Cooking on a wood burner

I always thought I’d be able to cook on my wood burner, but I decided to give it a try and the top of the stove only gets about 130 to 150 degrees. I have the damper full open yet this is as hot as it gets. I read that food isn’t safe at this temperature for more than two hours, so even if the food eventually cooked, it would be full of bacteria. Is there anything you can suggest to help me? I’d be so grateful!

Deborah Sutorius
Elyria, Ohio

Does your wood burner have a cabinet around it? Some do, for instance the Ashley cabinet model that was very popular in the ’70s and ’80s. These never do get as hot as a wood stove that is simply an enclosed “box” of cast iron or sheet steel. The top of any wood burner is hottest when the damper is nearly closed, not open, as the majority of heat goes right up the stovepipe when the damper is open. Also, the type of wood has to do with how hot the stove top gets. Dry, seasoned hardwood or pine will burn hottest with green or unseasoned wood burning sometimes barely at all. I’ve cooked on several wood stoves from my ever-present kitchen ranges to the living room wood burner. But all of ours have been cabinet-free.

Temperatures from 140 to 150 degrees are the recommended internal temperatures for medium rare steaks and other slow cooked foods done in slow cookers such as crock pots. So I don’t think bacteria would be a big issue. But, personally, I would like to see you simmering your foods at about 180 to 205 degrees F, just to be safest.

If you do have a cabinet-type wood burner, many have a lift off top so you can more easily use it to cook on. Or there is a hinged door on top for this purpose. When the pot of food is on the iron stovetop, there should not be a problem getting the food plenty hot. I do it all the time. — Jackie

Butchering older roosters

We have numerous chickens, along with now, 4 roosters. One came from a friend, the others came from a batch of 9 chickens we bought — there were FOUR in there! Anyway, the newest 3 are Buff-Orpingtons — and big and beautiful. But, they’re starting to realize they’re bigger, and are beginning to fight with the original rooster. I don’t want them to kill each other, but I also don’t want to just give them away. They’re over a year old, so are they too old to butcher? Will they be too tough? They are fed very little feed each day, and for the most part, are free-range. What would you do with them?
Toni McDonald
Jasper, Texas

No, your roosters aren’t too old to butcher; I’ve butchered roosters that were quite a bit older than that. However, if you just cook them, they’ll probably be a bit tough. So, instead, why not can the meat? You can make broth and then can both the broth and broth with meat. Out of each rooster, you’ll get many jars of tasty, tender meat. That’s a pretty much win-win solution. — Jackie


  1. a few more suggestions for cooking on a woodstove …

    >keep a separate pile of well-split dried wood, just for cooking
    >bring wood indoors the day before you cook so that it has already gone from 10 degree wood to 70 degree wood :-)
    >make sure your ashes are well cleaned out so that you can put plenty of wood in.
    >If there is a vent near the bottom of the firebox, open that one up and close the one at the top (air will rush up from the bottom thru the wood, and sweep heat under/across the stove top
    >make sure you are using wood that is not more than 2″-2.5″ in diameter.
    >make sure the wood is somewhat crisscrossed in the fire box so that oxygen can waft up through and accelerate combustion.
    >finally, remember that this is not an electric stove. it takes a while to get that mass of metal really warmed up.
    >if you have any leftover fat, pour that onto the fire :-)

  2. Jackie, I agree about the older roosters….I made the mistake 10 years ago or more of trying to roast one.The broth had really great flavor, but that old guy was too tough to really enjoy, so after that we just canned them. We found they make nice soup, stew, or chicken salad. Of course the meat isn’t as light in color as from a young bird, but older chickens are so flavorful especially if the dish needs the broth too. Rick

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