How to Cook with a Wood Stove

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Old world cooking at the Autumn Pioneer Festival.

Old world cooking at the Autumn Pioneer Festival.

Choosing a Wood Stove

Our home didn’t have a wood stove when we bought the property in 2010. The entire house was powered by electricity. Now, we don’t live way out in the boonies and we don’t have a lot of problems with power outages, but there is always a chance that a winter storm could blow through and knock out the electricity for several days. So one of the first upgrades we made to our home was the addition of a wood stove for heating and cooking. After all, one of the reasons we moved here was so we could be more self reliant.

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Our house is small and there weren’t many places we could fit a wood stove. So I had to forgo the old fashioned cook stove I’ve been dreaming about. I would have loved to put in a stove like the one above from a pioneer cabin in Belvidere, Illinois. In fact, the spot where a wood stove made the most sense was a small corner in our living room. So we ordered a Regency wood stove that can be installed quite close to our wall without risk of burning down our house.

We are very happy with the heat that this wood stove puts out. And, although we don’t bake with it or put more than one large pot or two small pans on it, we are able to do quite a bit of cooking with it in the winter. If you have room to fit a larger wood stove, you might want to consider one of the reproduction cook stoves available from Lehman’s. They are very pricey and are not the best option for heating a large home, but they will allow you to do a lot more baking and cooking all at one time. You can also add the option of a water reservoir that will allow you to keep water hot for washing dishes, making tea, or even filling a bath tub.

 

Large Pot of Soup on the Wood Stove

This is our Regency wood stove…with a big pot of soup.

Cooking With a Wood Stove

Cooking with a wood stove requires some forethought. You don’t just turn on a burner when you want to scramble some eggs or make a pot of tea. The fire needs to be started ahead of time, allowing the stove to heat up. If you want to cook over high heat, you need to get the fire  stoked up with a good bed of coals. For frying, boiling, or canning foods, you will need a hotter stove.

For simmering soup or chili, reheating leftovers, or slow cooking foods, the fire will should burn at a low, steady heat for a long period of time. You can’t just put your meal in a crock pot and forget about it for the day. Wood needs to be added and you have to pay attention to keep proper heat levels and make sure your food doesn’t burn.

If you don’t have a cook stove with an oven, you can purchase one that will allow you to bake on top of the wood stove. Before ordering, measure the dimensions of the stove top to be sure it will fit. Purchase an oven thermometer to put inside the oven so you can keep the temperature close to what the recipe calls for. You don’t want to burn the outside of a loaf of bread and have the inside doughy and underdone. If you do buy a stove top oven, try practicing with it a few times. Build a fire to heat the house as you normally would. Place the oven with thermometer on the stove and just watch to see what the temperature is. You’ll get a feel for how much to stoke your fire, depending on what temperature you need for baking.

turnips roast

Turnips roasted in a foil packet on a bed of coals in our wood stove.

You can also let your fire die down to a bed of coals and cook foods in a small Dutch oven or a foil packet with some oil or butter to prevent sticking. This is a great way to cook hamburgers and potatoes with some sliced onion and a sprinkle of salt. In the autumn and spring, when the weather is cool but not freezing, you can let your fire die down and cook right on the coals like this.

The Learning Curve

It takes time to learn how cook with a wood stove, so don’t expect perfect pot roasts and sugar cookies on your first try. Start out by heating water for tea, or making coffee with an old fashioned percolator. When you have a pretty good idea of how hot to stoke up the fire, try a new project. Simmering a pot of soup for the afternoon while you watch football or knit a sweater is another easy cooking project. Making pancakes for breakfast or a stir fry for dinner is a bit more challenging. You won’t want to build the fire up enough for this if the weather is still pretty warm. In the dead of winter, when the snow is blowing and the temps drop you’ll be happy to heat the house up.

 

Cooking With Wood in the Summer

Most likely you won’t want to heat up your house with the wood stove for summer time cooking. If you’d like to cook on a wood stove during warm weather, consider constructing a summer kitchen like our ancestors used to have. That might not be realistic for most folks, so try cooking in a Dutch oven or on a grill over a campfire in your yard.

 

Dutch Oven with hot coals

A Dutch oven works great with a camp fire in the summer.

It’s a great feeling…

to have a wood stove and a good supply of firewood when the winter winds begin to howl and the snow blows. For most of my childhood our house was heated with wood. It was hard to go away for the day, but we didn’t have to worry about the power going out, leaving us shivering in the dark. I remember that Christmas seemed a little bit more special when we opened our gifts around the wood stove, with a tea kettle steaming and the cat and dog curled up on the hearth. We had to work hard in the summer and fall, helping load firewood into the trailer to haul home from the woods, then stack it in the basement for the winter. But it builds character to do some work…and I’m certainly full of character! Thanks to my parents for showing us that work is nothing to be afraid of and, if you plan ahead, you can be a little bit more self reliant in this modern world.

 

Do you cook with a wood stove? What kind of stove do you have? Feel free to share any tips or experiences in the comments!


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33 comments on “How to Cook with a Wood Stove

  1. Pingback: Let's Start A Self Reliance Challenge! - The Self Sufficient HomeAcre

  2. sarah Houlihan

    We are off grid and do all of our cooking on the small woodstove we heat our housewith. This will be our 4th winter here, and I finally am pretty comfortable with my cooking on my woodstove. We have grown to love it and I am currently working on perfecting my stove top sourdough biscuits…a staple in our home.
    We do have an outdoor kitchen for summer cooking. I’m pretty sure the only money we spent on it was screws, so it’s nothing fancy. But there is no way we could cook inside all summer. We put together a little rocket stove and we have an outdoor woodburning cook top. Also a great way to cook.

    Reply
  3. mica

    where can I buy a wood stove oven top? I looked online but they look like little toaster ovens lol. we are off grid and winter is a coming. gotta have an oven. ):

    Reply
    1. Lisa Lynn Post author

      Hi Mica,
      I haven’t seen any available that were really a nice size…nothing comparable to a regular oven. I saw this one on Lehman’s that folds and has a thermometer…

      https://www.lehmans.com/p-2633-stove-top-portable-oven.aspx

      It looks like it would only hold one loaf of bread, though.

      I’ve been thinking that a person could potentially build their own. If you can work with sheets of aluminum, why not? I think it would need to have some small holes to allow for air flow. If it could be made with double walls with some space in between, that might also be beneficial. An oven thermometer isn’t very pricey and would help you determine how hot to stoke your fire.

      I’m sorry I don’t have a source for a nice roomy oven to fit on top of your wood stove. If I find one, I’ll leave another comment to let you know.

      Reply
  4. Lindsey

    What type of pots would you suggest for cooking on the woodstove? Do you need a special type of metal in the pan/pot or do just regular kitchen pots and pans do the trick?

    Reply
    1. Lisa Lynn Post author

      Hi Lindsey,
      I use cast iron or stainless steel pans. I think you could use most any pans, although I try to steer clear of the teflon coated pans…I have read that they release chemicals from the coating.

      Reply
  5. Anonymous

    Having to supplement heating my oil hungrry house with my jotul woodstove during this never ending winter, l just discovered that l can use it for cookiing and heating up food. I have fried pork chops and chicken and heated leftovvers. I am anxious to nake a pot of soup now. It seems though that the cook must stay homeand keep the stove pretty stoked up. It iss k like cooking for free. I love it. Adding a teaa ketttle today. Thanks, Kathy

    Reply
    1. Lisa Lynn Post author

      Very true, Kathy! Although I try not to get too far from home when I have a fire in the wood stove anyway. But, yes, you really have to pay more attention when you’re cooking on a wood stove. I think it’s great that you are putting all that heat to good use! Thanks for sharing!

      Reply
  6. Pingback: Vegetable Beef Soup

  7. Pingback: Cooking Pork Hocks

  8. Pingback: Cooking on a Woodstove

    1. Lisa Lynn Post author

      We reheat leftovers on our stove too, Woodland Elf. 🙂 I just have to remember to leave some extra time for food to heat up, compared to the microwave.

      Reply
  9. Regula

    I cook on my wood stove all winter long or whenever we need a fire to warm up the house from september to June. I LOVE it. I’m so happy we have a fully funk
    ctional wood stove (Spiess, Switzerland) with a big steal top. I can put several pots on it. But you have to know a few things, that come with experience.

    Reply
      1. Regula

        You are welcome. I like your posts, escecially the ones about chickens. I’m very determined to have my own chickens as soon as spring arrives. My chicken coop is still at our former neighbours’ and has to be moved to our place though. Have a nice weekend.

        Reply
        1. Lisa Lynn Post author

          Hi Regula,
          I hope you are able to get your chicken coop moved and the new chickens all moved in this spring! What fun! Thanks so much for reading and taking the time to share you comments! I always enjoy hearing from you. 🙂

  10. Sandra

    I love our wood heat! We have a Wood furnace in the Basement that heats our house but we do have a small wood stove in our family room. I don’t do much cooking on it but have made soup on it a time or two. The girls like to roast marshmallows 🙂

    Reply
    1. Lisa Lynn Post author

      Hi Sandra,
      Roasting marshmallows is a great way to make use of that wonderful fire! 🙂 And soup is my most common dish made on the wood stove. 🙂

      Reply
  11. steph

    Awesome share.for small spaces check out Lopi stoves.some great models with cooking tops.many needing little wall space distance.very effective burning little wood.some “all nighter” clean burns.love your site & shares

    Reply
    1. Lisa Lynn Post author

      Thanks, Steph! I’ll have to check out the Lopi stoves…I hope to go bigger when we buy a wood stove for our next homestead, but you never know what you’ll have room for. 🙂

      Reply
  12. PrepperHelper

    I’ve used several different cook stoves over the years as well as the heating stoves. Anything you can do on the ‘stove top’ can be done on either type of stove. When it comes to wood cook stoves, there can be a tremendous difference in the performance of different styles. You really have to learn each particular stove (and types of wood) to have consistent outcomes with the ovens. You are so right about the learning curve! The key is to experiment and enjoy the process.

    Reply
    1. Lisa Lynn Post author

      Hi PrepperHelper,
      So true! It’s great to have experience with a variety of stoves. I know that we had several different wood stoves when I was a kid, but only one of them had a flat surface that allowed us to cook on it. So anyone interested in installing a wood stove should avoid the decorative ones with the fancy tops that do not allow for cooking. And yes, the type of wood makes a big difference too…although sometimes you just have to work with what you’ve got. This year we have some really nice hard woods, mostly oak, that make a great fire that lasts. I’m afraid we might run out and have to use some softer wood by February. 🙁
      Thanks for sharing!

      Reply
  13. Kay

    I would love to have a wood cook stove,I have a wood store for heat,and have cook a pot of beans on it. Thanks for sharing I love your blog, Have a Blessed day. kay

    Reply
    1. Lisa Lynn Post author

      Hi Kay,
      I know how you feel about the cook stove! But you are farther ahead than many people who are completely dependent on their utilities. It’s great that you’ve cooked a pot of beans on it. 🙂 You might be able to cook a few more things on that wood stove… maybe this is the year to experiment! Best wishes and thanks so much for stopping by!

      Reply
    2. PrepperHelper

      Hi Kay –
      Lisa Lynn is right about the time to experiment is now. The first stove I cooked on was a Fisher Baby Bear. I started with breakfast on the weekends. Try frying some bacon and scrambled eggs. Cover the bacon with a splatter screen. If it gets to hot all you have to do is move the pan off the stove and if it’s not real hot, it’ll just take longer. Have FUN!

      Reply
  14. Pingback: How to Deal with Cold Weather on the Homestead

  15. Lynn

    I have a wood cookstove and I love it. I don’t cook with it daily but when I’m ready it’s waiting for me to fire it up. When I was growing up we didn’t have a wood cookstove in our house but the only heating we had was wood and in the event of bad weather Mama would be quick to get some water on for washing and a pot of beans or soup on for eating. I think it’s in everyone’s best interest to have alternatives for heating and cooking.

    Good post. Merry Christmas!

    Reply

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