Best home range for fusion wok/Western cooking?
October 17, 2020 11:22 PM   Subscribe

We're planning a large-scale kitchen renovation and I'm looking for a gas range that can fit a flat-bottomed 14" wok next to a large stock pot or dutch oven on the adjacent burner. Do I need a 36" range, or is 30" fine?

Right now I'm in a rental with a builder-grade electric range, which measures 29" across and is right next to the fridge (a "wall" on one side of the large front burner). I can fit my wok on the stove, barely, but then I can only use a small saucepan next to it. Not sure if this is a problem with the unfortunate fridge placement or with 30" ranges in general. This is a large-scale renovation, so if I need to design cabinets around a wider range, I'd rather do it now rather than 10 years from now. But I'm also wary of falling into the useless-upgrade trap.

I don't need a built-in wok ring or anything fancy like that. my flat-bottom carbon steel wok is just fine, no plans to switch to round-bottom any time soon.

Note: Regardless of range size, I'll be installing a high-powered range hood. Even my mother, who is in the habit of stir-frying on electric using nonstick saute pans (and makes delicious food despite breaking all the rules of stir-fry!), produces so much smoke and oil from high-heat Asian cooking that our house growing up had an upgraded range hood decades before they got around to redoing the rest of the kitchen.
posted by serelliya to Home & Garden (11 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
when you say adjacent, do you mean the burner directly above or below?

i have a thirty inch stove. i can have a stock pot on the top left burner and a 10 inch sauté on the bottom left. but only barely. and i can't, you know, sauté. there's no room.

but stock pot on the left and 10 inch on the right? no problem.

either way. that's my anecdote. the difference in price between a 30 and 36 inch stove can be significant. is it reasonable to take your wok and stock pot to the as-of-yet-unpurchased range?
posted by Time To Sharpen Our Knives at 12:23 AM on October 18, 2020 [1 favorite]

You can always get an additional countertop induction unit, for very little cost, if you find yourself needing to space things out a bit more.
posted by kickingtheground at 12:35 AM on October 18, 2020 [5 favorites]

I have a 30” Wolf induction cooktop (which I love) but I would upgrade to 36” in a heartbeat. I’m constantly crowded. Why would you ever take the smaller option when given a choice? 36” is clearly the way to go.
posted by Admiral Haddock at 5:19 AM on October 18, 2020

Best answer: I do home canning and soup-making. I have big (for a home kitchen) stockpots and canners. When we were remodeling, I wanted to make sure we got a stove with enough room for all the pots. I traced the footprint of each kettle onto some freezer paper and took the circles with me to the stove store. With each candidate stove, I laid the circles over the burners to see if they would fit.

What I found was that NO stove, not even the large "restaurant" type, had a burner arrangement that would accommodate all of the pots in the way I needed. I solved the problem by getting a regular 30-inch unit and two commercial-grade hotplates (similar to one of these.) I had the electrician wire-in dedicated outlets on either side of the stove to make sure I wouldn't be overloading anything.

The hotplates weren't cheap*, but I just considered them part of the cost of the stove. So now I have a high-quality "6-burner" stove that does what I need it to, at a cost far less than I would have paid for an all-in-one unit.

*If you do this, you MUST get the commercial ones. The $15 burn-your-house-down model from Kmart will not do the job.
posted by Weftage at 5:24 AM on October 18, 2020 [6 favorites]

Personally, if I could afford to do so, I'd go with a 36" range. Working with a wok can you really want space to work in when woking.
posted by Thorzdad at 6:56 AM on October 18, 2020

Best answer: I'm not sure it's a question of 30” vs 36". In a 30" 4 burner stove with the burners spaced (not right next to each other), you'll likely have plenty of room to do a wok and the stock pot. Its a matter of how many burners you want.

I have a 6 burner 36" stove, and here's a 14" round bottom wok next to a dutch oven next to a 12" skillet.

You can see the dutch oven will impede wok action if it's centered on the center burner. In most of my uses where I have a wok going at the same time as others I won't use the two burners directly adjacent to the wok. The times I use all six burners are rare, but I am happy that they're available during holidays. The extra space, even if I'm not using the burner, is useful to park hot pots and pans instead of worrying about laying down a trivet on a counter.

If I was to ever renovate again and do a high end stove again, I'd probably go for a 36” 4 burner with a center that has a grill or a griddle instead of extra burners.
posted by Karaage at 7:05 AM on October 18, 2020 [2 favorites]

my 30-incher can do two big pots on the front left and front right, but it's pretty much impossible to get two big ones on the same side.

One thing that makes a difference is the back display. My old 30-inch GE cafe was a lemon (I wouldn't buy GE appliances anymore, both my expensive fridge and expensive range crapped out within ~4 years), but its design was great: there was no back display (they call these "slide in ranges") so there was a lot more room for pots on the back burner. My current one has a big back display whose functionality I love but it renders the back burners nearly useless.
posted by fingersandtoes at 7:07 AM on October 18, 2020

If appliance stores are open in your area, may I suggest bringing your wok, pots, and pans with you to the showroom and physically placing them on the various stovetops so you get a feel for the spacing. We did this for our reno and it was very helpful. Also helpful when choosing dishwashers - you can actually test how they would fit inside.
posted by tinydancer at 9:12 AM on October 18, 2020

On a gas stove, all burners are about 11” apart, center to center, maybe 11.5”. That’s why a 30” has horizontal space for 2.5, 36” has horizontal space for 3, 48” for 4, etc. The only time you’re going to deviate from that is if you get a nonstandard cooking apparatus like a griddle, infrared grill, or French top.

I think an accessory burner is the way to go. You could do a built-in or plug-in induction burner off to the side for low simmering or quick boiling, leaving the range emptier for your wok, or even a dedicated wok burner with more BTUs than any range burner. Downside of course is needing a wider range hood and losing some counter space.
posted by supercres at 9:33 AM on October 18, 2020

Best answer: My 36" range is from IKEA, I got it with a huge discount because it was going out of production, but they still have some with the same shape and functionality. AFAIK, IKEA gets their appliances from Whirlpool. I'm not happy with the electric oven in it, but I have also realized that I break all ovens because I consistently use them at very high heat (for pizzas), and it seems manufacturers only pretend to make ovens that can do that for non-commercial use.
The gas stovetop with five burners, however: I love it. The middle burner with two rings of fire is ideal for (made for?) wok cooking, because it can go from extremely hot and tall flames to very gentle, and I can do whatever on the other burners while working the wok, there is plenty of space. I have a cast iron griddle I can put over the middle burner for making breakfast or burgers, or to fit two smaller pans on just for keeping them at a low simmer. Often, we cook with two woks, and the side burners are fine for relatively high heat, too. Because of corona, I've almost forgotten about cooking for many people, but thinking of it now, I would use the oven as a slow cooker, and have a stew or something simmering in there in a big cast iron pot while I cooked other dishes on the stovetop.
BTW, I live in a rental, and was very wary of costs since I can't know how long we'll be staying, I shared the investment with my landlord. But, it turned out that moving the gas range and hood to a more practical place with counter space on both sides was not very expensive, so I did that, and it is such an improvement.
If I owned the apartment, I'd get a better quality range because of the oven, but I'd stick with the 36" five burner layout.
At our family farm, I have a 30" induction stove, and an extra burner that comes out when the whole big family is together. I put the big stockpot on the extra burner, rather than the pans where I fry or sauter stuff. It is a different cooking experience, and I've given up on using a wok there. Your mum would probably just soldier on. I dream of building an outdoor wood-powered wok stove. Still, having an extra burner for your big pot of simmering stew or potatoes is really useful. I can push mine to the back of the counter and still have room for a chopping board.
One last thing: if you get a big range, you will also need a big sink, because your oven racks are bigger.
posted by mumimor at 3:04 PM on October 18, 2020

Best answer: We did a 30" standard gas range with double oven and a 2 burner induction burner, with a high power 48" hood over both of them.

The combination works for us - most good 30" stoves have one big high output burner, so if you put the induction on the other side of that burer you'll always be able to have a large pot (e.g. a dutch oven, etc) and the wok at the same time. We also have a standard cabinet under the induction burner so we're not wasting oven space we don't need. Plus the induction burner is fantastic for boiling water, probably 5x faster than the gas.
posted by true at 5:41 PM on October 18, 2020 [1 favorite]

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