Living with a Woodfired Cooking Range

esse woodfired WN cooking rangeESSE Woodfired Range Cookers work well in rural East Anglia. We asked our customers for feedback after a years use.

esseHere are a few of their responses;

Describing an ESSE Woodfired 990WN range

Having a woodfired Esse is a bit of a lifestyle decision but one that we have not regretted, we love it for many reasons.

The Esse is great for cooking everything from roasts to cakes to meringues, but the technique is a bit different to that with a gas or electric cooker. A basic Aga cookery book is a good idea for help with this.  You can produce the most delicious slow roasts and slow casseroles. We love the ESSE for cooking from October through to April but we find that during the summer we get too hot despite our large kitchen. When the Esse is running we never use the toaster or electric kettle.  I make yogurt on the back of it and prove bread next to it.  We have a drying rack above so never need to use the tumble dryer.  We leave the doors to the main part of the house open and the heat percolates through to keep the utility room, conservatory, living room, hall stairs and landing and the two nearest bedrooms reasonably warm unless the weather is very cold.

Keeping the fire going overnight is a learning process.  Ideally a reasonable quantity of hot embers need to be present when a large log filling most of the firebox is put in place last thing at night.  This should preferably be an oak or similar hardwood log to burn through slowly and steadily.  A large log is preferable to several smaller ones as the air spaces allow the fire to penetrate and burn through the wood too quickly over night.  If the fire does go out overnight, it draws well enough to light and heat quickly, provided the right wood is available.  This needs to be dry and small kindling with small logs on top (preferably soft wood).  All the vents need to be open to allow the flame to develop quickly and fill the fire box.  In these circumstances the cooker will go from cool to boiling a kettle in less than half an hour. A set of bellows is useful to create flame if the natural heat does not do so as quickly as desired.

If you don’t need to run the cooker at full temperature to heat the house, then you need to think ahead to start bringing the cooker to full heat ahead of cooking as the cooking process causes the oven temperature to drop. An infra red thermometer (available on the internet for around £ 40) is very useful. That way you can choose which oven is most suitable for the item you are cooking. The ovens are quite large because they are deep so you can cook large quantities if you need to using stacking pans.

It is probably wise to get the chimney swept at least twice during the winter. If you take note of where the access points are and use the brush supplied then the chimney sweep visits may not need to be more regular. Much will depend on the type of wood you use, how dry it is and how well seasoned it is.

You will need a reasonably large space somewhere near the Esse to store your wood/ kindling materials and you need to be prepared for the extra dust from the wood and also from the small amount of smoke produced when you light/ feed the fire.

This may all sound rather daunting and complicated but it soon becomes second nature. Good luck if you have or do decide to buy an Esse.

With kind regards
David and Diana

Describing an ESSE Woodfired 905WD range

I got mine in 2009 and am really glad I did – I love mine and wouldn’t want to go back to a conventional electric or gas, but it’s a lifestyle choice that wouldn’t suit everyone.

Plus points;

All the advantages of a range cooker – superb heat retaining cooking. Moisture is retained; even temperature; you can open the door when a cake is partially cooked and it doesn’t collapse; the base of the oven can be used – it’s great for bread making and cakes, not just the things they tell you to cook in it like casseroles, roasts, baked potatoes etc.
Green credentials – sustainable fuel source. It’s streets ahead of other range cookers in this respect, particularly ones that have to stay in burning fuel 24 hours a day. I also enjoy harvesting wood for firewood.
Self-sufficiency during power cuts! After St Jude our power was off for 3 days, but we had full cooking facilities, a warm kitchen and (thanks to the Esse’s back boiler which drives 2 radiators) a warm bedroom and bathroom.
The Esse hob will take large griddle pans, jam pans etc and it can pump out huge amounts of heat.
It really gives character to the kitchen – the lit range feels alive and it looks great too.


You need to learn how to manage the fire and how to read the temperature and how to control cooking temperature (hob and oven). Personally I have one of the eco fans on top of the range and I find that as good as the gauge on the oven door in telling me what the temperature is doing.
You need to plan a little ahead when you want to cook – the oven gets up to temperature in 40 minutes to an hour and needs tending in that time. You also need to remember to refuel it intermittently once it is at temperature. Our kitchen also has room for a small combi-microwave and an electric two ring hob – so if I’m in a rush and just want to cook one pan on a hob, or quickly grill something, I don’t light the Esse.
You get bits of debris from bringing fuel in and bits of escaped ash in your kitchen. My kitchen has a tiled floor and it sweeps up easily so I don’t mind, although it’s surprising how little ash it generates – you don’t have to empty ash very often. You also need somewhere to keep fuel handy indoors.
Whether you buy in firewood or have access to your own sources, you need covered storage for it – you need to bulk buy firewood to be cost effective and if you gather wood from your own sources you need to store 2 years’ worth (from fresh cut green wood to seasoned and dry enough to be efficient to burn).
You also need to learn about firewood.The Esse has to be maintained – flue ways cleaned of soot, chimney swept, some ash removed occasionally.

Other points;

I don’t find it a problem using the Esse in hot weather in summer. If you’re standing in front of it for long periods cooking you can get warm, but you would if you were cooking on gas or electric in hot weather. We have one of those eco fans on top of the range. The heat might be a problem in a small kitchen. If you have the hob covers down it doesn’t leak huge quantities of heat, but you notice the heat much more if you are cooking on the hob.
The specialist Esse delivery service was worth it. They manoeuvred a ton of unforgiving solid metal through several doorways and over the step with nothing damaged or scratched.
I suspect a key factor in being satisfied with the performance of a wood fired cooker is to make sure you have the right the chimney/flue.
A lot of things I used to cook on the hob when I had an electric cooker, I now put in one of the ovens, or I start on the top and then transfer into the oven (like gravy, boiling vegetables, sauces, risotto etc) so when I got the Esse I bought additional metal hob-oven casserole pots to use instead of pans.
I was nervous it would set off the fire-alarms regularly – it doesn’t seem to, but the combi-microwave has done several times when I’ve burnt food in it!
I gave myself a couple of days off work to get to know it and learn how to cook with it when I first got it, but I turned out perfect sponge cakes and buns on the first day I tried it. On the other hand I have also burnt things when I got the temperature wrong.

Best wishes

Describing an ESSE Woodfired 905WN range

Your experience using the Esse as a primary cooking appliance?

My Esse wood burning double oven was installed during January 2012 I have been using it almost continuously since installation.  I rarely use my electric oven as not necessary; 2 Esse ovens are more than adequate.  I purchased an additional shelf so I have 2 in main oven and one in smaller oven.  I always use the hotplates; they are easily managed and are great for ‘ironing’ items of clothing, boiling kettles etc.  It doesn’t take long to adjust to this type of cooking; you need to allow time for oven to heat up if you want to roast food; slow cooking braising is so easy.  Just remember it’s not as instant as gas or electric cooking; plan ahead and get organised.   Also once main oven is up to temperature it will hold its heat for sometime so keep an eye on things that can’t be left for too long.  Smaller oven great for keeping food warm e.g. cooked jacket potatoes or pasta bake/shepherd’s pie etc.  Curries are great; start on hotplate & finish slowly in main oven (same applies to all casserole/braised food).  I’ve cooked rice pudding very slowly in small oven; bring up to simmering in main oven then transfer below for slow cook.  I just use common sense and never use recipe for my everyday basic family cooking.  If I try anything new I use recipe and guestimate equivalent temp range using Esse instructions; it doesn’t take long for this way of cooking to become second nature.

Please offer your thoughts on using the Esse throughout the summer with no other cooking options?

This depends on your house and insulation plus summer temperatures.  Last summer I didn’t use my electric oven at all and continued to use Esse although I didn’t keep fire going overnight and every day.  We also use our BBQ in summer and sometimes I use slow cooker for roast meat and finish off in Esse (if alight) or on BBQ.  My house is well insulated; my kitchen is quite large and open plan & never too hot in the summer so additional heat from Esse isn’t a problem unless temperatures soar.

Do you have somegeneral advice for  living with an Esse?

You need to be organised if you want to keep fire going throughout autumn, winter and spring.  Keep logs close to hand for daily use and stick to maintenance cleaning advice from Esse.  We also have a contemporary Westfire log burning fire in our lounge (it isn’t built for continuous use); I manage to keep both clean and in use most of time without too much hassle.  Remember to plan log storage and seasoning so that logs used are suitable and dry.  I find that oven gives out a fair amount of heat and we have added bonus of a warm/cosy kitchen (my rads are therefore on a low thermostat unless winter is harsh).

Finally I use Ian Foster (Suffolk) for annual service and local chimney sweep for annual clean. I hope this is helpful.


Print This Page Print This Page