Wood Stove Cooking - a useful option
I never thought much about wood stove cooking, but when you have a wood stove, the thought is likely to enter your mind. After all, you have a heat source and you need to eat, so putting the two together seems natural. In the winter it can be an easy way to augment your approach to frugal living.
Once I told a friend about one of my wood stoves. The first thing he said was: "Can you cook on it?" I told him it was possible, but the stove wasn't designed for routine use as a cook stove.
Nevertheless, I had friends over for a steak dinner one night, and the entire meal was prepared on my wood stove.
So, let's look at cooking on a wood stove; not full time cooking, just occasional use. If your intention is wood stove cooking on a regular basis, you need to have a wood cook stove, or a wood stove with a generous surface for cooking.
Like anything else, there are benefits and drawbacks to wood stove cooking. Let's look at some to get a feel for this subject based on practical experience.
The major benefit of wood stove cooking is making use of a heat source to fix a meal as well as warm your home. If you're looking to save a little energy by not using the stove or oven, this is one way to do it.
A benefit that you might overlook is the fun of cooking on a wood stove. It's a bit like a "indoor campfire cookout", but much easier and without all the smoke to deal with. Just the novelty of cooking on a wood burning stove adds a slice of fun to your meal preparation.
In the winter, I often find myself cooking and heating water on the stove. It can become a habit. I figure as long as I need to heat up the house, I might as well make it do double duty for me.
What you can cook or heat on your wood stove will depend on large a flat and level surface you have on the stove. If it's of sufficient size, you might as well take advantage of it.
Like anything else, wood stove cooking has its drawbacks. Let's look at a few of them.
Regulation - there are limitations here. Wood stoves are hot, and that's about the size of it. They're only warm during the brief period they're starting up or cooling down. There isn't much you can do about it.
When operating, I find my stoves to be quite hot for cooking, so I have to compensate by removing pots and pans periodically, or placing horseshoes or wires between the cooking vessels and the surface of the stove to reduce the surface area contacted by the hot stove.
You'll have to be creative about regulating the heat because wood stoves aren't designed to be regulated, and a good hot fire is the most efficient and safe way to operate a stove.
Limited surface area - a wood stove is generally designed for heating the room, not cooking, so you might find yourself with a limited flat and level surface for cooking. Even if the surface looks adequate, the pan you want to use might be a bit too large and overhang the edge of the stove, thus creating a tipping hazard.
Damage to the stove - my stoves work for me as heaters, not show pieces, so a little scratch or stain doesn't bother me at all. When you're engaged in wood stove cooking, you're going to get grease splatter and scratches on your stove. Even if you're just heating up water in a tea kettle, repeated use will leave some sort of a mark, no matter how careful you are.
Location of the stove - unless your wood stove is in the kitchen, you might find that wood stove cooking is a bit inconvenient, just based on its location. Heating the house should be the first consideration for wood stove placement, and cooking on it should be a secondary consideration.
Locations of pots on the stove - when you're cooking on a range, your pots and pans are up and out of the way. On a wood stove, they are usually much closer to ground level. That may present an inconvenience for the cook, and it may be a bit too tempting for children and animals that want to "help" with the cooking.
Wrapping it Up
Wood stove cooking can be an adventure and an element of your approach to frugal living. There is a certain satisfaction knowing that you cooked a meal without the help and expense of the local power company.
There are some considerations to keep in mind. Not many wood stoves are perfectly designed and located for cooking, but chances are good that you can at least heat a kettle of water to enjoy some tea while you heat the room with wood.
I enjoy wood stove cooking as much as I enjoy the romantic warmth of a wood fire. I hope that your wood stove allows you the opportunity to enjoy a little "indoor campfire cooking" on some of those cold winter evenings.
Done with Wood Stove Cooking, take me to Heating with Wood