This winter has been horribly cold for most of us, with snow and ice like we haven’t seen for a very long time. Our wood stove has been blazing almost non-stop (thank goodness for all of the free wood we’ve been able to gather!).
I’ve been taking advantage of the hot stove by cooking many of our meals over it. If we didn’t need the heat in our home, it’s unlikely that I’d cook over the wood stove though.
It takes a few good sized logs before the top gets hot enough to cook on, and split, seasoned firewood is a precious commodity not to be wasted.
As we dream and plan for going off-grid, one thing we’ve thought a lot about is how to cook food without electricity. We do have a wood cook stove in our workshop, but it would take some major renovating to get it installed in our current kitchen.
We could cook on it where it is, but it would be very impractical for me as I’d have to haul all of the children to the workshop with me every time I wanted to cook (and it isn’t exactly toddler proof up there).
We do have plans for a summer kitchen, but who knows how long it’ll be before that gets built from the scavenged materials we’ve been accumulating.
There are so many options for off-grid cooking, it’s just a matter of finding the right combination of methods best suited for our situation.
The EcoZoom Stove
One product that is becoming a popular option for off-grid cooking is the EcoZoom Stove. These rocket stoves are incredibly efficient, using very little fuel to cook a meal.
The Versa model can burn wood, charcoal, or even dried biomass (dried plant materials, dried corn cobs, dried dung, pine needles, etc.), which makes it a versatile stove to have for emergencies. I recently had an opportunity to test the Versa out, and was very impressed with the results.
My first observation was that this particular stove was much heavier than I expected (26 lbs). That’s mainly because the stove top is made from cast iron for durability. The combustion chamber (where you put your fuel) is made from abrasion-resistant ceramic, and the exterior is painted sheet metal.
If weight is an issue for you, they do make lighter EcoZoom models such as the Zoom Dura Lite which weighs 13 lbs.
I found it very easy to light. Using a few splinters of wood from our wood pile and some dried grass in our yard, I was able to get a fire going very quickly in the stove, despite the wind blowing around me:
EcoZooms come with a stick support to help hold longer pieces of wood as you feed them into the fire. A handful of wood scraps was all it took to get my skillet nice and hot.
I fried an egg to see how well it would cook. Honestly, it was just as easy as cooking over an electric stove. I did notice a little bit of ashes flying up and landing in my skillet, but I blame that on the loose dried grass that I stuffed in the stove combined with the gusts of wind.
As for smoke, there really wasn’t any. In a survival situation where you wouldn’t want other people to be drawn to your location, a smokeless cooking source would be a great asset.
The manual does warn that if you use too much fuel, or wet fuel, it can cause the stove to put off a lot of smoke, so you would want to make sure you used the right materials.
After flipping the egg and transferring it to a plate to cool, my toddler came over and sat down to help himself.
Then, of course, I had to make one for each of the kids. I think the fact that it was cooked over a cool little stove made the eggs even more appealing to them.
It was surprising how little wood it took, especially when compared to the wood stove inside or a camp fire, (which is typically my emergency backup cooking source):
I thought I’d also try boiling water, to see how quickly it would work and how much wood it would take:
The EcoZoom stove comes with a galvanized steel pot skirt, which wraps around your pot and increases the efficiency of the stove by a stated 25%.
To boil a gallon of water I used 3-4 pieces of wood like you see in the picture (2-3″ wide, about a foot long). It took less than 15 minutes to bring the water to a light boil.
Considering that my flat top stove takes just a little less time than that, I was very pleased with these results.
All in all I really enjoyed cooking over the EcoZoom. There’s so much satisfaction in preparing a meal without paying a dime to the power company.
I wanted to make dinner over it that night, but what I was cooking would have required two stoves (one for boiling water for pasta, and another for frying ground beef and veggies). I was seriously coveting the double burner Zoom Plancha.
I look forward to experimenting more with this stove, and learning how to be most efficient with the damper doors.
Pros & Cons
There are several factors making EcoZoom Stoves a great alternative cooking option.
- They use very little fuel, and you can scavenge pretty much any dried materials from around the yard to burn in it.
- They’re made with high quality materials, and are designed for everyday use.
- They produce little to no smoke when burning the proper materials.
- They’re small and lightweight enough to transport easily.
- They don’t require any installation or chimney as other stoves do.
- They’re much more efficient than campfire cooking or cooking over a more traditional wood stove.
- They make cooking over a fire easy enough for anyone to do.
As much as I love them, there are a few things to keep in mind when considering an EcoZoom.
- They’re probably too heavy to take with you on a backpacking trip.
- You can’t use them indoors.
- They don’t make a good source of heat (unless you can modify it somehow).
- Not a good option for emergency cooking in bad weather unless you have an open shelter.
- You can only cook one thing at a time, unless you buy the Plancha model.
Wood Heated Hot Water
I was also excited to find out that you can use an EcoZoom stove to create hot water without the use of any electricity. (See video below.)
This might very well be a great option for our off-grid needs.
A city girl learning to homestead on an acre of land in the country. Wife and homeschooling mother of four. Enjoying life, and everything that has to do with self sufficient living.