Looking for ways to save money on home heating, cooking, and heating water? Cooking with wood makes sense. These are the most intensive energy drains in our homes. But for those of us already heating our homes with wood, using the heat for cooking can save money, energy, and make each one of us more self reliant.
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.
For the next few weeks, I am going to look at cooking with wood. Today’s article will offer you some practical reasons to consider this alternative for your rural home. In other articles 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.
Then I’ll give you some tips for picking out the perfect wood cook-stove for your needs and share my experience with heating the stove with different available woods and when to use each kind.
We’ll wrap up the series with some troubleshooting tips to get the most from your wood stove and keep it in beautiful condition. Plus, we’ll look at some objections to cooking with wood, and offer a rationale to meet those objections. Fire safety is important. so we’ll talk about how to get the fire going and the most crucial fire safety issues to consider. If you’ve got lots of experience in this area, jump into the comment section and share your wisdom with my readers.
1. Cooking with wood heats your home, too.
Wood cookstoves 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. We get around that by opening the oven door to increase the heat. Our cook-stove heats 1,000 square feet to a comfortably warm temperature when its -30C outside our log home.
I can also 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 kind of 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. Easy hot water either preheated with a coil or hot from a water reservoir.
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. It’s a nice way to reduce your energy bill without any extra effort.
3. Wood is a renewable resource, so using it for cooking lowers your carbon footprint.
In British Columbia and many other parts of the world, wood is plentiful. The forests here are littered with downed wood, deadwood, and windfall, actually, 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. It’s the perfect fuel.
Wood stoves use local woods, including driftwood, downed wood, and offcuts 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.
Managing your woodlot is not hard and can improve your woods for the future.
5. Bread baked in a wood cook stove is perfect, crusty and delicious.
Wood heat is a 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 a meal 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 firebox. 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 crockpot 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 and stored in tanks on your property. Methane might be an option but requires some expertise for creation and use.
Wood, on the other hand, is pretty straight forward and has centuries of proven use. With modern wood cook-stoves, even the guesswork in energy efficiency is gone.
9. This stove becomes a positive selling feature in your rural home.
Let’s face it, even rural land is becoming expensive and many people who are looking to move from the city to rural property need to keep their expenses low and get the most for the amount they can spend. So a well-kept wood stove enhances the selling features of your home, when the time is right to sell, by helping new owners see ways to save money on heating expenses. As well as adding to the ambiance and appeal of your home.
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 of 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 candlelight 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 for dual-purpose heat sources. Some stoves can be converted to more dense sources of fuel than wood. Pellets, dried corn cobs, or compressed paper logs can be burned as fuel, where wood is scarce. It may require a conversion of the existing stove but is completely doable.
12. Cooking with wood is an essential skill for emergency preparedness.
The power goes out at all times of the year. Heavy rains, flooding or mudslides can close the roads or take down the power lines. Through it all, you still need to cook. You could get out the camping stove, which means you’ll need to haul all the cooking supplies outside, as the off-gassing from propane gives off toxic gases. In fact, in an emergency situation you may not want to be cooking outside, 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 during storms or emergencies.
What do you think? Does cooking with a wood stove make sense for your situation? Leave a comment.
Other Articles in the wood cookstove series include:
12 Practical Reasons Why Cooking with Wood Makes Sense
Wood Heaters vs. Wood Cook-Stoves: How to Choose
Searching for the Perfect Wood Cook-stove
Choosing Wood Fuels for Cooking and Heating
Why Does Society Find Heating and Cooking with Wood Objectionable?