For people who live in rural regions or embrace an off-grid lifestyle, a wood stove provides heat and warmth in frigid weather and cold conditions. And for many, a wood stove also doubles as a means to cook food, serving as a stovetop, oven, or both. But what about using a wood stove to boil water for preparing coffee, tea, soup, or other hot liquids?
A wood stove will boil water provided that it has been given sufficient time to pre-heat and there is enough wood in the firebox to maintain the necessary heat levels. A proper vessel will also be needed, such as a cast iron or stainless steel kettle, ideally with a tight-fitting lid.
Perhaps nothing captures the essence of sustaining a rustic lifestyle better than a wood stove. It can be relied upon to perform various tasks that are vital to not just living but thriving, without conventional appliances. Read on to learn whether a wood stove will boil water and why it may be a good idea to put on a kettle of water even if brewing up a rich cup of joe or enjoying a spot of tea is not your thing.
Will a Wood Stove Boil Water?
The primary purpose of a wood stove is to generate heat and warmth. In most cases, it is a measure of providing comfort for a living space but in extreme circumstances, it is an implement of survival. Given its function and the way it is constructed, a wood stove is a natural multitasker, most notably by virtue of the extremely hot, flat surface it offers for cooking food.
Although figures will vary among different types of wood stoves, generally speaking, the temperature inside the firebox (the actual chamber where the wood is burned) can exceed 1,000° F and the outer surface (e.g., the stovetop upon which food can be cooked) can get hotter than 400° F, which is more than enough to get a kettle of water boiling.
Can You Heat Water with a Wood Burner?
In the simplest of terms, not only can you heat water with a wood burner, but you can do it very effectively, provided that you understand the basics of using a wood stove and keep a few things in mind before venturing out.
For starters, a wood stove is nothing like the modern appliances that are found in most kitchens. There are no knobs, dials, or electronic keypads to turn a wood stove on or off, nor is there a fancy LED display to let you know how hot it is getting inside the firebox or on the exterior surface (i.e., the cooktop).
Using a wood stove to heat water and cook food on is a skill that can be learned in relatively short order, but there are a few things you should know:
- The cooking surface of a wood stove does not heat evenly – there are spots that are hotter than others and it is a good idea to figure out where these are, not just for boiling water, but for cooking (and not burning) food
- Magnetic thermometers can be immensely helpful in determining the various temperature zones of your wood stove’s cooktop
- Certain areas of the wood burner can be used for searing and high-temperature cooking (or boiling), while cooler spots may be better suited for slow-cooking and simmering
- The type and quality of the cookware you use does matter, and for a wood stove, cast iron tends to work the best
- Protective gear is an absolute must and insulated oven mitts should be at the top of the list
While the general consensus when it comes to cookware seems to be strongly in favor of using cast iron, there may be an exception where boiling water is concerned. Left inside a cast iron kettle, water can cause rust to form. For this reason, using a kettle or pot with an enameled surface may be advisable for heating and boiling water on a wood stove.
Why Put a Kettle on a Wood Stove?
Even if you do not plan on cooking on a wood stove or using it to boil water, it may be a good idea to keep a pot or kettle of water on top of it anyway. A wood stove is a highly effective means of providing warmth for a living space but it also has a tendency of drying out the air, particularly in rural structures that may lack proper insulation or weatherizing measures.
Fortunately, there is a simple solution that is surprisingly effective: placing a pot or kettle of water on top of a wood stove will produce steam which in turn will act as a simple, yet serviceable, means of humidifying the air inside a room or home. So long as there is water in the vessel, a wood stove will humidify while it heats.
How Long Should a Stove Take to Boil Water?
Wood stoves come in various shapes and sizes including those that are specially constructed to be used for cooking (i.e., they have larger cooking surfaces and some even have a separate chamber to be used as an oven).
Generally speaking, a wood stove with a properly nurtured fire in the firebox should get a kettle of water boiling in roughly 25 minutes. This assumes, of course, that the vessel has been pre-heated and that an appropriate amount of flames have been developed.
It is worth noting that the type of wood that you use for fuel in your wood stove could affect the length of time it takes to boil water. For instance, hard maple burns hotter than poplar, and one of the hottest-burning types of wood is Osage Orange. It is also important that firewood be properly dried before burning; otherwise, not only is less heat generated but there will also be a lot more smoke.
A wood stove is more than just a way to create heat without the aid of gas or electricity. It is also an economical means of cooking food, and as it turns out, it is also a highly effective way to boil water, whether to brew up a pot of coffee or add some moisture to dry air.