Choosing the Right Type of Wood for Cooking on Old-Fashioned Wood Stove

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Old-fashioned wood burning stoves cook all types of meals. Fry chicken, bake a cake, or simmer a beef stew for hours. According to the author of Old-Fashioned Woodstove Recipes, there are some secrets to on the road to success that our ancestors understood very well.

Cooking on a Woodstove requires learning how to build and maintain different kinds of fire.

Old recipes often reference cooking something in a “moderate” oven or over a quick, hot fire. This was a bigger clue to the cook than I imagined.

For example, grilled cheese, bacon, or French toast require a quick, hot fire, a fire that ignites quickly. To create this type of fire, cooks selected birch, pine, or sassafras wood. The temperature increases rapidly to a peak and then dies.

Hickory, dogwood, black locust, white oak, red oak, and fruit woods creates hot slow-burning coals that burn steadily. Maintain baking temperature by using one of these woods to avoid refueling during baking. Adding more wood lowers the temperature causing the cake to fall or the bread not to rise.

Make fires for baking, simmering, or stewing an hour ahead to allow oven to reach the required temperature. Adjust the draft and damper to find the perfect heat. This appears to be a trial-and-error process until the cook learns the individual peculiarities of a particular stove.

Add trivets or racks to the stove burners (cooking lids) to decrease the heat under a kettle. More than one trivet can be used. Bricks also work well.

-Sandra Merville Hart

Sources

Collester, J.S. Old-Fashioned Woostove Recipes, Bear Wallow Books, 1988.

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