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HOTness: what makes a gas burner hot? what makes a wok hot?

Posted by KitchenMonkey (My Page) on
Thu, Jul 24, 14 at 11:08

For a person who enjoys stir-frying in a wok (but NOT looking for anything over 22,000 btu), what kind of burner would give the best performance?

In what circumstances would a 17,000 or 18,000 btu burner outperform a 20,000 or 22,000 burner? I have no scientific background or knowledge. Please help me understand!

Factors affecting temperature:
- height of grates
- tri-ring burners (not just a gimmick?)
- size of burner ring
- open vs closed burner? (what does this even mean?)
- build quality of knob mechanisms (possible that burner can't reach maximum BTU output due to build quality?)
- build quality of burner "innards"

Tri-ring burners probably distribute heat more evenly than conventional burners...But are they hotter? How do you know?

Is it possible to install lower grates on a low-BTU gas burner in order to achieve the same higher temperatures of a high-BTU burner?


Follow-Up Postings:

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RE: HOTness: what makes a gas burner hot? what makes a wok hot?

The hottest part of a flame is right at the tip of the darker blue zone:

What you need for optimum heat delivery to a pan is flames that have that area just below the surface of the pan. Flat pans need flat flames, woks need wok-shaped flames because the cooking happens all across the curved bottom.

You want a burner with nozzles shaped to deliver a cup-shaped flame that transfers as much heat as possible and transfers evenly to the lower third of the pan, or at least a lower ring of flame and a higher ring of flame

Two rings of flames, looks like outer ring may be set higher:

Allover flames:


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RE: HOTness: what makes a gas burner hot? what makes a wok hot?

The hottest part of a flame is right at the tip of the darker blue zone:

What you need for optimum heat delivery to a pan is flames that have that area just below the surface of the pan. Flat pans need flat flames, woks need wok-shaped flames because the cooking happens all across the curved bottom.

You want a burner with nozzles shaped to deliver a cup-shaped flame that transfers as much heat as possible and transfers evenly to the lower third of the pan, or at least a lower ring of flame and a higher ring of flame

Two rings of flames, looks like outer ring may be set higher:

Allover flames:


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RE: HOTness: what makes a gas burner hot? what makes a wok hot?

"In what circumstances would a 17,000 or 18,000 btu burner outperform a 20,000 or 22,000 burner?"

None, because as far as I know they don't make any residential ranges with open burners with that BTU rating. Open burners are what makes the difference. A 15K BTU open burner may outperform a sealed burner rated higher, though. But not many residential gas ranges are going to beat 22K+ open burners.

Why do you specifically not want anything over 22K BTU? Setting an arbitrary cutoff like that makes no sense, you are just limiting your options.

I assume we are talking about high side performance here. To some, simmer performance is just as important, and you may get better results there with a burner that is rated at less max BTUs. But, based on my testing the open burner models out there now do great at simmering. The new Culinarians with a dedicated burner for that purpose should do even better.


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RE: HOTness: what makes a gas burner hot? what makes a wok hot?

I love my American Range Performer open burners.
Recently made some basmati rice. Cup of rice, two cups of water go into a cuisinart multiclad pro 2-qt saucepan. Place pan on 18,000 btu burner. Bring to a boil over med-high flame, stir once, place the lid on the pan. Reduce burner to lowest/simmer setting.
25 minutes later, perfectly cooked aromatic, flavorful rice.
No scorching. No burning. No mush left in bottom. Not one grain stuck on the pan.
I used to have to use a non-stick saucepan to make rice, on the variety of smooth-top electric and sealed-burner gas ranges from my past domiciles.
I don't know what it is exactly about the ARP open burner, but...it has made me a better, faster, more confident cook.
/two cents :-)


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RE: HOTness: what makes a gas burner hot? what makes a wok hot?

Oops my bad, apparently the AR performer has an 18000 BTU open burner.

I bet you anything that burner will outperform the 20K on the GE Cafe.


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RE: HOTness: what makes a gas burner hot? what makes a wok hot?

Kitchenmonkey -- in one of your other threads, you mentioned you had an existing stove with an 18.6k power burner and were looking at maybe buying a friend's Wolf AG range. Did you get a chance to check out using your wok on that range? If so, how did it compare to your existing range?

That info might help us provide a better answer to your questions here because we would have a better frame of reference for how to explain this to you.

Traditional wok cooking uses a rather narrowly spread flame. As lazy_gardens explained -- the idea is to aim the heat at the bottom third of the wok. You've apparently been using a major brand stove with an 18.6k power burner that probably throws the flames to a much wider area. (Maybe it doesn't?) Some folks will tell you that this is "all wrong" and that you are some kind of ignorant cretin for not doing it "the right way", but who cares about those kinds of opinions if you like the food you've been making?

You asked what does open burner mean. Well, it can mean a lot of things, but not all open burners are created the same. What people are talking about here (in this context), they are talking about a burner that is in a star or ring shape that sits in a open well allowing air to flow up from all around the burner. This tends to give a more concentrated flame and, of course, means that stuff you spill can go down inside the range. (The brands mentioned above typically have pull-out trays to catch spillage and make it relatively simple to clean out the interior). There are, of course, other kinds of open burners that tend to look and work like the sealed burners you are probably used to seeing. A "sealed" burner sits in a closed well or pan so that spills generally won't go down inside the range. The flame spreads can wider to a whole lot wider.

You asked about whether a 20k btu burner is hotter than a 15k btu burner. Well, undertand the btu-ratings just tell you how much gas is being burned. To figure out what is hotter you have to ask: hotter for what? A big tri-ring burner on full power can put a lot of heat into thebase of a big pot, like 20-quart canning kettle/stock pot with a 13" base. That is a lot of heat for boiling big quantities of water, for example. If you put a 3-quart sauce pan on that same burner -- which may have a six inche base --- most of the heat will be going outside the saucepan and around it. That 20k-btu burner isn't putting 20k btu into the smaller pan. The advantage of a tri-ring burner is that you can turn down the gas and maybe use the center ring to get the saucepan to boil, but you using maybe 9k-btu to do it.

So, when would a 16K btu burner "outperform" a 22k btu burner for the wok cooking you want to do? Well, if you want to do traditional "bottom third heating" when the 16k-btu burner that puts the majority of the flames on the bottom third of your wok may be better for you than a 22k btu burner spreads it wider. OTOH, if you want a wider flame spread, as you likely are getting with the 18.6k btu burner on that major brand range, the the smaller burner may not be what you want.

Some of these differences will vary with how big is the wok you've using to get the results you like. I believe you said something in your other thread about making smaller quantities of food. Consider that a 15k btu open burner on a Blue Star RCS range may give you everything you want where 22k btu burner might be more heat over a wider area than you want. If you've got a really potent burner, it can be a very short trip from char to charcoal.

So, back to that Wolf range you mentioned in your other thread. If you test it out and like the food from your wok on its 15k-btu burner better than what you've been getting with that unnamed major brand range's 18.6k btu burner, you figured out something very useful to you. If you conclude that you don't like the results from that Wolf burner as much or better, then you've figured out that a larger sealed burner style range isn't going to give you what you want and you can start considering spending $3500 to $3800 for Blue Star or AR.

Something else to consider. If you decide that you really do want massive huge amounts of wok cooking power, and your kichen has 240v outlet in it, maybe what you really want is a 3500-watt concave induction wok burner. When you factor in the relative efficiency of induction heating (84% to 94% of the energy goes into the pan) versus gas burners (only about 33% of the heat actually goes into the pan), the induction burner may be the equivalent of 36,000 BTU gas burner. Plus the induction wok burner is specfically designed to put a whole-lotta-heat on the lower third of a standard sized wok. Cooktek makes 2500 and 3500 watt induction burners. (Actual full-on commercial products if that turns your crank.) Last time I checked, I think the street price was around $1700 from the likes of Katom.com. A lot less expensive than buying a whole new range just to get one wok burner.

This post was edited by JWVideo on Thu, Jul 24, 14 at 21:28


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Supplemental comments on the Cooktek wok hob

I have a Cooktek 3500W induction wok hob built in to my countertop next to my main induction cooktop. As a supplement to JWVideo's remarks above, I note that the induction hot zone is actually an annulus in the lower part of the pan due to the donut shaped field pattern typical of induction hob field coil design. However, moving hot wok contents back and forth, thermal conduction in the pan, and the effect of gravity on any fluids present make the very bottom a cooking zone, if not a heated zone.

Cooks used to shaking a wok over the 100k plus output of a Chinese restaurant stove would find using this unit a much different experience. One doesn't lift or move the wok but instead runs the power control up and down as ingredients are added and removed. Heat control is immediate due to the relatively low thermal capacity of the thin steel wok. As JWV notes, the effective heat input of the Cooktek is closer to the "pro" level than what is provided from a 20k BTU/hr gas burner.

One previous forum correspondent here spent considerable effort trying to find a wok that fit the Cooktek unit (the wok surface can't be allowed to touch the ceram glass of the cavity when cooking) that he judged was superior to the fitted steel wok that Cooktek supplies. I no longer recall what aspect of the wok design he wanted to improve, and my ability to find his comments is limited at the moment.

With the unit and wok as supplied, it is possible to caramelize meat as desired, and blast water out of a mix up to fairly large quantities.

The rubber handle covering on the wok can be easily removed for baking the pan if one uses that technique for conditioning with oil. My long-term view is that this is not critical because the steel is smooth, not like cast iron, and a baked on oil varnish layer is likely not providing much benefit (that I see, at least).

Adding the Cooktek hob to a countertop requires preplanning because the overall hood size has to grow to capture wok effluent along with the main cooktop effluent. Alternatively, the wok hob could be separate with a separate hood.

kas


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RE: HOTness: what makes a gas burner hot? what makes a wok hot?

Just to clarify one minor point: Cooktek also makes the wok induction burner as a stand-alone portable unit in addition to the built-in unit that Kas described. There are threads (on chowhound ,if not here) where folks with small kitchens have discussed parking a portable induction burner on top of their stove. This allows them to take advantage of an existing range hood and avoids cutting into already limited counter space and, for the posters, their induction burners are used much more than the stovetop burners. Of course, they remove the portable induction burners when they want to use the regular cooktop burners.

Speaking of range hoods, you do have a venting device, right?


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RE: HOTness: what makes a gas burner hot? what makes a wok hot?

"Oops my bad, apparently the AR performer has an 18000 BTU open burner."

The AR Performer actually has two 25000 BTU burners, and 18K and a 12K. It's a beast.


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RE: HOTness: what makes a gas burner hot? what makes a wok hot?

JWVideo wrote: "Speaking of range hoods, you do have a venting device, right?"

Was this directed at me or the OP?

k


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RE: HOTness: what makes a gas burner hot? what makes a wok hot?

I stand corrected. You, Kas, are of course the acknowledged guru on range hoods. I should have said "Speaking of range hoods,Kitchenmonkey you do have a venting device, right?"


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RE: HOTness: what makes a gas burner hot? what makes a wok hot?

KitchenMonkey writes:

For a person who enjoys stir-frying in a wok (but NOT looking for anything over 22,000 btu), what kind of burner would give the best performance?

_________________________________________________________

I don't believe that there is any sealed gas burner that could substitute for the brute force of a 22K open burner ~torching~ a wok...

 photo IMG_8129_zps72a40bac.jpg

We've eaten ~more~ stir fried food in the last few months since getting our BS than in all the rest of our lives. ; )

This post was edited by tinyhomebuilder on Sun, Jul 27, 14 at 1:42


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RE: HOTness: what makes a gas burner hot? what makes a wok hot?

On the scale of torching to immolating to incinerating, I submit the range below as evidence that we are playing in a puddle and calling it an ocean. (Click the features button. Note that the faucets aren't intended as pot fillers.)

kas

Here is a link that might be useful: American Range ARCR-6


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