Fire and heat

A blog reader called Graham wrote to me to ask advice about how to get a decent high-powered flame for cooking Chinese food in a UK kitchen.

This is part of what he said:

I am staying in a modern flat in Beijing over the summer and one of the great things is being able to cook on a high-powered burner. I can actually get some smoking happening quickly, and attempt to flash-fry things.

“I’m sure this is nothing  compared to restaurant kitchen stoves, but it would be great to cook like this back in England, and it makes me realise how puny my UK cooker is. I guess it might be possible to buy Chinese stoves in England, but even then is out domestic gas supply suited to them?

“I know Chinese restaurants in the UK must be able to do it, and I saw the guys from Yang Sing in Manchester do a cooking demo last year, and instead of using the outdoor kitchen provided, they rolled in their own can of propane with a wok-holder attachment fitted to the top! Great, but I’m guessing this isn’t very wise (or probably legal) in the UK to have indoors.”

Thanks Graham! Frankly, I’d like some advice on this too! At home I have a supposed ‘wok burner’ on my gas cooker, but it’s not really satisfactory. At the moment I’m considering more high-powered models, and the possibility of an induction cooker, which I saw being used in the kitchen of Neil Perry’s Spice Temple in Sydney. Not traditional, but extremely hot, fast and effective.

I realise that it’s not possible to have the volcanic heat of a Chinese restaurant burner in a London flat, but what are the best options around? I suspect this might be a useful discussion for many of us…

19 Responses to “Fire and heat”

  1. walter

    I know some people who bought there wok stove here: They ship also to Europe. For about 120 – 150 US Dollar + shipping cost. In germany (where I am from) a good seller is : Look for Burner 41 for 134.50 Euro. I do not know if they ship to Great Britan, just ask them. Friendly staff & good service. So by now it is not a problem any longer to get a decent burner (one who cranks out up to 100.000 BTU) for a really resonable price.

    Happy wokkin

  2. Carolin

    I use a high-pressure burner called “Rambo” which sounds like a jet engine when fully turned up. Output is 49Mj/h about 43630 BTU. It looks like the one on the picture for this blog entry. I set it up on the patio next to the BBQ, they share the same gas bottle and Rambo is not supposed to be used inside. Rambo is very powerful and I burned the food quite often to start with. Well, it needs practice. Maybe I should also mention the adrenalin rush I got the first few months when cooking on it – the sound & heat is very impressive if you turn him up fully 🙂
    In Australia he gets distributed by:
    Rambo was AU$170.- about 2 years ago

  3. RST

    There was an excellent little piece on this subject in Saveur in a recent article (from within the past year?) I think it was in the context of an interview with Grace Young. It essentially offers a “compensatory” (“if you can’t beat ’em, join ’em”) model for stir-frying in a modern Western apt kitchen, the most important idea being: not to overcrowd the wok too rapidly with more and yet more ingredients but to let the temperature rise back up as high as the flame will allow after each addition before piling yet more on. This certainly isn’t the same as working with a high-powered flame but it “is” extremely good discipline since it forces the cook to watch closely and have a sense of what is happening to the food at all times.


  4. blue

    I very much respect the pros & advanced cooks on this blog who want to create the authentic heat of a Chinese stove. As the daughter of a Fire Capt. (and a scaredy cat), I’m content with a little less. However, until I read the question & comments I didn’t realize there were such differences in heat etc. I’m rather new at this. I couldn’t find the specific interview a previous poster referenced, but I did find these two, in the midst of which Ms. Young outlines techniques for Western stoves. I realize it doesn’t directly address the question, but I hope they may help other neophytes like myself. Happy Wokking, everyone & best wishes for serious heat:)

  5. Graham Booth

    Thanks Fuchsia for posing the question on my behalf, and to everyone for their answers. I’ll take a good look at all those links when I get more than a few minutes.

    To be honest, I was surprised myself at the difference between the burners here and at home. I thought I was doing quite well in England, adapting by trying to cook in small portions and combining them all at the end when less heat is required. But cooking here I realise that there’s no substitute for having a high powered flame in the first place. I actually get “breath of a wok” that I first read about years ago but only got the merest whiff of on my English stove.

    The power is addictive. I think it’s not only being able to explode-fry or cook things extremely quickly that I’m missing back home, but also being able to regulate and maintain the heat properly. Here, once ingredients go in the temperature has to drop but gets back up so quickly it’s barely noticeable. Plus, what you get when you add water/shaoxing/soy sauce to quick stir-fried greens is such serious alchemy that it can’t really be compared with my previous pushing of soggy leaves around the pan to get them to wilt.

    I know it’s going to be tough to go back, so hopefully I can find a solution from all these great ideas!


  6. Jenny Lui


    I am from Auscrown and we do still supply the HPA100LPB Rambo High Pressure Burner (49mj/hr) They are currently AUD$215 per unit which includes a 1.8m stainless steel high pressure hose and high pressure regulator. They are portable weighing at 7.5kg. Many people take this burner caravanning in Australia.

    We have another bigger burner, the HP200LPB which gives about 85 mj/hr, however it could be too big for residential use. As Carolin mentioned, the HPA100LPB is very powerful already.

    We have lots of other interesting and unique burners.

    We can use your international freight account such as DHL or FedEx or we can ship via Australia Post to Europe.

    Any queries, please email me at

    Happy Cooking!

  7. Dennis

    For those who are looking for a solution permitted for residential use I can suggest

    Unfortunately all information on that website is in German though. I should also add that it is not cheap.

  8. Fuchsia

    Thanks very much for all these helpful suggestions!

  9. B

    Here in NYC you can get a high powered wok burner at all the Chinese restaurant supply shops. It might take a bit of setting up, but it could be installed in your kitchen. In the UK (London, other cities w/ lots of Chinese) I’m thinking it wouldn’t be too hard to find a Chinese restaurant supply shop. They also have ones that simply hook up to a propane tank, and could be portable. Most people probably wouldn’t be comfortable with a propane tank in their kitchen though…

  10. Alex

    My experience with induction wasn’t great, and I’ve gone back to gas, which although comparatively puny, is at least kind of flexible. What I found ws that, when I’m using a wok, I have to do a lot of tipping and shaking, and moving around – even if of course I try not to take it off the gas. But with induction, there’s much less flexibility at all – any moment it’s not directly in contact with the metal, that’s it, no heat. So I found it was much harder to do the pan gymnastics that you could with gas, which provides a larger, more diffuse heat source. Of course, some inductions might be better than others?

  11. John

    An interesting discussion as I’m looking to replace an old electric cooker with something suitable for Thai cooking.

    My suggestion would be the Garland range of gas cookers which a Chinese foody friend introduced me to many years ago.

    I had one of these at a previous house and miss it greatly – but I had hoped there might be something a little cheaper in domestic ranges since I only have room for a standard 60cm model.

    They are made by a Canadian company and distributed through commercial catering suppliers.

    They use a ‘Starfire-Pro’ gas burner which puts out up to 9.7kW, but can be turned down low enough to make a creme anglaise.

    The star shape of these burners is very good for getting the heat all over the bottom of the wok; there’s plenty of power and they are very controllable.

    The cookers come with many different variations – 4, 6 and 8 burners, with and without ovens and
    various sizes. I’d add that they are rock solid and well made – as you’d expect from a commercial product.

    My friend has since moved on to a giant restaurant wok setup, which like some of the burners mentioned above is more powerful, but for domestic quantities I think the Garland is fine.

    You can pick up used 6-burner 90- or 110cm-wide models from commercial suppliers for around GBP 900 – unfortunately used 60cm 4-burner models are in short supply.

    If I could justify rebuilding the kitchen, I would to fit in one of their bigger range-size models which offer more space but since I can’t I’m looking for a 60cm 4-burner model.

    So it looks like I’m going to have to fork out for a new one – around GBP 1,900 I think.

  12. John

    PS Just for comparison, the AusCrown wok burners are rated at 49, 55 and 64 MJ/hour, which equates to 13.6kW, 15.3kW and 17.8kW.

    The German Wok-it Wokbrenner WB 612 is rated at 11kW.

    The Garland is the lowest at 9.7kW.

    I doubt the difference between 9.7kW and 11kW is large in use and I suspect the figures aren’t that accurate – India Joze has some interesting comments

    But on the face of it the Garland should have enough power for domestic use, and fits in easily.

  13. Graham Booth

    Hi all,

    Having instigated this discussion a couple of years ago I just wanted to report that I’ve finally taken the plunge and bought a wok-burner/gas bottle combo.

    This was prompted by a recent moved to flat which only has an electric stove – an abomination but very common here in Germany! Fortunately this is balanced out by also having a patio where I can let the fire and smoke run free.

    For info, I purchased an Italian gas burner which is specifically designed for wok cooking. It was 86 Euro’s including the pipe to connect it to the 11kg gas bottle. Details are here:

    So far it’s working really well, and installation was pretty easy, it just requires two spanners to tighten the cable onto the burner outlet.

    It has three separate controls, where the centre one controls the smaller middle ring, and the left and right control half each of the outer ring. This seemed like a rather odd setup at first, but there are benefits, such as when cooking something simple like tomato and egg, you can push the omelette to the heatless side to rest and leave the tomato simmering away on the other.

    So far I’ve been reluctant to go to full power, but last night I got the explode-fry ‘flame in the pan’ thing going on.

    Wind can be a problem in making the flame less than effective, so some kind of shield is needed, I think, by placing the burner inside some kind of high rimmed receptacle.

    The gas bottle itself I got from a local petrol station on a rent and refill basis. It was 52 Euro’s for the deposit and around 22 per refill.

    Hope this info is of use. Having used the setup for a couple of weeks I can say that I’d highly recommend it – I can finally cook quickly and efficiently as I’ve seen people do regularly in China!

  14. Mark Tan

    I stumbled across this post, and thought I might add my two cents.

    If you’re really cheap like me, a chimney starter can work quite well, but this one isn’t practical for indoor cooking:

    If you’ve got a turkey fryer, it might just do the trick. I’ve heard it on good authority that it does get roaring hot, but not owning one I’ve not tried this one out.

    Although… Graham Booth’s suggestion above is probably the way I’d go next once I have the cash!

  15. sub

    the best option for outdoor cooking is Manniu gas burners

    models D81 25kW or X72 21kW

    Very cheap if you are in china 25-30$ but very expensive from their German dealer :/

  16. blueytoo

    Have an AusCrown HPA100LPB Rambo (49MJ/hr) for several years. Watching youtube videos of HongKong kitchens showed cooking times of 30-45 seconds. Rambo will do that on medium heat setting for a typical serve size. All ingredients need to be ready to throw in with intervals of seconds. It’s defintely fun and can deliver the restaurant flavour.

    High heat use useful for a big wok full of fried rice. Only problem is that the auto-lighter on mine stopped working. A stainless wok can be seasoned to a black patina at the right temperature.

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