Using a Wok Burner
11/01/13 15:12 Filed in: Help & Advice
A particularly useful feature found on many gas and dual fuel range cookers is a wok burner. Fundamentally a large, powerful gas burner, a wok burner is ideal for cooking authentic Asian dishes such as stir fries quickly and efficiently.
Not Just for Woks
The wok burner is designed to provide an extremely high, even heat over a large area - the surface area of a wok, for example. This is ideal not only for wok cooking, but for any high speed cooking with a large pan, for example bringing pasta to the boil quickly. It's worth noting that any heat that is generated from a flame that is outside the diameter of the pan will largely be wasted, so not very efficient for smaller pans.
Wok burners vary in style and power from brand to brand - Britannia offer a particularly powerful 4.3kW triple ring burner on a number of their gas and dual fuel models for greater and more immediate controllability, and Lacanche cookers are noted for featuring particularly powerful wok burners as pictured above.
As their name suggests, wok cradles (also known as wok support rings) are used to support the wok at the optimum height and position over the burner for even stir frying. Designs tend to vary from manufacturer to manufacturer but they are generally cast in iron and vitreous enamelled for longevity and robustness (although, notably, the Falcon wok cradle is manufactured from stainless steel), and designed to slot over the existing pan supports on the hob. A number of range cookers offer a wok cradle as standard but aftermarket cradles are available such as our own excellent Bigblue Wok Support, which has been designed to be an almost universal fit.
Cooking with a wok
So you have the high powered wok burner, and a cradle to hold the wok at the correct height. With the tips below you should be able to rustle up an authentic store fry with no problem at all.
- Use a wok! It might seem obvious, but using a wok will prove more effective than a frying pan. If possible use a round bottomed wok as this will make achieving an even heat considerably easier as it allows the flame to reach the vertical edges - with a round bottomed wok you will, of course, need a wok cradle. The wok should be large enough to contain the ingredients comfortably but not so large that it overhangs the burner. A 12 inch diameter wok is usually a sensible size to opt for. Non-stick woks are fine, although be wary of getting the wok over-hot as teflon can emit toxic fumes if heated to above a certain temperature. By far the best option is a stainless steel or carbon steel wok, as this allows the food to sear and caramelise properly.
- Slice ingredients into uniform, bite size pieces to cook quickly and uniformly.
- Use peanut oil in preference to vegetable oil - it has a higher smoking point so allows you to get the pan hotter before adding ingredients to it.
- While cooking, keep food moving with chopsticks or a spatula to prevent burning.
- Don't overcrowd the pan! An overfilled wok will cause the ingredients to cook at vastly different rates leaving you with a combination of over and undercooked food. Far better to split the ingredients into smaller batches and transfer directly to the plate when each is cooked.