Prepping 101: Stovetop Baking With Wood


Resources:
Portable Woodstove $58.95 Shipped on Ebay
SilverFire Hunter Rocket Stove $219

Butterfly Oven – $79 St. Paul Mercantile
Perfection Oven – Lehmans $219

Have you noticed that survival is almost always a Catch 22? And by that I don’t mean rimfire lol. What I mean is you have to make a choice in just about everything, because there is never one clear solution. This week I am tackling the conundrum of flour. It is the cheapest of long term survival foods in calories per dollar. But for many of us the most available type of cooking fuel is wood, and certainly long term, wood is a backup for even city dwellers who can dismantle empty homes. Baking edible food with flour, using wood, is a challenge. Stovetop ovens are made for propane and kerosene, not smoky nasty wood.

If you follow this column, you know that I am a big fan of the Stovec Rocket Stove, which can be found as cheap as $109 shipped. When I first thought about cooking in a survival situation, I got really depressed because I know that even if you store 1,000 gallons of liquid fuel, eventually it runs out. And though I think there will be a wealth of fuel in the abandoned cars from the people who didn’t read this column and killed each other in the streets, I think of wood as much more available long term. Have you tried to cook with wood not using a Rocket Stove? It isn’t fun, and you use a ton of fuel to get very little cooking done.

The Rocket Stove concept is something of fuzzy science, but in practice it works great. The theory is that you trap and insulate the burn chamber so that the wood gas and carbon monoxide burn, rather than bleed off. In open fire those gases are wasted. This gives you more BTUs, and you can accomplish a lot of cooking with a small amount of wood. If you look at my old articles, you’ll see that I even successfully canned using a Rocket Stove, with a handful of sticks. Those jars of veggies are still viable today. Rocket Stoves in general are a game changer, and if you don’t own one, get one.

Baking has been a challenge with my Rocket Stoves because even under the best and most efficient burn, wood produces smoke. I have tried using my Coleman stovetop oven with the StoveTec, and it the food, while edible, noticeably tastes smokey, but not like a smoked flavor. It doesn’t seem to matter what type of wood I use. Whatever I cook, bread, muffins, even chicken, comes out with a very acrid and sharp taste.

That led me to another Rocket Stove company, SilverFire, who I am told are actually ex employees of StoveTec. I bought one of their Hunter Stoves about a year ago, and initially I was not impressed. They market the stove as something that you can use indoors, because it has a chimney, like a real woodstove, but with an open flame. When it came in, I saw that it was kind of a gimmick, because in order for smoke to go up the chimney, you have to completely seal the top of the stove off with a pan or pot. So much for open flame and no smoke, and I would absolutely not light the SilverFire Hunter stove in a tent, camper, ice fishing shanty, or even something the size of a mobile home. As you light it and it gets going, it does smoke, and it isn’t like a real woodstove where the smoke goes out the chimney, regardless.

The SilverFire Hunter, you’ll notice, also doesn’t have a fuel shoot on the side. That means you have to uncap whatever it is that you are sealing the stove with, and add fuel from the top, subjecting you to yet more potential smoke.

As a general Rocket Stove product, I think the Hunter is a disaster, but as you can see in the video, as a burn base for a stovetop oven, it works fine, outdoors. It took some wrangling to figure it out, but I found that if you put a cast iron cap on the stove, an oven placed on the cap will hold at 300-400 degrees with a steady supply of fuel. In this video I used the Butterfly Oven from St. Paul Mercantile. It holds heat much better than the collapsible Coleman oven I have used in other videos.

For economy of wood fuel, there is nothing like a Rocket Stove, and for stovetop baking, I think the SilverFire Hunter is about the best you can get, simply because they have created a drafting system around a very small and efficient fuel chamber. They now sell a cast iron cap for the Hunter, so I guess I wasn’t the only one who thought their marketing was deceptive. I have never gotten a return email from the SilverFire people to date.

At the beginning of this video you will see that I also tested the small woodstove that I bought and tested last year for this column. And again, it took some wrangling, but I figured out how to get that stove to burn at a pretty good efficiency, just as I ran out of wood lol. The point of this woodstove is that it is cheap, and really good thick steel that should last years. If you are in a home where you can’t want to dedicate a real woodstove, but you want a woodstove backup, I don’t think there is a better option. With proper fire precautions, you could get an elbow and sheet of aluminum at Home Depot and vent this stove through a makeshift stovejack out of your apartment window.

The real find is the Lehman’s Perfection Oven, and I was able to successfully test it with the little Ebay woodstove, just as a proof of concept. The Perfection Oven is an old product from the turn of the last century, and was still in service up through the 1950s in the US for homes that weren’t on the electric grid. It is a full size two burner stovetop oven made for the old Boss flat wick kerosene stoves. I will be covering that stove and this oven next week, using diesel, so stay tuned.

For those of you with existing woodstoves, the Lehman oven is a no brainer, and probably my most valuable find to date. Old Perfection Stoves, even rusty and dirty, still go for over $100 plus shipping on Ebay because people don’t know that Lehmans has an Amish company making new ones for $219. There is a wait time on them though, so if you are reading this column early Monday, I would get your order in quickly.

As I explained briefly in the video (as briefly as I do anything lol), BTUs are BTUs. You’ll see that I used probably 5x as much wood running the woodstove as I did for the Rocket Stove, but if I were able to measure the BTUs, it would have been 5x as much. The trick with burning wood is to stretch your BTUs out as you need them, with as little waste as possible. So if you are already heating with wood, and you have a sealed, nicely drafted woodstove, a stovetop oven will bring you more benefit from the BTUs you are already burning. I would also check out the Devil Watt product that I reviewed some time ago.

The Ebay woodstove runs pretty clean if you jam the door shut like I did at the end of the video. It isn’t going to be as efficient as a proper gasket, but I was surprised at the increase in heat with the stove damped down completely, just as I ran out of wood of course. I have yet to try the $995 wood cookstove that I bought for this column, but I hope to get to it soon. As some of the commenters had explained, when I thought it was a limited time deal (it is not), that cookstove is smaller than the $1,700 – $3,000 models you see on Lehmans, but it is still a good find.

And obviously, you can make pancakes in a frypan with flour and sugar and live on those. It isn’t like you are limited to bread. At some point I’m going to break open my cast iron stovetop waffle irons to show you how those work as well, even though I’m sure at least a few of you already have one. As I said in the video, getting you guys to go back and read the old stuff here has been a real challenge. Many of you have seen my frustration dealing with clueless and often incorrect comments about subjects I have already tested. But for the silent tens of thousands of you out there who read this column every month and just go buy the stuff, I don’t think that there is a better cooking investment than a stovetop oven, even that $30 Amazon Prime Coleman oven I linked to above. If you can afford the Perfection, it is so much easier. I hope we have the six weeks it’ll take you to get one, but you never know. How much longer can they extend and pretend? Days? Weeks? Months? Years? I hope it is years, for all of our sakes, but I am increasingly thinking that this is not going to be so.

{ 12 comments… add one }
  • Phillip March 28, 2016, 5:14 pm

    I agree with a previous comment. Use a dutch oven. Lots of info on that. So, why don’t you try making charcoal in a TLUD cooker. Much of the world still cooks on charcoal. So, a good prepper should consider knowing how to make and use it.

  • Charlie Valenzuela March 28, 2016, 9:41 am

    Don’t forget tortillas. A little salt, a little water, and some flour. Roll a golfball size gob flat using a 3-liter pepsi bottle filled with water for weight, or just pat the gob between your hands until it is thin. Put in a medium hot (dances a drop of water) frypan or griddle for about 30-60 seconds, flip over for the same amount of time on the other side and they are ready to eat. If you don’t have a bit of grease or oil for the pan/griddle, then just dust a bit of dry flour on the flattened gob before it goes onto the hot surface to keep it from sticking. Bon appetite!
    Or do stick bread on the camp fire with nothing but a hot stick wrapped with a twist of the same flour & water mixture.
    Note: you can prepare this with plain sea water and leave the salt out of the mixture. . . . . .

  • Wane Miller March 28, 2016, 9:24 am

    These are cool, But I can do everything they do in a Dutch oven.

    • d'Lynn Morrison March 28, 2016, 11:20 am

      I was just about to say the same. A agree with having a rocket stove [ have two ] ., but I have successfully baked bread, corn bread, muffins., even cinnamon rolls in my dutch ovens. I don’t think I really need anything else.

      • Paul Helinski March 28, 2016, 11:55 am

        Yea, as I said, I have an article in the works on dutch ovens in general. I actually have the huge ones as well as the normal Walmart size, but in my experience, comments like this fall into the “you can just” category. If you would like, make a video of how you use your
        dutch oven with a regular rocket stove and how you have learned to control the burn so that you can make bread and muffins that aren’t burned on one side. In my experience the “you can just” comments are generally people who have read that something can be done but haven’t tried it. There is a whole body of knowledge with dutch ovens cooking evenly with charcoal as well, and charcoal is a great long term storage fuel. By all means, if you have actual experience, you should share it.

        • Rob March 28, 2016, 1:58 pm

          Thank you for another great article and here is something I can share from personal experience: I have had the “ebay wood stove” for a coupe of years now and I have cooked whole meals on it for a family of four as well as made pizzas in the Coleman camp stove on top and baked bread.
          First off, I burnt off the paint, but instead of repainting it I seasoned the steel by coating it with a thin layer of cooking spray or Olive oil from a spray can after each use. It is now black but with no paint in a lot of places and it does not rust.
          Secondly, I took the flimsy handle off the door and made a handle by cutting a piece of steel stock bar and drilling two holes in it, one hole on each end. One hole for attaching it to the stove door with the screw that comes with the stove and attaches the standard handle to the door. In the hole at the other end I mounted a ceramic knob to open and close the door without having to use the poker or burn my hands. It is a solid handle and the door closes very tight now. From expanded steel sheet I made a rack to keep the fire off the bottom and to have better draft of the fire and to keep the bottom from burning out. It makes it easy to push the ashes out the back without disturbing the fire and to keep a good draft going. I also made a coal basket from expanded steel sheet to use charcoal in the stove without the coal falling off the sides of the rack into the ashes below. The coal basked goes on top of the other rack.
          To cook a meal and use the Coleman camp stove to make pizza or to bake bread etc. I use the tubes on the sides of the stove to put in meat, vegetables, and potatoes wrapped in aluminum foil. I put all that into the tubes and close the tubes off on each side with an empty food or soup can (4 cans total needed). While that is cooking I bake a bread in the Coleman oven sitting on top of the wood stove, or two small pizzas. In order to bake the pizzas I have cut two “pizza stones” from regular ceramic tile that fit exactly on the two racks inside the Coleman oven, with some room on the sides for the hot air to circulate around the inside of the oven.
          That is probably the best stove you can buy for the money because even though it uses more wood than a rocket stove you can cook A LOT of food on it all at once and if you live in a wooded area like I do the fuel literally grows on trees all around! But you will need to totally clean out all of the ashes each time after you use the stove or the ashes left inside the stove will attract moisture and the bottom will rust out.
          Most people probably don’t know how to bake bread. I bake about 2 or 3 loafs of bread per week for my family.
          The easiest bread recipe to use is “6-3-3-13”, which is 6 cups of water, 3 tablespoons of salt , 3 tablespoons of yeast, and 13 cups of flour. You can cut those numbers in half to make a smaller batch (or double to make a larger batch). Put the dry ingredients (salt and flour) together and mix them. Put the yeast in the water after you have warmed up the water to about lukewarm and wait until it kind of “foams up” (float the yeast on top and do not mix it with the water). Then mix that in very well with the salt and the flour. Cover that with something and let it rise until the dough is about twice as big as what you started with. Then mix in either more water or flower ( by kneading) until you get a dough that barely sticks to your hands (you can put some vegetable oil on you hands to keep I from sticking too much). Grease your loaf pans with butter or oil, put in the dough until just under the rim and let it rise a second time until just higher than the rim of the loaf pan. Bake in the oven at 350F (for whole wheat flour) for about 45 minutes, or 450F (white flour) for about 30 minutes. Larger loafs will take a little longer and smaller loafs or buns will take a little shorter. There are many ways to make bread but this method works well for me without having to follow a “recipe”. It really is very easy to do once you know it and you can mix other ingredients into your dough by following your creative imagination . Probably the best way to learn to make bread is to just go ahead and do it and maybe make a few mistakes along the way.
          Sorry, I hope this did not turn out too long.

          • Paul Helinski March 28, 2016, 8:51 pm

            You know what’s funny is that they only sold 4 of those woodstoves today even though several hundred people clicked into them. I can see the dumb look on people’s faces when the power goes out and the gas lines no longer pump gas. Hey I did my part lol.

            The water jacket for that stove is back on Ebay cheap:
            http://www.ebay.com/itm/Stainless-Steel-Outdoor-Water-Kettle-for-Wood-Military-Camping-Stove-Flue-Pipe/400692352328

          • Rob March 29, 2016, 12:28 am

            There will be a lot of dumb looks like you mentioned, but some people will be silently smiling and you will be one of them.
            That is a great stove and I am very happy with it. A water jacket is a good thing to add to it, thanks for the link. I think I’ll buy one. (Or two. One for making tea and one for heating up bath water). Cooking dinner, baking bread, and making tea all at the same time on one stove with a hand full of sticks! Maybe drill two holes in one of the water jackets, put bulkhead fittings in, hook up 2 hoses and a 12 volt water pump and car battery and the wife and kids can have a hot bath while we are cooking.

        • Rob March 29, 2016, 9:33 pm

          Paul, you may get a little better response from your audience if you would edit this article and call it “How to use a wood stove to melt lead and cast great bullets!” I know for a fact that melting lead with a wood stove and casting bullets with it is very possible.

          • Paul Helinski March 29, 2016, 10:17 pm

            How many gunfights do you expect to be in Rob? After the collapse I don’t think a lot of people will be plinking lol. I wouldnn’t wast fuel on melting bullets when all those dead people will have ammo in their houses.

          • Rob March 29, 2016, 11:03 pm

            I would not know how many gunfights but I would imagine maybe at least a few of them?
            But you have a good point there.
            I’m just wondering why there is so little response to this article compared to some of your other articles.
            Maybe very few people are interested in bread anymore these days, or a little too much Fluorosilicic acid (“Fluoride”) in the drinking water perhaps? That will turn you into a dumb ass for sure.
            Here is something to ponder for all of you mute tongue biters out there:

            https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=P7BqFtyCRJc

          • Paul Helinski March 30, 2016, 6:31 am

            People are out of money. The system has been stretched to the end, and it’s over. Flouride was just one of the distractions to muddy the water. It is a biproduct of aluminum mining, and a way for them to make more money off of the system at the cost of our health. The great culling is about a planet spinning out of control on a false paradigm where unlimitted growth is possible. It is not.

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