I have been use to working with commercial wok burners for many years. If you get to work with or see one, they are like 6-8 bunsen burners rolled together, generating masses of heat and sound like jet engines.
I remember my dad teaching me how to fry a simple egg on these burners. When asked to practice, I burnt the initial 15 eggs . Finally managed to control the heat and get the 16th egg cooked to a ‘satisfactory’ state. Thankfully he was a patient man who taught me other things along the way.
Cooking food on these burners meant you cooked quickly to maintain texture of the ingredients and kept the goodness locked in. You also impart a smokey flavour from the wok called ‘Wok Hai’ (translated as wok air in English). You can still achieve this heat in the domestic kitchen.
When our kitchen was at its planning stage, Elle and I were constantly arguing over which option to go for; Induction hob or gas stove? Eventually we went for both. Only because I didn’t want to hear ‘ I told you so!’ I still get asked about which option is better from those who are currently looking to revamp their kitchens.
The advantage of the gas stove is that it’s controllable heat but you do you do lose a lot of heat from the sides of the flame. Like many friends and family, they still line the pan rest area with kitchen foil to catch those mishaps. I opted for a two ring hob just to keep the missus happy so that she can make her Chinese soups.
The Miele hob was bought off an auction site and originated from a boat in Hull. I simply changed the filament so that it met gas regulations.
Induction hobs have dropped in price lately which makes it attractive and the heat is just as controllable as the gas counterpart. The energy from induction ‘heats’ only the area the pan sits on. However, you are only limited to induction specific pans….a little more expensive.
Here, I installed a 90cm length induction hob from De Dietrich. I came across this brand when I was on a corporate event in Switzerland. There are other other brands out there just as good and just as effective.
The size of the induction was chosen based on the number of pans that could be placed at one time. On the image shown, this zone allows flexibility for several small pans on one area.
I hope my comments give you some degree of clarity to your decision making.
Here are a few tips to achieving that ‘wok air’;
- The wok should be heated gradually so that it reaches a very high temperature just before the oil, raw vegetables and meat are added. The cooking oil shouldn’t be added until the wok is screaming hot, and then it should be added cold just before the raw ingredients are added. This way, the oil won’t chemically decompose due to the high temperatures.
- The amount of oil added to the wok is important: too much and the food will be fried, too little and wok hei won’t be achieved.
- The water in the ingredients, coming mainly from any raw vegetables, is important to achieve wok hei but difficult to manually control. Too much water in the vegetables and they will become soggy in the wok, but too little the food will dry out or burn
- It’s important not to include too much food in the wok when trying to achieve wok hei. Stir-frying a small amount allows for accurate temperature control. Set aside each ingredient. When everything is at the same temperature, put all into the wok and stir quickly.