On a hot summer’s day, a nice BBQ can be a real treat. Once I’ve tasted that smokey BBQ flavor for a couple of days in a row, I want to taste something different. Even the best BBQ can get old if that’s all you eat.
That’s where outdoor wok burners come in. But before you grab your wok and head outside, there’s some work todo. You can’t just dump a wok on a BBQ; you need a dedicated burner.
Most people think of stovetop cooking when they think of woks, but cooking with woks outdoors makes sense. Wok cooking can produce a lot of smoke, so doing it outdoors is ideal! That’s why I’ve focused on outdoor wok stations.
There are even more advantages to wok cooking outdoors, though. Read on to find out why using your wok outdoors will elevate your summer cooking, as well as to find the best outdoor wok burner for you.
Before we start – pressed for time and need to to quickly find the best outdoor wok burners? Here’s the short list:
- Eastman Outdoors 90411 Portable Kahuna Burner (Best Overall – get this one if you aren’t sure)
- GasOne Propane Cover 200,000-BTU Burner (Most Versatile – get this one if not just using woks)
- King Kooker 24WC 24-Inch Portable Propane Outdoor Cooker (Best Budget Work Burner – comes with complete kit. Get this one to get started without overspending)
- Bayou Classic High Pressure Cooker (Best Small Burner – get this one if you’re going camping)
- Camp Chef Double Burner (Best Double Burner – not really a wok burner! Get this one if having a double burner is more important than having one specifically for woks)
Have a read for more details. Though I prefer the Eastman Outdoors wok burner, the first four in the best outdoor wok burners list above are all pretty decent for wok burning. Some aren’t always available, if that’s the case, consider another one.
Why Use an Outdoor Wok Burner?
If you like your stir fry as is – maybe you don’t need an outdoor wok burner. I sometimes cook food inside and bring it outside to eat with my family. One of the major advantages of outdoor wok burners is that you can get a crispy, authentic stir fry. If you don’t want that – save some money and forget about the burner; carry on using your stove.
Here is the big advantage of outdoor wok burners: you can more safely generate the heat you need. Even if your stove can generate the level of heat needed to get perfectly crispy vegetables and stir-fries, that requires you to heat up the kitchen and deal with the smoke.
And if your smoke detector is as sensitive as mine is, that’s a serious pain to deal with. An outdoor wok stove won’t set off that sensitive smoke alarm in the kitchen, and it won’t require heating up a room in the middle of summer, either.
What to look for in outdoor wok stations
There are a lot of outdoor burners to choose from, so you want to make sure you’re getting the right one. Some outdoor burners are more like BBQs, while others are little more than a valve you attach to the propane tank.
What makes a propane burner into an outdoor wok burner? Let’s take a closer look.
It’s important that the wok heats up quickly, and also that you have a temperature gradient. If you want crispy food, the wok needs to get hot enough to sear.
This is why the best outdoor wok burners have a decent heat output. But how can your measure this?
British Thermal Units (BTUs) per hour are a common way of measuring the heat output of burners. Funnily enough, they are used more in the USA than in Britain, despite their name. One BTU is the energy needed to heat one pound of water by one degree Fahrenheit.
Although heat output is measured in BTUs per hour, these are commonly referred to as BTUs. (The per hour is implied). This isn’t technically correct, but it’s what you’ll find.
So how many BTUs do you need? There’s not a lot of authoritative information or definitive research on this. It depends on how much you are cooking.
I’ve researched this, and what I’ve found is mainly anecdotal and based on people’s personal experiences. My suggestion? If you are wok cooking for yourself, your family or a small number of guests; you should aim for at least 50,000 BTUs.
Your stove probably only has a heat output of 7,000 BTUs per burner. If your stir fry always comes out super mushy – now you know why! You need a lot more heat to get it nice and crispy.
If you’re going to use intense heat, you want it to be as efficient as possible. Just because a burner has a higher BTU output doesn’t mean it heats as efficiently as another burner. Wok burners that spread the heat out will lose a lot of heat to the air and around the wok. Outdoor burners are more susceptible to energy loss due to the air, but you want to get as efficient a unit as possible.
Another thing to look for is the flame itself. The hotter the flame, the bluer the color. An orange flame is not as hot, and therefore, not as efficient.
You need a wok burner stand that brings the wok to the right height so you can cook. You don’t want it too high – no hot oils in the face, please! If the stand is too low, it can be dangerous and uncomfortable. The height of the stand has to be just right.
So it should be about waist height, or slightly higher. This will depend to a certain extent on your height.
Adjustable stands are great if more than one person is using them since different people obviously might not be the same height.
If you already have a stand that’s too low, you could put it on a stable platform. Just be sure the platform is heat-resistant!
Propane Tank Compatible
You will need to get a propane tank separately. The wok burners I’ve reviewed are focused on propane, not natural gas. Obviously, they don’t come with a propane tank!
You might be able to use your burner as a portable wok burner if it is light enough. This is an advantage if you are looking for camping wok burners, which require portability.
The best outdoor wok burners should absolutely include a propane regulator and some sort of stand.
Apart from that, it can also be nice to have a thermometer and a wok. Some people like to build their kits up themselves so this is a personal choice. For me a starter kit is easier.
If it does come with a wok, you need to check what type of wok it is. Carbon steel is probably the best. Carbon steel woks often come coated in oil from the manufacturer. You need to clean this oil off and then season the wok.
A windscreen of some sort is really helpful. The last thing you need is the wind blowing out the flame!
It can be difficult to get the windscreen right though. Protect the flame too much and you won’t be able to see it. Don’t protect it enough and it will go out on a windy day!
It’s also helpful for the cooker to have some sort of brackets or support for the wok. This can be really critical with round bottomed woks!
If your round bottom wok doesn’t sit well on the surface for any reason then consider getting a wok ring to help. This is one, but it’s worth taking the time to measure up and find a ring that works for you.
The weight is a factor in how portable the burner is. This guide focuses on wok burners for home use. But the lighter ones are more portable and could make good camping stoves.
Finally it’s worth considering how easy it is to assemble the wok burners.
Outdoor Wok Station Reviews
I’ve only included 4 wok burners in this guide. Normally I prefer to include more items in a round up guide like this. I’ll explain later why I didn’t do this.
The important thing is that each outdoor wok burner brings something different. It’s worth reading the whole guide to see which burner would work the best for you.
Eastman Outdoors 90411 Portable Kahuna Burner (Best Overall)
I really love this outdoor wok station. It’s designed with wok cooking and portability in mind.
The legs extend giving a height of between 18” and 26” (enough for most people once you add in the wok). They also detach easily, which combined with it only weighing 12.3 lb (5.6Kg) means it is very portable.
The brackets will support your wok yet still provide the flexibility to toss food. As they are removable, this propane burner is also super versatile. You could use it for anything from paella to stockpots. Find the best paella pans to use with this burner.
There is no wok or other accessories included in this model of the Eastman Outdoors Kahuna burner. If you want extras, then there is an alternative that includes a carbon steel wok, wok spoon, spatula and a thermometer. (But I don’t recommend the Eastman Outdoors carbon steel wok; check out my carbon steel wok recommendation below.)
There are some reports of the telescoping legs being bit shaky and the knobs breaking on some models.
Overall this is a great burner, BUT, make sure you try it early on. If you are unlucky enough to get one of the rare problematic burners you should return it.
I would get this wok burner. It’s versatile, does what I need it to and should last.
- Brackets to help hold wok
- Adjustable legs from 18” to 26” – range of heights for range of people
- Legs easy to remove making this very portable
- Weight is only 12.3 lb (5.6Kg) – easy to carry
- Decent power (65,000 BTU) – enough for most wok cooking
- Easy to setup
- Suitable for stockpots and pans – not just woks
- No accessories – you need to buy utensils, wok (and thermometer) separately
- No wind guard / windscreen
- Legs spread quite wide and can be shaky
- Isolated reports of knobs breaking
GasOne Propane Cover 200,000-BTU Burner (Most Versatile)
This propane burner is low to mid price for a wok burner, despite being of high quality. That might be because it isn’t meant to be a wok burner at all!
This is advertised as designed for beer brewing.
This does mean, as a brewing burner, it is missing the brackets that would hold a wok in place. However you should be able to position the wok on the grills, or failing that, you might need to get a wok ring.
The heat output on this is incredible – 200,000 BTU. It’s unlikely you’ll need this much, though it is always helpful to have a bit of margin. Since it is adjustable you can set it to the heat you need.
It is sturdy and well made – it’s built to last – which makes it extraordinarily good value.
The biggest downside quality wise is that the paint chips and flakes very quickly. I do understand that paint isn’t great with heat, but this is disappointing.
You also need to be aware that eventually the cast iron frame will rust without paint. Keep it covered, or even indoors when not in use. You could even oil it slightly.
Apart from that this is a good, sturdy propane wok burner – whatever the description might say!
It’s great value, but if you want something cheaper there is a less powerful alternative. It should still have plenty of power for most uses though.
- Good value
- More heat output than you likely need (200,000 BTU)
- Adjustable regulator to control the heat
- Heavy duty
- 18 lbs (8.2kg) means it is easy to transport
- Grills should hold wok
- Comes with a weatherproof cover
- Easy to assemble
- Suitable for pans, pots and beer brewing!
- Paint chips and peels
- Cast iron will rust eventually if not protected by paint
- No brackets to hold wok
- Not designed specifically for woks
- Not always available
- No adjustable legs, only 16 ” high
King Kooker 24WC 24-Inch Portable Propane Outdoor Cooker (Best Budget Work Burner)
This is the only wok burner reviewed that comes with a wok. The wok is made of carbon steel – ideal material for a wok. It does mean there is a bit of work in preparing it.
Back to the King Kooker burner! The windscreen could cover a bit more as there is a gap between under the wok. But I prefer it this way – it’s easier to see the flame. Perhaps the ideal one would be a secondary windscreen that covered this gap for half the circumference?
At 54000 BTU this isn’t the most powerful burner, but delivers more than enough heat for wok cooking.
As a bonus it comes not only with the wok (18” – 45cm), but also a thermometer and recipes.
The biggest pain is the height – it is a fixed 24”. This should be OK for most people to manage, but if you are tall you may need to crouch. Or find a safe way of raising the wok burner stand (eg using a platform).
This is a great burner at a very reasonable price. The big question is – are you taller than 6 foot and if so do you mind having to crouch a little? If you’re shorter than 6 foot, don’t mind crouching, or can safely raise the burner a little with a platform then this makes a nice “starter” work burner.
- Easy to assemble
- Quality wok included
- Sturdy once assembled
- Great value for money
- Thermometer and recipes included
- Weights 16 lb (7.2kg) – very portable
- Wok is protected by a resin – you need to clean this off first
- Carbon steel needs seasoning and care
- Height of 24” (60cm) is slightly shorter than other burners max height
- Height is not adjustable
- Windscreen still leaves a gap
- Not always available
Bayou Classic High Pressure Cooker (Best Small Wok Burner)
At only 12.5” high this cooker is too short for outdoor wok cooking. What it really needs is a stable platform – but a table would likely be too high.
If you have a stable platform about the height of a chair it could be worth considering. (Obviously not most chairs though as they aren’t stable enough!)
It’s affordable and could be a budget choice.
With an output of 59,000 BTUs it produces enough heat for wok cooking. The heat resistant paint on a steel frame helps make it more durable.
The surface isn’t great for woks, and you will need a ring for a round bottom wok.
It’s definitely an outdoor burner as when first using it, the paint emits some nasty fumes. I’d suggest “burning it in” before using it for cooking
Since it’s lightweight, if you are going somewhere with a stable platform to rest it on, then this could be a decent budget camping wok burner.
- Very affordable
- Some wind protection
- Steel frame / cast iron burner – a durable mix
- Heat resistant paint
- Light – 13.8 lb (6.2kg) – and portable
- Quite basic
- Not great for round bottom woks – could help to have a ring
- Only 12.5” (31 cm) high – not enough
- Windscreen isn’t perfect – need to block in high winds
- Fumes from paint when first burning
Other Outdoor Wok Burners
I like to find at least 5 items to include in a roundup review like this one. Often I add more than 5 if I feel a product is bringing something different.
There are plenty of other outdoor burners but either they are the same brand (and similar) to the ones reviewed or they aren’t really suitable for woks.
For example there’s this lovely double burner by Camp Chef. I’d be happy to use it and recommend it, but it isn’t great for outdoor wok cooking. Although some people have used woks with it, it falls down as 30,000 BTU per burner won’t generate enough heat to really crisp your stir fry.
Carbon Steel Wok
If you find yourself buying just the burner, and need to buy a wok separately, I recommend a carbon steel wok. Carbon steel is a metal built for high heat that can take a lot of punishment. It heats evenly once warmed up and isn’t as heavy as cast iron.
Plus, since the carbon steel retains heat well, it’s perfect for the high-heat stir fry cooking.
Do you need a special burner for a wok?
You can stir fry with your wok on a kitchen stove, however there are several reasons I recommend outdoor wok burners:
- Stir frying needs a lot of heat, more than a kitchen stove can supply but something an outdoor station can provide safely
- Wok burning can generate a lot of smoke–again this is best done outside
- Oil splatter also commonly occurs with stir fries; better to avoid the mess in the kitchen
Even if it’s too cold for outdoor cooking, you can use a wok station in a garage, or other semi-enclosed space.
Is a cast iron wok best?
Cast iron is superb when it comes to heat retention. This is amazing for stir frying as it helps make your food crispy. But cast iron is heavy, so I don’t actually recommend it for stir frying.
A carbon steel work is a much better compromise.
Best Outdoor Wok Burners
Best Overall Outdoor Wok Burner
The Eastman Outdoors 90411 Portable Kahuna Burner has everything you could want in a wok burner. This includes adjustable legs for different heights and removable brackets.
You need to supply your own wok. More importantly you need to test it early on to make sure it’s not one of the isolated cases where quality control has failed.
If you’re not sure what wok burner to get, this is the best outdoor wok burner for you.
Best Budget Outdoor Wok Burner
The best budget outdoor wok burner for me is the King Kooker 24WC 24-Inch Portable Propane Outdoor Cooker. It’s a great price and comes with everything you need to get started (apart from the propane tank obviously!)
I would be tempted to recommend it as the best overall, but unfortunately it’s not always available.
I like it and I’d use it. It is a bit of work, at the start, to clean off the resin coating the wok and then season it, but that would be the case with any decent carbon steel wok. I’d just wait for a sunny day and persuade my husband to spend a few hours on it outside!
If this burner set is available for a decent price when you read this – snap it up.
If you are looking for some pans to use with an outdoor cooker, check out my carbon steel skillet and wok roundup.