Give me your tips. This wood fired family needs some love.
So we’re about to embark on our first full Winter of cooking on a woodstove. In particular, a Rayburn Royal. It has hot spots, cold spots and an oven that cooks everything really well on the left side.
I know there’s HEAPS to learn about this baby, from the best wood to use to what recipes work better in a woodstove oven to what best to use the warming oven at the bottom for…
I would welcome any and all comments from woodfired cooks old and new…
Can I firstly say that I truly and deeply love wood fired cooking. I love that this stove warms our house and our bath water on a cold and rainy day, as well as providing an oven and cooktop for making good food.
I love that this is slow cooking at it’s most fundamental. You wanna bake? Then light the kindling 2 hours prior and forget about all the other things you’re trying to do today till you get a good fire roaring…
I love the gentle radiant heat. It’s almost mammalian. It’s like having a crouching, friendly, big black bear that sleeps in the corner of the tiny house, and radiates a slow happiness that gets into everyone’s bones, even as we sleep.
I love that even if all else fails, if the solar system turns up its toes, a huge storm comes and the world outside is dark and lost, that I can still cook my family and crew a big, hot, nourishing dinner. And pudding.
Ok so that’s all great, but currently my puddings are all coming out burnt on one side. This is analog cooking at its most non-standard. I love it. But I also love dessert that i can eat the whole of.
So! Tell me oh global network of wood fired cookerers and/or children of wood fired cookerers. Not only limited to Rayburn cooking, but wood stove cooking in general…
What should I make? What are your best tips for fuel size? Uses for ash? Muffins vs cakes? Can I hope to cook a great sponge in this (not that i ever have previously cooked a great sponge in any other oven, but who knows what lies ahead)? Cheese toastie approaches for a Rayburn?
When you ‘close it down’ for the night, how do you get the coals to make it through till morning? Is there a secret trick?
Thanks in advance…
I don’t know how relevant our stove is to yours but if I’m going to use the oven I will plan to cook slow and long. I remove all the ash in the fire box because that is above our oven and the ash insulates the heat source slowing the cooking down even further. I’ve found that you want a hot oven you got to get that baby cranking out the heat and cooking in your undies comes with hazards at my age not to mention the aesthetic. For all night burning I use a really hard wood, iron bark… Read more »
lol thanks Fraser
Grew up on one in the hinterlands of Canada and it was survival..you learn to think and prep far ahead with a wood stove but it truly is your friend. Never knew any other way but to turn your items in the oven regularly and learn your hot and cool spots. Not a stove you want to cook delicate items on unless you are willing to keep it constant company, but there is nothing like starting your yeast sponge in the warming oven, letting the bread rise there and then taking those beautiful loaves out on a winters day. It… Read more »
rising bread! nice one 🙂
We installed ours about the same time as you so we are new to all of this too. I am struggling with the oven. Our temperature gauge is rubbish so we have a free standing one inside. It is about 40 degrees different to the in built in one. All I can offer is some fuel information. We have access to heap of pallet wood on a very regular basis from the local hardware shop. It is generally pine. I start the fire in the morning with finely chopped pine and increase the wood size in the fire bit by… Read more »
Hey guys I would avoid oine for all but the very start kindling. It has a lot of tar which will gum up your chimney in no time. In WA we use jarrah, but some hardwood from your area is good. We had an Everhot for years ( Aussie made, but Rayburn is the best they say). Make sure you clean the ash out of everywhere regularly as it does insulate. Get a single large log burning before you go to bed and then slowly close down the air flow with the controls. Put the covers down too. It should… Read more »
Tip one – use heavy cast iron to cook on. This will help with cold and hot spots.
Tip two – consider putting a pizza stone or oven bricks in the oven to even out the heat. You might even put a half fire brick on the hot side to buffer the hot spot.
Nice one on the pizza stones Alexander – ta
Slivers of dried bamboo were always the winner for getting a quick boil (especially that first pot of coffee in the morning!). They off-gas and give you a nice blue flame to turn the bubble to a boil. Most sappy pine will do a similar job, just as long as it isn’t treated 🙂
I wouldn’t be planning on sponges and soufflé although my Mum knew her oven so well she turned out beautiful sponges. You’ll learn your hot and cold spots and to turn your food accordingly…its all trial and error. Bank you fire box with hardwood before going to bed and you should wake to good hot coals and an easy start to the morning.Buy a camping waffle iron for your cheese toasties and do them on the top. My best memory is waking up to the smell of porridge that my Dad had started at about 5am and a toasty warm… Read more »
Jaffle iron! Nice one.
I have the same stove bought new by us 27 years ago , and I could copy the instruction booklet if you like –good tips on cooking and temps etc –I only use redgum but most gum would work well –as we have a Coonara as well I let ours go out over night but with a bit of riddling (thats the lever you’re missing ) it will burn overnight when shutdown correctly .A firm in Seymour Vic has all the spare parts and sells restored ovens for a fairly reasonable price http://www.scandiastoves.com.au/
Isn’t the riddler the bit between the firebox and the ash box?
It’s all about the wood. There is a massive difference in the heat you get from some types of wood. The moisture level of the wood is also key. Your best chance of waking up to coals in the morning is to put your biggest and chunkiest hardwood on a hot bed of coals just before you go to bed. Also damper it down to slow down the burn.
Gotta find some good wood! We’re in old goldmining country so all the good stuff was cut down years ago… will have to figure a good source…
We have the same oven bought new 27 years ago .I have the original instruction booklet if you’d like me to scan or copy it for you .I use red gum but any hard Aussie wood is good, but our local Grey Box burns hot but has too much ash .You are missing the riddler which you operate to stir the coals and drop the ash which I do at night before shutting down .As we have a Coonara as well I don’t often use it overnight.Ours has the optional water jacket connected to our hot water service so in… Read more »
Use trivets and really watch your stove and how it acts with different fires, you will become good at it pretty quick. It is a learning curve.
We had a wood stove for years when my kids were little, I really miss it. I don’t know much about that kind, but I cooked our stove for years. Yes, the oven will burn hot on one side, I just got into the habit of turning things regularly. I found cakes the most difficult, but with practice I still made some nice ones! As for the stove top, it is easy to just move things to a boil spot than to a simmer spot. We found for us Oak was great, we also had some ‘wet’ wood for the… Read more »
I agree with Greg, and you need to chock it up as tightly as you can for it to last overnight, no gaps! You get a feel for it after a while. I have “magic firestarters” (a recycled large envelope, stuffed with small dry twigs) close at hand to stuff in on those cold winter mornings when the fire is nearly out…… A trick for emptying your ash box so you don’t get ash all over the kitchen, Do it slowly and carefully while the fire is drawing so the ash is drawn back up into the fire box. We… Read more »
nice thred I dont have an oven like this but I like to cook with timber.. Fire bricks can be sandstone pavers ive also used bluestone paver mine were from bunnings pretty big rectangle slab for $12 or so. Im sure the thermal mass is pretty good in an oven like this but the stone will help greatly well it dose in the comercial combi ovens i use as a chef. best pizza bases ever, those stone pizza bases are pretty expensive really for what they are, Love your posts guys some vids would be sweet too 😉
You can cook some eggs in the ash.
I cooked on one years ago and loved it , rice pudding was amazing . Ours was old and didnt have the lever but you need one definitely for the night coals so we ended up making a sliding baffle ( flat metal plate) … lucky you !
I had a Rayburn for 10 years. It was a good stove but I think you’ll struggle to get it to stay in over night because if I remember correctly the fire box is fairly small and has a wide spaced riddler to let the ash fall through and keep the burn process going. We ended up buying a space wood heater to heat the house. After all the stove is made to burn wood quickly and get rid of the ash. Space heaters burn slowly and develop a good base of ash that insulates the burn and keeps the… Read more »
Over the years I have found that the most important point about your wood is to have a wide range of sizes available – from the “get it going now” small to the “chunky, slow all night burn” aimed at providing coals in the morning. Failing that, designate someone to be the early riser/chief fire-lighter while you stay snug in bed for the half an hour that the kettle takes to boil. The world is always brighter after a morning cup. With regards to wood – at times people tend to be wood snobs – I agree that some of… Read more »
My best tools is a set of bellows . Mine are handmade, a gift, and very beautiful. They’re only a year old, and I don’t know how I ever managed without them. I can get the fire going with wet wood, with no good kindling, with only a few coals to start it up again. Black wattle (Acacia mearnsii) is also a surprisingly good firewood, and an easy fuel to grow. I love our Rayburn. 70 years old, recently rebricked, still going strong.
women have been well trained to cook by numbers 🙂 the rayburn has no numbers! just a sliding scale of heat which means you can interchange your sizzle plates with your spuds and your peas, while still boiling a narrow kettle and keeping the baby food warm on the side the all night burning is a myth with the exceptions of a few flukes and the 3.00am wood at loo break system speaking local timbers, blackwood fumes and is really unhealthy, eucalypt and casurina fine, but must be DRY, bluegum gives the best chance of a long airless burn, the… Read more »
Next time you’re in Melbs K I recommend going to an Aga class at the Aga shop in Prahan, they break down all the ways to do all the knobs. For a hot fire (you probably already know this!) shut the bottom dial of the fire box all the way then open it a quarter turn back, open the chimney flu all the way to get it roaring, then shut the flu down to keep it hot. And it is ALL about the wood. Willow gets it up hot quickly for a short time (the person who told be this… Read more »
Hi, miss our wood stove in sweden after reading this… First of all, ALWAYS dry wood, for the environment and for soot buid up. Water is not the way to slow down a fire. That missing lever at the top is for slowing down the burning. The fire should always have plenty of oxygen coming in through the vent on the ash box and instead be choked on the chimney end. that way you get nice and clean burn at the speed you want it. Ashes is generally liked by fruit bearing plants, contains potassium. Without having a look at… Read more »
Ah yes the wood fired stove.. Love it! As a few posts have already mentioned, just need to learn about the stove.. We grew up with one and neighbours all had them too..different stoves all seem to have slightly different personalities. We used to constantly rotate different dishes all around the stoves and ovens as we cooked..Keeping flue clean and emptying ash regularly will help. Cast irin is great. The heavier the wood the hotter and stand the wood up vertically wherever possible helps burn better. Good luck!
Thanks Gus – how does one actually clean the flue? From the stove end? Or from the rooftop end?
We have a 4 oven Thermalux called “Brunhilda”. The firebox is in the middle of the 2 hotter ovens with 2 warming ovens underneath each hotter oven. We had to learn by trial and error about keeping it burning all night. Steve is dictating to me what we do (because he is the fire man and I am just a fire serf 😉 )…”you close all of the air vents down (whatever you have that classes for air vents on a rayburn…) and he is saying something about a “diffuser”…(maybe that is the thingo you were talking about?!)…the principle is… Read more »
huzzah for Brunhilda!
Brunhilda rocks! She isn’t a woodi like yours though so sorry if the info wasn’t really pertinent 🙂
We too have a Thermalux but the gourmet cooker and I am also looking forward to my first winter using Ignisa to heat our smallish house (no other heat source), heat our hot water (there’s solar and then gas and electric boost there but we won’t be using either) and we also have the oven and stovetop to cook with although there is an electric oven and gas and electric cooktop but I want to avoid them. I’m posting this as a reply as Fran linked this up for me and although I’m yet to read it I thought it… Read more »
I cooked daily on a Rayburn in our old house for many years and loved it. Initially I stoked it up really hot after cooking for the lovely warmth but that meant burning out the firebricks more quickly. After replacing them it cooked more evenly. It was possible to get new sets of firebricks (maybe still?) but we cut some to size from a disused boiler in an old cheese factory. Apart from that, letting the oven heat thoroughly then once the coals are more subdued putting in the dish, and of course rotating it halfway through the cooking helps… Read more »
Thanks Liz – so much goodness here 🙂
My favourite recipe in the wood stove is slow cooked roast chook. On a cool day when you have the stove just ticking over (oven only needs to be 100-150) put your chook in to roast (I use my big Le Creuset pot for this roast) about lunch time enjoy the smell of roast wafting through the house all afternoon and enjoy a chicken so tender the only catch is it might fall apart while serving. Good for home killed roosters that are a bit older than would normally be desirable. Then for the best chicken stock strip any left… Read more »
I would second the types of wood making a big difference in the heat and duration and an internal oven thermometer to give you a better read on the temp. The hot and cold spots actually work out o.k., because you find the hot spot for boiling pasta and move the steamed veggies or sauces to stay warm on the cold(er) spots. Wood stove cooking is a labor of love.
My nan and mum showed me how to cook on a rayburn. I don’t remember a lot in detail, but I will say their dishes complimented the capacity of the wood heater. We ate a lot of puddings, rather than cakes and muffins, because the wetter the dish, the more heat it can take before burning. Favourite puddings were: baked rice pudding, chocolate sauce pudding and golden-syrup dumplings – often cooked in heavy enamel pans and dutch ovens, rather than the flimsy steel cookware on offer today. As someone who has baked professionally with modern equipment and the old wood… Read more »
Also forgot to add, scones and damper were the favourite foods cooked on rayburns, rather than breads too. Smothered in warm butter and your favourite topping (home made jam and fresh cream!) and you really didn’t feel deprived. The benefit of scones and damper is they didn’t have to be baked as long. If you cook your damper in a dutch oven, you don’t get as much burning on top. You could also try looking at cooking bread in a dutch oven. I think it’s called a “no-knead” bread which is easier to make than traditional loaves. It also calls… Read more »
Ha-ha! Just read your label on your loaf – it’s a no-knead bread. Sorry, my bad!
My mother grew up with a wood stove from early 1920’s and so that was all my parents had from my birth to when I was about 14. It wasn’t a slow combustion stove like yours but a Beacon which still did a lot of things. It never stayed on all night but would be left to die down after the last person went to bed. It was lit by the first person to rise in the morning and supply a cup of tea soon after before the dairy milking got into full swing. By breakfast time there would be… Read more »
Forgot to mention that ash should only be spread lightly around otherwise it increases your pH too much. Put it on the vegies, fruit and other trees and pasture.
If you end up with black charcoal, separate it from the white ash, and save it to be incorporated into the market garden soil as terra preta.
Google Robinia for an excellent firewood tree. Apparently it comes close to anthracite in heating value. It also coppices well, is fast growing and produces fencing posts that last 120 years in the ground untreated. There are more great attributes, I am growing some from seed for our property.
Hi Guys, well done on your blog and your lifestyle.. I loved living like that through my child rearing years. Plus always had a wood stove. you shouldn’t have to worry about kindling much – you won’t be relighting all winter. keep it burning by making sure no air is going through the firebox. on one stove we used to ope the bottom of the flue so it was sucking air in from the outside and that meant that the fire stayed smoldering, no wood was used up.
plus many other tips…. Sandy Hook and Spoon Benalla VIC.
Lovely reading all of the above. I am jealous as I miss my combustion stove badly but feel they are soon to be banned in residential areas in NSW so won’t buy one. One point on the name of your stove, It is a SLOW COMBUSTION STOVE. A wood stove is similar but different. Made earlier in our history & could not be dampened down for the night.
Wow, I think this is the most comments I have seen on a post on your page. I didn’t read them all, just kind of skimmed. I don’t have a rayburn, but have had an old crown for the last 3 years, it took me about 6mths to figure her out right. Watch and learn and feel. Your hand will soon learn temps by hovering, turn things often until you get the hang of it. Let her teach you. And as far as I read, she doesn’t have a name. Name her and talk to her. Love her.
To clean your flue open the square inspection plate on your stove. Drop a rope down the chimney (from the roof, where else?) When the rope reaches the stove inspection box pull it out and tie a large bag (chaff bag size) to the rope, usually in the middle of the bag. Where you tie it depends on the size of your chimney pipe. The bag has to be a tight fit in the pipe to clean it. Pull bag into the chimney just enough to be able to block the inspection hole with the plate or something. If you… Read more »
Hi Kristin, I know this is an old post so you may not need any more thoughts…. But here are some anyway… We don’t worry about keeping it lit all night – we fire it up and shut it down but if it goes out, it stays warm and lights quickly in the morning. Cleaning the flue: we’ve found that the build up mostly happens in the flue box rather than the flue up the chimney, so pulling that apart and cleaning the gunk away does the trick. Riddler is the bit, as you say, between the firebox and ash… Read more »
We have had a rayburn 500 for around 12 months but only now is it getting close to me being able to use as up until now it has been in pieces. I was doing some google searching and I have found a very helpful website from aga. It is http://www.agashopaustralia.com. It was so good as I was able to download the manual for my stove and it is so very helpful eg- tells you where to place the tray in the oven and what number to have it sitting on for best results. Hope you might get some help… Read more »
I am SO late to answer this post HOWEVER if you watch this documentary the BBC did about Victorian Kitchens ( it has a companion documentary about the kitchen garden with the YODA of gardening) I learned a lot of useless tips for cooking on a range! Only useless for me because I don’t have one but maybe for you!!! Here you go!
Getting wintry now…i am cooking in an old Everhot.. 1st thing, our firebricks were degraded and smashed up, so we took her apart and welded a new firebox out of 12ml steel,(tip shop gold!). This will outlast the stove I reckon, and increases the firebox size pretty dramatically. 2nd hot tip! I have deep litter in the chook house/yard. I throw the Ashes around their house to balance the acidity of chookpoo/barkmulch for eventual compost, and freak out any lurking external parasites as well. I also have a roofed bathtub full of Ashes, sand and soil so chooks can ‘bathe’at… Read more »
awesome tips cheers 🙂
hi, kirsten, how is it going with the Rayburn? i think i read somwhere in the replies that your are in the mudgee district, if so, think about getting a load of coal, rayburns were designed as coal burners and a properly stoked coal burning rayburn will stay “in” for up to 10 hours without any trouble at all. i used to live in the upper blue mts and lithgow, we always used a coal Rayburn. Wood doesnt compare at all.
That is very interesting – I spent a lot of time in my Grandma’s house in Lithgow as a kid that ran (literally, rather than 2-steps removed like most of Australia) on coal heat!
Hey thanks everyone for your advice, and your useful & cosy stories. I’ve just helped to revitalise a model 1 wood-fired Rayburn with my fella, which is the one with a weeny spot to burn the wood and no warming oven, just the hot ‘cooking’ oven, it’s a beautiful little thing. However with the oven lies our problem as it doesn’t seem to get above 200 degrees farenheight, no matter how hot we get the fire. I feel like we’re doing everything right, as we’re burning nice aussie hardwoods that we keep going all night, and can use the hotplate… Read more »
Are you going off the temperature on the oven door dial? If so, don’t – them things are notoriously wonky. Stick an internal thermometer in the oven and see what’s happening int here… sounds like it’s plenty hot to me if you’re kettle’s whistling.
The little silver knob to the right of the ash tray is a ‘riddler’ – it wiggles the circular grate at the bottom of the fire box to let ashes fall thru to the ash tray – at least that’s what ours does! 🙂
Your advice is much appreciated. Will try a new thermometer and see how that goes 🙂
Thanks again, you were right about the thermometer, it was hotter than we thought. Also, now we’ve had a good dry spell to dry out/season our wood we’re reaching much higher temperatures, and some yummy dishes have come out of it.
Have you got yourselves an old fashioned iron yet? Wrap a tea towel around the handle and it works just as good as an electric,a little heavier (mine is a 5) but no annoying flex and no electricity used. I simply bake at a time when the oven is hot enough, often in the evening. Cut up pallets burnt give off a good heat and especially good for getting the fire going. Some companies pay to get them taken away and may be happy to give them to you instead free. If the oven is on say 200 and I… Read more »
I think for your one-sided issue you could erect some kind of aluminium deflector – that might work.
Loved reading this thread! We used a Rayburn when I was a child growing up in Cornwall (UK), and Mum loved it even though it was hammered and smeached most of the time. So a couple of years ago we bought an old Rayburn for just shy of £200 plus a van and diesel to fetch it. It has a cottage pie in it as we speak! Keeping in in is no issue although you will need a bit of coal overnight. It is slow cooking in the fullest sense, so weekdays after work I use the electric cooker but… Read more »
A wise woman,your mum! 🙂
Just seen your posts. I put a Rayburn in a couple of years ago when I renovated a machinery shed that I now spend time in. This winter I’m starting to get to grips with managing this puppy and have a few thoughts if you’re still looking for ideas. I would appreciate any tips too.
we have just moved into a house with a rayburn situated in the kitchen but as hard as we try we cant get the hotplate hot no matter how much coal or logs we put in it.
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