Open fires

Open fires are made by arranging three bricks or stones (or another forum of tripod) on the level ground approximately 120 degree to each other. This is the most primitive cooking arrangement. The fuel used is generally firewood the size of which depends on the height of the stones or bricks.
Traditional Tripod 3 stone  Stove
Traditional Tripod 3 stone Stove

Fire is started with some kindling material and then the wood is added. A temperature of about 300 degree centigrade is achieved in open fires or three stone cookstoves. Pots and pans are balanced on the three stones. When the stones get heated to 300 degree centigrade, the heat is transferred to the pots and some are transferred back to the fire.

Since the incoming air is also heated during combustion it reacts more easily with the wood gases at the glowing end of the stick. Combustion is controlled by moving the wood pieces. Energy to sustain the combustion comes from the radiation from the flame and from the glowing tips of fuel wood.
Open Three Stone Fire
Open Three Stone Fire

Who are the users?

Three stone or open fires are still used on a regular basis by:
  • millions of households throughout the world, particularly in Africa
  • Rural people with nomadic habits
  • Pavement dwellers in the city
  • Construction workers for building roads and buildings who move from site to site.

What are the reasons for its popularity even in the 21st century?

The reason for its popularity are perhaps because:
  • It is very versatile.
  • They are easy to assemble and requires no particular skill.
  • They satisfy many needs, such as cooking , drying out of the damp clothes, provides warmth, a source of light.
  • It also acts as the focal point for social gatherings.
  • Any solid combustible material can be used as fuel.
  • The fuel can be of any size and dimension.
  • The cooking vessels can be of any size and dimension as it only requires some adjustment of the stones to fit in the vessel.
  • The smoke and the open fire keeps away insects and rodents.
  • To construct a three stone fire costs nothing.

What are the disadvantages of this open fire cooking?

  • The efficiency is very low hence fuel is wasted
  • There is a lot of heat which is wasted due to the distance of the pot from the flame, convection and radiation losses from the pot walls
  • Wind factor plays a major role in lowering the efficiency of the stove
  • Heavy smoke from the fire causes eye irritation and respiratory diseases
  • Fuel wood is becoming scarcer so steps should be taken to curb its use
Due to these disadvantages gradual improvements were made to the open fire cooking and evolution of cookstoves took place. The most simple one of which is the horse - shoe shaped single pot cookstove that is traditionally used in the villages of India and other countries. Then came the two pot holed type. But these traditional cookstoves although they they solved one problem i.e cooking could be done indoors, they failed to solve the rest of the disadvantages mentioned above.
Thus came in the need for Improved Stoves
Stoves Database

Last edited by Miriam Hansen .
Page last modified on Thursday October 21, 2010 15:00:30 GMT.
  • A practitioner's journal on household energy, stoves and poverty reduction.

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