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When the McDonalds, who own Upper Canyon Outfitters in Montana, asked me to cook for their backcountry elk camp, the couple didn't question my culinary skills, only asked f I could build a fire.

I answered by feeding their guests a breakfast of freshly brewed cowboy coffee, banana walnut pancakes, bran muffins and omelets cooked on a wood-burning stove.

Women In The Outdoors

Originally Printed in Women In The Outdoors Fall 2003

Heat, air and fire

At home, we turn a knob on the stove to increase the flame and regulate heat in an oven. But on a wood-burning stove, the mechanics are slightly different;  heat is controlled by the size of the fire and make of the wood.

To build a fire that will maintain heat, only use dry, aged wood; wood that is wet or green gives off more smoke than heat. You'll need three types of wood:

The next step is controlling airflow to and from your fire. The flue and vents on the front of the stove allow you to do exactly that. Forget the technical stuff; just remember that the front vents bring in tremendous amounts of air to create a flash of high heat, which is good for cooking eggs and  hotcakes. These same vents should be open when you need high heat in your smokestack oven, which will sound more like a locomotive when air flows in. A control valve on the flue or smokestack also regulates draft. For an even fire, keep the flue partially closed. for a fire with tremendous heat, open the damper so that air flows through. 

Stove Safety

Remember that when cooking, safety should always be a concern. With that in mind, keep a fire extinguisher close by and make sure the cooking area is not a gathering place for hunters and guests, especially children.

Wood Burning Stove

What's for dinner?

Planning your menu is as important as properly building a fire. Because smokestack ovens are much smaller than conventional models, it's sometimes necessary to cook foods in intervals. When baking bread, for instance, the oven should be at it's hottest when the loaves are first placed inside. This helps the bread develop a thick, crisp crust. After the bread has cooked for a few minutes, slightly open the damper to cool the oven for the remainder of the cooking time.

Baked goods can be browned by moving them to the top of the oven, but watch them closely because this is the hottest part of the oven, and things brown quickly.

Meat, such as port chops and bacon, will cook crisp without charring if it is placed on one of the cooler burners. Doing so allows the meat to cook slowly and stay moist. For stews and soups, a slow simmering fire works best.

Another tip to remember when planning your meal is to prepare some foods that don't have to be cooked in the oven; use the griddle, as well.

 

More Pointers

 

 

Originally printed in Women In The Outdoors, Fall 2003. Visit venisoncache.com for more recipes and to order my books, "The Art Of Cooking Venison", "The Art of Barbecuing and Grilling Game"  and the dvd, "The Art of Backyard Butchering".