Monday, March 11, 2013

Baking Potatoes in Your Wood Cookstove

I know that Irish potatoes have been on the receiving end of a lot of bad press lately, and I understand the reasons for this, but I have to admit that I'm still a loyal potato fan.  Hands down, my favorite way to eat potatoes is to have them mashed, however, Nancy and I like baked potatoes too. 

Over the weekend, winter storm Triton hit our area with much needed rain on Friday night and Saturday, some ice early Sunday morning, and then what was supposed to be a little bit of snow.  The one to four inches which were forcast became somewhere between eight and nine inches yesterday afternoon with blizzard conditions.  School was cancelled today, which was a gift from God, since we had been gone to State Speech Contest in Nevada, Iowa, over Friday night and during the day on Saturday, and I needed some time to get caught up with some paper checking.

Unfortunately, we didn't get a chance to cut firewood on the weekend before last, and with the weather being so uncooperative this weekend, things are looking pretty grim in the woodshed.  To conserve fuel, we had forgone having a fire in the Jotul heating stove, and we were trying to get by on just the heat from the cookstove.  This has made it much more chilly in the house than we are used to because the Margin Gem is not able to heat our drafty farmhouse by itself.

I checked papers next to the open oven door this morning, and I really didn't want to close it in order to make my noon dinner, so I planned my menu accordingly.  For my staple, I decided that a couple of baked potatoes sounded really good.  Of course, one can very easily bake potatoes in the oven of a wood cookstove.  My preference is to bake them at about 400 degrees for an hour.  One could also use various pans or stovetop ovens to bake them on the stovetop, but this would have reduced the heat that was radiating from the stove into the room--something that I certainly didn't want today--and I was only going to be baking a couple of medium-sized spuds.  I've also read about people wrapping them in foil and baking them in the ash pan beneath the fire.   I think that accessing the ash pan for cooking is messy, though, so I developed a different method several years ago.

After washing and piercing the potatoes with a fork, I wrap them tightly in foil.  Then, I remove one of the lids above the oven and lay the potatoes on top of the oven box with the small sides facing the firebox.  Don't put the potatoes with their long sides toward the firebox because you don't want to impede the draft of the stove any more than necessary.  I turn the potatoes so that the opposite short side is toward the fire after about twenty minutes.

The potatoes wrapped in foil and resting on top of the oven box.
Please excuse the unattractive state of the cooktop.  What can I say?
The stove is under hard use.  The beauty of the wood cookstove is that
those marks (some accidental drippings from the side of a cast iron
skillet) will eventually just cook away since the stove is continually fired.
The amount of time that it takes the potatoes to cook thoroughly is dependent on how hot the fire is, how large the potatoes are, etc.  I've seen them be completely cooked in as little as a half hour, but they can take a full hour too.  I always test them to see if they are done by squeezing them.  If they give, they are done.

The perfect finished product.

I rounded out today's dinner with home-canned round steak (probably the smartest thing I've done with round steak--soooo tender!) and some leftover baked beans.  It was delicious.

Certainly, one cannot bake a large number of potatoes using this method because you don't want to hamper the draft of your stove, but if you are going to only bake a couple of potatoes, this does the trick.  I know that some people who read this will think that a microwave is is great for baking just a couple of potatoes in a hurry.  All I can say is don't get me started on what I think of microwaved baked potatoes!


  1. Thank you for sharing these tips! And I agree 110% about the microwaved "baked" potatoes ;)

  2. I have two different ideas for baked potatoes, one modern, one from a Victorian cookbook:

    1. Bake at 350 degrees for 2 hours. It won't burn--I promise! This makes them creamy and nutty-tasting.

    2. Bake at 500 degrees for a half-hour. This makes them as light and as powdery as the Alpine snow. (This one came from the Victorians.)

    Bon Appetit!