Jan. 8th, 2013

New toy

Jan. 8th, 2013 03:25 pm
snousle: (rakko)
Bought myself a Christmas present:



This is something that has been on my list for years. I have done quite a bit of experimenting with wok burners, most of it unsatisfactory, and have come to the conclusion that there is not much in the way of good substitutes for restaurant wok ranges.

The second-best thing I'd found was a heavy cast iron wok, round on the inside but with a small flat area on the bottom so it can stand by itself on a regular range. Heat that sucker up for 15 minutes and you can do a quick stir fry with about a pound of food. But once its heat is spent, you have to begin the cycle again, and wait another ten minutes or so for it to get ready. And cleaning it when it's hot is a bear.

This range is 125,000 BTU, in contrast to a regular restaurant range burner, which comes in at 35,000. (A quality residential range is only about 17,000 BTU.) There are other, less expensive ways to get that much flame, and I've got some outdoor burners that reach that level, but you end up toasting yourself before too long. This unit only lets the flame out the back, so the cook remains reasonably comforable. But you do have to be careful about lifting the wok while the flame is on, otherwise it's a great way to lose all your hard-won knuckle hairs.

The burners consist of 18 jets with a peculiar design, which you can see in more detail here, but this is what they look like in operation:



Firing it up is a little scary. Even with the stainless backboard and such, I spent a good bit of time making sure it wasn't roasting anything in its vicinity. The vent hood keeps up with it pretty well, and the rush of air coming up around it helps keep the surroundings cool. The oil baffles in the hood get a bit warm but not excessively so. I could imagine installing one of these outdoors, but it definitely isn't a residential device.

The main problem I'm having is soot, of which there is quite a bit. This unit is designed for propane but the flame is still mostly yellow. I don't think it's affecting the food but it makes things a little messy at clean-up time.

The good news? It makes things taste Chinese! I don't know quite how to describe it, but proper stir fries have a sultry, smoky-dark-alley aroma to them that comes about in part from extraordinarily high heat. Getting the right level of char is an art unto itself. It's going to be a while before I'm totally confident with this thing but my initial test - pork chow mein - was delicious. So I think we're going to have a Chinese banquet in the near future!

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