Monday, January 25, 2010

Building The Fire in Your Wood Cooking Range

I have had many new to homesteading people ask me about cooking on my wood cook stove. When I first got it I did not know a single thing about using it. So I really taught myself by just using it. Most of the meals I have turned out on it have been splendid. My husband loves his morning breakfast especially cooked on the cook stove. It is just easier for me cooking on it than on a gas or even an electric one, if I had one.

Closed Damper

One must be familiar with a wood cook stove before one can learn to control it. The dampers and drafts must be known, not only to the location, but their various effects upon the fire must be thoroughly understood. The time to learn all of this is when the range is cold and clean. There is always a draft, or a door below the fire to allow a plentiful supply of air to rush in and to feed the fire from below. There is also a controlling damper which shuts off the heat from passing up the chimney, and throws the heat around the oven. A third opening, or series of them, is placed above the fire box and allows the air to pass over the fire, which is the method of checking it.

Opened Damper

Important points to remember concerning the drafts:

1. A draft below the fire box.
2. A damper in the pipe.
3. A check draft above the fire.

When the fire is started, or when one desires a low fire to burn up quickly, the draft below the fire box must be wide open; the damper in the pipe must be in such a position that frees the draft up the chimney; and the draft over the fire must be closed. These several forms of drafts or dampers are present in every wood or coal cooking range.  There may be some slight modification of them, but the principle is always the same. After the fire is well started, and heating the oven is desired, the damper controlling the pipe or chimney must be closed. That will throw the heat around the oven. If the fire is burning too violently then the lower draft is closed and the draft above is opened. The chimney damper may be also closed, if desired.

Cooking on the wood cook stove

In laying a fire, see that the stove is cleaned of ashes and clinkers first. Open the lower draft and the chimney damper; and close the upper draft. Place some crumpled pieces of paper in the grate box first. Do not lay in sheets of paper tightly pressed together or magazines or catalogs. Use plenty of paper if the wood is large or damp. You may let a piece or two of the paper pass through the bars of the grate so that it may be easily ignited from below if desired. It is also well to place a large piece of wood at the back of the fire box, and to place the finest pieces of kindling first on the paper in the front.

The essential qualities of a good wood cooking range are:

1. Simplicity of construction. This renders control of the fire easy, and affords fewer chances for getting out of control.

2. Plain finish. This enables one to keep it looking well with little trouble.

3. Perfection in the fitting of parts. This facilitates the control of the fire and also of the heat, thus saving fuel and regulating the heat of the oven.

Do not be afraid to open the oven door and to look in to see how things are baking or roasting. Learn to do this quickly and quietly. Indeed, all of the movements about a stove must be done in this way.

The best time to blacken a stove is after the fire is laid, and just before lighting it. Moisten some stove polish with cold water and apply to the stove with a dauber. The blacking must be rubbed in thoroughly, especially over the "red spots." Then start the fire, and while it is burning polish the stove with a dry brush.

Enjoy it and you will catch on pretty quickly if you use it often. The more you do something the better you are at it. I know when visitors come to my home that is the first thing they notice or mention.

Copyright © 2010 Kathleen G. Lupole
All Photographs Copyright © 2010 Kathleen G. Lupole
Updated August 2016

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