I love stir fries, but I've never been happy with the result from using my 2400w electric nonstick wok.

I've bought a nice heavy steel one and know I need a gas burner but not sure of the output I really need? My bbq has a 12000btu output side burner (about 3.5kw) which will obviously do better than the electric wok, but is this enough?

What is the optimum output to use without getting into the professional output range?

2 Answers 2


Here's a quote from the short section "Stir-Fry" in the Gargantuan work "Modernist Cuisine":

...a wok burner can deliver up to [...] 200,000 BTU/h of thermal power. [...] By comparison, Western-style professional gas burners deliver [...] 15,000-30,000 BTU/h), and domestic gas burners [...] 6,000-14,000 BTU/h)...

So for professional stir-fry ("bao" in thai - I think), the hotter the better. But there's also non-professional "chow" stir-fry, which is, in "Modernist Cuisine"s words, more like a "covered saute". You don't do the asian stir-fry because the flame is just too small, so you cook the fresh foods in their juices, stop while they're still crisp, and know that the world holds compassion also for guys with stoves like ours.


A little off topic, but I think you can get a very decent stir-fry with one of those portable butane burners. I have the Iwatani 35fw model and it can put out about 15000 btu's for a little bit of time. It's very well made and heavy duty enough to handle that type of heat. Best part is that you could take it outside and to that stir-fry outside. If your range is not powerful enough, I doubt your range exhaust will be able to take all the smoke that comes off of 15000 btu's.

Another alternative would be to go induction. I also have an induction cooker that is made for a wok. So instead of the glass top being flat it has a concave surface to accommodate a wok. But you must have a 36cm wok, as this is the right size to fit inside the indent. Too small and the wok wobbles and doesn't quite sit right. Too big and it is steady but the cooking area has been reduced, the sides don't go up as high.

I will also say that the induction does put out about 1800watts of power, which is enough to sizzle things inside, but the cooking area is rather small. Also since it's induction the sides don't get nearly as hot as if it was a flame wicking up the sides of the wok.

But either way, that electric wok will not be hot enough to produce a more restaurant style wok dish. I will say that I have modified my outdoor dirty kitchen's gas range to replicate that one big column of fire, that you can find in a commercial Chinese kitchen. Not that much heat, but more than enough to cause smoke alarms to go off if I cooked with this much heat indoors.

My range has cast iron diffusers which can be easily taken off the burner. But I will also say that it is a very unstable fire, it will go out if the burner is too high, or too low. But the sucker sure is loud and replicates that delicious noise of a jet engine. Don't ask me how many BTU's it's putting out, but it's as close as I want to get to a real one. Don't try this at home, unless you have all the equipment to put out a fire.

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