Outdoor Stoves - Fuel and Usage Considerations
There's an enormous variety of outdoor stoves both in terms of fuel and usage. Among them are gas, charcoal, electric, free standing, built in, 'fire pits' and portable stoves for backpackers. As well as stoves for cooking, there are the increasingly popular outdoor heaters, usually powered by gas, which you see in bars, restaurants and hardy people's gardens. Not that you need to be that hardy if you have one - they produce a lot of heat.
Barbecue'n on the Internet (www.barbecuen.com) - which on entry cheerily greets the reader with the information that 'Barbecue is an important part of a balanced diet' - is one of several sites on all aspects of outdoor cooking. There are tips on how to operate various kinds of outdoor cooking stoves including gas grills ('Rule No.1 - Let's Not Blow Ourselves Up'), wood burners and wood smokers, plus suggestions of possible brands to choose from.
There is one side issue to all this, though it will not be a side issue for very much longer. It applies to indoor and outdoor stoves. In an age of fiercely accelerating global warming, the use of fossil fuels is not doing anyone any favors. Last century, environmental issues seemed to many to be the province of self-righteous tree-huggers. This century, they will become the world's pressing concern - more important even than political crises. It's true that our little home stoves are a tiny drop in the ocean of carbon emissions and that if governments aren't doing their bit (not naming any names, America) it seems to weaken the onus on individuals. But those drops really help to make up the ocean, and it is rising.
We all leave a 'carbon footprint' which, in years to come, is going to have to get smaller and smaller because of the effect/depleting stocks of fossil fuels. Burning things in our home is not the only, or even the biggest, contributor to this footprint - air travel and electricity consumption are some of the major ones - but it's good practice to be environmentally aware in every aspect of life. Ventures such as the (UK) National Energy Foundation's Logpile project (www.nef.org.uk/logpile) aim to make fuel consumption as sustainable as possible - the wood suppliers they list source their fuel from managed forests which, they say, makes wood burning not only environmentally sound, but actually beneficial. In a similar vein the Swedish government is encouraging people to use ceramic wood-burning stoves as an environmentally friendly form of heating. Wood, then, might be the way forward.