African Relief Rocket Stove – At Star & Bullock Hardware
I’m sorry for those of you who are fans of this series, but I am going to beat the long dead cooking horse into the foreseeable future. Everyone wants to talk about food and water, but cooking is as important, if not more important. You may find food. You will not find a rocket stove.
This little stove validates everything I have said for years about stoves that call themselves Rocket Stoves. It was made for African relief, and some of the boxes even say Great Green Wall, and NOT FOR SALE on them.
My take on Rocket Stoves, and I have covered this topic for a long, long time, is that the initial premise on them was a farce. Yet that premise is still being repeated on prepping and survival discussion boards to this day.
The premise is based on “wood gas” and carbon monoxide. Wood gas is released from wood as it burns, and a decent amount is produced in the production of charcoal from wood chunks. Both wood gas and carbon monoxide are burnable gasses. But they don’t burn at the temperature of a normal open pit fire. The reason you can burn propane indoors with no worry of carbon monoxide is that the hotter burning propane also burns the carbon monoxide. The same goes for “blue flame” kerosene heaters and lamps from Alladin, and the kerosene wick stoves I have covered on this column. If you see a blue flame, it should mean that the carbon monoxide is burning.
The Rocket Stove promised to also burn the wood gas and carbon monoxide. And it did that by insulating its walls with cement, which is a good insulator. Theoretically, this holds the heat in, thereby creating a hotter fire in the thin burn chamber. This, theoretically, burns the gasses, and makes a hotter fire for less fuel.
Well I never saw any blue, and the thin burn chamber and tiny firebox are a pain when you want to cook for a long time. I recently saw that someone rebooted the old StoveTec design recently. It’s a 40 pound monolith for no benefit, in my opinion.
This African stove reaps the benefits of the original concept, without the weight and expense. The burn chamber is large, but small to trap and focus all of the heat from the fire up and into your pan. Instead of heavy cast iron top, it stabilizes itself with a surrounding wire rack. It is rock solid even with big heavy pans.
The second key ingredient of what I would call a rocket stove is that you can feed in fuel from the side. This allows you to cook for a long time without having to lift the pan off of the fire every five minutes to add fuel. With a big heavy canner pot, or if you are trying to sterilize a lot of drinking water at one time, it just isn’t practical.
This stove was made for people who need it now, not theoretical off-grid preppers who hope to never even use it’s benefits. Microbes in water kill people every day in Africa. And being able to cook on leaves, sticks and even palm fronds and dried grasses opens up a lot of root veggies to eat which cannot be consumed raw (like cassava which is poisonous raw).
In the video I show you lighting the stove, and I boiled a gallon of water to give you an idea of how little fuel you need to achieve your goals. I used a total of 3 sticks of hardwood, about an inch thick and 8 inches long, with about one who small fan palm frond that had dried out. You need a good deal of heat to get a rolling boil, so at the end I threw in a handful of palm frond.
The stove comes almost completely assembled, and there are no gotchas. They seem to have created an air-gap insulator in the sides, instead of cement, but I would say this is more to give it more structure than to act as an insulator. The sheet steel does turn blue on first use, but otherwise I left it out in the rain for a week and it didn’t rust.
Note from the video that your pot is going to get black. That is true of all open fire stoves, unless you use anthracite coal, which I am going to cover in a future installment. Don’t just jump into anthracite though, because it is very hard to light and keep lit, and for me the jury is still out on it (even though I had like two and a half tons delivered to Florida from PA and I am surrounded by liveoaks and palm trees that drop a ton of garbage or so every year).
This stove just makes a heck of a lot of sense, and I don’t like sounding like a salesman, but there are only about 50 of these in the entire US. I hope to cover another design on Rocket Stoves being used in Turkish villages next, some smaller than this and some larger. Overall this stove is tough to beat. And like I said in the video, you have to get this stuff and try it now, before you need it. If you are in a city, maybe look around industrial areas where pallets tend to accumulate, and get yourself some good big bolt cutters. The world we are about to enter is not going to have any patience for the fickle and hesitant. A year early is better than one day late.