Firing: Stoves, Ranges, and Economical Management of Fuel

This post is chapter XIV of 1894 edition of “The Handbook of Household Management and Cookery” by W.B. Tegetmeier.  As I have another similar work, I’m guessing that that there were quite a few variations on this theme.  The book was compiled at the request of the London School Board for the education of girls.  This places it firmly in the 19th century, a time when big cities like London were developing the infrastructure of education, public health and energy.  It is not “dumbed down”, I chose it because it is a discussion of energy and economics that might not take place today.

91. The fuel used for cooking our food and warming our dwellings is usually coal or coke; in some parts wood or peat is employed, and occasionally coal gas.

92. The heat produced during the burning of fuel is given out when the carbon of the fuel unites with the oxygen of the air, and carbonic acid gas is produced, as it is by the breathing of men and animals. This poisonous gas usually passes up the chimney with some unburned carbon which forms the smoke.

 When charcoal is burnt, the carbonic acid is produced without smoke, and therefore it is often used in stoves without chimneys, and the carbonic acid escaping into rooms is frequently the cause of fatal accidents.  All stoves without flues or chimneys to carry off the carbonic acid are dangerous, and many persons have been poisoned by their having been used.

93. The heat produced by the burning of any kind of fuel makes the air in and around the fire much lighter, and it rises rapidly over the fire, usually passing up the chimney. More than nine-tenths of the heat of a common grate passes up the chimney in this manner, and is wasted. If the grate is constructed of thick solid metal, this conducts away a large quantity of the heat so that it is impossible to keep in a very small fire in an iron range, whereas a mere handful of fuel can be kept alight in a grate lined with fire brick or fire-clay which does not cool the burning fuel in the same manner metal does. Part of the heat produced is thrown out by the fire, and passes into the room. In ordinary grates the amount of heat passing off in this manner is very much lessened by the thick bars which are frequently placed in the front of the grate.

94. Ordinary fire-grates are most extravagant modes of using fuel, and are not employed by the people of any other nation. Not only is a good deal of the heat carried away up the chimney, and by the conducting power of the iron, but the shape of the grate and the bars also prevents much being thrown out into the room.

95. An ordinary grate may, however, be made more economical. If it be lined with bricks, tiles, or fire-clay, and the open bars underneath be closed, either by fire-clay or a piece of tin plate, the air will have to enter in front where the fire will be brightest, and no heat will be thrown down into the ash pit.

96. Cooking ranges with an oven on one side are very useful in a small family. If well constructed they will bake bread, meat, and pies or puddings very perfectly.

Even when there is a low fire the oven can be used for stewing, and slow cooking can be done on the top much better than over a common fire.

A boiler by the side is not so important as an oven, Boilers are liable to get filled with the deposit or rock from the water; and if they are of cast iron, they are apt to crack. As an example of a good cheap open range, the following may be taken; it has a fire-clay back to prevent the heat passing away where it is not required, a good sized oven with the door to let down in front, and a boiler. Grates of this kind are now made by many manufacturers, and are sold at a low price.

97. Cooking stoves are much more convenient and economical in use than ranges. They are used by almost all persons in America, and are now very largely employed in this country. A very good  pattern is shown in the engraving.   It has an open fire which can be used for broiling and toasting. This fire is quite under control and can be raised or lowered in a few minutes by opening or closing the doors  so as to cause a strong current of air to pass through  the burning fuel or over it as required.  The size shown will bake a joint as large as a leg of mutton or two tins of bread admirably.

The cooking vessels can be put down on the fire or placed on the hot iron top and shifted to receive as much heat as required.

The stove can also be used as a hot place for preserving or stewing.  The open fire is cheerful and the stove is a good heating stove as well as cooking stove.  An large boiler placed on top will furnish an unlimited supply of hot water.  placed in front of an open fire-place these stoves require about six feet of iron pipe to be placed up the chimney. Being perfectly movable they can be carried by the owner from one house to another and placed in front of any fire-place. They are sold by Smith and Welstood, Ludgate Circus.

98. Gas-stoves. Gas when employed as ordinary fuel is exceedingly expensive, being at least five or six times as dear as coal. When the gas is burned inside the oven in which meat is to be baked the vapour arising from the burnt gas renders the meat sodden and unpleasant, and quite different from the meat cooked in an ordinary oven or before the open fire.

Gas can however be used as an occasional source of heat with great economy as it is instantly lighted and put out ; there is no waste of fuel or loss of time.  The best small gas stoves are those that can be placed on a table and burn the gas mixed with air, when it produces a pale blue flame which does not smoke any vessel placed within it.  These stoves are particularly useful in heating a kettle of water in the summer time or when there are no fires in the house.

The text was produced by photographing the pages with my phone and using OneDrive’s extract text feature.  Whilst I have read it through, any errors are mine not the original author’s.


About SolarBucket

I trained as a mechanical engineer in the 1970's and then spent most of the following 25 years doing sums and software for Oil and Gas Exploration. Current interests are the study of wind and solar resources.
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