Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Quasi-Baking on a Wood Stove in Power Outage

During our recent several-day power outage, I cooked and heated water for coffee on my wood stove, something I have done many times before. Usually I have cooked soups and stews, but generally not much more than that. Coffee is easy since I use an old Chemex pot every day anyway and it makes great coffee! All you need is boiling water to pour over the ground coffee in the filter paper.

One of the power-less days I decided I wanted a baked sweet potato. I was getting bored with hot soups/stews!  I wrapped 2 sweet potatoes in aluminum foil and put them on the hot cast iron stove top. (Ignore the nasty pot on the left; I keep water in it to add humidity to the room, and it has a mineral build-up from our hard water.) After a few minutes, though, I decided I would probably get potatoes cooked on one side where they touched the stove, or cooked unevenly even if I rolled them over occasionally.

I don't have a Dutch Oven that I might be able to bake in, so I improvised, creating a contained heated space by inverting a disposable aluminum container over the potatoes. I stuck the instant-read thermometer between the 'taters and stove top; the temp read 350ºF. Hey, it's not rocket science... but I was hungry and it worked!

Hindsight says I should have checked the temp in the enclosed air space around the potatoes, but I didn't think of it at the time. The potatoes baked just fine, although they were steamy from being in the foil. I had wrapped them only because the stove is sooty and it's hard to clean a HOT stove. I also didn't time baking the potatoes; it was difficult to read my wristwatch in dim light, and frankly I didn't much care at the time. I squeezed the potatoes occasionally, and took them off when they felt soft. 

There were 2 long thin spots along the bottom of the potatoes where they sat on the cast iron, and those places were just very slightly browned but not hard and dried out. I slathered on some butter, and YUM!

Since I am still without the oven on my electric kitchen range, I want to see if I can actually bake a cake or muffins on the wood stove, without anything more than some kind of cover to contain heat around the pans.I have a Le Creuset 7 quart French Oven on my Wish List!

Update: The above was written before Christmas. Since then, my sister has had a repairman come and fix the electric oven on the kitchen range. So, I again have an oven for convenience. BUT I still need to learn to bake on a wood stove for eventual power shortages and outages. 

Baking on a wood stove may not sound like a big deal, but if you've never tried it, how do you learn? Another option for baking is a solar oven... easy to make, and use on sunny days... but I'm not thrilled with the idea of using one on a snowy, windy day in the dead of winter. That will be a summer project!


  1. Keep us updated on your wood stove baking experiments please.

  2. It's really amazing how similar some of our experiments are. We haven't had a power outage this winter, but we had a 10 day one last year and I'm still running scared from it. :-) As a result, I've been practicing cooking on the woodstove all month. First the easy soups and beans, then roasting a homegrown chicken in the Dutch oven my brother gave me after I made a homemade one a bit like you're discussing during the power outage. It worked quite well, but my husband is plotting out a method to make it more amenable to baking his favorite --- chocolate muffins --- perhaps by putting a muffin tin inside the dutch oven.

    By the way, I hadn't heard of French ovens, so I googled them. You might want to check out, if you haven't already. One of the commenters noted: FWIW, the February issue of Cooks Illustrated tested several Dutch ovens. The Le Creuset at over $200 was near the top of their list; however, to their surprise a $39 Dutch oven from Target performed nearly as well. If you're in the market, you might want to take a look at Target's item.

    Since I know you're on a budget, that might get your experiment off the ground faster.

  3. Thanks for the info link, Anna. Next time I'm in Charlottesville (or Roanoke) I'll check out Target. Might have some $ by then!

    Right now my wood pile is rather covered over with white stuff but I'll get back to the baking experiment soon... and of course, post about it!


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