One of my favorite tools here at our homestead is our Kitchen Queen Wood Cook Stove. I love both our wood stoves, but the cook stove? It’s my favorite.
We heat exclusively with wood at our homestead, and for us, there is nothing like it. As they say, ‘wood heat warms you twice’…and I’m pretty sure it’s closer to 3 or 4 times. 🙂 In order to keep our stoves humming along approximately 9 months a year, we have to feed them, lots of good, dry wood. This involves a fair amount of hard work and pre-planning. My husband manages the wood, and the whole family pitches in to help. In our neck of the woods we get wood from our own property or go into the national forest land around us (with a permit of course). Truckload by truckload; we saw, pack & stack it into the truck bed, unload & split it, stack again and let it sit for a couple years to get it nice and dry. Repeat. This cycle replays each year as soon as the snow has melted down enough in the Spring to get up into the forests that surround us…until the snow starts up again in the Fall. During the Summer months we will take care of maintenance while the stoves get a couple months off.
If taken care of properly, stoves will last a lifetime—and then some. Each Summer we have our chimney pipes swept, cleaned and inspected. We clean out the firebox, ash pan, lift out the ‘eyes’ (round cook plates on the hob) and clean out all the soot and ash that can build up. Once we get the interior cleaned, we’ll clean up the exterior and I’ll take an old rag and ‘cure’ the hob (the ‘hob’ is the cooking surface, which we tend to call the ‘cooktop’) with a vegetable oil. This keeps our stove in prime condition and keeps the hob from developing any rust while not in use.
Every cook stove is a little bit different in look and design. Damper placement oven size and firebox size seem to be the main differences in operational design. Appearances range from the very plain to very fancy; and so do the prices. We have a Kitchen Queen and are quite happy with it. It has a large firebox, which works great for our family because we can use the same size wood we use for our regular wood stove. It is large enough to use to heat the whole house.
When we were researching stoves, one common complaint I heard was heat regulation and distribution. I have not found that to be a big issue with our Kitchen Queen—it does a stellar job! Cooking on the hob is a breeze and we tend to more often than not, have a pot of soup, stew or chili going on the stove. With a good fire going, cooking is easy. If I want to boil, fry or cook at high heat, I will add in some dry kindling/wood and move my pan/pot closer to (or right over) the firebox. If I want to simmer or cook at lower temps, I move my pot away from the area of the hob that is closest to the firebox (more heat). The type of wood you use (in our neck of he woods we use tamarack or cedar to burn hot)and damper control also contribute to and help regulate your temperatures. The stove oven is huge, has 2 racks and can bake up to 6 loaves of bread at one time. It is a workhorse.
I love that our cook stove not only keeps us toasty warm; as well as cooks & bakes–it also provides us with hot water. I almost always have a pot or kettle of water going on the stove. Not only does this add moisture into the air (wood heat dries out the air) but it provides hot water for hand washing, dishes, cooking and sanitation. Our stove also serves as clothes dryer. If the stove is going, there is a rack of laundry close by being dried. I will use the warming shelf to melt butter, warm rolls, keep meals and dishes warm—even warm up hats and gloves before we head out into freezing temps for chores! I love having tools that are multipurpose! We appreciate the independence that comes with a wood stove. In exchange for some good, old fashioned hard work we reap fantastic rewards without relying on ‘big energy’.
One of our favorite colder weather meals is a big pot of soup and a batch of Old Fashioned Scratch Biscuits—super simple and delicious! Pop open the lids of a few jars of our home canned soup, pour them in a pot and place on the stove (right over the firebox eye) and whip up some scratch biscuits, in minutes.
Gather your ingredients: Flour, Salt, Baking Powder, Butter & Milk
Get a large bowl, dump in 3 cups of kosher flour (I LOVE Wheat Montana Flours—Organic, non-GMO, Deeelicious!) I use the “white flour” in the blue bag, for my biscuits, a dash of sea salt, and a heaping teaspoon of Baking Powder; mix. Now take one stick (1/2 cup) of butter, cut it up in small pieces and toss in your bowl. Next add in 1 cup of milk (goat, cow, half and half, buttermilk–whatever you like), start stirring and then to get a good mix on your dough and get the butter mixed in good– use your hands to finish off your mixing of the dough. Don’t over mix– just til the butter is worked in a little–it will be lumpy and rough looking.
To cut your biscuits you can roll out on a lightly floured surface and cut. You can use the ‘tea towel’ method – put your dough in the tea towel, and flatten by hand; then cut. Or as I often do–a combo of the 2 (depending on whether or not I can find a nice clean tea towel!) I will just plop my dough on the lightly floured counter top and flatten out by hand and cut.
Place cut biscuits on a baking sheet and bake about 10 minutes in my Kitchen Queen at a temp reading of about 375 degrees. At the 5 minute mark I will take out the baking sheet and rotate, for even baking. At 10 minutes I will take them out, set on the hob and dish everyone up right from the stove!
For us, our cook stove is probably the most important tool at our homestead. Not to mention, it’s cozy and just says ‘home’ to us.