Should I get an outdoor propane burner?
November 14, 2017 5:40 PM   Subscribe

I like to cook meat on the stove at very high temperatures to get a nice sear, and also for stir frying vegetables, but this creates a lot of smoke, smell and sometimes spatter. Should I try getting a propane burner and cooking outside with a cast iron pan or steel wok?

I usually cook steak via the reverse sear method and get results I am pretty happy with, but more often than not it makes the smoke alarm go off in my house, and all that smoke leaves smells and grease on the walls/celings/furniture. Also, I'm not really happy with how my stir fry comes out in a pan, I'd love to try a wok, but have read you need more heat than you can realistically get out of a conventional home stovetop.

So, I just hit on the idea of using a propane burner (something like this), and just putting a cast iron pan or wok and cooking in the back yard. The burners I've looked at claim to put out 30,000+ BTUs, while most home stove burners apparently put out maybe 7,000. These are advertised primarily for deep frying turkeys or giant pots of chili. Is there some reason it wouldn't work for what I've got in mind or would be especially dangerous (I mean, deep frying turkeys is already pretty dangerous, seems like this would be safer)?
posted by skewed to Food & Drink (9 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
I've done it with something just like that. Wok gets hot as the sun, it's great. I also use it to season my cast iron pans. Gets them real hot.
posted by sanka at 5:51 PM on November 14, 2017

Also useful for boiling lots of water for canning when it's super hot outside!
posted by vespabelle at 6:22 PM on November 14, 2017 [1 favorite]

Oh yeah, we have done this with the turkey fryer I have for homebrewing. It works great but cooks super fast, as you would expect. Also we set the wooden handles of the wok on fire.
posted by ghharr at 6:25 PM on November 14, 2017 [4 favorites]

Is there some reason it wouldn't work for what I've got in mind
Nope, except for the inconvenience and safety factors, which you seem to be aware of.
Sure, cooking on a rigged up burner on your porch is probably less risk thank boiling big vats of oil, but it’s probably more risk than using a thoroughly QA/QC tested stove in a USA kitchen that has been inspected to meet all safety codes.

try a wok ... you need more heat than you can realistically get

Well yeah, if you really demand that super high heat approach. Woks can be used for moderate less scorchy temps on a normal gas range, and you can sometimes find carbon steel pans that have wok material and feel in a form factor more suitable for normal western gas ranges. I might try that and looking at ventilation issues before I invested a lot of effort in an outdoor burner, but it does sound fun!
posted by SaltySalticid at 6:28 PM on November 14, 2017

Yep a number of outdoor cooking implements work great for exactly this. Other than a turkey fryer burner like you describe, I’ve used cast iron and a wok on top of a Weber kettle, on top of a charcoal chimney starter, on a propane griddle (my favorite thing ever, but not as hot as the others).

Also not as hot but can’t beat the convenience factor: portable induction hob. Great for the cast iron. Works fine with a flat bottom wok but wouldn’t do great with round. I set it on thermostat mode and crank it up as high as it’ll go (mid 500s iirc), since constant-power mode shuts down for getting too hot after a while. (Bad for the glass top)
posted by supercres at 8:08 PM on November 14, 2017 [1 favorite]

(The cast iron skillet on the Weber kettle was how I learned that there is such a thing as too hot for seasoning cast iron, and according to my IR thermometer, it’s about 700F)
posted by supercres at 8:10 PM on November 14, 2017

Last thing: don’t use cast iron that you especially care about. It’s a lot easier to get it dangerously hot outside, and it can crack from that kind of outside-normal-range heat.

Should go without saying that enameled CI is a real bad idea.

Mostly I’m just excited bc I’m a fan of this kind of jury-rigged high BTU setup. Have you see this?
posted by supercres at 8:15 PM on November 14, 2017

I use the side-burner on my grill for this. Same principle. Lots less smoke detector fanning, steaky smell lingering in the house.
posted by Lyn Never at 9:06 PM on November 14, 2017 [1 favorite]

I have a similar outdoor burner, and I use it for searing meats. It's also great for getting a good sear on fish, since you can get it much hotter than an indoor burner. As long as you have a safe, stable place to put it, go for it!
posted by Lycaste at 1:50 PM on November 15, 2017

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