Sunday, December 30, 2012

The Difference Between a Cookstove and a Range

I have been preparing a post (actually, what may become a series of posts) about regulating the heat of a wood cookstove's oven.  During my research, I was reminded of a technicality that I think perhaps I ought to address, especially since I always say that I want this blog to be about "all things cookstove."

I always use the word "cookstove" to denote a stove which is used for cooking and is fueled by wood or coal.  This is a common use of the word, and most people know exactly what I mean when I use the word this way.  However, our ancestors used this word to indicate only the small stoves which looked like the picture below.  The Original Fannie Farmer 1896 Cook Book notes that the ovens on these stoves could usually be opened from both sides.  One of the oven doors is open in the picture below.  The door to the upper left of the oven door would have been one way to access the firebox, which jutted into the top left area of the oven.

Photo from

 A kitchen "range" was so named because of the larger range of different heat levels that it allowed the cook.  A range, or "set range," was a built-in affair which usually had its firebox in the center.  Ovens would appear on each side of the firebox, or might appear above the cooktop altogether, as in the picture below. 

Photo of a range at the Culinary Arts Museum in Providence, RI,
In 1896, Fannie Farmer wrote: "Set ranges, as they consume so large an amount of fuel, are being replaced by portable ones."  She further states that "A portable range is a cooking-stove with one oven door."  Thus, what I am always referring to as a cookstove is technically a "portable range."

Enterprise-Fawcett's Monarch Range.  This picture
is from their website:
This is a "portable range."
Something tells me that I might have a hard time convincing the four men who helped us move the Margin Gem into our kitchen that it is "portable."  I'm going to continue to refer to the portable range as a cookstove, and you'll all just have to forgive me for being technically incorrect. 

Phew!  I'm glad we've got this all cleared up.


  1. Whatever the size, they all are beautiful.

  2. thank you for the information though-Happy New Year!

  3. We are reading the Little House in the Prairie series with our family. At the beginning of the 4th book, "On the Banks of Plum Creek," While walking, Pa carries their new wood stove 2 miles from town to their new home. I have often wondered how on earth he managed to do that alone?!??! Obviously that was a "portable range"!

  4. I think Pa Ingalls carried the wood stove in their buckboard wagon and not on his back.

    1. Well I just had to open up my copy of "On the Banks of Plum Creek" to check! Here is the direct quotation:

      "...Pa came rattling down the path. He was carrying a little tin stove and two pieces of stove pipe.
      "Whew!" he said, setting them down. "I'm glad I had to carry them only three miles."

      So I guess tin is lighter than cast iron so maybe that explains how he carried the stove. But he carried three miles, not two, wow!

  5. Great post! So interesting. I love the collection of photos. I had no idea there was such a range of cookstove options. [Pun is intended and for the amusement of my 14yo, who lives to pun.]

    1. I was raised on "punny" jokes, so I can appreciate the humor. Happy New Year!

  6. Jim, I like your Blog, I'd like to promote you and join forces, we just started a Cookstove Community with a forum and everything. Let me know if your interested in promoting each other for the good of the Wood Cook Stove. You can contact me at .