In the 1940s, nearly three quarters of the households in America used some type of radiant heat source, such as wood or coal to heat their homes. As the decades passed, electricity and gas slowly overtook these fuels as the most popular heat sources, especially in heavily occupied areas where a steady supply of wood was often difficult to find or store. Recent record-breaking winter weather patterns and the power outages they caused are leading many people to take another look at wood heat, as either their primary heat source or a secondary one to be used when their main heat sources are offline. A low-tech wood stove that has been carefully chosen and properly installed can easily heat an entire home, without any electricity to power blowers and thermostats, but they can do even more, as well.
Cooking with Wood
Energy bars and bottled water provide much needed nourishment during a power outage that prevents you from firing up the electric range, microwave or slow cooker, but they won't do much to warm your family from within when they need it most. If you have already installed a wood stove, or plan to in the future, you are providing not only a safe, efficient alternate heating source, but an excellent way to provide hot, delicious meals, with no electricity required. To prepare for cooking on your wood stove, you will need some basic tools.
- A few pieces of cast iron or heavy-bottomed stainless steel cookware, such as a skillet, griddle, dutch oven, and stew pot with a tight fitting lid suitable for frying foods and simmering stews and chili
- A non-electric coffee or tea pot to keep a constant supply of hot, potable water handy for instant cocoa, soup mixes, coffee or tea
- A stainless steel stockpot with lid to use for making soup, heating water and melting snow, if necessary for bathing, cleaning or even drinking (after purification by boiling or using water purification tablets or filters)
- A few stainless steel stirring spoons, ladles, tongs, egg turners and meat forks that have no plastic parts that might melt over the heat of a wood fire
- A roll of heavy duty aluminum foil
Keep these items clean and ready for use in a box or tote in your pantry, so that they will be convenient to find during a power outage.
A Day of Meal Ideas Perfect for Wood Stove Cooking
Although most any type of wood stove can be used for emergency cooking, the best ones will have a flat top with room to keep a pot of water or soup simmering near the back of the stove top. There should be enough additional room for a skillet, pot or griddle over the hottest part of the fire. As you tend to the fire through the days and nights of the power outage, remember to frequently check and refill the stock pot with water to prevent it from boiling dry and ensure that you have a constant supply of hot water.
Almost any recipe can be prepared on a wood stove, including:
- Breakfast favorites such as pancakes, pots of oatmeal or hot cereals, scrambled eggs, bacon, sausages and fried potatoes
- Easy lunch menus might include a pot of soup or chili, grilled cheese sandwiches or hamburgers
- For dinner, simmer a roast or stew on the stove top all afternoon and then wrap some whole, scrubbed potatoes or sweet potatoes in a double layer of heavy foil and place them on top of the coals inside the stove about an hour before dinner for a delicious side dish
Options to Expand Your Wood Stove Cooking Repertoire
Once you have tried cooking on your wood stove, you may find yourself becoming addicted. If this is the case, your wood stove dealer help you choose a model with a larger cooking surface. Ask at places like Aqua Rec's Fireside Hearth & Home about models what have options such as foldout warming shelves and those that are large enough to accommodate accessories such as a radiant stove top or camping-style oven that sits on top of the stove and captures the heat for baking breads and baked goods or roasting foods.