Tuesday, December 29, 2015

Using the Wood Cookstove as a Slow-Cooker

On some cold days, you just don't want to shut the oven door on a woodburning cookstove.  In fact, you simply don't want to do anything that will reduce the radiant surface area of the cookstove.  The cooking method that I'm sharing in this blog post is perfect for those cold days--like yesterday and today--when the fire is going full tilt for heat and you don't want to sacrifice any of it for cooking your supper.

I first tried this almost eight years ago when I wanted to see if I could mimic a Crock-pot with the oven of the wood cookstove.  In a Crock-pot, the heat comes at the food from the sides as well as the bottom of the crock.  I have only used this cooking method for slow-cooking roasts, but it works really well.

First, you must select an appropriate cooking vessel.  Yesterday, I used my three-quart Saladmaster saucepan.  It belonged to Granny, who purchased it in 1963 and used it so hard that the handle fell off years before it ended up in my possession in the late 1990s.  Its handlelessness (I know that's not a word, but I like it anyway.) is precisely the reason that I use it.  You want to choose a vessel that can have all parts of it exposed to heat.  I don't use the lid that actually goes with this pot because it has a handle that would not be oven safe.  Instead, I used an all metal lid that I purchased at a second-hand store in Atlantic.  I have used aluminum foil as a lid, too.

Next, prepare your food as you would for any ordinary slow cooker.  I had chosen a small chuck roast, so I first seared the outside of it in a little butter.  Then I added some beef broth, some dried onions, and some seasonings.

Place the cover on the vessel.

Slide it into the rear corner of the oven closest to the firebox side of the stove.  Leave it there with the oven door open for as long as is necessary to cook whatever you have chosen.  Our small roast was in the corner of the oven from about ten o'clock in the morning to our suppertime at half past six.

In most wood cookstoves, this corner of the oven would be the hottest area because the firebox is immediately to the left, and when the oven damper is in the baking position (where ours stays during cold weather), all of the flue gases travel up the back of the oven on their way to the stovepipe.

To increase the heat, I removed the rack from below the kettle in the middle of the afternoon.  This afforded greater heat transfer to the food by conducting heat directly from the oven floor to the bottom of the kettle.

The roast turned out to be very flavorful, and coupled with potatoes that we baked this way and some homegrown frozen sweet corn, it made an excellent supper.

On the upper side of the roast, you can see two light-colored
places where bubbles had been rising as the roast simmered
in the open oven.
If you try using this method of slow cooking in your wood or coal cookstove, please let me know how it worked for you by utilizing the comments section below.  Happy cooking!

1 comment:

  1. Hey Jim. Awesome idea. Coastal South Carolina is a bit too warm for a fire this week, but next week I can see a slow oven roast in our future.