The Walden Effect: Farming, simple living, permaculture, and invention.

Testing the temperature on top of the wood stove

Testing the temperature on top of the wood stoveWhen I mentioned our goal of making a small oven on top of the wood stove, Roland pointed out that it's essential to do some basic tests first and make sure the stove top temperature is within baking range.  Purchasing an oven thermometer in order to make those tests was the real reason we were in the kitchen section of Wal-mart to pick up my meat thermometer turned soil thermometer.

I compared three different permutations to get an idea of stove top temperatures while the wood stove was running at medium to high heat.  First, I just put the oven thermometer on a fire brick on the hot-plate section of the wood stove top and got a reading of 210 degrees Fahrenheit --- not that hot.  But when I upending the galvanized basin Mark had bought for the purpose over top of the whole wood stove, the addition raised the internal temperature to 525 degrees.  (You don't see the fire brick in the photo because I actually did a test without it the first time around, but figured the off-the-chart reading just couldn't be right.)

Oven thermometer inside a Dutch ovenThe fire brick didn't quite fit into the Dutch oven, so I first tested with the thermometer set on the bottom of the cast iron pot and got a reading of 475 degrees.  Figuring a lot of heat was getting conducted from the metal of the pan to the metal of the thermometer, but unable to add in a fire brick because it was too large, I set a pot holder on the bottom of the oven with the thermometer on top.  Ten minutes later, a foul stench filled the trailer --- the pot holder had spontaneously combusted.  So, unfortunately, I can't tell you whether Mark's idea of cutting down the sides of a 6-pack muffin tin so that it sits on a fire brick inside the Dutch oven will give me temperatures sufficient to bake his favorite sweet treat.  Clearly, more experiments are required.

Make your own poop-free, homemade chicken waterer in an hour or less.

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About us: Anna Hess and Mark Hamilton spent over a decade living self-sufficiently in the mountains of Virginia before moving north to start over from scratch in the foothills of Ohio. They've experimented with permaculture, no-till gardening, trailersteading, home-based microbusinesses and much more, writing about their adventures in both blogs and books.

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I used to have a metal oven which sat on top of a stove. It was basically a box with a door and a shelf. It baked quite well. Bet they're still around on ebay. Stovetop oven?
Comment by Errol Tue Jan 11 08:58:36 2011
Put a firebrick UNDER the dutch oven, the thermometer inside, and the basin over all. Then, see what temp you get.
Comment by Anonymous Tue Jan 11 10:24:02 2011

Put the Dutch oven on top of the stove, put a couple of pebbles in it and place the thermometer on top of the pebbles. The relatively small area where the pebbles touch metal should limit heat flow through the pebbles into the thermometer.

The same technique should work for a muffin tin, I imagine.

Comment by Roland_Smith Tue Jan 11 15:33:19 2011

Look at some marine ovens for on top of heating stoves. Most are just a box single or double wall, and have been working well in many sailboats for generations.

Small jotel's have been used to cook on and provide heat for quite some time.

The best thing is experience as you'll rarely get the same temperature two times in a row with a wood fire.

Comment by vester Tue Jan 11 16:18:08 2011

Daddy --- We had heard about those stovetop ovens, but they're quite expensive, which is why Mark has been experimenting to see if he can make a cheaper version. I appreciate those links you sent me, though, and couldn't resist the wood stove cook book....

Anonymous --- That's a good idea, although I'd think it would be considerably cooler than the temperature if I put the thermometer on a piece of fire brick inside the Dutch oven.

Roland --- This is definitely the winning idea! I'm going to have to see if I can find some pebbles under the snow...

Vester --- That's a lot like what Mark plans to try to replicate. I agree that the Jotul is great to cook on --- I've been very impressed so far! Working on my experience a bit at a time... :-)

Comment by anna Tue Jan 11 16:41:52 2011
Just wanted to mention that the galvanized tub might give off poisonous fumes when heated on the woodstove. Folks probably already know it's unsafe to cook in directly, but I bet it's also unsafe to breathe fumes from it when heated. Please check into this.
Comment by Cheryl Tue Jan 10 22:02:41 2012
Maybe Roland can answer this? What do you think, Roland, would galvanized metals give off enough fumes that they'd make food cooked underneath unsafe?
Comment by anna Wed Jan 11 09:03:14 2012

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