I’ve been cooking on a rocket stove on a daily basis (except for winter) for the past three years now, and I recently broke down and splurged for a prefabricated cook stove — the StoveTec model rocket stove. Previously, my food co-op and I had been using a DIY rig that Thomas built, but my patience with it has been waning lately. It’s big, so it can’t be moved (a problem when the wind comes from the west, especially), and wood slipping out of the firebox is a more than frequent issue.
The StoveTec rocket stove solves those problems, and is actually way more efficient, resulting in even less firewood used for cooking. I gotta admit, I really like this factory-made stove. Read ahead for my review.
Rocket Stove Efficiency
We cook exclusively using firewood, so it’s fairly important that the experience be as seamless and efficient as possible. I’m afraid to say the homemade stove we’ve been using is not as efficient as I previously thought, since using the StoveTec model. A milk crate’s worth of wood goes a lot further now!
The StoveTec stove does a lot more with each stick of wood than I expected — it really is an efficient little thing. It’s very simple to burn smoke-free fires, and it’s obvious when you are overfiring. A tiny bit of practice makes it very clear. Even after a pretty long cooking session, there is but a very small pile of wood ash at the back of the firebox — wow! (That’s a good sign.) It’s simple to light, too.
The handy metal grate ensures that wood does not get jammed against the walls of the firebox, and it’s nicely elevated to burn wood as cleanly as possibly. I’ve not timed how long it takes to boil water, but I know that it is quite fast, and uses much less wood than before. The included metal skirt helps, but I doubt it is “25% more efficient” (as advertised) than it would be without use of the skirt.
Moving the Stove
Another huge plus of this tiny little thing is its portability. The biggest advantage for its size is that you can move it from place to place (duh), and reposition it if the wind becomes a problem (which is does here in gusty Missouri). Love it! No more cursing on those west wind days.
It’s very lightweight, and has two decent handles to move it around, which can be done safely even after using it. This is not the kind of thing you’re going to walk around with on a backpacking trip, but it would make a great travel companion on camping trips and the like.
Build Quality and Design
The build quality of the stove is quite nice. I got the one door “eco” version, which features a cast iron cook top, and a ceramic firebox. It’s definitely got a nicely insulated body (which makes for its high efficiency) — chalk that to the refractory ceramic that’s used in its construction. It is a pretty tight build, and I expect it will last some good time. It’s got a three year warranty, and the company says it can handle the rigors of daily use, which is what it is designed for, after all. (These stoves were originally intended for so-called ‘less developed’ countries where fuel shortages are often a problem, and smoky cooking environments cause women health problems.)
I have no doubt we will put this stove through the test, as it is now our primary cook stove, responsible for feeding five people for all our hot meals each day.
Rocket Stove Review Wrap-up
To conclude, the StoveTec model is efficient, nicely sized, and very pleasant to operate. It burns cleanly (as far as wood goes), and feels solid and durable.
The biggest drawback? The “Made in China” tag on the box — a huge turnoff for me. It was what actually deterred me for a long time about buying the stove. I don’t know any specifics about their manufacturing plant in China, which is disappointing. I can only assume they build them in China to save on costs, making it cheaper to get these stoves to the masses (which is the primary humanitarian goal of Aprovecho, the brain behind the tool — spreading the stoves to impoverished people around the world — read more about that project here.) I feel torn about it, I guess. Also, the $85 price might be a bit high when you consider they only cost $9-12 to build. Hrrm.
Well, I feel better about the stove knowing that we’re burning a lot less wood to cook these days, but I’m still not sure if it warrants buying something from overseas…
Anyway, there ya have it. Rather it were made stateside. But recommended.