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I love figuring out new ways we can cook and bake without using electricity. This last year I’ve been experimenting more with baking and cooking on our wood stove. I figured if I learned how to do all of our Thanksgiving dinner cooking off grid and outdoors I can surely manage figuring out how to cook a meal on our wood stove in the house. This last year I finally mastered the ability to cook a whole meal using just our wood stove including roasting the chicken, steaming vegetables, making gravy, baking the potatoes and even baking a loaf of bread!
The woodstove in our house is our only source of heat. Not only does it provide us warmth, it provides a relaxing ambiance to our living space. It has a glass door on the front so we can watch the flames as we cozy up under a blanket on a chair nearby reading a book to Little A. But the best thing about our woodstove is the double role it serves in our house. Not only does it provide warmth, it offers another cooking option in addition to our standard electric range in the kitchen.
For a number of years I’ve used the wood stove for simple cooking purposes. If I needed to melt butter for a recipe, I placed the butter in a metal bowl or pan and sat it on top of the wood stove to melt. If I wanted hot water for tea, I placed a teapot full of water on the stove to heat up. On days we had venison brats for dinner, we put them in a cast iron skillet placed on the wood stove top and fried them up. I never really thought about cooking more foods or even a full meal on the wood stove until last winter. That’s when I read this post by Trayer Wilderness on how to bake bread on a wood stove. I was so inspired! My first attempt at wood stove baking was dinner rolls. They turned out so delicious!
Cooking Leftovers on the Wood Stove
On days when I am warming up frozen left overs for our evening meal, I place the frozen food in a stainless steel pot with a lid and sit it on the wood stove to thaw and warm up. How fast your food cooks depends on how hot your stove is burning. When our stove is burning on high and really kicking out a lot of heat, it cooks food quite quickly but can also burn food on the bottom of the pan. In this scenario, I find it easier to sit the pot on a metal trivet on top of the stove. This allows the food to warm up without burning on the bottom.
Baking a Chicken on a Wood Stove
Unlike baking in a standard oven, baking on a wood stove has more variations and requires you to be attentive and make adjustments according to how hot the wood stove is. Baking a chicken on a wood stove isn’t as simple as putting the roasting pot in the electric oven and knowing it will be done in a set amount of time. Although it requires a bit more attention from you, the end result of a delicious chicken roasted on top of the wood stove with no electricity is well worth the time and effort!
At 11am on a Sunday morning I put a raw, whole chicken in our favorite enameled cast iron pan. I stuffed the inside of the chicken with a chopped onion and several cloves of chopped garlic. I sprinkled salt, pepper, garlic powder and thyme on the chicken. Then I poured in 1/2 cup of water, put the lid on and sat the pan on the wood stove. I didn’t use any of our cast iron dutch ovens that we use for outdoor cooking since they all have legs to sit over hot coals and we wanted the pan to sit directly on the stove (at least for a little while). Initially I stuck our magnetic thermometer on the side of the roasting pan(this is the handy gadget we usually have on the wood stove pipe to gauge the heat intensity that I wrote about in this post or you can find them here). This was helpful to get an idea of how hot the pan was when sitting directly on the wood stove and when it was sitting up on a trivet.
Once the pan heated up to over 350 degrees, I sat it on a cast iron trivet on the stove. The day warmed up and we turned the woodstove down. The temperature in the chicken dropped so I put the pan directly back on the top of the wood stove and that was our sweet spot to bake the chicken. It finished baking after six hours. The house smelled delicious!
Baking Potatoes in a Wood Stove
I wrapped several homegrown potatoes in tin foil and placed them on top of the coals in the wood stove. The key to baking and not burning the potatoes is to make sure the coals are hot but not the raging bright orange/red coals that will burn your potato quicker than it will bake the inside. Just like cooking over a campfire outside, I like to make a bed of coals off to the side of the main fire to cook the food. In our wood stove, I can easily do this by using our homemade metal poker to push the burning logs to one side of the fire box and move some of the hot coals to the other side for the potatoes.
How long to bake the potatoes depends on how big your potatoes are and how hot the coals are. After placing the potatoes on the coals, use tongs to flip them over every 10- 15 minutes to make sure one side doesn’t burn and they bake evenly. After the first 15 minutes of baking, I check the potatoes to see if they are done and then check them about every 5-10 minutes after since I really don’t like burnt potatoes! To check to see if they are done, I simply use a fork and poke them through the foil.
Cooking Side Dishes on a Wood Stove
If the wood stove is on low, I typically sit the stainless steel pot of food directly on the wood stove until it is cooked. If the wood stove is burning quite hot, I sit the pan up on a cast iron trivet so the food doesn’t burn. When cooking food like pasta, I sit the pot of water directly on the wood stove to boil. The wood stove needs to be burning hot to be able to boil the water quickly, otherwise I’ve learned the hard way it can take close to an hour to boil a pot of water if the wood stove is on low. Once I add the pasta to the boiling water, I either turn the wood stove down to a lower heat or put the pot on a cast iron trivet on the stove top to finish cooking without boiling over.
Steaming vegetables on a Wood Stove
Anytime I have vegetables to steam, like winter squash, I use my large steamer pot on the wood stove. I used to chop up and steam winter squash in the electric oven but it takes a long time and often dries the squash out a bit. Now I chop the winter squash in half, scoop out the seeds and chop the squash into chunks. The chunks of squash are placed in the top pan of the steamer pot with an inch or two of water in the bottom pot. I put a lid on top, sit the steamer pot on the wood stove if it is running on low or on a trivet on the wood stove if it is burning super hot. The squash steams nicely in about half the time it would take in the oven and I used no electricity in the process. When it is done I can easily peel and puree the squash to use in one of our favorite recipes like this delicious squash soup. Just this last weekend I steamed a homegrown squash on our wood stove and we also warmed some of our honey we harvested in the fall that crystallized.
I just love cooking and baking food on our wood stove! I appreciate knowing that our beloved wood stove has a dual purpose in our home to not only heat the house to keep us warm but can cook and bake a full meal! One day this fall we were without power for a day and it was reassuring to know that I could easily still keep our home warm and cook our family’s meals on the wood stove that day. While I love baking and cooking on a wood stove for fun, it is a handy survival skill to have for those times we have no electricity in the house!
Do you like to cook and bake on the wood stove? What tips or recipes do you have to share?