Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Cooking on a Wood Stove Meant for Heating

Now that I have the wood burners fired up, it won't be long until I start cooking on the one in the family room.  It's designed for heating, not for cooking, but it gets the job done.  The stove is steel, not cast iron, so it doesn't get quite as hot, but it gets hot enough.

I started to cook on the stove a couple years ago.  My first attempt was some soup.  I put a pot on the top of the wood burner around 2:00.  By 6:00, I had warm broth, raw veggies and rice, so it went on the kitchen stove to cook.  That night in bed, I had an 'ahaaa' moment.  I wonder why those moments often come while I'm supposed to be trying to sleep?  Anyway, I thought 'think slow cooker'.

So the next morning, I put hotter burning firewood in the woodburner and put another pot of soup on the top by 10:00 a.m.  Now, that worked!  I was eating soup in the afternoon, feeling rather smug about using 'free' heat to cook it.  I also had plenty of soup to put in the freezer.

That first success spurred me on to try lots of things.  Early on I knew I had to come up with some kind of work station without having it look like I had a kitchen there.  I had an old wrought iron plant stand that I moved close to the stove.  With a couple of ceramic tiles on the top, it gave me an area to put a plate for a spoon or spatula, salt, pepper, pot holders, etc, whatever I am going to need.  It's easy to clean and things are handy.  I always keep a big stock pot with water on the other side of the stove for added humidity, so I decided to take advantage of that, too.  I started with clean water in the mornings and used it later for washing a few dishes (Bill was giving me 'the look' at first).  When it was really cold and the wood burner was really cranked up, the water would be simmering.  One morning I browned up a small roast, put it in a smaller stock pot and put it into the bigger pot of water.  The handles on the smaller pot held it up so it didn't drop down into the water.  A few hours later I added potatoes, carrots, etc.  Perfect.

I did some searches for campfire cooking and found a bunch of recipes I could use.  I love skillet bread!  Bacon wasn't the best idea though.  It did fry up just fine, but I had grease splatters all over the place.  Potatoes wrapped in foil then baked in the coals are the best!  You have to keep an eye on them and turn them with some tongs so they don't burn on one side, but wow.  Worth the effort.

Last year I found this information at http://www.wikihow.com/Cook-on-a-Woodstove .  Personally I won't cook on a couple layers of foil, but there are some good tips.  I don't use a canner, but I do use my heavy bottom pans with no problem.

Below is a copy and paste from the Wiki site:

How to cook on a wood stove meant for heating:
1 Heat up the stove by building a nice fire in it with the damper(s) wide open.

2 Get your cooking gear out and the ingredients ready.

3 As you heat up the stove, put a kettle or pot of water on to heat as well. You'll need it for soup, stew, tea, coffee, dish washing...everything. It also serves as a heat-storage measure so use a big kettle. A canner works well.

4 Test the top of the stove by tossing a DROP of water on it. If the water sizzles and danced, the stove is pretty much ready.

5 To make soup, put on a pot, let it heat up well (keep the stove hot, adding wood as necessary and opening/closing the damper to try to maintain a temperature), fry whatever you want fried (meat, onion, etc) and add some boiling water or soup stock. If you add cold water it will take forever to heat up again...that pan of hot water is crucial.

6 To "bake" something, put it in a pan (cake, bread) or in foil (potatoes) and if the top of the stove is VERY hot put foil items on a trivet or a bit of crumpled foil. Then cover with a larger pan that goes all the way down to the stovetop. Big metal bowls also work for this sort of make-shift oven.

7 You can use the fire-box of the stove as a sort of broiler or tandoori oven. Wrap whatever you want to cook in heavy foil and put in the coals after things have cooled down a bit (warning...you may turn your food into charcoal).

8 To fry on the stovetop, use a thin pan. Cast iron pans on a cast iron stove take forever to heat up so might work for soups and stews left all day, but not great for frying. If you don't have a thin frying pan or sauce pan to use, back to the heavy-duty foil! (a coffee can will work too!). Set the pan on the stove, oil it up well. Test for hotness with a drop of water and fry away.

9 When done cooking, turn the dampers down and let the stove cool a bit, but keep that pan of water on there. You never know when you'll want a cup of tea.

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