In the documentary, 'I Like Killing Flies,' Kenny Shopsin describes how he drilled bigger holes in his gas range to increase the power output. Ignoring the possible safety issues, would this work on a standard home gas range? It would seem that the gas output is somehow limited by the knobs. Also, increasing the gas output could potentially change the gas/air ratio, which, I think, might change the flame temperature. Has anybody tried this?
This seems nonsensical to try with your home stove. You are correct, the rate of gas output is directly controlled by the knobs. In a typical home stove, drilling holes will not increase the gas output. It would affect the gas to air ratio, but I doubt it would result in an increase of temperature, and more likely a decrease.
Shopsin talks about this in his book, Eat Me, The Food and Philosophy of Kenny Shopsin. You can see it in this excerpt on Amazon. On his custom stove, described in that excerpt, it is certainly possible that when the knob is turned on all the way, the volume of gas coming out was still limited by the size of the flame holes, so that drilling it out allowed more gas to flow and thus a higher flame. And this is probably an extremely dangerous thing to do on your home stove.
It would most likely be unsafe, but, most stoves do have a small brass nozzle which limits the flow of gas at the point before it mixes with air, under the the aluminum disk which has the multiple holes where the gas/air mixture comes out.
If you are not adverse to the risk, and you are careful enough to make a very slight change when you increase the hole size (presumably by drilling it out with a drill bit very slightly larger than the hole) - well then the answer is that you could probably increase the flame size/BTU output on a home gas range.
This is the sort of thing that I would try myself, but not recommend to others.
Before I do try it, I think I want to order a "replacement" of the little brass nozzle so that I know I have a spare before I potentially ruin a burner on my nice new stove.
I've read about people doing this and succeeding, but, one guy said "if I try to run the stove with the burner turned up all the way now the flames are about two feet high". Most people's range hoods are not going to be safe with 2 foot high flames shooting out of their stove!
I really hope nobody burns their house down trying something like this. There are laws limiting the output of the burners on "home" stoves and there are safety codes regulating the installation of higher capacity "professional" stoves that home buyers do sometimes purchase for home use. For one thing, the higher output commercial stoves are supposed to be installed further away from the back wall, require certain types of ventilation hoods, etc. The law may even require some type of automatic/emergency fire extinguisher equipment also be installed wherever such stoves are installed.
DO NOT TRY THIS AT HOME, unless you are prepared to put out a big fire. I have tried this at home and it does work. I love to cook in a wok, but traditional stoves don't make this easy. Traditional western stoves are made to cook with traditional flat bottomed pans, not round bottomed woks. So to make wok cooking more enjoyable I have modified my outdoor, dirty kitchen stove.
The stove I have outside is hooked up to the same gas source as the one inside my indoor kitchen. What makes this stove a bit different from the one inside, is one can take off the cast iron covers to the burners. Thus allowing the gas to come out as one big flame instead of being spread out for a flat bottomed pan. The problem is that the fire is not really controllable and is very easily blown out if too high, too low or just a sudden gust of wind blows the flame out.
The pro is that one can cook in a round bottomed wok, on a western gas stove with just a modified wok ring and a ton of fire coming out. It really puts out a lot of heat, but since it is outside, I don't worry about too much smoke or being too enclosed that makes the oil vapours dangerous. I also have my trusty fire extinguisher, wok cover and water at the ready to put out any unwanted fire. I'm not encouraging this particular modification on your stove at home.
Tried it, it works. You need to disassemble the burner. In my case, there are porcelain-coated metal disks which sit on an aluminum piece (which contains the sparking ignitor and has slots to distribute the gas). The metal disk lifts off, and two screw can be removed, freeing the aluminum piece. This reveals a small nozzle recessed in the stove top. In the center, you can see a brass nut with a small hole in the center. Using a drill bit that is almost the same size as the hole (it's really quite small, so small changes are significant), bore the hole. Reassemble the burner, and ignite. Carefully.
There are probably some limitations on how much gas you can efficiently mix with air, and the way my burners are designed, at high flow, flames shoot out horizontally. This causes the flame to spread too much to use on anything but really big pans.
I think the next step is to fabricate a better metal plate to better direct the flames, especially around the center of larger pots/pans. On the plus side, using a wok works fairly well, although I think the flames spread more than is ideal. I can brown steaks pretty well though.