Some Woodstove Experience, by C.V.Z.

Being without electricity in the middle winter is cold. We didn’t have any heat during an ice storm. With that winter in mind, we finally purchased a wood stove for heat and cooking opportunities.

As the wife and mother, I had this horrible image of an old black pot bellied stove belching smoke and catching the roof on fire. I could hear the neighbors complaining about the smell and my kids going to school smelling like they had just burned down the house. Images of black walls and ceilings and truck loads of firewood haunted me with every winter wind. I finally relented after four years of planning and saving.

The first thing in purchasing and planning our wood stove was to check with our local city government to make sure there were no permits or codes that had to be met.
The second thing was many years of research on the internet and attending trade shows.
The third step was saving what money we could spare and finding a stove that would fit into our allotted room space and budget.
We finally purchased a stand alone Lopi cast iron wood stove.
This Lopi stove is 79% efficient, burning the smoke before it leaves the stove. Thus no complaining neighbors or smoke smell in our home. When loaded with wood it can burn up to eight hours and warm a 1000 square foot home. It is lined with firebricks and will hold heat after the wood has burned. We did purchase the optional electric fan, but the stove will warm up the house without the fan running.

For the mother in me, it does not smell up the house, it is clean burning, sealed, and with the clearances recommended by the manufacturer, and following the installation instructions, we hope it won’t burn down our house. (For my further comfort I made the men of our house pull all the insulation away from the chimney in the attic.)
For the wife in me, it is stylish and functional. It looks great in the corner. The stove is matte black with matte black accessories. It does have a glass window.
For new chimney installers I would recommend the double walled chimney. This allows you to set your stove closer to the wall and also gives the wife and mother a larger piece of mind.
We purchased our chimney with our stove and the owner of the business talked us through the entire installation. Each box of the chimney, and there were six, had its’ own instructions. The telescoping inside black pipe was the best and most expensive part of the chimney. This pipe allows you to place your stove in your room and not have to cut, fold or bend the inside pipe to the correct length. It telescopes up to a box collar on your ceiling and then the attic part attaches to that box. Or, you don’t have to be exactly precise when measuring how much inside pipe you need. The brand we purchased was Metal-Fab. The inside telescoping pipe is black and very stylish with the stove.
My son and husband were able to install the chimney and stove in one day.  They did have to find more sheet metal screws.
This stove does allow you to cook on the top.

Cooking on a Woodstove

After learning how to light and burn the wood in the stove, I decided it was time to learn how to cook on the stove. I was amazed at how small the top of the stove was compared to the look of the stove. My cast iron skillet was too big for any area on the top of stove. I had to purchase a smaller skillet and lid. You do want to use a lid as you don’t want any grease or food build up on your stove.

We found that purchasing a small, inexpensive, oven temperature gage helped in knowing when the stove was hot enough to cook on and with a cast iron skillet, we can start cooking around 200 degrees. It is very warm standing in front of the stove while cooking, but you must have a very hot fire to cook. I have cooked many meals on this stove for practice. This practice has led us to some new and different realities of food storage and preparation.

We have found that we use more oils, and starch foods such as potatoes, corn and beans. Having pre-canned cooked foods such a vegetables and meat shortens the cooking time. We will probably eat more popcorn than we are used to. Coffee should be started as soon as you start cooking a meal.  Smaller but deeper skillets and Dutch ovens work better and stay hot longer. Baking on the inside of the stove takes time and patience. Using breads with the least amount of moistures helps in complete baking. Cast iron cookware will burn off its season when left on the inside of the stove too long and cast iron is the only pan to use when cooking on the inside. Cast iron will also continue to cook after you pull it out of the stove.  Metal bread pans will warp and can get a burn hole in them. (Only experience on my part.) We can not use our canner on this stove. We have no way of heat control and not enough space. (Nor would I want a wood fire in our home in the summer.) We will be building an outdoor fire pit for summer cooking and canning.

After having a melt down in knowing we had wheat stored, had purchased a grain grinder and then not being able to make bread in the new stove, I finally found a way to bake. A Dutch oven with lid and low burning coals is the only way this stove will bake bread. If your Dutch oven is seasoned well, don’t grease the Dutch oven. Greasing the Dutch oven will cause the bread to burn on the outside of the bread.  Don’t expect a loaf of bread to come out of this kind of stove looking like it came out of an electric oven.

Things we would have done differently:
1. Saved more money and bought a larger stove, we need a larger cooking surface. Think about the kitchen stove you have now, four burners, you use the oven and the microwave when cooking a meal. Think about no electricity, you now have maybe two spots to cook with. A larger stove would have allowed us to have more room to cook, to use larger firewood and have a longer burn at night.
2. Installed the stove on an inside wall. Inside wall installation makes for better heating. You are not heating up an outside wall. We could have used less wall protection in the way of ceramic tile.
3. If money would have allowed, we would have bought a real wood cook stove and installed it in our kitchen with a water heater attached.
4. Built a higher platform for the stove so we don’t have to get on our knees to clean and load the stove.

Our stove was our most expensive prepraedness purchase. I am thankful that I have time to learn to cook and heat with this stove.  We have “survival night” once a week and only cook with this wood stove. It brings up a lot of different scenarios that we thought we had taken care of. We need another hand can opener. We also need a moveable table near the stove when cooking and much thicker potholders. We need more first-aid items for burns. We need to purchase more and longer metal spatulas and spoons. We also need to stock up more pre-cooked items when we home can during the summer and we need truckloads of firewood.