When you consider the generations before you, what comes to mind?
We probably visualize simpler times, less extravagant living, and old-time materials such as a wood cookstove.
When we downsized and purchased our smaller home a few years ago, I knew I wanted to install a wood stove for backup heat.
However, I was shocked when I realized the smaller in size the wood stove, the bigger the price tag! My husband and I brainstormed and came up with the idea of heating our home with a wood cookstove.
This way we could cook on it and heat our home. We found an excellent deal on an old wood-burning cookstove, restored it, and installed it.
But there’s an art to using and cooking on a wood cookstove. It may vary depending upon the model of stove, but here’s how we use and cook on our wood stove:
1. Give it Some Heat
I’m not ashamed to tell you, the first time our power went out with this wood cookstove, we were ignorant as to how to use it.
We’d been using the stove for heat but didn’t have any clue as to how to cook on it efficiently. The first morning we woke up with snow on the ground and no electricity, I pulled out my percolator and prepared to make coffee.
An hour later, my coffee still hadn’t percolated. I didn’t know how to make a cold stove heat up quickly and how to channel the heat to my percolator.
Needless to say, after I percolated my coffee on the grill, I figured it out.
To begin, you must use small pieces of wood to fit into the wood box. Our stove has a small box which makes it perfect because our home is only 864 square feet on the main floor. I didn’t want a stove which would be too big for the house, and cook me.
Also, be sure the wood is dry. Our wood had become a little moist from the snow and made it difficult to get a fire going.
During this time, slide the circulator over to where it only allows the heat to circulate under the burners which are directly over the firebox.
2. Watch the Coals
When your fire is going, begin to watch the coals. You want bright orange and developed coals. This will let you know the fire is established.
At this point, you should be able to feed it wood as needed, and it should stay ignited.
Also, during the time of establishing the fire, be sure to keep the dampers fully open. Your stove may not have multiple dampers but mine does.
We have a damper on the side, on the back of the stove, and in the chimney. I leave them all wide open to give the fire plenty of airflow and also to deter smoke.
3. Expand the Heat
When the coals are established, and the fire is rolling, it’s time to expand the heat. This will allow you to cook on all of the burners, utilize the oven, and also utilize the bread warmer.
Begin by slowly sliding the circulator over. You’ll know if you push it too far because the stove will begin to produce smoke.
If this happens, slide the circulator over until the smokiness disappears. Give the stove more time to warm before you slide the circulator over more.
Eventually, the circulator should be slid all the way over. This is when you’ll see the heat on the oven begin to rise.
4. Control It
As the stove warms up, the oven will reach your desired temperature. If you let it get too hot, you’ll burn what’s in the oven.
Which is why it’s important to keep a close eye on the wood cookstove while using it, therefore, if your oven begins to get too warm, use the circulator to shut down the heat from this area.
As the temperature begins to drop, move the circulator where it’s needed to keep the heat on point.
Remember, if your fire begins to burn too hot, you can also shut down each damper as needed. You’ll know to reopen the dampers if your fire starts to smoke or go out.
There are multiple ways to control the heat on a wood cookstove, but it’s important you pay attention for the sake of your fire and the taste of your food.
5. Utilizing Each Part
If you’re new to owning a wood cook stove, you may be wondering how to use each part of the stove effectively. I was curious in the beginning as well.
You’ll use each burner as you would any burner on your electric stove. The burners closest to the firebox are going to be the hottest.
While the burners further from the firebox are going to be what you would consider medium to low heat.
The oven on a wood cookstove can be used as a traditional electric oven. My stove is 60+ years old and does a fantastic job when cooking on it or in it.
Remember to use cast iron when cooking on your wood cookstove.
Finally, the bread warmers, come in handy when allowing a loaf to rise before baking. It’s also a good way to keep a dish warm while you wait for another part of your meal to be complete.
I love using a wood cookstove to warm our home because while it’s heating our house, I’m able to cook our meals on it simultaneously.
This cuts down on our electric bill and also helps my family and me to learn skills which were once familiar to the generations before us.
6. A Quick Tip
This may sound like a great deal of work to cook one meal. It gives you a ton more respect for the generations before us, doesn’t it?
Consider all the work they put into brewing a cup of coffee in the morning.
However, after our little run-in without electricity due to snow, I quickly learned a secret which makes cooking on a wood stove easier.
Are you ready? You shouldn’t let the coals die out. If you keep the fire stoked constantly, it doesn’t take as long to warm up the stove when you’re ready to use it.
What took me an hour the first day (where I eventually gave up) to brew a cup of coffee, took only minutes the next because we kept the fire rolling.
When we went to bed, we put pieces of bark in the firebox because it takes longer to burn overnight. Therefore, it kept our house warm and the stove too.
This made it easy to build a fire the next morning and slap a pot of coffee on the stove for it percolate. The only time this should cause a problem is if you live where the temperature can’t make up its mind during the winter.
If you go from freezing temperatures one day to a heat wave the next, it will prove difficult to keep the fire going.
But you learn a few tricks, and it should be easier to get the stove hot again and ready to cook your meals.
Speaking of cooking meals, any of these Dutch Oven Cooking recipes works fabulously on a wood cookstove. Just invest in a quality dutch oven, and you will be making scrumptious meals with ease.
Well, you now know how to cook on a wood cook stove. Again, your model of cookstove may cause some variations to this method.
However, if you can learn to control the heat on your stove, you should do fine. Some models of stoves have a water reservoir included which makes heating water much easier.
My model is basic and doesn’t include this feature. If you have it, it could make cooking on a wood cookstove this much easier.
Hopefully, this will help you heat your home, enjoy delicious meals, and save a few dollars on your electric bill this winter.