To cook on a wood stove use a fire that has burned down to coals and a heavy pan such as a cast iron Dutch oven. Read along to see cooking methods and recipes for cooking on a wood stove.
Types of Wood Stoves
There are two main categories of wood stoves: wood heat stoves and wood cook stoves. Wood heat stoves are primarily used to heat homes and buildings. These stoves have one firebox, no oven, and no dampers or stovetop cook surfaces. Wood cook stoves are designed to be dual-purpose. They not only heat a home, but have a dedicated oven area, and dampers on the top of the stove to control the heat and provide a place for stovetop cooking.
When we purchased our house, a wood heat stove was already installed. It is not what I would have picked out, but I am still able to cook some things on it.
How to Cook on a Wood Heat Stove
Though most retailers will tell you not to cook on a wood heat stove (it will ruin the finish!), it is absolutely possible. Most wood heat stovetops will not get as hot as wood cook stovetops, but don’t let this deter you. By using a little patience and plenty of lids, dinner can be bubbling on your wood stove tonight.
High-heat cookware such as cast iron and Dutch ovens work best for cooking on top of a wood heat stove. They will distribute heat more evenly through the dishes and prevent scorching on the bottom of the dish
Lids for each dish will help keep the heat in and cook your food faster. They will also prevent splatters and keep the top of your stove clean.
Magnetic Stove Thermometer will help you familiarize yourself with the different heat zones on the top of your stove.
High-heat trivets can be used to elevate dishes for a more gentle heat.
Cooking on top of a Wood Stove
A Dutch oven acts as a slow cooker on top of a wood stove. The tight-fitting lid keeps in heat, moisture, and flavor. A trivet prevents the bottom from scorching.
To cook in a Dutch oven on top of a wood stove, begin by preparing all your ingredients and adding them to the pot. Then place the Dutch oven, uncovered, directly on the hot stovetop. In about ten to fifteen minutes the ingredients should be hot and bubbling. Place the Dutch oven on a trivet over the hottest part of the stove, and cover it with a tight-fitting lid. Cook as you would in a slow cooker.
Soups and stews can be left to cook all day on top of a wood stove. A roast with vegetables will take about four hours. Check the Dutch oven every hour to ensure that nothing is sticking to the bottom and that the meal is hot and cooking. If the fire dies down and the food begins to cool off, first build the fire back up. Then place the pot directly on the stovetop and allow it to begin bubbling again. Once the dish is heated through, place it on a trivet and resume slow cooking.
Wood Stove Top Recipes
Braised Chicken and Vegetables
(Makes 4-6 servings)
1 whole chicken
3 potatoes, peeled and cubed
4 carrots, peeled and cubed
3 cloves garlic, peeled and quartered
salt and pepper
1 cup water
Wash the chicken and discard any innards. Quarter the onion and stuff into the cavity of the bird. Place the breast-side up on a meat rack in the bottom of the Dutch oven. Place vegetables and garlic around the chicken. Sprinkle salt, pepper, and thyme over the bird. Pour the water over the vegetables. Put the lid on the pot and cook with the method described above for 3-4 hours, or until the chicken reaches 165ºF (74ºC).
Black Bean Soup
Makes 4-6 Servings
1 cup black beans
4 cups cold water
1 stalk celery, roughly chopped
1 medium onion, chopped
2 tbsp butter
1 ham bone
1 bay leaf
2 tbsp fresh parsley, chopped
¼ tsp salt
¼ tsp pepper
¼ cup dry sherry
1 lemon, thinly sliced
2 hard-boiled eggs, thinly sliced
Rinse the beans, soak them overnight, and discard any that float. Discard the beans and place them in a Dutch oven. Cover with cold water. Place kettle on stove and simmer for about two hours, or until beans are tender.
Remove beans and water from the Dutch oven, reserving both. Rinse the pot. Place the pot back on the wood stove and add the butter, allowing it to melt. Once the butter is melted, sauté the celery and onions until the onions are transparent. Return the beans and water to the pot. Add the ham bone, parsley, bay leaf, salt, and pepper. Cover and simmer on the wood stove for three hours.
Remove the ham bone and bay leaf. Puree half the soup in a blender and return it to the pot. Add sherry and reheat the soup. Serve topped with lemon slices, eggs, and sour cream.
Baking in a Wood Cook Stove Oven
Baking in a wood stove oven requires an oven thermometer, patience, and a lot of trial and error. Baking items such as bread and cakes requires even heat all the way around. The best time to bake these types of dishes is once the fire has been going for a while: when there is a bed of hot coals, but still a bit of a fire going. The thermal mass of the stove is heated up at this point and will more evenly radiate heat throughout the oven.
When baking in a wood stove oven, it is better to err on the side of the oven being too cool rather than too hot. It is easy to add an extra ten minutes to baking time, but there is no saving a cake with scorched edges and a raw middle.
Wood Stove Oven Recipes
Wood Stove Spice Cake
Makes 8 servings
1 cup brown sugar
1 cup molasses
1 cup butter
1 cup milk
1 whole nutmeg, grated
1 tsp cloves, ground
1 tsp cinnamon extract
2 tsp baking powder
Begin by preparing the Dutch oven and cake pan. To prepare the Dutch oven, place three canning rings in the bottom of the oven. This will allow hot air to evenly circulate around the cake. To prepare the cake pan, grease all sides of one 8″ metal cake pan.
To make the cake first mix all ingredients in a bowl. Next, pour the mixture into the prepared cake pan. Place the cake pan into the Dutch oven. The pan should be resting securely on the canning rings. Check the temperature of the oven. It should be around 300° F (150°C). Put the lid on the Dutch oven and transfer to the oven box of the wood stove.
Bake the cake for 15 minutes, then rotate the Dutch oven 180°. Bake for another 15 minutes and rotate the Dutch oven 180° again. Check your cake at this point. If it looks done, remove it from the oven. If not, bake for another 15 minutes (total time 45 minutes). Check the cake again and continue baking and checking in five-minute intervals until a toothpick inserted into the center of the cake comes out clean.
When the cake is finished cooking, remove it from the Dutch oven and place it on a cooling rack. Once the cake has cooled for 15 minutes, remove it from the cake pan to finish cooling and frost.
Cooking in a Wood Stove Firebox
To cook inside the firebox start the fire about an hour before you intend to begin cooking. You will want a nice bed of coals in the bottom of the firebox to provide consistent heat to the food. Once the stove is heated up and there are hot coals on the bottom you will only need to keep a small fire going in the firebox.
Foil packets are the easiest thing to cook inside a wood stove. These are traditionally cooked over a campfire and can take the intense heat of the coals. To make a foil packet, wrap each serving in heavy-duty foil. Push the fire to one side of the stove, leaving coals on the other. Place the foil packet on the coals and use a fireplace shovel to place more coals on top of the packets. Close the door and allow the packets to cook for 30 minutes. Then open the door and use tongs to turn packets over and rotate them in the stove. Bury them in coals again and allow to cook for another 30 minutes. When cooking is done, remove the packets to a baking dish and use tongs to unwrap the packets – they will be very hot!
Firebox Foil Packet Recipes
Chicken and Baked Potatoes
(Makes 4 Servings)
4 chicken breasts
1 pound cubed baking potatoes
Seasonings of choice (we like lemon slices, salt, and pepper)
Place one chicken breast and a quarter of the potatoes on each sheet of heavy-duty foil. Add your seasonings, and seal the packet shut by folding and crimping the edges. Wrap each serving in a second layer of foil, sealing and crimping again. Cook for an hour as instructed above.
Desert Baked Apples
(Makes 4 Servings)
4 apples (Braeburn, Granny Smith, or other baking apples work best)
¼ cup softened butter
¼ cup brown sugar
¼ cup raisins
¼ cup chopped pecans
½ tsp. cinnamon
Wash and core apples. Cream together butter and sugar, then mix in raisins, pecans, and cinnamon. Place each apple on a sheet of heavy-duty aluminum foil. Fill the center of the apples with the butter mixture. wrap foil around each apple and pinch closed. Then wrap each apple in a second layer of foil. Cook for an hour as instructed above.
Theresa at Our Tiny Homestead is a great resource for cooking on a wood heat stove. She goes in-depth about how to use different pots and trivets to get food cooked evenly.
The Self-Sufficient HomeAcre has many recipes that they’ve adapted for cooking on a wood stove.
Ashley at Practical Self Reliance goes over both methods for cooking on a wood stove and also has recipes.
Cooking on a wood stove is different from cooking with a modern gas or electric stove. If you already have a wood stove burning for heat, I encourage you to try cooking something on it. Use a heavy pot, check your food frequently, and you too can practice practical self-reliance.