So you’ve gotten yourself a new high quality wok, the weather outside is amazing, you’re hungry, and besides, your stove burners and range hood can hardly handle the power a wok needs to work properly.
It’s time to get an outdoor wok burner.
A wok burner is just a stand burner built to hold a wok and generate the incredibly high heat needed for rapid wok cooking. These stands are set up so that they channel heat right into the base of the wok for extremely rapid heating.
These burners usually run on propane gas and can be hooked up directly to the propane tanks you probably already have for your grill. The burners also tend to have adjustable legs, so you can change the height to your liking, and to be very heavy duty.
They also have the charm of being built for outdoor cooking. Burgers on a grill on one side, and a stir fry in a roaring wok on the other.
The burners also have some other utilities. Since they generate such high heat and have relatively wide burner heads, they are also great for any kind of cooking with large pots outdoors.
This means that these burners are also suitable for shrimp boils, deep frying whole poultry, or even making stocks if you so please. They might be sold as “wok” burners, but they’re really just super high powered outdoor stand burners. They can handle all sorts of other type of large pots or high temperature cooking.
Some companies already known for their rugged appliance parts and gas valves have gotten into the outdoor wok burner market, like Eastman. There’s plenty of well made options to choose from.
Options for Your Piece of Cooking Gear
There’s even some options, like this King Kooker burner, that come with their own wok to make things extra easy on you. It’s a great one to start with.
There are also a few setups that include multiple burner heads in a row as a single setup. For your home cooking needs, all you need to worry about is the single burners. These multi-burners only have utility for commercial spots.
And choose from one of the many wok burner options you should. I would say that it is nearly imperative to get an outdoor wok burner if you seriously want to get into wok cooking.
There’s simply few other realistic alternatives.
Round bottom woks just don’t fit on stovetops (though you may consider a wok ring for gas stoves) and even for the flat bottom woks that do, very few home stoves get even close to the temperatures required for proper wok stir frying.
Wok cooking techniques have always relied on extremely high temperatures and constant motion to rapidly cook and char food. When done properly, these techniques can give wok stir-fry’s s a unique flavor that’s impossible to otherwise mimic.
Your home kitchen is unlikely to be able to handle these demands. Home burners are only 1/10th to 1/7th as powerful as proper wok burners. And, with all the tossing and turning you need to do with a wok, you might quickly find that your kitchen isn’t quite as spacious as you thought it was.
There’s just no better option than an outdoor wok burner. These burners create an extremely powerful jet of flame to heat the wok properly. Plus, since they’re built to be used outdoors there’s little concern about generating too much smoke or heat.
The burners are also all designed with wok techniques in mind. They’re built to cradle the wok in such a way so that you can easily toss the wok as much as need be. And since you’ll be cooking outside with these burners they’ll be much less risk of you knocking something with your wok as you hone your stir fry skills.
You can’t use an outdoor grill like a wok burner
You may be asking yourself, “heck, well, if I need a outdoor propane burner for my wok, why not just use my outdoor propane grill?” And, yeah, well, they’re both outdoor, they’re both propane, it almost makes sense, doesn’t it?
And to be fair, it can work… sort of.
If you have a wok with a flat base, this method is certainly workable. Just place it on the cooking grate and let it rip. You can use the wok in much the same way you use a cast iron skillet on the grill.
But at that point, you’re just using a wok like any old cast iron skillet. There’s not a whole lot of extra utility you can get out of the wok by using it in this way.
This is because the grill is just never going to be nearly as good as a wok burner in terms of how much heat it can generate. You’re just going to get the same cooking experience of using any other type of pan.
Even heat distribution is the key
A grill’s heat is more dispersed and also partially dependent on the lid. Closing the lid naturally raises the temperature. But few gas grills are large enough to accommodate a whole wok under their lids.
Also, out of an abundance of caution, I’d also like to point out that using a wok on a regular gas grill precludes deep frying in your wok. Open flame and hot oil just don’t mix. Which is a shame, because deep frying is one of the things woks are so great at.
Check out our list of best outdoor wok burners
Don’t be intimidated and don’t skimp. An outdoor wok burner is by far the best way to have a solid wok setup at home. If you need a quick rundown, just check out our article on the Best Outdoor Wok Burner.