Cooking on a Wood Burning Stove

In cooking on a woodstove, since the cookware never comes in contact with an open flame, you can use anything that you would use on an electric or gas stove.  Even so, cast iron is generally the cookware of choice.  Stainless steel is best for boiling water and making rice or pasta. AES offers great kettles that also come in handy.

With a good roaring fire going, the surface gets hot enough to boil water in about 25 minutes.  It’s not as hot as turning a stove burner on high.  And it can take a while to get the surface hot once a fire is started.  It’s not a matter of lighting the fire and being ready to cook.  Some patience is required.

Learning to control the heat while cooking can take a little practice, along with some trial and error.  The hottest a surface ever gets is when one has a full fire going and the stove damper is wide open.  The hottest place on the stove is in the middle next to the stove pipe.  With a full fire going, this is the best place to boil water and cook food that needs the highest heat.  Because my wood stove gives off what I would call a medium low heat on an electric stove, I often don’t need to think about reducing the heat.  If you should need to lower the heat, there are several ways that I can do it.  Here are a few tips to get you started:

  • Let the fire burn down.  This is the most obvious, but not always possible.  After all, this is the only heat source for our house!
  • Place pots and pans further away from the center of the stove where the temperature is slightly cooler.
  • Close the damper on the stove.  This cuts off the air to the fire and makes the wood burn slower so the fire isn’t as hot.  This is certainly not the solution if something is burning because the temperature will not drop immediately!  But if you want to slow cook or warm leftovers, it can work well.  I generally only use this option if the house is getting too warm and I need to decrease the burn of my fire without putting it out.
  • Use a trivet.  This is a great method for reducing the heat.  You can use metal or cast iron would be even better.  They must not have wood or plastic parts.

Using a trivet on the surface of the stove works just like a crockpot.  When slow cooking all day, we suggest enamel cast iron dutch oven, but any stainless pot will work.  The trivet method is also great for warming up leftovers.  It’s a very low heat, so it generally doesn’t even require stirring!  But like all other wood stove cooking, it takes some time. Put leftovers on the trivet at least 15 minutes to half an hour before you want to eat.  It’s not a microwave!