There is nothing like the taste of restaurant Chinese food, ever wonder why you can't replicate the same stir-frys at home? It's the "wok hei" (literally translated from Cantonese means breath of the wok), food cooked fast over high heat, actually I should say extremely high heat. I already have a good base in stir-frys but wanted to take it to the next level.
I searched the internet and I found a few outdoor wok stations but none I found were well built, the stands were flimsy or the burners weren't powerful enough, so I decided to attempt to build one from scratch.
I built the station on the fly and I got the metal shop to cut the metal to size, and while you can do it yourself it will save you loads of time and only costs a few bucks for them to cut it for you. A welder is need to build this so this build is not for everyone, however if someone was creative it could be possible to do it without one.
Parts and materials:
- Various lengths of 1/8" angle iron
- 14 gauge sheet metal
- 18 gauge sheet metal
- Adjustable Propane Regulator or one fixed at 5 psi
- 1/2" Iron pipe fittings
- Locking casters
- Wood shelf
- 1/4" steel rod
Step 1: Building the Frame
I wanted a super sturdy base so I am using all 1" x 1/8" thick angle iron for the frame. Depending on how large your wok is will determine how big to make the base, so I will only give rough dimensions, I sized mine to be 18" x 18" x 26". I welded it all together and made sure things were square, welding magnets really help with that. If you don't have a welder you can also bolt the frame together. The top is a piece of 14 gauge sheet metal.
Step 2: Fabricating the Burner Ring
Now that the stand is built the wok needs a ring to sit on. The ring is made from 14 gauge sheet steel. I determined the size I wanted the ring (12" base on the size of my wok) and using a compass I marked out a circle on the top of the stand and centered it.
Now ideally if I had access to a sheet metal roller making the ring would be easy but I had to get creative to make a nice even and round bend without one. I started by bending the strip around an object that was round, in my case it was a piece of steel pipe. Once I had a nice curved radius I tack welded it to the top of the stand where the circle was marked out. I started from the middle then worked left then to right, bending the curve and holding it down with a large C clamp and then tacking, a little at a time. It worked perfectly for me by taking my time.
I then ran a bead of weld all along the seam where the ring meets the top of the stand, I only welded short lengths and alternated between different parts of the ring or you will get warping. I used 3/32 6013 welding rods, they are low penetrating, great for sheet metal.
Also I left the back open and drill some holes for venting around the ring.
Step 3: Building the Burner
The burner is the key component of the wok station, it's where the wonderful breath of the wok taste comes from.
This burner is a jet burner, called that probably because its flame looks like a jet engine.
You can buy commercial ones but I figured I could make one, I have another Instructable for making a prototype of a jet burner that can be used for large corn or seafood boils. The theory is the same for any propane burner, mix air and propane, have a tube that acts as a combustion chamber.
See here for more information on building a burner:
If you don't feel comfortable making one, I suggest you search around for a burner for brewing or specific for a wok.
The parts are:
• 1/2" steel pipe or nipple, threaded on each end.
• 3" x 6" schedule 40 steel pipe
• Angle iron
• metal tape
• Iron pipe fitting to adapt to your propane source
There is a specific air to propane ratio that must be met before propane will ignite and burn. I found that with a 1.3 mm orifice hole this burner worked very well, anything less it wouldn't light. The design is very simple and uses very few parts. You can probably figure out the whole design by looking at the pictures but the following is a description as well.
I took a 1/2" pipe and measured how long I needed it to be for the wok station, I cut and welded shut the cut end. You can also find a pipe the correct length and cap one end with a fitting. Then I welded on two angle iron pieces on each side of the pipe for mounting. Holes were drilled in each angle iron for bolting onto the stand. I roughly centered the burner in the stand so I could see where to drill the orifice hole and mount the burner tube. I center punched where I wanted the orifice hole to be and using a drill press I drilled a 1.3 mm hole. Then I welded on the 3" x 6" schedule 40 steel pipe for the burner tube. I added a 1/2" coupler and reduced it down to fit a propane quick release and hose which is attached to an adjustable high pressure propane regulator. The bottom is the air intake and works by the venturi effect, as the propane is turned on it pulls air in (at least that's how I think it works).
To control the size of the flame I use a ball valve plumbed into the piping, make sure it is a valve rated for gas, most of them are.
Lastly: so the burner works really well at medium to full power at 5 psi of propane but if I turn down the propane it wouldn't stay lit. I figured out that the air to propane mixture was not correct (too much air). To fix this I used some metal tape to tape off part of the intake, restricting the amount of air by creating a choke, this had a great effect, allowing me to have a flame all the way from the size of a candle up to a fire breathing dragon. It had no negative effect at full power, as I suspect that it was still able to pull enough air in to maintain a nice blue flame.
Step 4: Ignition System - Optional
I wanted to be able to easily light the jet burner so I picked up a universal bbq ignition system, I made sure to get one that was battery operated, they work so much better than the piezo electric ones.
I drilled two holes in the side of the burner tube and inserted the ignition electrode rod and used a threaded bolt as a grounding plate. As you can see in the pic the, it produces a nice arc. I made sure that it was at the edge of the path where the propane passes but not directly in the hottest part of the flame.
The ignition button was mounted on the side of the station.
Step 5: Mounting the Burner
I determined the height of where the burner should be mounted by using some blocks to raise and lower the burner to find the optimal height of where the flame meets the bottom of the wok. Then I used some angle iron and welded it to the stand and drilled some holes and mounted the burner with some bolts.
Step 6: Adding Casters and Panels
To make the wok station easier to move around I added some locking casters.
Rear and side panels were added to shield the burner from the wind and protect the user. Don't want those leg hairs being burnt off.
A removable front panel was added by tapping some holes, so the panel could be screwed on and off.
Step 7: Folding Side Table
A folding side table was added, I stained it walnut and then applied a few coats of varnished and a French cleat was installed so a metal bar could be used to keep it upright. Hinges were bolted to the side of the stand. A piece of 1/4" round steel stock was heated and bent in a "u" shape, see the pictures for exactly how to make it. It came out very strong and sturdy.
Step 8: Flame and Splatter Guard
An optional item to add was a removable flame and splatter guard. Keeps the flames contained with in the station and keeps food splatter to a minimum. I added slots to the top of the stand with 1" bar stock so the guard had a place to sit. The guard itself is made from 18 gauge sheet metal, piano hinges and I cut tabs on the bottom to fit the slots on the stand. I rounded the corner of the sheet metal so one would not cut themselves if they caught the corner.
Step 9: Final Touches and Plumbing
I wanted the ball valve to control the flow of propane where it was easy to reach so I plumbed the gas pipes so the valve would be waist high. I added a bracket and used a hose clamp to hold the pipe in place. All pipe fittings had gas rated Teflon tape wrapped on the threads to ensure a leak free system. The whole station was painted with high heat bbq paint.
Step 10: Video
Here is the station completed. It works awesome and is so powerful.
Here is a video of an overview with build video of the station and it in action.