What Is a Wood Burning Stove?

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  • Written By: Mary McMahon
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  • Last Modified Date: 25 October 2015
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A wood burning stove or woodstove is a stove which burns wood to generate energy for heating and cooking. There are several different types of wood burning stoves, ranging from small pellet stoves for heating to large wood burning cookstoves. These stoves are used in many regions of the world, and were once the primary method of heating and cooking in many societies. Several manufacturers continue to produce stoves that burn wood, although the demand for such stoves has fallen in lieu of more energy-efficient and environmentally-friendly methods of energy generation.

When people use this type of stove, they build fires inside the stove box, which is a sturdy insulated compartment designed to withstand considerable heat. A chimney attached to the stove box provides draw and vents the smoke from the stove, and the level of heat can be controlled with the use of a damper, which is essentially like a valve which can open to admit more air for a hotter fire, and closed to admit less air to slow the rate of burning.


The surface of the stove gets extremely hot, making it suitable for stovetop cooking. People can also create oven-like conditions on the surface of the stove with the use of cloches, and some stoves include built-in oven compartments for baking. Learning to cook with a wood burning stove is a challenging and exacting practice, as the heat on a woodstove is not as easy to adjust as the heat on an electric or gas stove. The use of these stoves for cooking is relatively rare in much of the world today.

A wood burning stove can also generate heat to warm a house, and they continue to be used for this purpose. However, using wood for heat does involve the use of a great deal of resources, and it generates pollution. High-efficiency stoves have been built to reduce the demand for wood to burn, and pellet stoves are specifically designed to burn waste from paper and lumber mills. In some areas, bans on these stoves have been proposed for the sake of cleaner air.

Wood burning stoves tend to be more common in rural areas of the world, and in regions where electrical service is not widespread. Modern stoves are much more efficient and less polluting than their historic counterparts, thanks to tightened regulations regarding construction and design standards, but the stoves still tend to be more wasteful than gas and electric heaters.


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Post 4
@KoiwiGal - I've never used a wood burning stove to cook anything, apart from marshmallows. It is excellent for doing that though.

We mostly use ours for warmth and comfort in the winter. We have a heat pump as well, so technically we don't need to use the wood burning stove fireplace but it's just such a nice feeling to curl up in front of a hot fire. And, it is a good way to burn our leftover newspapers, although they tend to generate a lot of ash.

Post 3
@browncoat - I've heard a good solution to that is to introduce sun powered cooking stoves to supplement the small wood burning stoves already in use.

A sun powered stove works through reflecting and concentrating the sun and isn't good for things that need to be fried, but is excellent for foods that are boiled, particularly those which are boiled all day which is why they use up so much wood.

We're lucky now that we aren't having to cut down on wood burning stoves at home as much as was once needed, since there isn't so much pollution in the air from industry. And we have a lot of sustainable wood forests.

So, in the developed world, if you want you can use a wood burning stove to cook food, guilt free.

Post 2

When I was doing aid work in West Africa the main method that people used for cooking was burning wood or charcoal in a stove. In fact the most advanced stove that I saw while I was there (aside from those in big cities) was one that had a small, battery run fan to keep the fire hot while it was being used.

There are some great advantages to cooking over this kind of wood burning cook stove. The food cooks faster and it tends to have a lovely sort of crisp outside where the sugars have been caramelized. It can also have a really nice smokey flavor to it.

But, unfortunately, even though it's traditional, it didn't work well

with the climate at the time. They were going through a drought and the area was over populated. So, everyone burning wood meant that not only was the air often very polluted, but they also cut down any trees or bushes that were lucky enough to survive the lack of water. It was just bad management all around.

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