Wood-burning stoves, especially in high-traffic home spaces such as kitchens, continue to be a comforting, often cost-effective way to generate heat in colder months. But just a century ago, a wood burning stove generated more than just improved ambiance; it offered probably the only surface on which to cook, too. For homeowners that have contemporary wood-burning stoves, are there ways to utilize it for cooking too? Read on to find out.
Q: So wood burning stoves used to have oven sections and multiple burners; mine doesn't look anything like that. Can I still use the surface?
A: It depends. If you have enough square footage on the top of your wood burning stove, you may be able to use it with appropriately sized pots and pans. You may also be able to use the firebox section of the wood burning stove.
Q: How do I use the firebox?
A: With careful tending, the firebox can act like an indoor grill. For example, you may grill-cook that's protected by foil—veggies, for example, or baked potatoes. The best way to utilize this method is after the fire dies down from its highest point, but is still strong enough to generate strong heat. The food will have to be tended carefully; similar to a grill, it may be hard to judge how fast or slow items are approaching doneness. And always follow safety precautions to protect yourself from flames and heat.
Q: Do I need any cookware to use the surface?
A: No, although some wood burning stove fans swear by the durability and heat distribution of cast-iron pots and pans. But any stove-top-safe pieces (with heat-resistant handles) should work. What you'll need to pay attention to is how your food is cooking; stir it frequently and never leave it unattended. And, the time it takes for items to cook will depend in large part on how steady a fire you're able to maintain. If the fire dies down, your food may cook more slowly.
Q: I have a surface burner that's removable, with a grate. Can I use this like I would a grill?
A: You can, but again the flame may be less reliable than on a traditional gas or electric stove top—and you'll need to watch for any splatters. If you do have spills, clean them as soon as the wood burning stove cools.