Looking for a means of off-grid cooking that you can rely on if the electricity goes out? Maybe you’re looking for a means of cooking on the trail that doesn’t require hauling bulky tins of fuel? Maybe what you’re looking for is a rocket stove. But do you know how to cook with a rocket stove? They throw a lot of heat and it can be hard to control. Read on!
A rocket stove makes a fantastic addition to those interested in being able to live off-grid when the power goes out (as it may during an EMP). Rocket stoves can also mean improving your self-reliance by no longer requiring the need to buy fuel and store fuel such as white gas, propane, etc. Is there any easier fuel than picking up sticks?
So What is a Rocket Stove?
A rocket stove as like a portable Dakota fire hole. A Dakota fire hole is essentially a U or J shape that you dig into the dirt, starting a fire in one end. It ends up being a great way to cook without leaving a lot of evidence behind that you were there, the fire is protected from the wind, and there’s very little smoke produced whatsoever.
The same applies for a rocket stove. A rocket stove is a J-shaped device that you stuff sticks into the lower end as a fire burns up through the higher end allowing you to cook off the top. Your survival cookware will rest on top of the “chimney” and cook your food with minimal fuel. It’s not uncommon to be able to cook a pan of scrambled eggs and some sausage with nothing more than two handfuls of twigs. Seriously! Larger meals take quite a bit more, but it’s still nowhere near the fuel that’s required for a traditional campfire. It’s making exceptionally efficient use of the fuel available.
How Do Rocket Stoves Work?
Fire likes oxygen. It constantly feeds on it, and where there is no oxygen, there is no fire. You can see this at home if you put a glass over a tea candle. As the flame depletes the oxygen, it will gradually die out until there’s nothing but smoke inside.
Fire is always drawing oxygen towards itself, and the more oxygen that you can get to that fire, the hotter it will burn and the larger it will grow. Think about a blacksmith’s forge. It’s when a blacksmith pulls on the bellows and pumps in a big gust of air that the flames roar to life. The same goes for a rocket stove.
However, a rocket stove is a bit different. In a rocket stove, the fire typically burns sideways. This way the hot air hits the back of the rocket stove creating a bit of turbulence that throws the air back toward the fire, burning it again. The end result is an incredibly clean and efficient fire with minimal smoke. Modern woodstoves function in the same way, maximizing BTUs and reducing emissions.
4 Tips to Get the Most Out of a Rocket Stove
Learning how to cook with a rocket stove, like anything, takes a bit of practice. Here are some tips on how to make the entire process a bit easier.
1) Keep Fuel on Hand at All Times
You never know if you’re going to need your rocket stove right after a torrential rain storm or in the pitch black. That’s why it’s best to have plenty of dry, combustible material on stored at all times. This can easily be accomplished by stuffing a bit of twigs and leaves into your rocket stove and leaving it there until you need it later. You can also keep a spare supply stuck underneath a shed, under a canoe, or any other place out of sight and protected from the rain.
This is where I like the Minuteman Rocket Stove (you can read my review of that specific stove). It’s a .50 caliber ammo can, so you can store your tinder within the ammo can itself. Then throw the unit into the trunk of your car, and forget about it until you need it. Everything is then easy, clean, and you have the peace of mind of a stove you can use anywhere. Perfect for a bugging out!
2) Keep Fire Starters Handy
If you’re a prepper and you don’t have some various means of fire starters in your BOB, you’re doing it wrong! Personally, I like the cheap, miniature Bic lighters. For a few bucks, I can throw those little guys all over the place and forget about them till I need them. However, you may not like the idea of stowing a lighter next to combustible material.
It’s just as easy to throw a fire striker into the middle of your rocket stove and leave it there. That way, you’re guaranteed to have what you need to get your fire started when you need it. No fiddling around with a fire bow or any of that other time consuming drudgery when you want to eat.
I’ve tried a couple of different fire strikers on the market, but my favorite so far has been Minuteman’s Forever 50, simply because it’s huge. Smaller fire strikers don’t throw off nearly as many sparks, and I end up busting my knuckles up when I’m using them on a rocket stove because I have to get closer to the tinder.
3) Know How Much Fuel You’ll Need
In my experience, I need roughly two armloads of dried sticks to make one meal on a rocket stove. Try to collect this fuel before you start.
4) Keep the Fire Under Your Food
This is probably the most important tip when learning how to cook with a rocket stove. You need to ensure that you’re keeping the flames under your pot or pan. Otherwise, you’re going to be there a very long time attempting to cook your meal. You don’t want your fire to be in the “feeding tube” where you’re pushing in sticks. It really needs to be in the “chimney tube” to be as efficient as possible.
Buying a Pre-Built Rocket Stove
Many people build their own rocket stove, and that’s just fine, but if you’re in the market for a pre-built, higher-end rocket stove, the one I used for this review is the Minuteman K Stove. This particular stove is probably as high-end as you can get in a rocket stove. There’s virtually zero chance of the thing tipping over, it’s built like a tank, and the cooking surface at the top of the chimney leaves me not having to worry about my pot/pan falling off and losing my dinner over the side.
On top of this, the addition of an extra hole within the stove greatly improves the air flow to the fire, meaning that you’ll have a stronger fire that’s less likely to give you problems staying lit.
The K Stove is most certainly not a light design – it’s rather heavy. You’re not going to be going backpacking with it, but it would make an excellent rocket stove for use at one’s survival retreat, on an RV trip, or in any other situation where you need some means of off-grid cooking and don’t want to rely on propane. It’s perfect for a backyard or for camping. It would make a great accessory to the traditional barbeque, giving you another platform to cook off and expanding your fuel options.
That last point is something to harp on. Let’s say there’s four people in your family. Post-disaster – where it’s highly unlikely you’ll have electricity – you anticipate extended family showing up at your house to live with you. That means more people relying on some means of off-grid cooking. While a smaller rocket stove most certainly has its purposes, it would be incredibly frustrating to have to essentially be cooking all day long in order to heat up enough food for everyone. Due to the K Stove’s size, that’s not an issue. It can easily handle larger pots and pans, cooking up more food at a time.
Final Rocket Stove Thoughts
Aside from being a very valuable prep – I mean, the ability to eat meat safely post-disaster is kind of a “game” changer – rocket stoves are an absolute blast to work with. There are a lot of interesting models available out there on the market, but the Minuteman products are a favorite. Their K Stoves are the perfect fixed-position stove, and if you’re looking for a more portable option, I like the original Minuteman Rocket Stove.
Whatever route you choose, building one or buying one, learning how to cook on a rocket stove is a great skillset to your preps. It’s not hard and it’s fun.
Do you have any prior experience cooking with rocket stoves? Are there other tips or tricks of cooking with them that you’ve learned along the way? What rocket stove do you like? Let us know in the comments below!