Rocket stovin’

I cook on a little messy pile of old, rotten, crumbling bricks I found lying on the side of the road – my very own rocket stove. She’s as dodgy as they come but she works a treat. The real difficulties I’ve faced when cooking at home is learning about wood – or, in this case, twigs – and if you live in the lovely Northern Rivers of NSW you will know about moisture in the air and how it gets into everything! So I have a pile of sticks and twigs next to my rocket stove that I feed into the stove as I cook which works very well if the sticks are not damp. I’ve also learned something about the kind of wood that burns well and the kind that smokes well!

To build a rocket stove like mine, simply go to YouTube or similar (is there something similar?) and type in something like ‘brick rocket stove’. I’ve built a few now at different people’s places and at a workshop at Cafe Blue Knob (pic below). I think I’ll be doing another workshop at the Lismore Community Garden soon – should be lots of fun! Keep an eye on their facebook page if you’re interested……

My rocket stove at home……


As you can see it’s a bit messier than the nice neat ones you’ll find online, but it’s been used a lot over the past year or so. I have the kindling and sticks very close at hand but there are very few sparks coming from the stove so, while it looks like a fire disaster waiting to happen, it’s pretty safe. The yellow bucket is my seat and everything I need for cooking is within easy reach around me. I thoroughly enjoy cooking like this and will try to recreate this wherever I move to from here, although I would like to build a more permanent outdoor kitchen with a rocket stove using local natural and recycled materials and include a cob oven……

Two journal entries about the rocket stovin’ lifestyle:

26th January 2015

Just had my first meal of rice cooked on the rocket stove – perfect! Took the same amount of time it would normally take on a gas stove and cooked to perfection. Things to remember with using the rocket stove: always have things ready to go on as soon as it’s lit, don’t daydream or get distracted too much because I need to be on top of feeding the sticks in (it will die down quite quickly if I’m not totally focused), always use a pot holder when removing things from the stove! Used the new stovetop steel things Dad made – worked really well to keep the pot just the right distance off the top of the stove to still cook well but not block the top causing smoke.

12th April 2015

Cooked on my rocket stove for the first time in two months today! It was wonderful although cooking like this does test my patience. I have to learn to be still and focus – a good lesson for me! Had a cuppa and reheated some left-over dahl for lunch and I cooked a Jo specialty for dinner which I will call ‘Beans and Greens’ – a small can of beans and a handful of greens thrown in (tonight it was spring onions, silverbeet, and parsley). Yes, I still have some reserves from my monied days as I haven’t used them in a while. The stock is pretty small though so it will just give me a bit of time to get used to living off my available free food. Made a nice little ‘kitchen’ today. Built a small shelf for the plates, mugs, etc., out of some bits and pieces of pine pallet and feeling pretty good about how I’ve set myself up. 


9 thoughts on “Rocket stovin’

  1. Using sometimes a Rocket stove myself, for the fun of it, I can really relate- it takes time and patience and being organised. But at the same time it is soooo satisfying to cook with wood, have a fire going and tap into the many thousand years old traditions, which were all low impact. I hope you find more people to inspire and teach how to use one. I love what you’re doing – keep marching on!

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    1. Thanks Joline. Yes, it’s loads of fun most of the time. There are still impacts from using wood for cooking but, for me in my current situation, they are comparatively low. I will soon attempt to use a slow cooker plugged into my very small solar array….we’ll see how that goes!

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      1. Yeah, if you have enough capacity that would be great as they are insulated. The other awesome thing is to go direct solar as in get the sun focussed on the cooking pot. Apparently these can be as simple as putting the pot into an insulated box with a glass lid on a very sunny day. But dome reflectors are often required. I would love to build one with a parabolic dish so frying is doable. Apparently and I haven’t tried it, the old satellite dishes make wonderful parabolic reflectors although a bit hard to come by. The other thing to try which we actually stand a chance with is to snafu a lid of a discarded weber bbq. After a cleanup line the inside with shiny alfoil and see if it focusses right or maybe the bottom part. There are so many ways to cook with sun. Also I have read that a thick piece of something (steel or maybe bricks/pavers) on that focussing point can be used as a sort of thermal battery as in whilst the pan is away they absorb heat so that when the pan is put on them they are already hot hot hot and you can get going right away. Seems to make sense but I’d use a thick bit of steel for that.

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  2. Hi Jo, after reading about you on a Portuguese online newspaper I had to visit your website.
    I consider myself someone that is concern more than usual with the environment, especially CO2 emissions. I also like to cook, so last Summer I decided to give it a go and try solar cooking.
    I gathered enough tin paper to cover an area of about 2×1,5m. I glued it all on a cardboard and joined 2 corners of one of the 2m sides. Done!
    Ideally place a black pan inside a glass container as it retain more heat but I tried without it and it also works, it just takes a bit more.
    Place whatever you want to cook inside the pan (I’ve already done some soup and rice) and place the pan in the ‘focusing’ point of this ‘shell’. You just have to wait now. Be careful as it gets really hot (water boils quite easily).
    Here is a quick web suggestion:

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  3. I was thinking that I often see old dressers and the like discarded at hard rubbish collections. The drawers from the old fashioned baltic pine style are well made with dovetail joins etc. I’m thinking that with the front piece cut down to size they are a perfect start. Wrap some styrofoam pieces or any other insulation such as wool (but not fibreglass as it disintegrates shedding tiny shards of glass fibre strands that would be disasterous in food) and fit these to the back and the sides if the box. Voila. Add a glass piece to the front and you have a great hot box just place your pot inside taking care that ot is level when the box is angled towards the sun and give it time. It can get surprisingly hot inside.

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  4. Well, sort of. 3 or so years ago during lectures break we got middle eastern takeaway. A collection of dips and other small yum bits…. it came in this cardboard container/plate think egg carton in a different shape, anyway, it had a clear plastic lid (yeah horror) anyway, we ate it with real metal cutlery (from school kitchen) outside in the winter sun. Once finished my friend put her cutlery inside the container and popped the lid back whilst others ate and chatted. Once all was eaten and said I picked up her container to put into the recycling….and grabbed the cutlery out of it aaaand oooooouch. It was way too hot to touch. Later, I got thinking, if this simple uninsulated box with a cheap pet lid out in the cold but sunny winters day can get do hot in some 10 mins damn it has great potential. I’m not sure what temp that was but it hurt for about an hour. Luckily no burns so I’m thinking maybe 60-80C? It’s just a guess.

    Now a well insulated box with a much larger sun area/glass pane should be able to cook a stew without any probs with more or less 0 Co2 (if you discount the materials as they were discarded.

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