What is a Wok Burner?

by Bob | Last Updated:  October 14, 2020
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A Wok Burner is a propane-fueled burner that produces a massive amount of heat in a short period of time. Using a wok burner allows a wok to be brought to a very high temperature quickly which is perfect for many wok cooking methods such as stir-frying, deep-frying, steaming, smoking, searing steak, and more.

In my search for a different type of heating source for my wok, I came across wok burners as an alternative.

I did not know what a wok burner was, so I decided to do some research. Here is what I discovered about wok burners:

Woks need high temperatures. The stoves and ovens in our homes and apartments usually don’t have the type of heat that Asian restaurants have. Gas stoves, electric glass or porcelain stoves, and electric coil stoves cannot duplicate the kind of temperatures that Asian restaurants can provide in their kitchens.

Wok burners are a solution to the problem of supplying enough heat to duplicate true Asian wok cooking. Wok burners can generate 20,000 BTU’s to 100,000 or more BTU’s, which is more than adequate for heating a wok.

Wok burners can use propane fuel for cooking and are very economical if correctly adjusted.

With wok burners, round-bottomed woks are the norm because of their shape. You would be hard-pressed to find a flat-bottomed wok in an Asian restaurant.  Almost 100% of woks that are used with wok burners are made of carbon steel.

Below is an example of the type of round-bottomed wok that would be used on a wok burner. This wok is made of carbon steel and includes a wooden handle and a steel helper handle. You can find this wok at Amazon. Check the price here.

When you use a round-bottomed wok with a wok burner, the cooking is so fast that the food is crispy on the outside and tender on the inside.

The food extracts some of the flavors from the wok itself. If you don’t use a wok burner, flavors from the wok are difficult, if not impossible, to infuse into your food. The infusion of flavors from the wok is not harmful because of the high heat.

Transporting a wok burner is easy because they are usually smaller than a barbecue grill. Some wok burners have folding legs or no legs. They take up less space in your car, and all you need for fuel is a bottle of propane.  

You will not have to haul around charcoal or wood to burn.  Wok burners are perfect for picnics, catering, or for use at your home. Wherever you use your wok and wok burner, you will find that clean up is a lot easier than with a barbecue grill.

Are Wok Burners Safe?

Wok burners are very safe if you use them according to the instructions. When you get your wok burner, make sure you follow the instructions so that it is assembled properly. Test all fuel line connections by spraying water on all the fittings. If bubbles appear, tighten the connections. If you do not see any bubbles, then you are good to go.

Here is a list of the safety tips that you must adhere to when using a wok burner:

Below is an example of a burner that has a great set of legs (no pun intended..lol) These legs are strong and engineered to provide a stable platform for cooking with your wok burner.

If you are clumsy or have a habit of tripping over table legs, use caution around this wok burner. This is the last thing you ever want to trip over!

Woks burners can come with an electric or a manual start. When you start your wok burner, make sure that you turn the main fuel supply down and slowly open the pilot valve. Once you have done this, it is safe to start the burner.

If you have an electric start, push the button to ignite the pilot light.

If you have a manual start, you will need a match or lighter. Turn your primary fuel supply to its lowest setting or just shut it off. Then slowly open the pilot valve and light the pilot with a match or lighter. When you slowly open the pilot valve, you will hear gas rushing through the pilot gas system.

Here are some lighters that I recommend so that you can keep your fingers away from the flame when it ignites.

Prices and images pulled from the Amazon Product Advertising API on:

Can You Use a Wok Burner Inside Your Home?

Do NOT use your wok burner inside your home. Wok burners burn hot and will give off carbon monoxide.  Also, if the burner turns over, it could start a fire.

Only use wok burners outside of your house.

Is a Wok Burner Stand Recommended?

In my research, I discovered that a lot of the stands that come with wok burners are flimsy. The legs on some of these stands are made of very thin-walled metal, which means they are weak.

When you considering purchasing a wok burner do some research on the actual construction of the burner to make sure the legs will be stable and will support the burner itself and the wok.

If you place the burner on a wooden or glass table, you should consider using a large brick or stepping stone under the wok burner to keep the heat away from the table surface.

What Are The Best Wok Burners for Home Owners?

There are many different types of wok burners on the market. They all work on the same principle. Most of them use the same kind of fuel (propane gas).

I did a lot of research on wok burners. Some of the burners sit on solid metal tables. Other wok burners are table-top models. Some wok burners even have legs to support them.  If you want to build your own wok burner, you can also buy the parts from Amazon.

The wok burnerI like the most is the Eastman Outdoors 90411 burner. Check Amazon for availability and prices. This burner would be perfect for your back lawn or patio, yet big enough for use by catering companies.

Here are some other burners that I can recommend.

Prices and images pulled from the Amazon Product Advertising API on:

If Using a Wok Burner, What Kind of Oil Should I Use in My Wok?

With any wok cooking, you should use an oil that has a HIGH SMOKE point and this is especially true when using a wok burner. Any of the following oils would be safe to use.

You should also be aware that any oil can reach the smoke point and beyond if there is too much heat. Wok burners can easily exceed the smoke point on any high smoke point oil.

Prices and images pulled from the Amazon Product Advertising API on:

I would not use flaxseed oil to cook with a wok because the smoke point is only around 225 degrees F. I have had other problems with Flaxseed oil such as it flacks off into your food. Flaxseed oil hardens more than any other oil when applied to carbon steel cookware such as woks.

You can get more information on oils to use for woks or carbon steel cookware here. Note that this article on oils pertains mostly to seasoning carbon steel, but also relates to cooking with carbon steel cookware.

Related Questions

What is a BTU? BTU stands for British Thermal Unit. According to Wikipedia:  It is a traditional unit of heat; it is defined as the amount of heat required to raise the temperature of one pound of water by one degree Fahrenheit. Its counterpart in the metric system is the calorie, which is defined as the amount of heat required to raise the temperature of one gram of water by one degree Celsius.[2]

How many BTUs are is a wok burner? To stir-fry in a wok properly, the temperature needs to be high enough to cook your food the instant it hits the pan. Restaurants will have burners that are 20,000 to 50,000 BTU.  Some restaurants will even have special wok burners that are 250,000 BTU.

How many BTUs are in a home gas stove? A home stove has, on average, about 7000 BTUs per burner. Some burners are lower, designed for simmering, and low-heat cooking, and only put out 3000 to 5000 BTUs.  There may be one very large burner on a range that goes up to 12,000 BTUs.