Wood burning stoves are much more efficient cookers than you may realise. True they take some getting used to, and you may have to enjoy a few failures before you achieve success, but mastering the art of hob cooking on a wood stove isn't that far out of reach. Start with the simpler items and get a feel for how you stove works, and you'll find you can cook more than just soup in no time.
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Start your fire with well-seasoned wood. Wood should be seasoned-or dried-for at least six months. Hardwoods, such as oak and maple, are typically used, but how dry the wood is will make more of a difference in your cooking than what type it is. Good, dry wood will burn hot, evenly and without much smoke.
Allow the fire to burn for at least 45 minutes before you begin cooking either in the oven or on the hob. Until the fire settles and turns to coals, it won't offer an even enough heat for cooking. Start a pot of water if you want to get something going, or do something simple like reheat soup.
Check the temperature of the oven. Some wood stoves that are designed for cooking have a thermometer built into them. If you don't have one, they are worth purchasing since the oven temperature will vary in a wood stove.
Get to know which side of the stove is hotter than the other. You'll notice that the side of the oven where the firebox is will be the hottest, since this is where the fire originates. Use this side of the stove for higher heat cooking, such as sautéing or for boiling water, and then move the pan or pot over when you need to simmer or bring a lower heat under the pan.
Experiment with the venting system. Levers on the back or side of the stove control the flow of air into the fireplace and will help regulate the heat. Remember that with a wood stove, you can't just turn the flame down on the burner. The heat will rise and fall much more slowly, and you may burn a few things while you get used to it, which is just part of the learning experience.
Have proper equipment for cooking on a wood stove. These types of stoves do not have burners, so the entire cooking surface will be hot. Pans that have plastic handles that can't withstand heat will get damaged quickly. Cast iron, ceramic or sturdy Pyrex dishes work very well with these types of stoves.
Keep your firebox and hob clean. Remove ash often as this can lead to creosote build-up and reduce the efficiency of your stove.
Tips and warnings
- Buy one or two cast-iron trivets to help regulate temperature. When you want a pot to stay warm but want to take it off the heat, raise it off the cooking surface with a trivet.
- Always use hot pads when moving pots and pans around on your wood stove or when working the coals around in your fire.
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