If you intend to buy a new stove or range, get one simple in construction, that you may quickly learn all its parts and their uses; plain in finish, that you may easily keep it clean; and perfectly fitted part to part, with doors and dampers shutting absolutely close, so that you may control the fire and heat. This latter point is of essentia) importance in regulating the oven and in preventing a waste of fuel.
Become thoroughly acquainted with whatever stove you may have. If necessary, take it apart; learn how to clean it in the inside, to regulate the dampers for all the variations of wind, temperature, and fuel; and then learn how to make and keep a fire.
All stoves have a fire-box, with more or less space under neath for ashes; a slide damper under the fire, letting in the air; an outlet for the smoke; and a damper which regulates the supply of hot air, sending it around and underneath the oven, or letting it escape into the chimney. Remove the covers and brush the soot from the top of the oven into the fire-box; then clean out the grate; and if the stove have conveniences for so doing, sift the ashes in the stove and save all the old coal and cinders. Put in shavings or loose rolls of paper, then fine pine kindlings, arranged crosswise, and a layer of hard wood, leaving plenty of air space between the pieces. Be sure the wood comes out to each end of the fire-box. Put on the covers; and if the stove need cleaning, moisten some pulverized stove polish with water, and rub the stove with a paint brush dipped in the polish. When all blackened, rub with a dry polishing-brush until nearly dry. Open the direct draught and oven damper, and light the paper, as a slight heat facilitates the process of polishing. When the wood is thoroughly kindled, fill the fire-box with coal even with the top of the oven. Brush up the hearth and floor, empty the teakettle, and fill it with fresh water. Watch the fire, and push the coal down as the wood burns away, and add enough more coal to keep it even with the top of the fire bricks. When the blue flame becomes white, close the oven damper; and when the Goal is burning freely, but not red, shut the direct draught. It seems impossible for some persons to understand that a coal fire is at its height as soon as well kindled, and needs only air enough to keep it burning. When it becomes bright red all through, it has parted with roost of its heat, and begins to die out. Tons of coal are wasted in many kitchens, and ranges are needlessly burned out, by filling the fire-box till the coal touches the covers, and leaving the draughts open till the coal is red.
Nearly all stoves and portable ranges have the oven at one side of and a little below the fire. In brick-set ranges the ovens are sometimes over the fire. A stove has a door on each side of the oven, with the fire-box in front. A portable range has only one oven-door, and the fire-box at the end. In ranges where the oven is over the fire, the articles to be baked are placed on a grate near the middle, as the bottom of the oven is usually very hot. In stoves I; or portable ranges anything which has to rise in the oven, like bread, pastry, cake, etc., is placed on the bottom of the oven, and, if the heat be too great, a small rack or grate may be placed under it. Large pieces of meat are placed on a rack in a pan; while small cuts of meat, birds, etc., which are to be baked quickly, and any dishes which are to be merely browned, like scalloped dishes, must be placed on the grate near the top. Cultivate the habit of opening and shutting the oven-door quickly but gently Learn the hottest and coolest places in the oven. Look at things as they are baking, and turn and watch till you are sure they can be left alone. If anything bake unevenly or too fast, put a screen between it and the heat, - a pan on the grate above or underneath, or a frame of stiff paper made larger than the pan, that it may not touch the dough. When the regulating dampers are closed and the oven is still too hot, lift a cover on the top partly off, although in a stove in which the parts are perfectly adjusted this will never be necessary. When the oven is not hot enough, open the direct draught, and rake out the ashes from the grate. Keep the grate cleaned out and the fire burning freely, when a very hot oven is needed. At other times keep the draughts shut and do not waste the coal.
To keep a brisk fire for several hours or all day, it is better to add a sprinkling of coal often, rather than to let it burn nearly out, and then, by adding a larger quantity, check the fire and retard the work. In using the top of the stove remember the hottest place is over the fire and toward the middle, not on the front of the stove. When you have once watched the flame in its passage over the top, down the back, and under the oven, then across, out and up on the opposite side and out into the chimney, you will understand where the greatest heat must be.