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How to Cook on a Wood Stove

By Edited Nov 13, 2013 0 1

When I decided to cook on a wood cook stove it took only a few weeks of looking on the internet to locate a usable antique wood cookstove, what I couldn't find was adequate information on how to use an old fashioned 1800's wood cookstove! ... So, I brought it home with serious misgivings about my abilities to master this new to me appliance. After searching for information far and wide and piecing together bits here and there and digesting dozens of homesteading, mountainman, wilderness autobiographies and biographies I gathered enough information to believe this stove should be able to be mastered without too much floundering. So my husband and I examined this new cookstove thoroughly with all of its doors, dampers and openings determining which things controlled which functions and within a day or two pronounced it a success. How helpful it would have been to have some clear and practical advise based on everyday use and experience to guide me in those first attempts! Since cooking on a woodstove is not difficult, this artical should get you cooking on your wood cookstove in a very short period of time and with some degree of know-how and confidence. I have fallen in love with my woodstove and wonder each time I use it how I ever lived without one!

Things You Will Need

Wood Cook Stove in good working order

Stove Pipe

Stove Cement

Fire Protection for your walls and floors

Ash Bucket & Scoop

Fire poker, Grate shaker & Lid lifter

Pot holders

Wood & Matches/Lighter

Cast Iron Pots & Pans - seasoned


Step 1



1. Open pipe damper fully, Open firebox damper fully

2. Bring in split, dry firewood about 3" diameter and about 12" long, and kindling (small twigs -about 2 handfuls)

3. Get matches and poker (long steel rod for poking and moving the burning wood around)

Always have a fire extinguisher nearby.


1. Put a bit of paper (one crumpled up news paper page) in the firebox (this is the small top door on the front left or front right of the stove just below your range top. The small door below it is where the ash falls down and is later removed) then layer with twigs (this is kindling) on top of the paper, then add one or two pieces of firewood on top of the kindling. Layer them crisscross style to get good airflow between all the pieces, this will ensure a good quick fire by providing good oxygen supply.

2. Light the paper beneath the kindling, you may need to blow on the flame gently to assist in keeping the flame hot. ( Blue flame is cold, red/orange flame is warm and yellow or white flame is hot) If your flame is blue or red blowing gently toward the fire will increase the temperature of your fire which will help catch the wood on fire more quickly. Having the dampers wide open also assists with getting a rip roaring fire going by providing good oxygen supply to the fire.

3. Once the kindling catches fire from the paper and the kindling wood is burning you will need to shut the door to the firebox in order for the draft to take the smoke up the pipe and draw the flame across the length of the firewood to burn more evenly.


1. Add two or three more pieces of larger firewood pieces on top of the previously burning pieces. (you will need to do this every 15 minutes or so)

2. Close the pipe damper 1/2 way (this damper will be a slide lever or knob on your rangetop or on the pipe itself.

3. If you intend to bake you will also need to close the oven damper fully, this is a slider lever or knob usually found on the back of the woodstove near the firebox (not to be confused with the large damper on the side of the firebox that feeds the flame...as this damper usualy remains open.) By closing the oven damper you force the heat to begin circulating around the oven and begin preheating it or bringing it up to temperature.

4. Once a fire is going in the firebox you can begin cooking at anytime on the rangetop.


1. The entire rangetop can be used for pots and pans, not just over the circle lids! The average stovetop can fit 6 or 8 pots! Making dinner for large families or large groups is a snap being able to cook everything at once!

2. The area directly over the firebox is the hottest, equal to the "high heat" setting on electric or gas rangetops. The center or middle portion of the stovetop is the medium heat area equal to the medium to med.-high setting on the electric/gas range. The side most opposite the firebox is low or simmer. This area is great for keeping the coffee pot the perfect drinking temperature and for keeping a pot warm that has finished cooking while you are waiting for other pots or baked good to finish up. You may want to add a trivet ( a cast iron raised platform similiar to the burners on a gas stove (these items can be used as trivits also if they have equal locking nubs or no locking nubs) to this area to further lower the temp for items you just want to keep warm by raising your pot or pan up off of the rangetop itself by putting your pot on the trivet.



Baking is the hard part! There arent any shortcuts here to help much, practice, practice, practice!

I recommend a temperature gauge and find this very helpful! Some wood cookstoves have them on the oven door and others do not. Temperature gauges can be purchased that are placed on the oven rack making them easy to use since no installation is required. Stainless steel candy thermometers can also be used in a pinch.

Once your oven reaches optimum temperature the trick is to attempt to control the heating and cooling. You can do this by several methods...

1. Controlling the amount and type of wood in yor firebox. Soft wood burns cooler but faster and will need to be added more frequently.

2. You can also control the temp by opening the oven damper some to cool the air circulating around the oven compartment.

3. In a hurry, you can open the oven door to cool off an oven that overheated when you werent looking! I sometimes find it easier to bake with the oven door open just a crack rather than trying to "cool" the oven.

4. If you are baking cookies, cakes, muffins etc. you will want to turn your pan halfway through the cooking period to ensure even baking for the entire batch. Otherwise the half closest to the firebox will become overdone while the otherside is underdone. I have also discovered that baking on the lowest rack placement or on the bottom of the oven itself works best for cakes or the top of the cake can get too hot and start to crisp before the cake is done.


1. I have found that there seems to be no real safe method for keeping the stove "black" the black it came with when unused will burn or wear off and the rangetop will have a slighly blackish rust color. This is fine. The black is mostly for looks and does not serve any significant protective service. Stove black is generally made from graphite materials. I have tried "curing" my rangetop similiar to curing a cast iron skillet and this works for the stovetop on the half furthest away from the firebox, but the surface nearest the firebox gets too hot and burns (smokes) the cure away.

2. The grate in the firebox will need a "shaking" to release the ashes and let them fall to the box below the firebox. There is usually a "square-ish" knob that sticks out of the firebox below the door. A shaker wrench is used to latch on to this knob and work it back and forth which opens and closes the grate pieces inside the bottom of the firebox releasing the ashes and letting them fall below. Once you have shook the ashes down then you will get a metal bucket or pan and place it below the bottom of the woodstove underneath the door below the firebox door. Open the ash door (this is again, the door beneath the firebox door) and using a small metal hand shovel remove the ashes. (these ashes can be added to your garden or reserved for making lye for soap making or for leathermaking etc.)

You will find that cooking on your wood cookstove provides many pleasures, from baking goodies while cooking dinner, to warming your toes while heating coffee water, to its attractive decorative presence in your kitchen, and the awe, admiration and accolades you receive from friends and relatives who are impressed and inspired by your new talent and the "goodies" you produce. Over and over each day the benefits of receiving heat while cooking and knowing that neither comes with a gas or electric service bill is very satisfying indeed.

Tips & Warnings

* Check with your local Township Supervisor, Heating inspector, and Fire Marshall for meeting regulatory requirements and permits.

* Always use extreme caution when dealing with fire and hot objects.

* Always store your matches and lighters away from the stove and out of reach of children

* Keep children away from hot stoves and cooking pots while in use.

* Proper ventilation is necessary

* Always have up to date fire extinguishers handy in and near room where stove is located and be sure fire alarms are properly installed with properly functioning batteries.

* If children are in the home, it is important to discuss ahead of time, escape routes from the home incase of emergency.

* Fire should always be respected, as it is a dangerous tool just like firearms, cars, machines and other dangerous tools.



Dec 9, 2009 6:07pm
If you want to learn about homesteading and many of the skills that are needed, take a look at www.tryhomesteading.com there are many good suggestions and resources there.
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