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Many people say that owning and cooking on a wood stove is like having a temperamental child. In the beginning you will need to give your wood stove encouragement and patience. It will need damping and you will find it hard to start. But after you have mastered the ways of your wood stove, you will be richly rewarded with breads that taste better than any you have ever tasted, stews and casseroles with an unequaled full flavor and a remarkable variety of dishes that will make any amount of trouble from your wood stove, well worth it.

Wood stoves have become popular recently not just for their cooking ability, but also because they double as a heating source during the colder months. In today's market you can find the old ornate cast iron models as well as new models that have enameled finishes and incorporate the latest advancements in fuel saving construction.

It is a simple task to maintain a wood stove. It will need the ash pit emptied daily to ensure ashes do not get high enough to damage the grate by overheating. The stove top can be cleaned by rubbing it with newspaper. For stubborn residue or messy spills a sprinkling of salt or baking soda and the use of a scraper works wonders. To keep the stove shiny and rust free, rubbing the surface with an oily rag or waxed paper does the trick. You will need to clear out the soot and ashes beneath the oven as well as under the lids about every two weeks. A wire coat hanger can be used to clean the hard to get spots and when most of the ashes are removed, a vacuum cleaner can be used to remove the rest. Oven putty can be used to seal cracks, chips or gaps. Applying stove black ever so often will improve the appearance of a wood stove and help retard rust.

The most important thing to know about cooking on a wood stove is how to manage the temperature. Knowing the proper way to establish a fire, the type of wood to burn and how to set the draft regulators will depend on the heat you get from your stove. You will want to have a good supply of dry wood near the stove, with a smaller supply of slightly green wood to slow the fire when it starts burning too quickly. Hard woods such as ash produce a long lasting, hot flame and are especially suitable for cooking on a wood stove. Soft woods work well for kindling and to make a quick hot fire.

The majority of wood stoves will have two draft regulators and dampers. These allow for quick and accurate heat adjustments. Opening the oven damper will allow hot air to flow straight from the firebox into the stove pipe. This is the best way to start your fire, but when the stove warms up, it should be closed to allow the hot air to be redirected around the oven. The flow of air up the stove pipe is controlled by the stove pipe damper. It is best to leave this open unless banking the fire. The main draft regulator is found below the firebox. It should be open to allow air to get to the fire and closed when you would like the fire to die down. The check draft regulator is found above the firebox. The draft through the firebox is reduced when it is opened. When it is closed, the fire burns slower.

For baking items such as breads, the oven should be at its hottest when the loaves are first put inside. This helps the bread to develop the thick, crisp crust. After the bread has cooked for a few minutes, open the check damper slightly to cool the oven down for the remainder of the cooking time. Baked goods can be browned by moving them to the top of the oven, but watch them closely since this is the hottest part of the oven and the browning process will occur quickly. By shifting your bread, pie or cake often you will quickly learn the hot and cool spots in your oven. For items such as fish, potatoes and meatloaf, these do well under the ashpit under a hot fire. You will need to grease potatoes if you are baking them and double wrap fish in foil before placing them in the oven.

To quick fry items on a wood stove, such as stir fry, you will need a fast hot fire. Place the skillet on an open burner directly over the firebox. Meat items such as pork chops and bacon will cook crisp without charring if placed on one of the cooler burners. This allows the meat to cook slowly and will not rob it of all its moisture. For stews and soups, a slow simmering fire works best. Items such as these can be simmered for hours which adds to the flavor and nutritional value. To grill on a wood stove you will need a sandstone grill. Use the broad surface of the stove, placing your grill across two of the burners. This is especially nice since nature has supplied the sandstone grill with a natural surface that never needs to be greased.

To broil items in a wood stove, make sure you purchase one with a broiler door above the firebox. Broiler doors are made so that a grill can be easily inserted and supported by special grooves. If you do not have a broiler door, you can still broil by placing the grill over on open burner. Items broil better if you allow the fire to burn down to a glowing bed of coals. Open both dampers so the smoke from the fire and dripping grease will go up the stove pipe. It is wise to brush the meat you will be broiling with oil before your start. Be sure you do not baste the meat while it is cooking. One of the most interesting features of a wood stove is that it can easily be used to dry herbs, raise bread dough or keep pies and other dishes warm. You will want the temperature to be about 110 degrees for warming. This can be accomplished by leaving the door slightly open to cool the oven.

To cook overnight on a wood stove, bank the fire for the evening and place the item to be cooked inside the oven or on top of the stove. Many wood stoves have thermometers in the oven door but you will often find the readings are unreliable. It is better to get a small oven thermometer and place it on the oven shelf. There are many ways to test the heat of your oven. Placing a piece of white paper in the oven for five minutes or until it turns chocolate brown tells you your oven is ready to bake cookies. If it turns dark yellow the oven is right for baking bread and when light yellow the temperature is perfect for baking cakes.