On the rare occasions that people aren’t popping frozen meals into the microwave or placing casseroles in the oven, there are a few common cooking methods that they opt for. Stovetops, gas grills, and charcoal grills come to mind. But there’s another alternative method that doesn’t get talked about much. We’re talking about cooking on a wood stove, of course!
What is a Wood Stove?
A wood stove could be called the original fireplace – a more efficient and cost-effective option for heating indoor spaces. It’s basically an enclosed box – typically made from iron or some sort of metal – with a ventilating stove pipe connected to a flue that exits the home.
Wood stoves can run on a number of different fuel sources. Wood has traditionally been the most common source, but there are a variety of other options. Over the years, pellet fuel – made from sawmill byproducts like bark, sawdust, and wood scraps – has become quite popular. In fact, many people now buy pellet stoves that are specifically designed to operate on this dedicated fuel source.
Why Cook on a Wood Stove?
While a wood stove is primarily used as a heat source, it can also double as an alternative cooking appliance. It’s especially popular among homesteaders and people who desire to live life “off the grid.”
The beauty of a wood stove is that it provides heat for the home and a heat source for cooking at the same time. And because it doesn’t rely on gas or electricity, it’s an excellent option for emergency-related power outages or cabins that don’t have access to these utilities.
There’s also something very appealing about cooking on a wood stove. It conjures up feelings of simpler times when families would leverage their resources, cook fresh meals, and make time to eat together. It’s about more than just cooking a meal to eat – it’s about the experience.
5 Tips for Cooking on a Wood Stove
Cooking on a wood stove is different than cooking on a traditional stove top or a grill. As with anything else, your skills will improve the more you do it. Here are some tips:
- Get the Right Tools
While you can technically cook on a wood stove without needing much of anything else, it’s nice to have the right tools. It’ll make the process go much smoother (and helps the food taste better). This means securing:
- Good cast iron cookware
- Cast iron trivets (to protect the surface of your stove and/or for resting pots above the surface of the hot stove)
- Grilling baskets
- Gloves for handling hot cast iron parts
If wood stove cooking is something you begin to do a lot of, you’ll eventually develop a process and learn which items you need and which ones you don’t, but the four mentioned here are always a safe bet.
- Learn the Heat Zones
Every stove is unique. As you cook on your stove, you’ll learn where the hottest and coolest zones are. The easiest way to do this is by using a magnetic stove monitor, which helps you identify the perfect places to cook. (A non-contact infrared thermometer works well, too.)
- Start Your Fire in Advance
A wood stove is a throwback to the pioneer days. You can’t press a button and get 425 degrees of heat in five minutes. It takes a little while for the stove to heat up to a point that you can cook a meal. Make sure you start your fire well before you want to cook. (On a related note, don’t overload the fire. If you get it too hot, it can take a long time to cool the stove back down to a reasonable cooking temperature.)
- Preheat Pans
You can make your life a whole lot easier by preheating your pans. Otherwise, you’ll waste a considerable amount of time waiting for the pans to get up to temperature before the food can cook.
- Learn to Control The Temperature
Learning to control the temperature of your wood stove is the mark of a good cook. This is done through a combination of fueling and adjustments to the air control vents.
Switch Things Up
Cooking on a wood stove may or may not be right for you – but it’s something to at least consider. If nothing else, it’ll provide you with a unique experience that you can use to rethink how you cook in the future.