I became a big fan of stir-fried Asian food while on my trips to Southern Asian countries like Thailand and Vietnam. Back in the States, I decided to learn more about that sort of food.
Turns out, it's better to avoid indoor woks for Asian-inspired food, as it can result in unnecessary smoke and oil splatters. That's when you'll need a capable outdoor wok burner.
To ensure that your fried food doesn't lose its crispy-ness, extremely high amounts of heat is required. Thus, most outdoor wok burners operate at more than 54,000 BTU. Here are a few of the best ones in the market for getting the job done.
6 Best Outdoor Work Burners for the Money
- 6 Best Outdoor Work Burners for the Money
- Temperature Is Everything
- What I Look for in Terms of Design
- With or Without a Wok?
This high-capacity outdoor burner is extremely popular for all the right reasons. First of all, it's extremely powerful - at up to 200,000 BTUs of heating power. It's also controllable thanks to a regulator, so it's probably a good idea to start with a relatively low power to avoid accidentally burning your food.
It's got a sturdy cast-iron chassis, which is still surprisingly portable, and should last a long time. The hose is also steel-braided, for additional safety. The regulator is CSA certified, and an O-ring is pre-installed to prevent accidental gas leakages.
Apart from being used as a wok burner, this four-legged powerhouse is also perfect for a host of other use cases including home-brewing, tailgating, hunting and fishing.
One potential concern, albeit cosmetic, is the paint. Due to the extremely high amounts of heat it can produce, the paint on the outside may chip off at a few areas on the outside.
This outdoor burner is one of the most efficient and convenient tools at any chef’s disposal. The burner weighs just under 14lbs and measures 18”x18”x13” (LWH). It’s portable and quite affordable, which are both things that I look for in outdoor cooking equipment.
The SP10 can put up 57,000 BTUs. That’s not too much, but it’s well above the minimum recommended burner output for professional wok cooking and stir fry tossing. It’s enough heat that your pan won’t get cold after adding ingredients or sauces.
Seeing as it features wide-set legs, the burner is very stable. The steel frame is not made from multiple pieces. Instead, it’s a one-piece welded design which should provide more than enough durability.
On top of that, the burner is also adjustable. You can use it to cook more than just your favorite Asian-inspired stir fry recipes. Its versatility, ease of use, portability, and power make it a personal favorite and a great choice for anyone looking to showcase their cooking skills in the great outdoors.
Eastman Outdoors is no stranger to making outdoor camping gear. So why did I pick this burner over other models? Two reasons: high heat and adjustable legs.
The burner can put up 65,000 BTUs. That’s more than you’ll ever need for cooking with a wok, unless you’re using just one wok to cook for a few dozen people.
Adjustable legs are also important. Unless you are okay with cooking sitting down, being able to have your wok at least at waist height is very helpful. You can adjust the EO Kahuna burner’s legs between 18” and 26”. The legs feature standard plastic knobs for the release and locking mechanism, similar to those on camera tripods or exercise bikes.
It’s also a good thing that the burner will work with any standard 20lbs propane tank. You won’t have to go look for something too special or some custom tank, which will help keep the operating costs down.
What sets this Concord Cookware burner apart from others is its massive output potential. The burner is rated at 200,000 BTUs, putting it on par with restaurant-style burners, at least in terms of raw power.
This is more than you’ll ever need for your basic wok cooking. However, if you have to cook for lots of people in record time or want to tackle more complex recipes, the extra heat will definitely help you hit your goals.
Although it may seem bulky, the burner is actually small and measures just 16.5”x16.5”x12”. On top of that, you can also remove its legs. I score this very high on the portability chart as very few burners in this price range are as durable and customizable.
Everything else you need, minus the propane tank, is also included, such as a hose and a connector. This heavy-duty package can allow you to cook outside for many years to come and will have no problem maintaining stability even under a 400lbs load.
Apart from their various types of grills, Laguna Grills is also known for their outdoor and indoor burners dedicated to the Discada cooking technique. This Mexican cooking technique is very similar to Asian-style wok cooking, but there are clear differences, starting with the fact that discada cooking needs an almost flat cooking surface.
This burner tries to give you the best of both worlds. It comes with its own cooking disk which is almost wok-shaped, yet not as deep. Still, it is large enough that you can easily use a ladle or spatula to stir the ingredients around, even though tossing is not really an option.
The output is just 24,000 BTUs. This may not seem enough, but because this cooking disk or “Mexican” wok is rather thin and placed directly onto the flame, reaching high temperatures is not that difficult.
On the plus side, you can use the D-001 burner to cook more than just Asian-themed recipes, which should make your outdoor parties more entertaining.
Another budget-friendly option is this burner from King Kooker. While it’s not the cheapest option out there, it is the most affordable if you don’t already have a wok. The burner comes with its own 18” steel wok, which makes this an ideal starter package.
The wok itself is quite deep, and although you can’t toss with it, you can easily stir ingredients without throwing them overboard.
The burner can reach up to 54,000 BTUs, which is enough for most stir fry recipes. There’s also a top ring which holds the wok steady while you do your best to imitate those YouTube street food artists that make things look a lot easier than they are.
In terms of portability, there’s not much to worry about. If you’re looking for something rather compact with all accessories included, this is something I wouldn’t hesitate to recommend.
Temperature Is Everything
There are many strict rules to follow when cooking with a wok. You need to season the oil, constantly move the ingredients around, use a high temperature, and so on. But of all these, the temperature is perhaps the most important factor, and something you should always have in mind.
Wok cooking is synonymous with tossing ingredients. To do this, you’ll always have to lift your wok off the burner to give the ingredients a good toss. This means that each time you toss, the wok loses heat.
What can really make or break a wok burner is its BTU rating. The main reason the burner needs to create high temperatures is so that it can easily heat up the wok again when you put it back on. Another reason is to prevent heat loss when you add the ingredients
Some recipes call for near frozen ingredients to be added to the pan. This technique helps food retain its shape and color better. But, this means that the burner needs a high enough BTU rating to minimize the heat loss when cold ingredients hit the smoking hot wok.
What I Look for in Terms of Design
Outdoor burners come in various shapes, sizes, and styles. I always look at a few key factors that tell me how efficient a burner may be.
Keep in mind that I like tossing my ingredients while also stirring from time to time, depending on what the recipe calls for. This means that I prefer open burners that allow a free range of motion and total control over the wok.
That’s not to say that burners with fixed woks or recessed top rings aren’t also good. If your cooking skills are not very sharp and you’re worried about handling the weight of a wok, then having a built-in support feature may be of more value to you.
Adjustable legs can also be very nice. They can make transporting the wok a lot easier. Keep in mind that the burner, wok, tools, and the propane tank are all quite large. If you want to take your wok with you when camping, things can get stuffed. Adjustable legs or, even better, removable legs, are worth keeping an eye out for.
Of course, there’s another big advantage to having adjustable legs. You can potentially elevate your burner high to have more control over the wok.
With or Without a Wok?
Just because a burner comes with a wok or a wok-like cooking surface, it doesn’t mean it’s a wok burner. Any outdoor burner can be a wok burner as long as it can hold one in perfect balance. As long as the burner has a powerful enough output, of course. Never underestimate how much of a difference a few thousand BTUs can make when it comes to taste and timing.
Truth be told, unless you’re a total amateur and have little cooking experience, or unless you simply don’t know how to pick a quality wok, there’s little reason to buy a burner that comes with a wok included. At least that’s how I look at it.
Get Ready to Toss to Impress
By now, you’ve probably picked your favorite burner. My top picks for best outdoor wok burners should accommodate even the most demanding chefs, with or without experience in Asian cuisine. Of course, just because I find these to be the best, it doesn’t mean that proper safety protocols are to be dismissed.
There are powerful woks, small woks, ultra-durable woks, and very affordable woks. As long as you know the limits of your cooking skills, what recipes you can handle, and how demanding your wok is, picking the appropriate burner shouldn’t be an issue.
Remember that power is everything most of the time, so as long as you stay away from electric burners, you should be just fine with whatever you decide to use.
Peggy loves spending her free time visiting new restaurants, tasting new cuisines, and trying to replicate some of those incredibly tasty dishes in her own kitchen.