Loving a Wood Cookstove

I’m not really a nut about cooking, but the closest I’ve ever come to really, really enjoying it was when I had the wood cookstove.

The Waterford Stanley Cookstove

The Waterford Stanley Cookstove

We had this old house that was built around wood stoves, pre 1900 style, with a central chimney and a kitchen that just cried for a woodburning cookstove. My husband, patient man, indulged me, even though he didn’t even like to cut wood (I wound up doing a lot of it myself). Anyway, we set off on a quest and after asking around, soon found a real treasure. My brother-in-law’s father had two of them in a shed about three hours away.

Off we went in the old Chevy truck (a story for a different time), reasoning that if one of them was workable, we could just bring it home.

Well, never to do things halfway, we brought both of them home – for $50. Who could pass up a deal like that? After another $50 or so in stove bolts, rust remover, soap and water and stove black, we got one of them in working condition. There was even a coal/wood grate and a lid lifter that fit the lids. I was thrilled!

Once in the house and piped into the chimney, I built the first fire, anticipating at the least, a cup of fresh, on-the-stove coffee from my old glass coffee pot.

The new pipe smelled with that new pipe smell, and the stove kind of whispered to itself and seemed to settle in with a little sigh. I put the coffee pot on and waited. And waited. And waited. More wood, a bigger fire. I waited some more. Watching closely, I could see tiny bubbles beginning to form on the bottom of the pot. A little more wood, then. I set the coffee pot over the hottest part of the stove (as nearly as I could tell), and waited some more.

Woodstove Cookery

Woodstove Cookery Shop Now>>

The thought of fresh coffee made my mouth water and my soul cry for mercy. Come on… it shouldn’t take all morning just to boil water!

Oh, yes… I learned. A watched pot never boils and all that. A wood cookstove takes a while to heat through. Especially one that had just been scrubbed through and through, and there were no ashes whatsoever anywhere. Later, I learned that thin layer of ashes in the ash box and a few leftover coals in the grates would speed things up on those cold mornings when I really needed a cup of coffee.

I learned some other things, too. Like how easy it is to bake bread in an oven that was always preheated and ready to go. How to keep turning a pie so the crust wouldn’t burn on one side and stay pasty on the other. How to lift off the little lid and set a pan directly over a healthy fire to fry quickly – and how to hear when it was time to move the pan when it got too hot for an easy over egg. How to melt butter in the warming oven and not ever, ever worry about it scorching.

Cooking on a woodstove is soothing. It makes cooking an art and a part of life. You give, it gives; it’s a symbiotic relationship that’s filled with warmth.

It’s got character (if you don’t believe it, try lighting a fire some damp morning when the wind is coming from the wrong direction. Your stove will have a temper tantrum and belch smoke right in your face.)

It will make memories, like walking toward the house on a cool autumn evening and smelling wood smoke, knowing there’s a good meal and good company at home, just waiting.

About Pat Veretto

Pat is a frugal living expert with many published articles. She lives in Colorado and maintains her own Frugal Living Blog (which we love!).

34 thoughts on “Loving a Wood Cookstove

  1. Oh how I love to cook on a wood stove. I have never had the joy of baking in a cook stove, but cooking atop of one. The ‘cook’ stove we currently have is a slimline, two lift burner Monarch, which doesn’t have a oven, only the fire box under the burners. We use to have a ‘Better ‘n Bens’ wood stove in our living room, with nice large flat surfaces that we cooked atop all the time. There is nothing like cooking with wood.

  2. Oh wow, Pat that is a fantastic and warming story. It makes me wish I could get rid of the terrible electric oven that I complain about in my Posts and install one of those gems. I do enjoy cooking, our oven is a thorn in the side of that joy. So nice to see happy faces because of your efforts in cooking.

  3. Greg, I thought of your oven when I wrote about the always preheated oven of the wood stove. Electric ovens (I have one now) , no matter how good they are, just don’t do the job as well. Is it possible that wood heat makes things taste better? :)

    Ginny, I’ve cooked on top of a heating stove and a small two burner without an oven, too. Have you tried a dutch oven on top of it?

  4. I had a wood stove for 4 years when I lived in Australia. Not only did it heat the kitchen and some of the house, it heated our water, as there was some gizmo of a pipe wrapped around the stove pipe in the attic that ran to a cistern (in the attic) that held the hot water. I loved it!

    I also cooked and baked on a wood stove when I worked at Historic Murphy’s Landing.

    Every fall I beg and plead, trying to convince my husband to put a wood stove (we have one) in the kitchen, which is crying for a wood stove to keep it warm in the winter (it’s the coldest room in the house). Perhaps some day!

  5. I’m very interested in the Wood cook stove and Dutch oven cooking.. I live in an apartment now, with out my chickens, barn cats, lama, pair of goats, and long haired sheep. Don’t have my milk cow anymore either.. and my pony is long gone.. All were adopted by the family that bought the place after my husband died.. I did keep the small woodstove though. I use it to decorate a corner in my living room and to remind me of the “Good Old Days”. I can vent my woodburner through an old chim’ney opening here.. and.. I’d like to do some indoor dutch oven cooking. I just lack the knowledge for the “How to” Any one whose willing to share insights with me, I will appreciate hearing from. I always used my dutch oven outside.. Inside on the wood burner will be a great treat for me. Somehow the smell of wood burning makes food taste better.

  6. Pat, that oven is one of the worst. It has one of those flat tops with the burners recessed under ceramic or glass or what ever. Easy to clean but a pain in the neck in all other regards. Oh how I long for the gas range.
    I have cooked on a wood stove before but it was a very long time ago and do not remember all of the details. I would like to use a wood cook stove but the reality of life does not allow it at this time.
    By the way Granny you could post that question of “How To…” to Lehman’s Internet Forum Lehman’s Life. I provide a link at the top of the page.

  7. cpthegreat, I hope you get a wood stove! Maybe next year? :)

    Granny, I understand what you mean about missing those things. There is just no substitute for living in the country. Using a dutch oven is simple, but can be complicated, so I echo Greg’s suggestion that you ask in the forum.

    And Greg… I understand this, too: “the reality of life does not allow it at this time.”

    I wish, I wish… and I envy Ginny just a little. :)

  8. Hello everybody! I am new to Country Life. I could not resist Greg’s post concerning the wood stove. I grew up with a wood cook stove in our kitchen when I was young. That was normal back then, everybody had one. It was okay in the winter, but during the summer, boy was it hot, especially during canning season.
    Years later with a Jenn-Air stove in the kitchen, what do you think was sitting in my kitchen? My little “Victor Junior” wood cookstove was right there. I didn’t even mind the cleaning with stove polish. It’s beautiful to me.
    What a warm feeling I get when I think of those times slow cooking pinto beans, stewed potatoes, baking corn bread. You just can’t beat the taste. It’s wonderful! My children still talk today about coming home from school, looking in the warmer on top, and finding all those goodies that were baked in the oven.

  9. Does anybody have tips and hints on how to cook on a wood cook stove?


  10. fiberspinner, I tried to answer your question in part on the forum (http://lehmanslife.lehmans.com). Tips on cooking on a wood burning stove could fill a book – as a matter of fact, it did. There’s a link to such a book in the original post here called “Woodstove Cookery: At Home on the Range.” You’ll no doubt find the answer to your questions in it, and I’m up for a discussion about wood cookery on the forum if you like, too.

  11. Greg.. I’d love to post the Dutch Oven Cooking ..[.on my wood stove..] question in the forum.. but forgot my password.. Please advise me me. Thanks

  12. Hello everyone, I too grew up with a wood stove and really miss it. Farmlady mentioned that it got really hot during the summer. One of the advantages of growing up on the old family farm is that there was a summer kitchen out back. A little brick house attached by a breezeway were a huge old black and silver stove was fired up as the weather got warm. I think the batter bread and three times a day biscuits were the best things to come out of that monster. Served with a plate of fresh churned butter and sorghum this was our treat many a day.

  13. While I enjoy the tales of wood cook stoves, I only remember the cold mornings at the crack of dawn going out to the well for water and wood.
    -25 on dark morning in Iowa, but I guess Grandma’s butter milk biscuits were worth it.

  14. Laniappe, when I was a kid, we carried in wood and water every morning for years, too. That was in Wyoming, so I know what you mean about -25.

  15. I can still remember my aunt, Abagial, making some of the best biscuits for our breakfast, in the world. All biscuit dough was made from scratch and I wish I had that old stove today. I would try to use it like she did. She is long gone now. The memories are great though.

  16. Wow!! I would love to cook on a wood stove!
    My dream kitchen has an AGA in it (unfortunately it’s still a dream). However, in this day and age I would opt for a gas powered stove. I hate chopping wood.
    My ex-mother-in-law lived on a farm and had a wood stove. I was wonderful to stay there and awake to breakfast cooking on the wood stove expecially in winter when the stove would heat the house as well. She used to make the best scones in that stove. Her stove too heated the water (must be an Australian thing).
    Funnily enough, when she divorced her husband and left the farm she had an electric oven and didn’t know how the utilise it properly so she asked ME for advice (even though I was no longer with her son). That was a very funny turn for the books as I was always asking her for advise on cooking!

  17. Lot’s of wood cook stoves here in the States had reservoirs that heated water Becci. They were an optional add-on when purchasing the stove. I believe that some are coming now that can be hooked up to the water supply system so that the reservoir never runs dry. We children always got in trouble if we didn’t keep the reservoir filled. Of course that meant a trip out to the spring house for a bucket of water before the ram was installed to pump the water up to the house.

  18. Becci,
    Funny you should mention AGA – We (Lehman’s) are getting ready to sell 2 different AGA stoves on our website! One is a woodburning cookstove and the other a gas range (available in natural gas or propane). Both are BEAUTIFUL and have lots of great updated features. Keep checking Lehmans.com – we should be adding them soon – and I’ll try to remember to post when we do.
    Sarah N.

  19. I would like some ideas on Installing a wood cook stove that I might acquire from Lehmans. I have a small woodstove for heating but it is often pressed into service during power outages for cooking and although I can fit 3 different size dutch ovens on the surface, it really wasnt designed for cooking. One of the dutch ovens, I purchased at Lehmans in Kidron Ohio and it is the LODGE brand. I like it but keep it seasoned with oil when you’re not using it or it tends to dry out and discolor or rust. I have several other LODGE cast iron fry pans, griddles, and meat press flatteners that I bought in Kidron.

    QUESTION????? If I install a Cooking Stove from Lehman, do I have to modify my chimney and wall that the existing wood stove is against?

  20. We put in an Ironheart “ESSE” wood cookstove in Nov. It heats the house and we’ve cooked on it everyday since it was installed. We love it. Our kids say they will now have stories to tell of wood cookstoves like Grandma. It is the only time we’ve wanted to get the natural gas bill. We want to see how much we are saving burning wood.
    Growing up we also had the summer kitchen we used it when the weather got hot.

  21. AndrewRaisedinOhioLivinginVermont wrote:

    >QUESTION????? If I install a Cooking Stove from Lehman, do I
    >have to modify my chimney and wall that the existing wood stove
    >is against?

    Insert disclaimer here-
    I’m not an expert in this field nor have I played one on television. These are my own thoughts and experiences in the matter so “salt” as you see fit.

    1st – Make sure your insurance company knows you have the new stove and plan on using it. I thought my agent was going to have a heart attack when I mentioned a desire to use a wood and coal burning stove inside the house on a daily basis.

    2nd – A building inspector can be very helpful to you. Have him or her out before, during, and after. Having an inspection will also help calm your insurance agent (see point 1 above). Keep the coffee pot on and remember to take notes and pictures. Have your chimney inspected by somebody working specifically in that field.

    3rd – Paranoia will see you through! I’ve never had a house fire nor do I plan on one in the foreseeable future. Don’t cut corners and go the extra distance to make sure you’ve “fire proofed” the area to the best of your ability. If your chimney is old but deemed “adequate”, you may want to consider going ahead and having a metal liner installed anyway. It’s tough to put a price on peace of mind!

    I’m in the process of rebuilding a rather large turn-of-the-century parlor stove that came out of a hotel lobby in Winnipeg. He’s a big boy! In the meantime, in an effort to cut into the utility company’s profits, I’ve installed a small Wehrle Pet No. 28. It’ll be moved out when the big stove gets moved in.

    Since your new stove will have listed clearances, use that as a starting point. Your inspector may require more inches from walls and the like and you certainly don’t want to go any less- even if you could.

    I took out 8 foot of exterior wall and installed a header very much like if I was putting in a sliding patio door. Laminated wood is wonderful for this sort of thing since you can easily get specs on deflection and what-have-you. I put the studs back in steel (no longer weight bearing because of the header) and filled the stud bays with non-faced fiberglass insulation. Cement backer board went up on both the outside and inside. I found some nice slate tile on sale and put that over the cement board on the inside. Double walled stainless pipe through the wall to my chimney.

    Both stoves have legs and adequate distance between the bottom of the ash box but I replaced the finish flooring with cement board and put in quarry tile over that. Note: Cutting quarry tile is no fun at all. If you have to cut something like that yourself- pick a different type of tile!

    If you’re not 110% sure that your floor joists are more than adequate- sister them. It’s amazing what may have been cut into by a previous homeowner or a less-than-attentive contractor along the way. It’s much easier to tear down and replace some dry wall, when visually inspecting the joists, than picking your new stove out of the basement upon finding that somebody effectively cut your floor joists down to 2x4s when installing a drain line.

    I also picked up a couple more fire extinguishers with the hopes they’ll never get used.

    When the larger stove goes in, I’ll put in a 3 by 5 foot steel heat reflector between the stove and the wall as the little “Pet” puts out enough heat to get the slate noticeably warm to the touch. The pot on the parlor stove is about 3 times the size of what I’m using now. I’m hopeful it’ll put out enough heat to keep the main floor warm all night and well into the morning.

    What nobody else has mentioned, but I’ve found to be invaluable, is setting up a metal box fan behind the stove. I keep it on low and the wall behind the fan doesn’t heat at all as it gently blows warmed air into the room. The kids ‘n’ critters love the warmed quarry tiles! If you like the sound of that, include an extra foot in your back clearances to accommodate it.

    Another vaguely related thought? If you think you’d like to burn coal, and the stove has a coal grate, make sure you can find somebody to sell it to you. The best I could do was 70 miles away but it’s proven to be a good thing as it’s approximately $80/ton and, at our current consumption, that’s a whole lot cheaper than running the electric furnace. There is more ash than what we saw burning just wood, but it’s not anywhere as troublesome and messy as I was told it would be.

    Hopefully I’ve offered up a couple of thoughts you’ll find useful to build on.

  22. Nice comment rjwade! Excellent points, I found out that the insurance company doesn’t get too excited if you have done all your homework, like you have outlined. Our insurance company got excited at first (sort of) then after finding out that we were having the Hitzer installed by a qualified installer and taking all the steps, they actually started asking questions about the stove itself. Wondering about burning coal. I thought folks would be interested. I am actually writing a series of articles on the coal stove and my experiences with it for the blog. Blog I should be posted tonight. I will tell you, that stove is amazing, and keeps the whole house toasty.
    Your point about worrying about a house fire is echoed here. I worry about that very event constantly, it drives every decision about that stove and our fireplace. I hope we have not spared any expense to keep the house safe. I am constantly thinking and rethinking things because of the threat. I will say though that the benefits greatly outweigh the threat, and I hope we are minimizing the threat as much as we can.

  23. RJ Wade: Thanks for your most thorough response. All good. I was wondering about the coal??? Is it Anthracite Coal (hard) or bituminous coal (soft) ? Does the dealer offer both? I used to burn coal in a fireplace when I was a kid in Ohio and went winter camping in a cabin.

    Also. regarding Lehmans carrying the AGA stoves: I went to AGA’s website and learned it is a company from the United Kingdom?? Must cost a fortune to ship those stoves from the UK to USA?

    I couldnt find a wood burning model of AGA on AGA’s website. Looking forward to seeing them at Lehmans as well.

    Also, regarding using the wood stoves as backup for prolonged power outages due to winter storms: in our power outage last month which lasted 12 hours, my neighbor was running a generator and was the only one in miles around who had lights and TV…. there was a New England Patriots game on during the outage. I could hear the noise from the generator running, and, of course, it most likely is using gasoline….at $3.15 a gallon here. We relied on the wood stove for cooking and heat that day and listened to the ball game on a battery powered radio and were perfectly content until the power was restored. We have oil lamps as well which we supply with parts from Lehmans….

  24. AndrewRaisedinOhioLivinginVermont wrote:

    >wondering about the coal??? Is it Anthracite Coal (hard) or
    >bituminous coal (soft) ? Does the dealer offer both? I used to burn
    >coal in a fireplace when I was a kid in Ohio and went winter

    As I understand it, there are basically three grades with bituminous being the softest, lignite, and finally anthracite.

    The problem isn’t going to be which type of coal you’ll burn in the stove so much as where you’re going to purchase it. Coal is pretty inexpensive and I’ve come to believe that the BTU differences are negligible- on a small scale. What beats up the budget isn’t purchasing the coal. The damage is done with the shipping costs.

    We live in the Northern end of the Red River Valley and the old-timers here are more than happy to share names and stories concerning coal suppliers. Unhappily, coal usage by the home market has long since dried up. I could undoubtedly purchase a rail car full with very little effort but finding a small quantity, something about like a pickup load, took some serious phone calling and answering machine tag. A man with less Scottish in his blood line might have thrown in the towel . . .

    What I finally found was a supplier, within driving distance, who could sell me either “stoker” or “chunk” coal by the ton.

    Chunk coal comes out of Central North Dakota and is less expensive than stoker coal. I’m pretty sure the chunk coal is a bituminous coal but I don’t believe it’s the softest form of coal as have I haven’t found it particularly messy to handle nor is it brownish in color. The chunks range in size from about baseball sized up to basketball sized. Apparently I can also get chunk coal in Volvo sized pieces but I’m not quite sure that would make hauling it home any easier. The coal has a grain and can be split into a manageable size by the average eleven year old boy with an old screw driver and a wooden mallet.

    Important Note: Eleven year old boys are optimal for coal splitting. Coal won’t split well for thirteen year old girls and the child will become upset, complain loudly about the unfairness of it all, and spend the rest of the afternoon spoiling the horses. I never got into the upper level chemistry classes but I think it has something to do with gender and molecular bonds . . . or not.

    The “stoker” coal is shipped into the dealer from Wyoming and is more expensive. It burns very nicely with a little bit less ash. The problem with stoker coal is that it is much smaller in size and a portion will drop through the grate. I brought home a five gallon bucket to try out and it took some experimenting before I was able to use it.

    When I decided to make the “Pet” functionally decorative (it took a week to get all the latex paint off of it!), I fabricated a replacement shaker grate out of square half inch cold rolled. The bars have a half inch space between them. Stoker coal appears to range in size from pea sized up to about large marble sized (~1.5 inches). I suspect it’s used primarily with furnaces that have a feeder mechanism on them. Anyway, I was losing too much coal through the grate before it had a good chance to burn. With continued use, I found that I could create a bed of embers, using pine and chunk coal, and pour/place the stoker coal into a mound on top of the embers. The embers keep the small stuff from falling through and the mound of stoker coal would burn from the edges in and make good heat this way. There is a catch! Don’t pile the hotter burning coal up against the side of the bowl- it will create hot spots and it’s hard on the stove. It’s also a little hard on the digestion as that cheery red/orange color is nice when I’m forging or welding but I don’t want it in my living room!

    >game on during the outage. I could hear the noise from the
    >generator running, and, of course, it most likely is using >gasoline….at $3.15 a gallon here. We relied on the wood stove for
    >cooking and heat that day and listened to the ball game on a

    We’ve got about the same fuel prices out here as well. I believe we’re at $3.05 a gallon today.

    My wife and I have spoken about starting a family tradition this year and I’m hoping I’ll have things in place to run with it. One weekend a month, I would like to take the house off utility power. We’ll play board games with the kids, cook on the wood stove, use the kerosene lamps (Aladdin! learn it, live it, love it!) and heaters, and just have a good time with it. Who knows, without the TV and/or PS2 running, we all might find one weekend a month where life is a little bit less noisy and we’re all good company. It’s tough to say with teenagers, but you don’t know until you try.

    That might sound a little abusive to some folks but probably not this crowd. My wife and I will enjoy the “no utility weekend” because it’s a “choice” and it also will help make sure everything is in place when the power does go out- which it does. Minus thirty wind chills and no electricity is not the time to find out your eldest child shanghaied the box of candles back to college for an art project.

  25. >wondering about the coal??? Is it Anthracite Coal (hard) or
    >bituminous coal (soft) ? Does the dealer offer both? I used to burn
    >coal in a fireplace when I was a kid in Ohio and went winter

    the wikipedia has a good article on the types of coal.
    I will bring the AGA stoves up to the stove experts here at Lehman’s.

    Also, I just posted an article about my coal stove. It will be the first of several.

  26. I love our wood stove. We heat only with wood and cook with wood all winter, we do have a propane kitchen stove for summer when its to hot out. There is nothing better than the smell of wood burning, the smell of a beef stew simmering on the stove, homemade bread baking in the oven,, How about the smell of that turkey cooking for hours,, yum yum…
    I grew up with wood on the other side of the mountain I live on now, you cant compare to the feel of a wood stove for heat when you come in from the cold,, you just cant snuggle up to a register grate.

  27. Nope, those register grates are just not comforting, are they? And you can’t put a teakettle on one, either, no matter how dry the air is! :)

  28. Glascock / Greensboro NC – Wood & Coal Stoves:
    Just found this site, I’ve visited Lehman’s a couple of times, plus discussed Glascock stoves with Jay Lehman.

    Farmlady (Oct. 20, 07) stated above “My little “Victor Junior” wood cookstove was right there”

    My Great, Great Grandfather founded Glascock foundries in 1873 in Greensboro NC, they would contiune to made wood & coal stoves, plus other cast iron items, until the mid 1960s. In the mid 1970s, J. M. Lancaster (Pomona Foundry) also of Greensboro NC, would lease the original patterns to the Victor Junior Range / Cook stove. During this period Lehman’s was a dealer for these Victor Junior Ranges / Cook stoves.

    I love hearing from owners or previous owners of Glascock products. I’ve been collecting for over 25 years, but the best part of my history records is the old stores & memories. Would like to hear from “farmlady” or anyone else that has a Glascock stove.

    Stay Warm and be safe with wood & coal heat.

    Nollie Neill, Jr.
    Glascock Stove Historian / Collector

  29. I live in GReensboro, NC and I am looking for Glascock. Where are they? Ar ethey still in existance? Thanks for the information

  30. Jreyes,

    You may contact me direct about Glascock Stoves or anyone can. The foundry shut down operation in the mid 1960s in Greensboro, NC. They contiuned to sale parts until the late 1970s. The last piece of property owned by the company was sold in 2004. As mentioned earlier on this site, this is part of my family and I’ve been collecting for years, plus have some parts for sale.

    Nollie Neill, Jr.
    Glascock Stove Historian / Collector
    http://www.glascockstove.com (still under construction)

  31. Ok I have an interesting question, I live in the Philippines and was considering putting an Oval cookstove in the summer kitchen. Wood is available here but what I want to know is can you burn chunk charcoal on the coal grate? Coal is nonexistent over here but charcoal the size of my fist is readily available.

  32. Hi, my name is Sharon and I work in the Stove dept. here at Lehman’s. I did a little research about Charcol and this is what I found.

    “Charcoal is a desirable fuel because it produces a hot, long-lasting, virtually smokeless fire.
    Basic charcoal is produced by burning a carbon-rich material such as wood in a low-oxygen atmosphere. This process drives off the moisture and volatile gases that were present in the original fuel. The resulting charred material not only burns longer and more steadily than whole wood, but it is much lighter (one-fifth to one-third of its original weight).”

    Because charcoal has less moisture and other chemcials this will reduce the amount of creosote buildup in your chimney. Creosote forms from building smaller fires or burning moisture laden wood.
    You’ll want to make sure that your stove is “air tight” so when you adjust the damper to control the amount of air coming into the stove it will slow down the rate of burn of the charcol.

  33. rjwade/AndrewRaisedinOhioLivinginVermont
    Sharon/Stove Specialist @Lehman’s
    I read the comments you wrote about AGA. Yes they are a European Co. They recently purchased Heartland Appliances in Canada and their new name is AGA-Heartland. AGA took their stove design and combined it with Heartlands woodburning technology. Thus we have the Artisan, which is a wood burning coo stove and also the Cookmaster which is LP or Natural gas stove.