The Bottom Line
- In our area, wood is plentiful. Small dead tree limbs and branches are continually falling in our yard. This ready supply of fuel must either be used, or it must be removed to prevent termite infestation. We decided to use it for cooking.
- Stress test: In the summer of 2021, we dismantled all of our hydroponic tanks, which had become unusable due to wood rot over the seven years of their use. Rather than haul them to the landfill, we cut them up and burned them in our new super-sized rocket stove; the cut-up pieces filled two fifty-gallon barrels. We burned for two days straight. To increase the heat (and burn speed), we added another level of blocks to the height of the chimney. The result was remarkable. Although we had to rake out ashes (from the bottom of the burn chamber) on two occasions, the stove held up fine. After the burn (and cool down period), three blocks of the chimney crumbled into granular dust (which we used for landscape grading). We simply replaced the damaged blocks, and the stove was as good as new.
- Cheap and easy to build.
- No maintenance required.
- Indefinite life span.
- All blocks can be re-used for other projects if you choose to dismantle the stove at some point in the future.
- Must be constructed on level grade.
- One thing leads to another; after you build the stove, you’ll probably want a sink, and a worksurface, an awning and so on.
- About $2 per block ($50 total for a super-sized unit).
- Inexpensive and easy construction (and outstanding utility) make this feature easy to justify as an outstanding investment.
Cooking Fast with No Smoke
Easy to build rocket stoves cook fast with small tree branches and produce little smoke and ash. A super-sized rocket stove stands taller and provides a countertop for cookware. Perfect for frying and boiling water, you can also use pots that let you bake!
After testing the performance of our first rocket stove, we decided to build a super-sized version. Using extra 8″x8″x16″ concrete blocks to raise the unit to a more convenient height, we also added buttress blocks around the outside to provide a countertop for resting our cooking pots and utensils.
We even purchased a wonder pot that lets us bake bread!
The wonder pot and coffee pot are shown here on a grate purchased from a thrift store (above left). The secret to the burn chamber (above right) is the screen that keeps the fuel (small tree branches) suspended so that air can flow into the stove to aid combustion.
When you’re finished cooking, simply remove the pots and grate and place a cap block on top of the chimney to shut down the stove completely. Because it burns hot and produces very little smoke, you won’t smell like you’ve been fighting a forest fire during the cooking process.
We use the new stove several times a week. Cooking outside is like camping without the fuss (or the work).