What Is a Wok Burner?

T. Carrier

The wok is a popular Chinese cooking utensil that has gained prominence in other parts of the world. It typically consists of a steel or iron pan with a round bottom and a long handle. Numerous cooking methods may be utilized with a wok, ranging from stir-frying to stewing. The term "wok burner" may sometimes refer to the wok itself or an electric version of a traditional wok. It may also reference a stove or other separate device that provides heat for the wok.

Wok burners are perfect ideal for stir-fries, thanks to their wide rim and deep sides.
Wok burners are perfect ideal for stir-fries, thanks to their wide rim and deep sides.

Different regions have devised different types of woks, but most have the aforementioned common characteristics. For example, Indian cooks use both a cheena chatti and a karahi. The cheena chatti possesses a wide diameter and the karahi possesses a deep, narrow diameter. Other regional monikers for wok burners include kuali, chakanabe, and guozi. Some Western manufacturers of woks offer flat-bottomed products, so that the wok or wok burner may be more easily used on an oven top.

Cantonese and other Chinese dishes can be rapidly cooked using a gas wok burner.
Cantonese and other Chinese dishes can be rapidly cooked using a gas wok burner.

The characteristic roundness of most woks owes itself to traditional Chinese methods of cooking. Stir-fry — where various meats, vegetables, and sauces are cooked together and served — is popular in Asian cuisine. These dishes are easier to make when the rounded spatulas used for tossing the food can easily access all of the pan’s contents. The deepness of the wok pan also allows the inclusion of more ingredients.

Handles for wok burners are likewise designed for optimal cooking. They typically consist of durable metal, and many possess a loop on the end that makes holding the handle with a towel and subsequent tossing actions easier. Further, the handle’s long length helps prevent most accidental burning cases.

Wok burner might describe specialty stoves on which woks perform their cooking functions as well. These stoves often contain recessed pits, in which the round bottom of the wok can be placed. High levels of heat can then directly reach the wok. This particular stove-wok partnership is advantageous because little fuel needs to be used in order for the food to receive intense heat.

Individuals may wish to use woks away from the kitchen. In these cases, portable products known as wok burners are also available. Propane or gas generally fuel these ring-like metallic devices. They can be placed on a burner stand, with the wok itself being placed atop the burner, where it will receive large amounts of heat. Users should be advised about the potential flammability of gas wok burners, however.

An electric wok burner provides another option for non-stovetop wok use. This type consists of much the same structure as a classic wok, but these varieties do not require stove-top cooking. Rather, the pan has built-in heating components that function via electrical charges. Adjustable heat settings and lids are often available on these electric products.

Many other types of cooking besides stir-frying can be accomplished with a wok burner. Larger woks may be useful for deep frying methods. More liquid-based dishes may be boiled, braised, or stewed. When combined with other cooking utensils like racks and steaming baskets, wok burners can also be used to smoke or steam ingredients.

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