I'm calling it a stove, for lack of a better word. I don't really know what the word for it is. A friend of mine picked it up for me at one of those Asian import stores. She knows I love cooking with fire.
I do like cooking with fire. Most of my experience is over an open flame or with the charcoal two chamber bbq. I'm also quite experienced cooking with pottery, so no fear there.
However, this little stove is something new. Such a small little 'fire pit', and itty bitty pot. It looks like it would be useful for a one-pot, single serving meal.
I bought some little charcoal cubes to try it out. These are supposed to be easy to light without lighter fluid.
There must be a trick to lighting these. I haven't had any success yet.
That's my cute little stove. Now, let's talk about how to use it.
Saftey concerns: Buring a flame inside can cause risks of death - death by fire and death by gas. I'm going to assume anyone reading this understands that fire is dangerous and take appropriate precautions (like good ventilation to stop carbon monoxide poisoning, and, you know, not lighting your curtains on fire, that sort of thing). Good, that's out of the way.
How do I light the charcoal?
What google search words will teach me more about this kind of stove and cooking?
How long will it produce heat?
Usually, when cooking over fire, we can change the heat by moving the food closer or further away from the flame. Either that, or change the amount of oxygen the fire gets. This little stove provides neither opportunity. Because the cooking vessel is clay, frying then adding water creates too much risk of breaking the pot - sudden temperature changes are bad with clay. However, if the temperature change is slow, clay is fine with very hot temperatures. After all, it's kiln is far hotter than any sane person would cook at. So, basically, I see this pot as boil water cooker - something like porridge, soup, pottage, beans, &c. Boiling water for tea would be another option. Once up to heat, I can forsee wanting to maintain the heat for between 1/2 to 4 hours, with the average cooking time being about an hour. How much charcoal would that take?
That design is pretty nice. The burn chamber is a bit short, but otherwise it has the basics of air in low and exhaust out high. My guess about it putting the fire out is that it is all thermal mass. If you could put some ash on the plate to insulate the briquette from the cold mass it would certainly help. Also, if the entire stove was left in a warm place such as near a heat source or a sunny window then it would sap less heat from the fire early on.
They have those charcoal chimney starters which is basically a steel cylinder with a wire rack on the bottom. You put some paper in the bottom and briquettes on top and light it from below. It updrafts the heat to get the briquettes burning and then you can transfer it to the little stove. You can make your own out of an old can. Maybe replacing the ceramic plate in the bottom piece with a stainless steel rack would allow you to put paper underneath and briquettes on top to avoid having to transfer them from a can. You would probably need to leave the top section off until it is well lit. Unfortunately it could potentially cause enough thermal shock to crack it by having something quick burning like paper in it, so it may be unavoidable to have to use the transfer method. This page on charcoal chimneys has a bunch of tips. I usually save used cooking oils to soak some paper or kindling in to help get fires going and keep them going. I dip sticks in a jar of oil before adding them to the fire and it helps me use substantially less wood on small stoves.
I personally wouldn't use that indoors. I really like the idea of having an outdoor kitchen with one or two ovens and a handful of stoves of different sizes for different tasks. Something this size would be great for making a small meal or a hot drink. You could probably use kindling in it the same way some small L-tube rocket stoves work. Perhaps get a couple briquettes started and warm up the stove slowly to avoid thermal shock and then push in small sticks to keep it going. I'm sure it will be a bit of trial and error. Good luck!
Trees are our friends
Would you turn that thing down? I'm controlling a mind here! Look ... look at the tiny ad ...