We picked up an EcoZoom Dura rocket stove from Homestead General Store and promptly took it home to try it out. One member of our family, who is not as well practiced in starting fires, tried it twice and felt like it didn’t work real well. Their conclusion was that they were using too big of sticks and maybe only real small ones work. Another member of our family, who was more adept at starting fires, went to use it and found it worked great. The second member taught the first member how to start a fire in it and now the first member is happily using the stove every day. The key to starting any fire is starting with something easy to lite and gradually work your way to adding bigger and bigger fuel. You can start with tissue, newspaper and / or any dried organic material such as grass or onion leaves, etc. Once this is burning bright you can graduate this to thin cardboard such as found in paper towel (or toilet paper) cylinders or thick cardboard that is torn into small pieces. Then add thicker cardboard once that is burning well. Next add slender and / or small twigs and splintered wood. After this start adding wood that, though it is still very small, has some substance to it (such as wood twigs that are ¼” in diameter). Once this is burning well, you can add the bigger fuel such as ½” or 1” diameter sticks. When this level of fire is established you can add blocks or chunks of fuel from the top. Make sure they are not too long to obstruct your cooking pot or pan when it is put on the burner.
We would like to report that in less than five minutes you can have an extremely hot and focused fire. With little forethought, you can adjust the temperature by the rate you add fuel. Additionally, you can adjust the temperature relatively quickly—about every minute or so. Also, my wife has noticed that when she is cooking something that needs extremely hot temperatures, such as stir fry, the rocket stove does better than our electric range in our kitchen. For example, whenever she puts any kind of noodles in boiling water on our electric range, the water stops boiling for a little while since the addition of the noodles absorbs energy. However, the rocket stove can get the water hot enough that despite the absorption of energy, the water does not stop boiling when the noodles are added into the boiling water.
We do have a few recommendations on use and considerations: 1) Set the stove on some noncombustible, countertop level surface for ease of use. Using the stove on ground level can be difficult on your back. 2) For a really hot fire, add fuel from the top. 3) For a quick fire, add fuel from the front.
Here are a few safety recommendations: 1) When you add fuel with intentions of making an extremely hot flame for cooking (like with stir fry) you must be extra careful because the flame will walk out of the combustion chamber and down the feed tray the length of the sticks toward what you would think of as “the handles”. Make sure you have a good safe area in front of the rocket stove where there are no combustibles. We recommend that everything within arm reach be noncombustible. 2) Keep it out of range of children. Putting it up on a noncombustible countertop level surface makes it more difficult for children to get to than if it is used on the ground. 3) Have an area where you can put coals or otherwise partially burned fuel so that it won’t unintentionally catch something on fire and children cannot reach them. 4) Have something noncombustible that you can push fuel in with such as a six inch metal rod or fork.