelMM

                    MelMM, I was just reading over these old posts and am wondering if you have used your iwatani burner any more since this was last discussed? I've been seriously looking into getting something better for wokking than my glass cooktop, and although that Big Kahuna is high on my list of desires, it isn't practical where I live with snow on the ground for over half the year. Thinking maybe the iwatani is the way to go.

                    Are you still pleased with it? For price alone, I'd prefer to stick to the 12,000 btu model, but maybe I should go the next step up if it would make a better meal!

                    1. re: Allegra_K

                      Yes, I have used it several times since then, especially for fried rice in the morning, when I don't feel like setting up the Big K outdoors. It works quite well. I try to keep quantities small and not overload the wok. Funny thing, yesterday I did stir-fry outdoors and it was quite cold out (to me). I noticed it took the wok longer to heat up, and wondered if I would have been better off with the Iwatani indoors with a warmer ambienet temperature. Of course, "longer", in this case is measured in <1 minute. I'm not the most patient person on the planet.

                      I would still get the outdoor burner for the warmer months. It is really worth it, but when it is cold out or raining, I think the Iwatani makes a perfectly acceptable stand-in, and allows you to use a round-bottomed wok.

                      1. re: MelMM

                        Thank you, this is just what I was hoping to hear!

                        Now for the butane canisters, do you fly through those pretty quickly?

                        1. re: Allegra_K

                          They last longer than you'd think. You know, a stir-fry only takes a few minutes, so really, you get many uses out of them. I ordered a case with by burner, and I think I've used two.

                          I should also mentioned that Iwatani makes a nice kitchen torch that uses the exact same cannister. I ordered one when I got my burner. This is not your wimpy kitchen butane torch, which is really an overpriced cigarette lighter. I was using a regular workshop propane torch until I got this, but this one is better.
                          (no, I am not affiliated with Iwatani!)

                          1. re: MelMM

                            This is great information, I really appreciate it. I will definitely be on the lookout for one of those burners, and seeing as spring is approaching, I guess one of the outdoor setups as well....tho maybe a turkey fryer is a less expensive option (having a hard time finding the Big Kahuna within Canada, and shipping is ridiculous from the US).

                      2. re: Allegra_K

                        Mel, I did buy the 15K model, and it does quite well with the 14 inch wok that I have. One bad point is that the flame does not heat the center that well, so if you're frying an egg or something like that it may not cook that well. For larger quantities, it is great. Just keep the flame on maximum and you can make use of all the heat by moving the food around. There is a ring of heat around, with an approximate diameter of 5-6 inches.

                        1. re: kopidrinker

                          My 12K doesn't seem to have that issue. But I make it a point to adjust the flame so it matches the diameter of the food in the wok. You don't necessarily need it on max. In fact, I often have it turned down quite a bit, to concentrate the flame on the bottom of the wok. It is still plenty hot. I am still using a 16" wok on mine, but I am careful not to do to much food at one time.

                          Allegra, there are a lot of other burners out there that will work. The Big K is nice because the legs adjust in height, and you can convert from a wok setup to a turkey frier/crawfish pot/fish fry pot type of setup. But if your main objective is using the wok on it, make sure it holds a round-bottom wok in a stable, safe way.

                          1. re: MelMM

                            Yes, I guess I could do that too, but then find the heat a little too low for 'wok hay'. The heat ring diameter does reduce as the flame is turned down. Most of the time when I'm wokking I'm cooking for a family portion, so the wok is about 1/3 to 1/2 full. For leafy high water content veges, it can be almost full before wilting down. That's when the full flame comes in handy. Just watch those fingers as the flame heat comes all the way up the side. There's no barrier on the user/cook side as a professional wok ring would have. Even tried one of those cheapo wok rings but it didn't work out favorably on this burner as it seemed to suffocate the flame.

                            1. re: kopidrinker

                              That explains a lot. I think the quantities I am cooking are smaller than what you are doing, even though I am using a larger wok. When I use the Iwatani burner, it is usually just cooking for myself, or occasionally two of us, and I keep the batches very small. This helps me retain heat on the wok even with the smaller flame. For the amounts you are cooking, I would go outdoors.

                      3. re: MelMM

                        I bought this burner but i haven't bought my wok yet. Will this burner hold a round bottom wok on its own? Do i need a wok ring? Will one fit?

                        1. re: StinkyFeetMendoza

                          No, you will not need a wok ring. I have used a round-bottom wok on mine, and it sits just fine.

                      4. re: kopidrinker

                        I guess I didn't really make a recommendation, and maybe you don't need one, but is there any way you could justify getting both? The Iwatani is very nice and would definitely be more versatile for you, but wokking on the kahuna is just amazing. Perhaps you could get the Iwatani now, and then next time you have a birthday/get a raise/bonus/whatever excuse, you could add the kahuna to your arsenal?

                        1. re: MelMM

                          Thanks Mel. I think I will get the iwatani burner. Yours looks like the 12k but model, am I correct. If that's correct, I think the combination of the15k model and my smaller 14 inch wok should work fine. I have no doubt the kahuna burner is different, and we do entertaining that would have it come in handy. However, living in the bay area requires prudence and patience with purchase of non essentials. Perhaps in the future.

                          1. re: kopidrinker

                            Kopi, which cast iron wok do you use? Is it a lightweight traditional one or more like the Lodge cast iron wok? I'm also thinking about using a wok on my 15K iwatani. Thanks!

                            1. re: iyc_nyc

                              Iyc, I have a carbon steel 14 inch with two small handles. Will report back here when I get my burner and test it with the wok. It kinda sucks that going from the 12k to 15k btu model bumps the price from ~$35 to ~$75. Oh well, I'll suck it up for the price of it being dual function for me. Looks like they also have that inner flame technology for models in Japan, but not here.

                              1. re: kopidrinker

                                Great, thanks. I think I should have posted this question for MeIMM, who mentioned a CI wok.. I look forward to your report!

                                1. re: iyc_nyc

                                  For both you and Kopi, I am using a traditional Chinese CI wok.

                                  If either of you ever do get the kahuna, don't bother getting the 22" wok that comes with some packages. It is just too big to be practical. Too big to fit in a sink, and a little bit "floppy", in that there is a lot of flex in it. I use my 16" CI wok on it, cooking for two. I sometimes would like something a little bigger, maybe 18", but 22" is just ridiculous. On the Iwatani, I do think perhaps a slightly smaller wok would work better. I have a 14" carbon steel wok that I don't use because it's too small for the kahuna, but I might pull it out next time I use the Iwatani.

                                  1. re: MelMM

                                    Thanks, MeIMM! I'm restricted to indoor cooking so might try the itawani with wok for now.. I do have a standard rental gas stove, so not sure how that compares to my 15k iwatani in terms of power..

                                    1. re: iyc_nyc

                                      Your gas stove could vary a lot, depending upon how old it is, and how nice it is, but if it is an el cheapo range in a typical apartment, I'd expect that the gas burners would be < 10K BTU. Actually around 9,000 BTU for a standard burner.

                            2. re: kopidrinker

                              Yes, mine actually is a 12K BTU model. And if it works, the 15K should certainly work as well, or better. I might elect to use a smaller wok next time, and I would also advise being careful about not overloading the wok. But if you just do a couple portions at a time, it should be fine, and very versatile for you with your clay pots.

                              I should note that in the pictures, I had the burner turned down pretty low, but there was still a lot of flame around the base of the wok. This made me wonder if I could get a nice low flame for simmering in a clay pot, which is what I bought it for in the first place. The answer is yes, you can. You can turn it down well below the simmer setting and the flame settles into a very nice low flame (still burning blue, just really small).

                              Thanks for giving me an incentive to test this burner. It's really nice and I obviously need to use it more.

                              1. re: MelMM

                                I believe there's a video or a kahuna burner and a 14 inch wok being placed on it on youtube. Actually, here it is
                                Maybe you have the other kahuna burner. The one that comes with the wok as a set.
                                If I do get the burner, I don't intend to get the set. Will use it with my current wok. Already have all the utensils anyway, and certainly don't need to pay for that cookbook when the net is all we need.
                                As for claypot cooking, growing up in Asia, low flame certainly wasn't used. Of course, business profit and speed of service was certainly a factor. I do think that too low of a fire focuses heat entirely on the bottom of the claypot, which doesn't really make use of the radiative effect of clay. If the entire claypot is hot, it acts like an oven, transmitting infrared waves towards the center of the pot. In fact, if you look at the shape of the chinese sand pot, it seems to be almost a semi circle, which focuses energy towards the center of the pot, almost like a solar panel would. That energy, along with the steam and simmering liquid, cooks the food. Of course, this is my theory, which I am going to verify as I continue experimenting with the sandpot.

                                1. re: kopidrinker

                                  That burner has different brackets than mine. Mine did come with the giant wok, but not a cookbook. The brackets are designed for a round bottomed pan (wok) on one side, and turn over to accommodate a flat-bottomed pot (steamer, fish fryer, etc). I like the design that I have, but the wok is useless. I haven't tried a 14" wok on mine. It might work fine, but even cooking a single portion, I prefer the 16" wok. When you use the kahuna, you have to move so quickly, that sometimes you can get sloppy and let a bite of meat slide out of the wok. My neighbor's cat always hangs around when I wok outside.

                                  1. re: MelMM

                                    Yeah, pieces of food slice off when I do wokking at work as well. I know what you mean. Maybe I like smaller and lighter woks as I'm not a big guy and don't have tremendous strength to flip heavy woks. If you have the strength, great for you. I need both hands to flip the 22 inch wok at work, which means putting down the ladle first. Of course, part of it is lack of technique. Not having mastered the flipping technique on a wok ring, I have to resort to a 'western' flipping technique. The correct technique puts all the weight on the ring itself, while the left hand just balances, with more of a pushing and pulling motion. Actually Mel, your model looks like it has better brackets, but is no longer offered as an individual item.

                2. Best I can tell from the videos of Easy Chinese, she uses a conventional butane hot plate when not in her kitchen