If you’ve ever enjoyed a meal from an Asian street food vendor, chances are you have been thinking about getting a wok and burner for yourself. It’s not hard to make some great meals from very simple recipes. Yet, there are a few things to consider when shopping for the best outdoor wok burner.
In this article, we’ll explore the nuts and bolts of using a wok, as well as what to look for in a propane wok burner.
Our Best Outdoor Wok Burner
- Bayou Classic SP10 High Pressure Cooker
- Gas One Outdoor Propane Burner
- Concord Deluxe 16” Banjo Propane Burner
- Durasteel Propane Jet Burner With 32 Brass Tip Flame Ports
- Super Propane Burner by ARC USA
What to Look For in the Best Outdoor Wok Burner
The shape of the wok bottom is a major factor to keep in mind when you are shopping for a burner. If you are new to the world of high heat cooking and stir fry, you might have an easier time with a flat bottom wok.
Key Differences Between a Flat and Round-Bottom Wok
As the name implies, the bottom is flat, so that means it can pull double duty as a frying pan. You can set it over the burner to fry eggs and bacon, or you can use it for a traditional stir fry. Perhaps the most important part is that you can set it down on a flat burner top, without having to worry about a catastrophic spill.
A round bottom wok is more traditional. It’s what you are more likely to find in a hawker center or Asian street food stall. The curvature means that, while it works great on a propane burner, it’s not advisable if you plan to also use the wok on an electric or glass stove.
The round bottom also means you can’t confidently set it down on a flat propane burner without a wok ring or adaptor. Believe me, I thought I had one balanced perfectly when I needed to grab some bean sprouts. The second I took my eye off it the wok rolled, spilling hot oil and steaming vegetables all over the counter. That much super hot oil will leave a stain on your deck for years!
Fortunately, a wok ring adapter is relatively cheap. It also helps concentrate the heat. There are some outdoor gas wok burners that have a trivet built into the cooking surface. Some of them can also support a flat bottom wok confidently.
Does Wok Size Matter When Shopping For a Burner?
In general, you want a wok that is between 12 and 16-inches in diameter. Most experienced home cooks find a 14-inch diameter wok to be just the right size. Any bigger than 16-inches in diameter can be difficult to move around. You tend to only find these giant woks in commercial kitchens.
The handle also matters. A large wok with two small handles will give you a major hand cramp and you will eventually lose all the hair on your wrist. A long comfortable wood handle feels natural when you are tossing the wok and it keeps your wrist away from the heat.
If you need help choosing the right size and type of wok for you, this video by Adam Liaw might help.
What Are BTUs and How Do They Matter?
BTU stands for British Thermal Units which is used around the world for determining the amount of heat energy needed to raise the temperature of a single pound of water by 1-degree Fahrenheit.
When it comes to outdoor propane burners, a minimum of 25,000 BTUs is needed to properly heat a wok. Yet, I think you’ll find that’s a little underpowered. In fact, some of the top-rated wok burners produce 50,000 to 65,000 BTUs. There are even a few that are rated to produce over 100,000 BTUs.
Just keep in mind that some of these burners with astronomical BTU ratings are losing a portion of that heat to the surrounding air.
What’s the Difference Between Propane and Natural Gas?
Natural gas has roughly a third of the energy density of propane. This means it takes longer for a natural gas burner to produce the same level of heat. It’s also worth noting that natural gas tends to only be available from a municipal source, which requires your provider to install a line into your home.
Propane is a byproduct of refining petroleum. It’s available through municipal lines, as well as in portable tanks. If you also want to use your wok burner as a portable stovetop, or a camp stove, you probably want to give preference to propane.
When it comes to price, natural gas is a little more energy efficient than propane, which means it will cost you less per unit. Unfortunately, natural gas burners do tend to cost a little bit more.
Can I Use an Outdoor Burner Indoors?
First off, if you live in an apartment or townhouse, you need to check with the managers to make sure you are allowed to use a wok burner on your deck or patio. Some will provide common areas or pavilions where tenants can safely cook outdoors.
Even if you own your home, the amount of smoke a wok produces when placed on a high heat burner can be a problem. I pushed my luck once and ended up having to reset every smoke detector in the house and my daughter complained about the smell in the kitchen for over a week.
It’s best to find a dedicated outdoor spot to use it. Preferable ten feet from the house or garage.
Does Burner Height Matter?
There are some wok burners that come with their own built-in stand. With these units, you want the burner base to be at least 12-inches high. This allows room for proper airflow.
Do Accessories Come Included?
A few work burners come in combo packs that include things like spatulas, and special thermometers. Sometimes they can save you money on things you need to buy anyway. Just double-check the price to make sure you wouldn’t save more money by buying them separately.
Does it Matter If it’s Painted?
With some propane wok burners, the paint is more of a protective coating, and it burns off with a fair amount of toxic smoke the very first time you use it. It really doesn’t impact the performance. If you really want the painted look, there are some high-quality firebox paints out there that are rated to handle as much as 1,200 degrees Fahrenheit. They’re pretty easy to apply yourself.
Are There Any Safety Concerns?
An infrared thermometer might also be a good idea. It shoots a small laser beam that can measure the surface temperature of the oil and the metal of the wok. It can tell you how hot the wok is and if the oil is nearing its smoke point.
Does the Type of Hose Matter?
Ideally, you want a hose that’s made from braided stainless steel. If your burner comes with a rubber gas hose, you might want to wrap the first 12 to 16-inches in heavy-duty aluminum foil. This will keep random droplets of hot grease from potentially melting a hole in the rubber. While this is a rare occurrence, I’ve seen it happen. Considering the energy density of oil and hydrocarbon gases, I think it’s best to err on the side of paranoia.
Outdoor Wok Burner Reviews
It has a one-piece welded steel frame. The burner is also surrounded by a 360-degree shroud that concentrates the heat, while also protecting it from the wind. The burner is rated to produce 55,000 BTUs, which might seem smaller than the competition, but less of the heat is lost.
The cooktop is 13-inches high, and the burner has a 14-inch diameter. It only weighs 12.5 pounds for easy portability. The gas hose is 48-inches long and made from braided stainless steel.
- 360-degree shroud to protect the burner from wind and concentrate the heat.
- 55,000 BTUs of heat.
- Lightweight and portable.
- One-piece welded steel frame.
- 14-inch diameter top is the perfect size for a wok.
- Braided stainless steel gas hose for superior safety.
- 13-inches high for easy tabletop cooking.
- A basic gas regulator is included in the initial purchase.
- Tripod base doesn’t safely bear heavyweight items.
- Protective paint burns off with the first few uses.
- It needs a wok ring adapter to accommodate a round bottom wok.
The burner element is rated for 200,000 BTUs, which is more than enough to properly heat a wok. However, that much heat will burn off the protective paint coating. You should expect some fumes the first time you use it. Just give it 20-minutes to break it in.
You will need a wok ring adapter if you want to use it with a round bottom wok. The braided steel propane hose with secure connections earns it bonus points for safety. The included storage cover is also a nice touch. Just make sure the cook top cools all the way down before putting the cover on.
- 200,000 BTUs.
- Very sturdy base.
- Braided steel gas hose with secure connections.
- Large enough to also handle stock pots and outdoor deep fryers.
- Comes with a cover.
- 12-inches high.
- Only weighs 18-pounds.
- Easily portable.
- Protective paint coating needs to be burned off before initial use.
- Remaining paint may chip over time.
- Needs a wok ring adapter to accommodate a round bottom wok.
The Concord Deluxe 16” Banjo Propane Burner was designed to double as a versatile camp stove. It has a cast iron base with legs that are removable yet sturdy when installed. You should not use it without the legs. When they are locked in place the top is capable of supporting significant weight.
All this sturdiness also means it weighs in at 32 pounds. This might be a little on the heavy side if you want to use it as a portable burner.
The cooktop is 16.5-inches high, and the burner is rated to produce up to 200,000 BTUs of heat. Like many similar units with a rating this high, a portion of the heat is lost to the surrounding air. It will also need a wok ring adapter if you want to use a round bottom wok, which might help concentrate more heat.
It is CSA-certified for safety. However, it does come with a rubber hose. If you are going to be cooking with oil that might spatter, you should wrap the first foot or so of the hose with some heavy-duty aluminum foil.
- Cast iron construction with heat-resistant paint.
- 200,000 BTUs.
- CSA-certified for safety.
- Detachable legs.
- Legs need to be properly installed before use.
- Rubber hose needs protection when cooking with spattering oil.
- 32 pounds might be a little too heavy to be portable.
This burner is small, compact, and designed to hold a round bottom wok. The base is made from heavy-duty cast iron with a protective layer of paint. It has 32 brass tip burner elements which are intended to serve as a physical base. It is rated to produce 160,000 BTUs of concentrated heat.
I would still recommend getting a wok ring adapter for it, just to be safe. Even if you have a flat-bottom wok, the top of the ring will help hold it steady.
The jet burner only weighs 8.4-pounds which means it’s very portable. You will need to get a secondary support frame if you want to multitask it as a camp stove. It’s not safe to use this type of burner for natural gas. However, Durasteel offers a similar unit designed for low pressure natural gas.
- Lightweight and portable.
- 160,000 BTUs.
- Cast iron base with 32 brass tips.
- Heat is concentrated evenly around the ring.
- Needs a secondary base to be used as a camp stove.
- A wok ring is advisable.
- Not designed for natural gas.
- ¾-inch connections, which might require special connectors.
It’s lightweight, which makes it portable, and versatile enough to double as a camp or fish house cook stove. ARC USA rates it to produce 80,000 BTUs of heat. The short distance between the flame ports and the cooktop helps reduce the amount of heat that’s lost to the surrounding air.
The Super Propane Burner sits much lower than other burners in this class. If you are going to be cooking for a long session, on a wood surface, you might want to put down a pizza stone or sturdy platter to keep from singing the underlying table.
It comes with a regulator with two control knobs for making sensitive heat adjustments. It is CSA rated for safety. However, the hose is still rubber, so you should consider protecting it with heavy duty aluminum foil before adding oil to the wok.
- Heavy-duty cast iron construction.
- Dual-control knob regulator that’s been CSA rated for safety.
- Lightweight and portable.
- Can be used for a round or flat-bottom wok.
- Includes detailed instructions for breaking it in.
- Low profile can make a tabletop hot during a long cooking session.
- Rubber hose may need added protection.
- Paint might burn and chip over time.
Any of these burners will get the job done. If I had to choose just one, I would go with the Bayou Classic SP10.
The stainless steel hose protects the gas line. The shroud around the burner element spares you the frustration of the breeze blowing it out on a windy day. It also helps to concentrate the heat, allowing you to use nearly all its 55,000 BTUs. If you have a round bottom wok, you will have to sink a few extra dollars into a sturdy wok adapter ring.
It’s light enough to take it with you as a camp stove. Just keep in mind that its welded steel tripod base isn’t meant to pull double-duty, heating heavy pots and deep fryers.