Build a Rocket Stove

What’s a rocket stove, you ask? It’s a stove designed to use 80% less fuel for heating, cooking and canning. How can you build a rocket stove in less than an hour? We’ve got you covered right here.

Rocket stoves are usually J-shaped, which allows campers, homesteaders, and permaculturists to feed twigs and sticks into the hook end of the J for a roaring fire to cook over at the top of the J. We have friends who professionally build rocket stoves, but when we saw a recent article in Mother Earth News magazine about 5 DIY rocket stoves, we jumped at the chance to build one for summer outdoor cooking.

See…we’ve got this pile of bricks:

Left over bricks from a project finally being put to good use. You'll use 33 bricks.

Left over bricks from a project finally being put to good use. You’ll use 33 bricks.

First we cleared a space on a back cement pad so the stove would be level and out of the way. Its footprint is small, but best not to situate it in the middle of the yard.

4 bricks placed thusly for the foundation of your rocket stove.

4 bricks placed thusly for the foundation of your rocket stove.

Next, we went against the suggestion in the article regarding the air grill for burning fuel. In the article, the author uses galvanized wire mesh. A little research reveals that burning anything galvanized will off-gas toxic substances. Not good for you or your food. So we ran to Home Depot to buy expanded metal lath. Steel is the ticket.

Made specifically for barbecues and for heating without putting yourself in the hospital.

Made specifically for barbecues and for heating without putting yourself in the hospital.

Since the rocket stove is small, we cut the expanded metal in half with tin snips. It was easy and only took a couple minutes.

We thought it would be hard to cut but these tin snips worked through it like butter.

We thought it would be hard to cut but these tin snips worked through it like butter.

The next layer is like the first, locking the expanded metal in place.

The next layer is like the first, locking the expanded metal in place.

Following another layer just like the first, we switch to a 5-brick configuration to create the J (or L in this case – works as well).

Two over the entrance, one on each side, and one in the back.

Two over the entrance, one on each side, and one in the back.

We lined up the bricks to the inner edge, to ensure proper flow of air. So the outer edges don’t quite line up, but it’s okay. Still works.

Build up 4 more layers, alternating them like the layer below and place an old oven rack on top.

Build up 4 more layers, alternating them as shown and place an old oven rack on top. You want airflow under the rack, so elevate yours with ceramic tiles if the rack doesn’t have feet.

We were eager to test the new stove, and the weather complied by providing us with a 90 degree day. Perfect for outdoor cooking. We choose a “packet” style recipe from Vegetarian Times and heated up the stove.

Natural wood briquettes from Trader Joe's (untreated), some paper and a bunch of twigs from the property will start us off.

Natural wood briquettes from Trader Joe’s (untreated), some paper and a bunch of twigs from the property will start us off.

Once the coals catch fire, we started feeding in larger pieces of wood.

Once the coals catch fire, we started feeding in larger pieces of wood.

We made Artichoke and New Potato Packets with Pesto for a first time effort. Admittedly we didn’t use enough fuel to cook the potatoes all the way through (fire wasn’t quite hot enough), but next time we’ll use twice as many coals and twigs. A few minutes in the toaster oven finished off the process. As someone who has never owned a BBQ, this first dip into the grilling pool opened my eyes about the art of getting the coals just right. As with gardening, this is a learning process.

Artichoke hearts, thinly sliced potatoes and home-grown peas cook over the coals in about 40 minutes.

Artichoke hearts, thinly sliced potatoes and home-grown peas cook over the coals in about 40 minutes.

Think of a rocket stove as a burner. It’s not a full-sized barbecue, but it’s enough to cook a pot of stew or a few packets of veggies without heating up the kitchen on a hot day. This whole project cost $10 using free bricks on hand and an old toaster oven rack.

Our first dinner from the rocket stove.

Our first dinner from the rocket stove.

For the full set of instructions, visit Instructables.

 

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