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The Smokeless & Easy-To-Build Off-Grid Cooking Stove

The Smokeless & Easy-To-Build Off-Grid Cooking Stove

Outdoor cooking is a major part of my off-grid experience, and so a reliable outdoor stove was a must-have. And with many options of wood-burning stoves out there, fuel-efficiency and minimal smoke were at the top of my list.

After much research, the rocket stove because our outdoor stove of choice. In this article, I will share with you the concept of the rocket stove, how we built two of them, and its advantages and disadvantages.

oven-1A wood-burning smokeless stove sounds impossible, right? Let me explain it this way. Smoke is un-burned fuel. The rocket stove makes use of all the fuel. Everything gets burned in the combustion chamber before leaving the chimney. This concept is also seen in the Dakota fire pit.

The rocket stove, when fired up, sounds similar to that of a rocket taking off – hence, its name.

Here’s how we built our concrete rocket stove:

  1. My husband made a wooden mold for shaping the inner cavity — a 6-inch-by-6-inch hollow plywood “L”. He added 2 parallel sticks, ½ inch by ½ inch, on the lower front of the “L,” 1 inch from the floor, to create a groove for the shelf.
  2. Then he built a 10-inch-by-10-inch hollow “L” around the first one, creating a 2-inch cavity for pouring the concrete.
  3. The steel was then put in place. We left 1 inch of steel exposed at the top to be used as the pot support.
  4. He poured the concrete in the 2-inch gap, making the walls of the rocket stove 2 inches thick.

Our rocket stove has a footprint of 10 inches by 15 inches. From the floor to the top of the chimney is 22 inches. From the floor to the top of the fuel chamber is 10 inches. The combustion chamber or chimney is 6 inches by 6 inches.

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We allowed it to cure for four weeks indoors, wetting every day during the first week to prevent the concrete from drying too quickly and cracking. We fired up the rocket stove to burn out the mold.

oven-2In our family, clay is play. So when it came to making the clay rocket stove measurements, looks took a backseat. Our material list was simple:

  • Two metal plates. One about 10 inches by 10 inches for the shelf, and the second 19 inches by 12 inches for the top of the fuel chamber.
  • Two round pipes 10 inches long and about 1 inches thick
  • Five big stones
  • Clay

Advantages of a Rocket Stove

  • It is easy to maintain. Push the wood inside, add more when it’s done, and pull the shelf out to remove the ash build-up after you’re done.
  • It is well-insulated. The fire is contained, making it safe to work around. I can touch the rocket stove while it’s fired up.
  • It is smokeless. This was the main advantage for me because I can do all of my prep work right next to it and not be chased away by smoke.
  • It cooks food quickly. The rocket stove can reach very high temperatures. We use dry coconut shells to increase the temperature. To lower the temperature, we pull out some of wood.
  • It is efficient. The rocket stove uses less fuel than every open flame outdoor cooking fires. It is great for getting rid of scrap wood and sticks around your homestead.

oven-3Disadvantages of a Rocket Stove

  • It makes pans black. This is usually the case with outdoor cooking, so we have separate pans for our indoor and outdoor cooking.
  • It needs monitored. The L-shape rocket stove design means that wood can burn out and fall off the fuel chamber. This can be a hazard. The J-shaped design solves this, as the wood slides into the fuel chamber on its own.
  • It might have smoke at first. I recommend starting the fire on the shelf outside the rocket stove, and then sliding the tray in when you have a flame.

Of the many outdoor cooking options we’ve explored — we’ve gone through a lot — the rocket stove meets and surpasses our off-grid cooking needs. From cooking to grilling to roasting, the rocket stove does it all.

What advice would you add on building and using a rocket stove? Share your tips in the section below:

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  1. We did a lot of cooking over a campfire when my husband and I did Civil War re-enacting. We used a trick I learned in Girl Scouts that works great. We rub liquid dish soap on the outsides of our cast iron. That way the smoke and soot washed off without too much problem when we were done cooking for the weekend.

    • What about the fact you aren’t suppose to use dish soap on cast iron? Maybe dish soap affects taste and using it on the bottom is OK. I’ve heard the rule, but I don’t know the reason.

      • Linda, the admonition not to use soap on cast iron applies to the cooking surface. Soap will ruin the nice, slick, seasoned inside of the skillet we (or a lot of ‘we”s over generation) worked so hard to get! It won’t hurt the outside. Iron is porous, but I don’t think it’s that porous.

  2. I want to know how to build a oven big enuff to cook a 18 pound turkey

    • Mike, This article is about a rocket stove. You cook on top only. You might be able to figure out a way to adapt a rocket mass heater to include an oven. I saw a YouTube video on that. But I don’t think the oven was big enough for a turkey.

  3. There are a lot of videos on YouTube about rocket stoves. I suggest watching some of them. If you are attempting to build one I can suggest not using any galvanized metal or pressure treated wood. Those both give off toxic fumes when exposed to fire.

    There are many ways to build rocket and wood gas stoves. Have fun.

  4. I would suggest you also look into a woodgas camp stove. They use VERY little wood, produce almost no smoke, produce a constant heat for 30 – 40 minutes (much like a burner on a electric stove), are portable, can literally be fueled with sticks, or you can baton a log into pencil size sticks if that’s what you have. I known processing the wood that much sounds like a lot of work but you use so little it is not significant. How much wood? —Literally enough wood to fill a 15.5 ounce can.— You can buy a high quality one for around $80. But I build my own for around $2.50 and they work just fine (out of a 1 quart paint can from Lowes, that’s the $2.50, and a couple of empty cans). There are plenty of videos out there on how to build. IMPORTANT, make sure you burn the fire down from the top. Some of the videos show the fire burning up from the bottom which destroys all the benefits of a woodgas stove. Look into it they are an interesting alternative.

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