WonderWok ignites flame war with outdoor grills

The Premise. The wok is a versatile kitchen staple that has been around for thousands of years. Whether frying, steaming, boiling, or sautéing, the wok can do it all. But when it comes to outdoor cooking, most people turn to their grill or maybe a smoker. Traditional electric or gas stove tops just can’t get hot enough to set the wok a-rockin’.

The Product. The WonderWok is an outdoor grill that unleashes unbridled heat directly to a wok. The wok rests on top, allowing the chef to move it at will. It also comes with a grill and griddle attachment. The WonderWok’s base is silver while the wok and attachments are black. Installation involves simply hooking it up to a propane tank, much like a conventional grill.

The Pitch. The Indiegogo campaign chronicles how Gregory Wong dreamed the WonderWok into existence.  AnAsian cuisine chef with his own YouTube channel, Wong understood the need for something like the WonderWok on the mass market.  Where his campaign lacks is in explaining the product itself.  There are no pictures of the WonderWok in the campaign itself and only fleeting glimpses of its commercial kitchen-like design in the video. The same aversion to stills shows on the WonderWok’s Web site. Wong hopes to raise $100,000.

The Perks. Reward tier pricing may prevent the WonderWok from winning out versus conventional propane grills that can cost a few hundred dollars. Wong offers seven reward tiers that include variations of perks such as bamboo chopsticks, bumper stickers, recipes from his YouTube channel, baseball caps and the like. Only a contribution of $5,000 or more will earn a WonderWok with an estimated delivery date of April 2014.

The Potential. The WonderWok could represent a slice of stir-fried heaven for Asian cuisine chefs who want to expand into more outdoor events; it will be a harder sell for the average weekend backyard burger flipper. Beyond the huge price displarity, there are already several other less expensive alternatives such as Mr. B-B-Q Cast-Iron Wok is a heavy wok designed to sit directly on the grill. Eastman Outdoors sells a similar Outdoors Steel Wok Kit, that is essentially an outdoors grill with a wok on top, much like the WonderWok, just not quite as hot. With these alternatives, it may be difficult for Wong’s creation to find a steady role in the world of outdoor cooking, but professionals should be able to offer at least a wok-on role.

Camping Chargers/Batteries

PowerPot X cooks soup, generates juice

The Premise. Every campsite should have a piece of cookware, every camper/outdoorsman should have a receptacle in which to boil water, every home should have an alternate power source in case of emergency and everybody could use an extra method to keep their electronics charged.

The Product. It sounds like someone’s tenth attempt at creating a new strain of super-hemp, but the the PowerPot X is actually the latest in outdoor gear. Its promise of charging modern devices using a must-have piece of equipment for any camper, potentially makes it one of the most practical and ingenious pieces of kit to come along in ages. It’s an aluminum pot that doubles as an electric generator, using thermoelectric technology to convert the heat used to cook or boil water into usable electricity.

The Pitch. The PowerPot X’s marketing may alarm the skeptical consumer. The video production has campy, home-spun feel that, while endearing and aligned with the spirit of the product and its intended consumers, falls slightly short of effective advertising. The product pictures are crisp and clear enough to display its quality. Its technical aspects are comprehensively explained, its production plan seems on-point, and one’s incentives for buying are plentiful, including two sizes, built-in power regulator, dual-USB charging-cord, carrying case, and the confidence of having such a practical and versatile product with no moving parts.

The Perks. Early backing of $165 or $175 earn the 2.3-liter PowerPot X or 3.8-liter PowerPot XL, respectively. Five bucks will get you a sticker that, by the producers’ own admission, might get you pulled over and questioned if placed on your bumper. And for those people of means who are worried about confusion over ownership, a pledge of $249 will rustle up their choice of the PowerPot X or XL with custom laser-engraving.

The Potential. There may be better camping-pots out there. The Lodge LCC3 Logic combo-cooker, perhaps, which sports heavier construction and a lid that doubles as a frying pan, but will it charge the kids’ iPads? And there may be more powerful solar generators available, but they’d never work at night, let alone cook your dinner.