Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Rocket Stove for Beginners

Over the last year we have been entertaining the idea of some kind of permanent outdoor cooking appliance for our back yard. Our choices were between a masonry oven, earth oven, or a rocket stove. After researching all three and taking an earth oven building workshop, I decided the rocket stove would be the easiest place to start. The earth oven required a large base and I wasn't sure of the quality of our local clay. The masonry oven involves a lot of brick work and I had never held a trowel before so I chose the simpler rocket stove.

The Concept
A rocket stove uses a small combustion chamber to burn fuel efficiently. Unlike a campfire which can slowly draw air in from all around and gives off heat in every direction, the rocket stove creates a draft at the inlet that rapidly pulls fresh oxygen into the combustion chamber and exhausts through a small opening at the top so the energy is transferred only where the operator wants it. The setup burns the fuel efficiently so less is needed. Rocket stoves are popular in third world countries where fuel is scarce and expensive.

The Materials
I used:
-76 standard construction bricks
-6 pavers
-two and one half 60lb bags of mortar
-19" length of stainless steel vent pipe
-stainless steel angled pipe
-2 pieces of stainless steel plate
-7 gallons of wood ash

The construction bricks were 25 cents at the habitat restore. The mortar was about $8. The wood ash was free from the parents wood stove. The plate was donated but the pipe was a bit pricey at $85. I didn't want to use galvanized steel or aluminum around high heat and food.

As I said I had never picked up a trowel before this project, but after watching some master masons on you tube and consulting with both of the dads, I felt confident enough building a simple tower. I figured the worst that could happen would be some wasted time and maybe a ruined meal if it collapsed. At least it wouldn't be providing structural support for anything more than a frying pan.

After getting the hang of the mortar, it went quickly. I finished all but the last two courses (a course is one layer of bricks) in the first day. I left a hole for the fuel magazine/air inlet by leaving out one brick and trimming two down leave a space.

The second day I laid the last two courses, finishing with the pavers for a clean look on top. Next I installed the pipe and poured wood ash in the void between the brick and pipe. The ash served as insulation to both protect the bricks from cracking, and to concentrate the heat at the opening to increase efficiency. I mortared in one of the stainless steel plates below the top two courses to keep the ash from getting wet and blown around.

The finished stove sits 36" high to approximate the working height of our kitchen stove. The middle of the opening for the fuel magazine sits 14" off the ground so we don't have to bend down too far to start and feed the fire.

First Firing

I fired the stove up the next morning to boil water for coffee and try a bistro breakfast panini recipe Moriah found at Taste of Home.

The flames shot up over 20 in

The paninis were delicious, but this is not the recipe I would recommend for the first time using the stove. It takes some practice feeding the fire and adjusting the height of the grill. This type of stove can get up over 1200 degrees F. The heat can be controlled by how much fuel is added and how high the cooking surface is raised.


  1. Wow fantastic rocket stove! I enjoyed looking at your pics!

  2. This is soooooo cool!!!!! Thanks!!!! I have seen littler ones all over youtube, but this is great!

  3. Wow!! I love it. I've been thinking of building a clay oven but didn't really have a spot in the yard that would be convenient to place it. Now I'll reconsider whether a rocket stove would make sense for me.

  4. This is fantastic! Thanks so much for sharing.

  5. Indio, a clay oven will be our next fun project. I took a class about building ovens this past spring. But the rocket stove was a faster project that took up less space.

  6. Great post! This something new for me (and we are planning a summer kitchen!). I am goign to research this further. Thanks so much for the post!

  7. This is great for our new project. Thanks!