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A wok range is a cooking unit specially designed to be used with a round-bottomed wok and to provide the high levels of heat necessary for many Asian styles of cooking. One of the distinguishing features of a wok range is the cooking surface, which often appears as a flat metal counter with holes cut into it so the base of the wok sits below the surface, exposed to the heat source. The burners on the range primarily use gas as a fuel, because it can quickly and efficiently heat a wok to high temperatures, although some induction models exist that operate with electricity. Both commercial and home versions of the ranges are produced, with commercial versions often made to look more like standard cooking stations with multiple openings for many woks spread across the surface. Some free-standing and countertop ranges give all the benefits of a wok range while also reducing the overall footprint of the unit in a kitchen.
Two elements of cooking in a wok help to determine how a wok range is designed. The first is the shape of the wok itself — usually rounded with no flat bottom that would allow it to be placed on a flat surface. This means a range must have either a round opening or an elevated round ring over the burner to allow the wok to sit securely on the cooktop. One benefit of using a wok on a specially designed range is that a loose seal is made when the wok is placed in the burner opening, preventing large amounts of heat from escaping into the air.
The second element of wok cooking is the frequent requirement for high heat. When designed for certain styles of Asian cooking, a wok range is capable of generating much more heat than many standard ranges. This means some ranges have water-cooled surfaces to prevent the heat from making the entire unit too hot to touch. The heat also can lead to designs that have more workable space above and around a wok so the pan can be moved freely from one area to another to better control cooking.
A valuable feature on a freestanding or commercial wok range is a heat control lever, pedal or switch on the ground or at knee-level. This is useful in many instances, because a cook who is using a wok often has a cooking utensil in one hand and the wok or prepared ingredients in the other, leaving no hand free to adjust the high cooking heat. Instead, the chef can use foot pedals on the floor or operate a handle with a knee to increase or decrease the amount of heat being produced.
Home versions of a wok range are available but can require some special considerations. The units can produce much more heat than a traditional home range, so proper ventilation and clearance must be available. The flow of gas into the home also must be high enough to maintain the large amount required by the burners.
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