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Cruising, camping and wok cooking in the San Juan Islands

 Do you use a wok at home? How about on the boat or camping on shore?  Okay, that was easy, what about cooking on your propane fire pit?  Hot dogs and marshmallows don't count.

Wok Cooking and Propane fire pit while cruising the San Juan Islands
Tossing stir fry in wok.

I am certainly not a cook, chef, or even someone who barbecues but I have become completely sold on woks and open flames.  About five years ago while camping, one of our group said, "Shall we stir fry dinner?"  He then pulled out a round wok and inserted a three-foot-long broken-off shovel handle into the wok's hollow metal handle. Using a paper towel he wiped off the inside, squirted in some canola oil, and held it in the campfire flames.  Out of the cooler came baggies full of chopped veggies, fish, and chicken.  The wok was smoking hot by the time we had paper plates organized. I still remember the sizzle as the first of the chicken went in.  A minute later chopped carrots, chestnuts, mushrooms, sprouts, noodles, etc, etc.  He cooked one large plate at a time almost as fast as we could load them up.  It was very, very good and really hit the spot considering it was early spring and we were all freezing and trying to stay warm.

When I got home from the trip, the first thing I did was find myself a wok at an Asian cookery store.  I chose a 14" thin, lightweight wok with a hollow metal handle, $13.99.  Five minutes with an angle grinder and my old broken handle slid neatly (jammed) into the wok's handle.  I couldn't wait to go camping and stir-fry something.

That summer the drought continued and open fires were banned once again so our fire consisted of our propane fire pit.  Of course, I had to try the wok and it worked.  In fact, it works better with the fire pit than the open campfire because the flame height is easily adjusted.  Plus the open fire tends to smoke and burn the chef.   I made two modifications, greatly improving the system.  I bought a three-legged folding stand that is ten inches high.  The stand is for campfires but fits in my fire pit perfectly.  I also found three scraps of stainless sheet flashing about 6 x 8 inches that I lean against the stand to act as a chimney and wind stopper. Before I used the wind stopper, the flames lazily blew around, afterward they concentrated under the wok getting much hotter, much faster.

That's it, I stir fry, make popcorn, and cook in the cockpit, or on the dock, or in camp.  I plan to make another, shorter handle before our next boat trip.  Overall the wok and handle is about four feet, and our cock pit is about four feet so I am banging into things and people.  I think about two feet overall should do it.  The wok gets sooty and smudgy so I keep everything in a drawstring bag I made out of old dirty sailcloth.

wok cooking with propane fire pit
To take this picture I had to set the wok down
 so it immediately began burning.

wok cooking popcorn on fire pit
The foil is extra wide and is loosely attached with four little spring clips. Foil burns easily so it
doesn't last forever unless you are careful with flames. I wait until I hear the first couple of pops and then lift the wok up about a foot above the flames shaking continuously.  

Excellent results in a couple minutes, see the stand and the flame deflectors leaning against it? 
When we cook meals, I do two portions at a time, the wok easily handles four but tossing is heavy and challenging.   In the boat,  or with large portions, I use wood spatulas to avoid making a mess.

I clean up with soap and water and scour with salt. Reheat a little to dry and then lightly re-oil. Or if it looks okay, I just oil it inside and out and put it back in the sack.

I need to update my boat camping list to include the wok. Here is a link to that list.