Home heating, cooking, and heating water are the most intensive energy drains in our homes. Using a wood cook-stove offers a solution to this expensive energy drain, allowing you to save energy, save money, and live a more self sufficient, sustainable, confident life.
This week and next, I am going to look at cooking with wood. Today I offer you some practical reasons to consider this alternative for your rural home. On Wednesday I’ll talk about the difference between wood heaters and wood cook-stoves, and offer tips to help you decide which one works best for your needs. On Thursday I’ll give you some tips for picking out the perfect wood cook-stove for your needs. On Friday I’ll share my experience with heating the stove with different available woods and when to use each kind. And on Monday next week, I’ll offer some trouble shooting tips to get the most from your wood stove and keep it in beautiful condition. Then on Tuesday next week, we’ll look at some objections to cooking with wood, and offer a rationale to meet those objections. Then on Wednesday next week, we’ll talk about how to get the fire going and fire safety issues. If you’ve got lots of experience in this area, jump into the comment section and share your wisdom with our readers.
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1. Cooking with wood heats your home, too.
Wood cook stoves are different than wood heaters. They give off less radiant heat when the oven is in use, because the heated air is forced around the oven box. This means that cooking doesn’t overheat your home and kitchen, although heat radiates from the cooking top and wood box. To increase the heat, we open the oven door. Our cook-stove heats 1,000 square feet to a comfortably warm temperature when its -30C outside our log home. But I can use it to cook on a wet, rainy day in July, without undue heat stress in the house. The amount of heat your stove gives off can be controlled by the wood that you are burning and the amount of oxygen that you give the fire as well as, whether you open or close the oven door.
2. Cooking with wood offers hot water — either preheated with a coil or hot from a water reservoir — reducing your energy bill.
Wood cook-stoves offer the option of having a built in water reservoir that gives you on-demand hot water next to the oven, or having a water coil that circulates hot water from your stove into your hot water tank, reducing the electricity or gas required to heat your water.
3. Wood is a renewable resource, so using it for cooking lowers your carbon footprint.
In BC wood is plentiful. The forests are littered with downed wood, deadwood, and windfall, a forest fire hazard. You can get a permit to gather firewood from the government (check it out at your local Service BC office). In fact this wood gathering is a summer ritual in our area. Many families spend 4 or 5 weekends together, cutting, splitting and hauling firewood for winter use.
When wood is burned it gives off less carbon than the carbon that it drew in from the air during its growth period. So choosing to fuel with wood is good for the environment.
Make sure that your wood cook stove is a modern stove, in good repair and you won’t be adding particulate matter to an already taxed air-shed. Modern wood cook-stoves give heat by re-burning, exhaust gases, taking most of the particulate matter out of the smoke before it goes up the chimney.
4. Wood is local, organic and sustainable — the perfect fuel.
Wood stoves use local woods, including drift wood, downed wood, and off cuts from carpentry and cabinet making. Its a good use of a waste product. When we were shopping for our rural property, having a woodlot on our land was important in our decision to buy. The woodlot offers a renewable source of fuel, for as long as we have the stamina to cut it, stack it and dry it each season.
5. Bread baked in a wood cook stove is perfect, crusty and delicious.
Wood heat is warm, dry heat. And it gives the perfect bread crust — crispy on the outside, flaky and tender inside. Bread, pizza or biscuits that are baked in a wood oven give all the best qualities of artisan bread. You can’t get the same quality from a conventional oven.
6. You can slow cook all day by moving the food around the top.
The top of a wood cook-stove gives off heat whenever there is a fire in the fire box. The top directly above the firebox is hottest, with the surface becoming cooler over the oven area. You can control the simmer or sizzle of your pots by moving them around on the cooking surface. Soups can be simmered all day, without much effort. You don’t need an electric crock pot if you have a wood cook-stove.
7. Wood cook stoves are beautiful country decor.
“Wow, what a beautiful stove. Do you use it for cooking?”is one of the first things I hear from a first time visitor. It enhances the atmosphere of a rural home. People naturally gather around the cook stove to visit. Its a conversation piece.
8. Wood cook stoves compliment off grid, renewable energy systems.
Cooking and heating energy is the highest energy expenditure in any home. In off grid homes many people switch to propane for cooking and heating water, to reduce the amount of energy needed from their solar or wind system. Propane needs to be brought in. Methane might be an option, but requires some expertise for creation and use. Wood is pretty straight forward, with centuries of proven use. With modern wood cook-stoves, the guess work in energy efficiency is gone.
9. Wood cook stoves are a selling feature in your rural home.
A well kept wood stove enhances the selling features of your home, when the time is right to sell.
10. Cooking with wood means you can still cook, heat water and stay warm even if the power goes out.
In B.C. the power goes out at least once a month during the winter and a couple times during the summer months. Sometimes it will be out for a day or two. When the power is out in our rural area, the restaurants are closed, too. Its good to be able to put a kettle on the wood stove, even in the dark, and know that you have hot water, warm food, and heat in the midst of an emergency. Dinner by candle light isn’t a bad thing, either.
11. Wood Cook stoves can be adapted to other sources of available fuel, including pellets, corn, and pressed paper.
When you are shopping for your wood cook stove, check the specs. Some stoves can be converted to more dense sources of fuel than wood. Pellets, corn or paperlogs can be burned as fuel, where wood is scarce. It may require a conversion of the existing stove.
12. Cooking with wood is an essential skill for emergency preparedness.
The power goes out. Flooding or mudslides close the highway or take down the power lines. You need to cook. Getting out the camping stove, means cooking outside, as the off gassing from propane gives off toxic gases. In fact you may not want to be cooking outside in an emergency situation, at all. Learning the skills of cooking with wood, means the disruption of your family’s lifestyle can be minimized, while you keep them safe indoors.
We’ve looked at a dozen reasons why cooking with wood makes sense. This is the first of a 6 part series that examines why you should chose wood for your cooking and heating needs and how to make it work in your situation.
What do you think? Leave a comment.
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Here’s some other resources to help you on your journey exploring the skill of cooking with wood:
Woodstove Cookery: At Home on the Range
The Woodburner’s Companion: Practical Ways of Heating with Wood
This is the 1st in a 6 part series on cooking with wood.
Part 1, “12 Practical Reasons Why Cooking with Wood Makes Sense”
Part 2 , “Wood Heaters vs. Wood Cook-Stoves: How to Choose”
Part 3, “Wanted: The perfect wood cook-stove”
Part 4, “Burning Desire: Wood fuels for cooking and heating”
Part 5, “Maintenance tips for your wood cook-stove”
Part 6, “Objection! Heating and Cooking with Wood is objectionable”