Cooking On A Wood Burning Stove: A Comprehensive Guide

Wood stoves are safe, efficient and even fun to cook on. In fact, people have been cooking on wood stoves for many centuries. 

Aside from providing an energy-conscious way to heat the house, wood stoves provide an alternate way to cook and keep food warm. They are also a reliable option to keep your family safe and fed if there is a power outage. Cooking on a wood fire offers charm and encourages you to slow down (just be sure to take the necessary safety precautions).

Consider adding a wood-burning stove to your home. Find inspiration from the Forge & Flame gallery.

Can You Cook On A Wood-Burning Stove?

Common myths like “it takes too long to heat up,” “the food doesn’t turn out” or “the heat isn’t consistent,” simply aren't true. Cooking on a wood-burning stove is possible and creates an enriching experience. Any stove top with a hot surface can be used for cooking with the proper cookware and following a few safety measures.

At first, expect a slight learning curve as you figure out what works best for your stove, but it’ll soon be second nature. While it may not be as simple as turning the knob of a kitchen stove, using a wood-burning stove is fun and rewarding.

Types of Wood Stoves For Cooking

Most wood stoves are primarily designed for heating, but given their versatility as a tool for cooking, many wood stoves now come with a dedicated cooking surface. If you’ve ever wondered if wood stoves are worth the money, keep this dual purpose in mind.

Using a wood-burning stove is a nice option for any space and cooking can quickly become a new favorite hobby. Let’s go through the types of wood stoves that you can use for cooking. 

Wood-Burning Heater Stove

Wood-burning heater stoves provide steady heat that keeps your most loved spaces warm, even throughout the winter months. They emit radiant heat in all directions.

Wood-burning heater stoves primarily heat spaces but also offer cooking functionality, often incorporating a built-in cooking surface. For instance, our Defiant, Encore, Dauntless, Intrepid, and Aspen wood-burning stoves, designed for heating, include a cast-iron griddle on top. The Dauntless stove even allows you to cook inside the stove for a one-of-a-kind experience. If a wood stove lacks a cooktop, cooking accessories such as cooking plates and trivets provide alternative cooking surfaces, and protect the top of your stove from damage.

Wood-Burning Cook Stove

Built specifically for culinary use, wood-burning cook stoves have a full surface on top designed just for cooking. Radiant heat is just a secondary benefit of these stoves. Some wood-burning cook stoves have multiple heating zones, warming drawers and even built-in ovens. This enables you to cook and bake a much wider variety of items, from breads to soups to desserts.

Despite their higher energy efficiency and affordability compared to gas or electric alternatives, wood-burning cook stoves have lost popularity as the primary cooking method.

Defiant Wood Stove

Using a wood pellet stove during a power outage keeps you safe, warm and cozy with a reliable and consistent alternative to other heating options.

How to Cook With A Wood-Burning Stove

Cooking on a wood-burning stove is truly an art. From selecting the right type of wood to making sure you are cooking in the right spots to finally serving the meal, it takes some time to learn this new set of skills, so be sure to give yourself some patience and grace.

With a little bit of preparation and research, you’ll be well on your way to mastering the art of cooking on a wood stove. And with the proper care and maintenance, cooking on your wood stove will be a fun tradition that you can share with many generations to come.

Choose the Right Type of Wood

When preparing for cooking on a wood stove, it’s important to select the right type of wood. The type of wood you use for stove cooking will affect the burn time, heat output, flame intensity and flavor of the food. For the best burn with minimal smoke, opt for properly seasoned wood (stored for at least a year in a dry place). Always use dry wood for optimal results.

  • Oak: Known as one of the best types of firewood, oak burns long and slow with consistent heat and a low flame, but requires a couple of years to season for the best burn.
  • Ash: Another well-known type of firewood, ash provides great heat and minimal smoke. It also holds less moisture than other types of wood, so it does not require as long to season.
  • Maple: Burning similarly to ash, maple will give you nice, steady heat without requiring long to season, but produces more ash.
  • Birch: Although birch burns more quickly than other options, it provides good heat and imparts a nice flavor to the food, so try mixing in a log or two with the other options listed.

Learn Your Stove’s Hot Spots

Stove-top cooking on a wood-burning stove involves a bit of trial and error, including finding and testing out your stove’s hot spots. The easiest way to do this is to purchase a surface thermometer. You’ll find plenty of options out there: analog, digital and even handheld infrared thermometers to measure the surface cooking temperature of your stove top.

Keep in mind that the temperature of your stove top will vary based on the intensity of the fire you have going. Once you have a sense of which areas on your wood stove top are the hottest, you’ll be better prepared to cook. For example, when cooking a steak, you’ll want to use the hot spots on the stove top but for stews or soups, you’ll want a spot that is less hot where you can let it slowly simmer. 

Preheat Your Pans While Prepping

While prepping your ingredients, you can multitask by preheating the pans you will use. Simply place them on the stove top and allow them to heat up on their own. Preheating your pans will save time and energy, heating your food faster and more evenly.

Having your pans heated to the appropriate temperature can also reduce sticking, which sometimes happens with lukewarm pans, by creating a smoother surface for cooking and drawing moisture away from the surface of the pan. Plus, you’ll get a nice brown crispiness to your food when the pans are preheated.

Rotate Your Food

When using a wood stove to cook, always keep an eye on your food and try rotating the pan if you aren’t getting even heat. One nice benefit of wood-burning stove cooking is that even if your dish cooks faster than expected, you can use the cooler areas of the stove top to keep the food warm while you prepare the rest of your dinner. 

Use Pan Lids While Cooking

With most dishes you prepare in a wood stove kitchen, pan lids can not only help with preventing splatter but also speed up cooking time. By placing a lid on your pan while cooking, you trap the heat and moisture from the steam so the food can heat evenly and absorb more flavor from the other items in the pan. Overall, using pan lids allows for more cooking options, like slow and low for soups, giving you consistent heat and making cleanup a breeze. 

Be Patient and Practice

Above all, remember that cooking on a wood stove requires some extra patience and practice. There’s a learning curve with becoming proficient in wood stove cooking, including finding the best spots, getting the fire just right, and knowing how long to cook your food. It’s not like a regular gas or electric stove where you set the dial and you’re good to go.

Once you’ve mastered the art of cooking on a wood-burning stove, the results will pay off in spades and you’ll feel a great sense of pride for your new skillset. You’ll also have another safe and reliable food preparation option at any time with or without power, and delicious food to keep everyone satisfied.

Learn about the pros, cons and costs of wood stoves and how to know if it’s the right zone heating solution for you.

Can You Cook in the Firebox?

The firebox is the part of the stove where the fuel is burned and is the central connection to your chimney. This part of the stove can be used for cooking but it is best to have heavy-duty fire resistant gloves, and a grill inside the box since you’ll be in direct contact with the flame, not just the heat. Firebox cooking also requires more practice to get familiar with temperatures and how long to cook your meals.

The benefit of cooking in a firebox is that the food receives heat on all sides, simulating an oven environment. 

For example, the Dauntless FlexBurn Wood-Burning Stove has an optional cooking grill insert to make cooking in the firebox a breeze. This grilling accessory works well for cooking any type of food you would normally cook on a grill, like hamburgers, vegetables or chicken. 

Wood-Burning Stove Cooking Tools

Just like a chef has a set of knives for cooking in the kitchen, you’ll want the following items in your toolkit for wood-burning stove cooking. While not essential in a traditional kitchen, these utensils will assist you in maintaining optimal heat, identifying the best cooking spots on the stove top and ensuring safe use of your wood stove. Like most things, investing in quality can make a big difference and ensure the pieces are in your toolkit for many years to come.

  • Oven Gloves or Mitts: While oven gloves give you a bit more flexibility and grip, oven mitts work well too. Look for oven gloves or mitts with premium heat resistance, anything over 900 degrees Fahrenheit is ideal for wood stove cooking.
  • Magnetic Stove Thermometer: Magnetic stove thermometers allow you to easily and accurately monitor the temperature of your stovetop. You’ll find both analog and digital options and the magnet conveniently attaches right to the surface of the stove. 
  • Cooking Plate: Especially useful for wood-burning heating stoves where the top isn’t designed for cooking, cooking plates are generally cast iron and allow for a smooth and even cooking surface. 
  • Cast Iron Trivet: Usually made of cast iron, trivets raise the cooking pot, pan or kettle, allowing heat to circulate underneath and create a more even heat. Cast iron trivets also prevent damage to cookware surfaces and can keep your kettle from boiling dry.
  • Heavy-Duty Cookware: The best cookware for wood stove cooking is cast iron. Its durability allows it to withstand high temperatures as well as rapid changes in temperature, both of which you can expect when cooking on a wood stove. 
  • Toasting Fork: Perfect for crisping up bread, marshmallows, hot dogs and other foods cooked over an open fire, a toasting fork has a long handle to allow you to maintain a safe distance from the fire.
  • Grate or Grilling Basket: In addition to giving the food a good char, grates allow maximum heat by letting air flow up and around the food. Similarly, grilling baskets give you the ease and flexibility to cook vegetables and other items. 

Learn about the 2024 Wood Stove Tax Credit and how it can save you money on a new wood-burning stove.

Wood-Burning Stove Recipes

Some of the best recipes for cooking on the stove are ones you can make on a single skillet. Good examples include steak, pot roasts, soups and even casseroles. Whether you’re cooking breakfast, lunch or dinner, the options are endless from savory to sweet and everything in between. Just remember to always keep an eye on your food and don’t be surprised if it takes you a couple of tries to perfect a recipe.

  • Porterhouse SteakThis cast iron skillet porterhouse steak moves to the oven once the outside is nice and crispy, but not to worry! You can mimic the oven by placing a large lid on top of the cast iron skillet to seal in the heat. 
  • Campfire Breakfast HashPerfect for a weekend morning, this one-pan breakfast hash is equally healthy and easy, with plenty of ways to customize and make it your own.
  • Stovetop Pot RoastThis hearty stovetop pot roast recipe has all the usual ingredients and will warm you right up!
  • Skillet Chicken Pot PieThis deliciously creamy one-pot chicken pot pie also finishes in the oven, which you can replicate using the firebox or our handy trick above. 
  • Tater Tot CasseroleA Midwest favorite, this spin on the traditional tater tot casserole is elevated with a layer of creamed spinach, fancy cheese and extra crispiness from the cast iron skillet.

Enjoy Delicious Meals and Cozy Heat With Forge & Flame Wood-Burning Stoves

Forge & Flame is the union of three heritage stove brands passionate about creating quality stoves that will last generations: HarmanVermont Castings and Quadra-Fire. Each brand has a distinct look and feel, giving you a wide range of options to choose from.

Whether you’re on the hunt for a beautiful and traditional Intrepid FlexBurn Wood-Burning Stove or something a little more modern and compact like our Aspen C3 Wood-Burning Stove, we’ve got it all when it comes to wood-burning stoves with cook tops. Read more about our story and find a store near you to shop today!

And don’t forget to take a look through our quick care and maintenance videos to keep your wood-burning stove running at peak performance all year long. 

Cooking On A Wood-Burning Stove FAQ

Can you bake with a wood-burning stove?

Baking is definitely possible with a wood-burning stove. In fact, some wood-burning cook stoves will have a small oven built in.

How often should I clean my wood-burning stove for cooking?

To keep your wood stove in top shape and burning wood safely, inspect it regularly and have it thoroughly cleaned at least once per year. When inspecting your stove, check for any cracks, especially around the stove pipe, and make sure the door gaskets still have a tight seal. A full cleaning will remove any build-up, help prevent chimney fires and keep your stove running efficiently.

Can I use any type of wood in my wood-burning stove for cooking?

While you technically could use any type of wood in your stove, not all will result in optimal fire for cooking. It’s best to use hardwoods like oak, maple and ash. Allow your wood to dry out, or season, for at least a year before using it in your wood-burning stove to ensure it’s thoroughly dry and will provide the best possible heat and flavor. 

How do I ensure even cooking when using a wood-burning stove?

As you continue to practice, you’ll get a better feel for cooking on your wood stove top and learn the best spots to use depending on the level of heat you need. Rotating your pan as you cook can help you achieve the most even cooking, as well as using other tools like cooking plates and trivets for consistent heat.

Are there any foods that aren't recommended for wood stove cooking?

With a little bit of creativity, the possibilities are limitless for wood stove cooking. Some recipes that require precise temperatures or involve extra large ingredients, like pizza or ribs, may be more difficult and are best cooked on a traditional stove top, oven or grill.

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