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How can I use my wok to create wok hei?

Customer (PF13LQN120): 

I have a question.  How can I use my wok to create wok hei, when the wok adapter is not secure AT ALL on top of the wind guard.  

Outdoorstirfry

The wok adaptor ring is flexible to be oriented to protect the flame come up to burn the hand accessing the wok handle.  It should just sit snuggly on top of the wind guard. 

On Wok-Hei, please read https://outdoorstirfry.com/?s=wok+hei.   I believe if you search wok-hei on internet, you will come up with a lot of sources.

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wok hei chemistry

Inquiry:  

Hi, I just read your site saying “The flavor is complex, and it is caused by a mixture of sooty compounds from the combustion of oil, caramelization of oxidized sugars, and Maillard reactions” — can you refer me to any resources or research with more detailed information about the chemistry of wok hei? Thank you!

Outdoorstirfry

Please read https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wok#Wok_hei.

Inquiry: 

Thanks — I’ve read that and spoken to the sources it refers to, but I’m still looking for more detail.

Outdoorstirfry:

The wiki page is the main source of our reference.   You might want to talk to someone doing research on food chemistry.   Let us know if you find more in depth understanding on this subject.

Advanced Stir Fry Technique (Wok Hei)

Definition from Wikipedia on Chao (炒) and Bao () http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Stir_fry, both are stir fry techniques.  The Chinese definition is at http://zh.wikipedia.org/wiki/炒 for chao (炒) and http://zh.wikipedia.org/wiki/%E7%88%86%E7%82%92 for bao ().

PowerFlamer is great for these two classic stir-fry techniques of Chao (炒) and Bao (), both of which can provide the alluring smoky flavor of Wok Hei.

Chao technique is the familiar stir frying technique, and involves heating the wok to a high temperature, adding a small amount of oil, followed by spices, meats, vegetables, and liquid in succession. In bao technique, the iron or steel wok is heated much hotter, to a a dark red glow (approx 1200F of following table, see http://www.threeplanes.net/toolsteel.html for more detail), and the oil, seasonings and meats are added in rapid succession and rapidly tossed. Besides the high heat from the stove, cooking technique is extremely important for both Chao and Bao.

Wok Hei Colors

Other dishes like beef chow fun (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dry-fried_beef_with_hefen) traditionally have more wok hei, and experienced chefs will catch flames several times (example GongBaoChicken). The flavor is complex, and it is caused by a mixture of sooty compounds from the combustion of oil, caramelization of oxidized sugars, and Maillard reactions between amino acids (from the proteins in meats) and reactive carbonyl groups of sugar. These are similar to the chemical reactions which cause toast, or barbecued foods to have a rich taste.Wok Hei (Cantonese ) is defined at http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wok_hei and can be caused by high heat cooking, and it is enhanced if you catch some flames inside the wok which tossing your ingredients. Too little flame, and the flavor can taste flat; too much flame and the flavor will be overwhelmingly sooty. Some dishes, like stir-fried greens benefit from one or two small bursts of flame.

Wok hei is related to the PowerFlamer’s flame (the temperature), the oil, and the metal (iron or steel or aluminum) of the wok itself.

Aluminum will melt at high temperatures, and only iron and steel are suitable for very high heat cooking. The material of the wok itself is important. Traditional Chinese woks are made of iron; modern woks are made of lighter metal or stainless steel. Many Chinese restaurants use iron woks, although iron woks will rust and is more difficult to clean (see article on this site about caring for and seasoning your wok); but both problems do not hinder the restaurant chefs because they use the wok every day.

Wok hei is complex to achieve, and it is often used as a measure of a Chinese chef’s skill. Besides practice and practice, here are some pointers that might help you:

1. Pre-heating time: For Bao technique and Wok hei, lengthen the time for the wok to pre-heat, so that the wok reaches a very high temperature just BEFORE you put in the oil, raw vegetable or meat. In general, the wok must be heated when the cooking oil in it starts to vaporize (blue vapors). To achieve even higher temperature, do not put in cooking oil when the wok pre-heats; pour in cold cooking oil just before you put in the raw food — this way, the oil won’t chemically decompose due to the high temperature.  (Also, different types of vegetable cooking oil, such as corn, canola, olive, peanut, have different vaporization temperature points.)

2. More cooking oil: In general, more oil is needed to for Bao technique and wok hei, than for Chao. The amount of oil must be carefully controlled; too much oil, it becomes “frying”; too little oil, you won’t get the Wok hei. The flame inside the wok arises because boiling water from your ingredients causes a spatter of fine oil droplets. That oil mixes with oxygen in the air, and catches on fire if you deliberately toss the wok so that the oil spatter comes in contact with the PowerFlamer flames. More oil tends to produce more flames. You can control this through your technique for tossing the wok, and mixing your ingredients. Usually flames will die down within 1-2 seconds.

3. Right amount of water moisture in the raw food. The water moisture is an important ingredient in Wok hei. Water moisture comes from the raw vegetables, and also from water left on vegetables after washing. Too much water moisture, and the food is soggy; too little, the food is dry and burned. This part is difficult to control, but you can experiment with the moisture control by letting the vegetable air-dry for varying amount of time before cooking.

4. Amount of the raw food (vegetable or meat). Good chefs are able to achieve Bao and Wok hei, because they do NOT cook too much food in the wok in one go — they prefer to cook a small amount. The smaller amount is important for quick stirring and for temperature control (for maintaining the high heat during stir frying) — think about heat-to-weight ratio (weight of the food). A light-weight wok (made of aluminum) is able to heat up fast but to retain LESS heat (once heated up); in that case, you need to decrease the amount of raw food for cooking with a light-weight wok. I suggest that you start experimenting with small amount of food (just enough for a small dish).

You can put out flames by covering a wok. NEVER throw water into a flaming wok to put out a fire.

Please try some of these, and tell us what you think. Happy cooking!

Some links on this subject (Wok hei, wok material, wok maintenance):

1. See what outdoorstirfry.com offers as products that can help you achieve wok hei.

2.  See what Kenji Alt says on his Serious Eats – (The Best Outdoor Wok Burners for Restaurant-Style Stir Fries.)

2.  See The New York Times Article “The Elements of Wok Hei, and How to Capture Them at Home” by Kenji Alt.

2.  See one of our customers cooking (Link to Youtube).

3. Here’s the seasoning process as described by Ala Luke (Link to Youtube).

4. Wok in the street of Phnom Penh (Link to Youtube).

5. Learn about basic Chinese cooking equipment – wok, ladle (Link to Youtube).

6. Wikipedia article http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wok_hei.

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I like to understand the effect of wok-hei on flat noodles with some fish sauce and sweet sauce.

   I like to understand the effect of wok-hei on flat noodles with some fish sauce and sweet sauce. i tried many times and failed to achieve this at home. pls advice. many thanks.

We would not want to claim that we are expert on wok-hei. So if you have different opinion, please let us know.  If you can speak Cantonese, than you should understand that wok-hei can be directly translated into “smell or taste from a wok”. Typically this applied to some food that can be coated with cooking oil, then the cooking oil catches fire briefly, to leave a layer of initial charring type smell or taste. Catching fire seldom occurs at home cooking since it is unsafe in an enclosed space and quite messy. Thus wok hei is rare and favored.  If your noodle is wet and you apply various sauce, then the surface of your noodle will have hard time to catch fire. Another condition for fire catching is that your wok has to be at quite high heat and you have open flame from your stove (electric stove does not have) to introduce the flame to your wok surface.

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Can EF series stoves achieve Wok-Hei?

(D. Luong, PF9S70) I bought a power flamer PF9S70 for my parents a couple of years ago and they are happy with the power. Since I’m getting the EF11SQN50 for myself because of the size and natural gas, I’m concern whether the 50 BTU/Hr is powerful enough for stir fry and achieve the sought-after wok hei.

I wish you have PF stove that is as small as the EF but with 70 BTU.

(outdoorstirfry.com) EF series uses low pressure gas which cannot match up PF series.   You can achieve Wok-Hei with EF stove by doing smaller dish or wait a little longer for your wok to heat up.

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PowerFlamer stove long leg height?

Customer (PF13L160EI): 

Hey, I don’t think I received the long legs that I ordered. I think I received the short legs.  These are 25” long and they don’t extend.  

Outdoorstirfry

The long leg each is 24”.   Entire long leg stove height is about 30~32”.  With wok, the wok handle should be about 36” in height which is normal person’s elbow height. 

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Indoor wok cooking?

Customer (PF13L160): 

Hello, I have a question for you.  Of course the PF 160 is my favorite way to cook, but sometimes I can’t cook outdoors (either because of rain, snow, or fire restrictions).   

What is your favorite setup to cook with a wok indoors?  Have you ever tried induction burners? 

I use a regular gas range with a 16,000 BTU burner, a large Wokmon focus ring, a 14” round bottom 2 mm thick carbon steel wok, and sometimes a few blasts from a Bernzomatic TS8000 blow torch.  Even with all this, of course I cannot achieve the same results as the PF 160, but I am striving to get as close as I can for when I have to cook inside.  I have never tried induction burners, but I believe they could be used with a flat-bottom wok, and I’ve also seen some specifically made for woks.  I’ve never tried other wok materials, but I’m curious about aluminum and copper for their thermal conductivity.

I hope you had a great weekend!

 

Outdoorstirfry: 

We advocate outdoor cooking because we don’t like grease building up indoor.   We only use our indoor gas range for boiling style of cooking.  We build a covered corner outdoor that we can cook year round.  

If you are not concerned about indoor grease build up along wall and surface, which we find difficult (if not impossible) to remove and clean, you can use much more powerful source to cook indoor.   Induction cooking to my impression is too slow.   You might prove to me that is not true anymore.  

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Height of the stove

Customer (PF13L160):

Thanks, that’s very exciting, can’t wait. Thanks very much for all your patience in answering my various questions. If I could ask one more, what would you say is the best height from ground to where wok will be placed (will that be about 110-120cm) and also if legs are not used how high is the unit so I can maybe already start working on a table to put the wok burner on separately as an alternative to the long leg option. Also will a wooden top be ok for that?

Outdoorstirfry:

The height is optimal when it is easy for your hand to operate the wok.   It is about your waist line.   We would not recommend combustible material under the stove or 1 foot around it.

A carbon Steel Wok, Spatula

CarbonSteelWokSpatula

For wok-hei stir-frying, a carbon steel wok can help.  We can supply the basic combination: a wok and a spatula. The carbon steel wok set is suitable for both PowerFlamer PF13 propane and natural series burners.  EasyFlamer EF13 series burners may need a wok ring to support such deep round bottom wok. The wok size is 14″. It has one long handle and weighs about 1.5 lbs. It has round bottom and the height is about 4″. The wok thickness is about 1mm.

The spatula is of stainless with plastic handle.

(CarbonSteelWSL)

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Wok thickness

Customer (PF13L160): 

Hello,  What thickness is the carbon steel of the 14″ wok you sell?   Also, I saw a 1mm 14″ wok for sale on another web site (carbon steel) – is that too thin for your wok burner? Thanks.

I have just received your wok burner the 160,000BTU one manual start. I am so keen to start using it.

My main object is to achieve the wok “hai” flavor. When I cook noodles etc. will the “hai”taste come automatically or do I have to visibly burn them a little to get that taste?

Many thanks!!!

Outdoorstirfry

Our wok thickness is close to 2mm.  The heavier the wok, it is easier to retain heat.  But of course it is heavy and sometime hard to handle. 

In term of the “wok hei”, can you read our page at https://outdoorstirfry.com/?page_id=399.   You will have to try it out yourself in term of getting the right amount of caramelization.

Customer

Thank you so much for your prompt reply.  Also thank you making such a great wok burner!  
 
Cheers and thanks,