Winter Woodfires: Cooking in a woodstove

by Liz Beavis
Did you know what you can get woodstoves that are designed for both heating your house and cooking?  We've owned two woodstoves now, both with ovens under the fire box for cooking.  I hardly ever use our electric oven in winter (and in summer we tend to use the BBQ or the slow cooker because its too hot in the house).  Cooking in a woodstove is easy and convenient.  If you are considering installing a woodstove for heating, you should consider the cooking option too, as it doesn't cost much more and you will be able to cook all your meals for free while your heating the house anyway.

The kelpies enjoying the heat from the woodfire

The first woodstove that we tried was a Nectre Bakers Oven.  It was a lovely little oven, that heated up quickly.  But it has a tiny firebox and doesn't stay warm overnight (important in a drafty old Queenslander!). We cooked many roasts, loaves of bread, cakes and roast potatoes in the oven.  In fact, because the electric oven in that house was terrible, I baked and cooked more in the woodstove than the electric oven.  And we used the top of the woodstove to boil and simmer pot roasts, veges, soups and sauces, and to fry steak and sausages.  In winter we hardly used the electric oven and we were always warm and cosy (except early morning, when the fire burnt out).

The bakers oven was great for bread.....
.....and muffins.  All baking and cooking actually!
When we moved to Eight Acres, we decided to try a different woodstove.  This time we wanted something that would stay warm overnight, so we chose a Scandia Cuisine.  This is a much larger and heavier model, with some extra features. It has an ash tray under the firebox, so its very easy to clean.  The oven and firebox are larger and the doors seal very well, so its easier to keep a large log burning overnight.  The larger bulk of cast iron means that it stays warm overnight, even after the fire burns out.  The large oven fits our large roasting dish, with plenty of room for roast veges as well.  And the top is just as useful for boiling and frying.  We have a nicer electric oven in this house, so the woodstove hasn't been used as much, but we are looking forward to endless roast potatoes again (we are usually too stingy to use the electric oven just for roast potatoes, but if the fire is on anyway, why not?).

Some general tips for woodfire cooking:
  • The temperature on the door is about 50degC cooler than the temperature in the oven itself, so keep an eye on your baking to learn the ideal door temperature for each dish.  If the oven gets too hot, just crack the door open.
  • When the top gets too hot you can raise pots and pans up on metal racks trivets.  We have a couple of different heights so you can always adjust to the right temperature.
  • If the fire's on anyway, you may as well pop something on top to cook.  Take the opportunity to cook soups, stocks, jams, pot roasts, anything that needs to sit on the heat for a while, it saves using electricity or gas.

Do you cook on a woodstove?  Any tips?

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