Thursday, January 13, 2011

Baking without an electric or gas oven

The cooking dilemma during the time I was without power for several days was my attempts to bake on my wood stove, and I’ve been researching methods ever since.

My thoughts at the time were that a cast iron container like a Dutch oven would work, although I don’t own one. More thoughts, research and trials on that idea have squelched it for direct baking. If you pour a cake batter in a pan, the bottom of the pan (where it sits directly on top of the wood stove) overheats and burns the batter; at the same time, the center of the batter remains mostly gooey and uncooked.

One alternative is to put some supports in a Dutch oven to hold a cake or muffin pan off the bottom, which will then cook the batter in the heated space (when the lid is placed on top of the oven) creating an “oven”. Duh! That would be fine if you have a huge Dutch or French oven (big ones cost upwards of $275 or more), and/or very tiny pie, cake and muffin pans… and baking just for one person in a smaller cast iron covered pot. Fantes carries some assorted small anodized baking pans, and Amazon carries some stainless steel baking pans that might fit in a larger cast iron oven.

Note: Dutch Ovens were designed for cooking inside a fireplace with a chimney, or over an open fire, used by placing hot coals on top of the lid as well as under the pot. The coals over and under the pot assured even cooking. Not something you'd want to do on the top of a wood stove inside the house!

I was looking at metal pans more for my tabletop electric convection oven (as long as there is power) because I cannot use glass pans in it for cooking, and I found the smaller pans I could use in my small cast iron covered pot (when power is out) listed at Fantes. I prefer NOT to use any aluminum cookware or non-stick coated cookware, and do not even own any except one small skillet I use very carefully on lower heat temps, and only for eggs.

Several folks have used a camp oven like the Coleman Oven on top of a wood stove, but with iffy results. The problem with a camp oven seems to be that it doesn’t get hot enough to really bake, and there isn’t much insulation in the walls to hold heat. I suppose if you are camping and cooking over an open fire, it doesn’t matter too much; food is either charred or undercooked... kinda goes with camping!

All those thoughts, though, brought up things like solar cookers… fine when the sun is out, and easier in summer when no one wants to heat the house using an oven. In the winter when it's below freezing outside and perhaps overcast or storming, it's a different story. Since I’m starting to do some cold smoking of meats and cheese, I’m also looking for a heat source using very little fuel to make smoke.

Aha! A Rocket Stove would do the trick for cooking outside regardless of available solar sunlight, or could be used for creating smoke for my smoker! I’ve known about rocket stoves for a long time, and have even thought to build one, so I went looking again for building plans.

Rocket Stove from Tin Cans

Most rocket stoves are made from (used) metal cans, whether large rectangular cooking oil cans or large food service cans. However, few last longer than a few months due to rust. Of course if they are so cheap to make, just throw them “away”? (Just where IS “away” anyway?)

The Aprovecho Research Center near Eugene Oregon has worked on developing cooking apparatus for Third World countries for many years, and they publish some good ideas they have trialed and proven to work. (They do a lot of work and education on sustainable culture in many other areas as well. Check out their website!)

Aprovecho's Capturing Heat: Five Earth-Friendly Cooking Technologies and How to Build Them is a great PDF you can download free here. To my surprise, there were 2 plans for Rocket Bread Ovens! They are made out of 55 gallon metal drums, and can bake more than 20 loaves of bread at one time. They say 66 pounds of bread can be completely cooked using just 11 pounds of dry wood, and Rocket Ovens more fuel efficient than a beehive earthen oven. The oven used at the Research Center uses a 14 gallon drum as the fuel feed box, like the drawing above.

Some fancy sheet metal work on this rocket stove! (Source unknown.)

The Rocket Stove pictured above appears to have a chimney coming out of the back of the stove. If so, and IF you could make each of the cooking wells airtight, and if you could vent the chimney to the outside, you should be able to safely use the stove inside a dwelling. You'd need to be able to close off the fuel intake ports when the fires die down, or you'd get smoke and carbon monoxide coming from those ports back into the house. It should be cheaper to build one than to buy an antique wood-burning cookstove with an integral oven.

I have thought for a long time I'd like to build an earth oven in the yard, and last summer I even bought the wonderful book Build Your Own Earth Oven by the highly acclaimed Kiko Danzer, who is truly an artist in clay. Now I may choose to build a Rocket Oven instead, as the cost of materials is much cheaper and requires less fuel to bake in it.

I'm still playing around with baking on my wood stove using what I have available, and I will post any breakthroughs!


  1. Nice guide! thank you!/I love it ! Very creative ! That's actually really cool Thanks.

    Baking Ovens

  2. Thank you for the info. It sounds pretty user friendly. I guess I’ll pick one up for fun. thank u
    Electric Baking Ovens

  3. Great thoughts you got there, believe I may possibly try just some of it throughout my daily life.
    Gas Baking Ovens Melbourne Australias

  4. It works brilliantly !
    Tried placing a kelly kettle on top and it heats that too.

  5. What's about pyrolysis stoves? They cook and they make biochar for the garden.... I have seen a few ideas for mixing with the rocket stove. Also, the pyrolysis can be the best idea for making the smoke you need.


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