Design & DIY

How to make the most of your wood-burning cookstove

Antique Wood Burning Cook Stove

This article was originally published in the May 2015 issue of Cottage Life magazine.

Installing a new wood-burning cookstove? Already have one in your kitchen? If you learn some basic principles, your stove can become the heart of your cottage as it heats, cooks, and bakes.

1. Firebox

Use small pieces of hardwood, like maple, for quick fires. Larger pieces are better for longer fires or heating. Two or more pieces of wood together will burn better than just one. And remember, when cutting or purchasing firewood, ensure the lengths are a few inches shorter than your firebox.

2. Ashpan and door

Always check the ashpan before lighting your fire (and don’t empty it when the fire is burning). Hot coals burn for a long time; before the ashes reach the top of the pan, empty them into a metal container with a tight lid (until you dispose of them). 

3. Stovetop

The hottest parts of the stovetop are to the left, directly over the fire; and between the fire and the chimney outlet. The coolest part is farthest from the fire, on the right. Adjust the heat level for stovetop cooking by moving pots to cooler or hotter areas of the cooking surface. 

4. Oven by-pass damper control

The bypass damper regulates the circulation of hot air around the oven and under the stovetop. Opening it allows hot air to move up the chimney. Closing it redirects hot air around the oven. Opening or closing the air vents to the firebox also helps to alter the temperature and burn time.

5. Oven

Ovens are hotter on the sides closest to the fire, so turn baking dishes partway through cooking for even results, as with baking on a barbecue. Using smaller split logs will allow for better temperature control. And always leave enough time to create an established fire before starting to bake.

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