My First Experience Using The EcoZoom Plancha
Every so often a cooking device comes around that excites with great features and solid design. When I decided to test and review the Ecozoom Plancha is was still cold in Western Montana, my home. It seemed like the cold spring would go on forever. In early June we were still experiencing 55 degree days that left me uninspired to cook outdoors. Then, finally, the weather started to warm up just in time for Father’s Day so I decided to put this little rocket stove to the test.
Here is the scene; we were at a lake in the Bitterroot Mountains called Lake Como….and yes I’e been to the other Lake Como too, the one in Italy that is nothing short of spectacular. Lake Como MT is also pretty stunning, MUCH smaller, but still very scenic. We set up camp on the beach and the mountain views were spectacular. The place was very crowded being a Sunday and Holiday to boot.
Of course other folks had little kettle grills and propane cookers but none of those drew much attention. They pushed out plumes of black smoke from charcoal and acrid stink from burning white gas…not so pleasant. My EcoZoom Plancha on the other hand was like a cute puppy, many people stopped by to comment on it’s looks and thought it was pretty neat. My menu features locally raised NY strip steak tacos and a pot of black beans wit hall the fixings; salsa, cheddar cheese, sour cream, fresh cilantro and lime…more about the food later.
I love well made things, and I appreciate them too. WAY to many appliances and items used for cooking such as grills, stoves, cookware etc. is cheaply made. Go to the landfill, you’ll see thousands of charcoal and gas grills that have met their fate. The stores are filled with sub-par cheap cooking appliances that are lightweight, made with poor materials and thrown together with little concern for cooking performance.
The above concerns are what drive many people to switch to cast iron cookware. After too many burned meals and uneven cooking they return to old school products like cast iron. There is a reason it’s still around! It works!
When I first saw the EcoZoom Plancha I was instantly impressed with the build quality. This stove is heavy….and it was built with the intention of it lasting a long, long time. I would say it’s pretty well indestructible. Unless you throw it off the balcony on concrete this rocket stove is not going to wear out. The Plancha uses rocket stove technology, essentially a highly insulated J-shaped burn chamber that allows immense heat with very little fuel.
The burn chambers are insulated with ceramic and can be used with a cast iron top or open as to perform wok style cookery. The entire top of the stove is made of cast iron and once hot it stays hot and is perfect for keeping things hot without further cooking. This was perfect for keeping my black beans hot while our steaks cooked. Once lit, the flames heat up the cast iron burner caps which are easily removed is more direct heat is needed for searing a steak or boiling water. The unit also has a removable chimney with spark cap to help direct what little smoke is produced away from your face.
All parts of the stove are made high quality and they are put together in a very seamless design which at first glance is very impressive. We had many people stop over to comment on how cool the PLancha looked and they wondered why no smoke was present….they thought is was a propane cooker.
Rocket stoves are becoming very popular DIY projects these days, I even built one using left over bricks and chimney pipe which showed promise. Of course it was not portable! YOUTUBE is filled with how-to videos that demonstrate the construction of rockets stoves. The technology of the insulated J shaped burn chamber is well documented to be efficient and nearly smoke free. These rocket stoves use a fraction of the wood that other wood burning stoves or heating appliances would use and produce a ton of heat.
Rocket stoves used for cooking are truly a breakthrough in outdoor cooking. I cannot believe how little wood is used and how little smoke is produced. After a few minutes these stoves are almost smoke free, quite a change from the typical charcoal grill that is puffing out tons of smoke that always seem to blow your way, not matter how much you move around. This one feature alone makes a rocket stove really nice to work with.
The EcoZoom Plancha gets hot fast and stays hot for a long time on a small amount of fuel which makes for less babysitting. I checked to see several times how the fuel was holding up and it seemed to last forever.
Who Is This Stove For?
So the EcoZoom Plancha looks really cool, and performs wonderfully, so who is it for? A Porche while fast and sexy looking makes a poor family vehicle. Similarly, a Chevy suburban is not great on twisty roads at high speeds. Who would benefit most from this innovative cookstove cannot be answered easily, the fact is many types of folks could successfully use the Plancha, here are a few:
- Folks who own rural off-grid cabins or houses
- Hunters who set up camp for several days
- Preppers who want to be able to cook for consecutive days with limited fuel wood
- RV enthusiasts who like to grill or cook food but not on shoddy RV stoves
These are just a few scenarios that would lend themselves to using the EcoZoom Plancha. This stove, given it’s build quality and weight is not easily portable. It weighs over 50 lbs and is rather bulky. So a quick trip to the lake might not be the best way to use this stove. I believe it’s best suited for long temporary or semi permanent use.
This cookstove can be vented outdoors rather easily for a permanent install which adds to it;’s utility considerably. Those cabin owners who don’t want to haul propane for propane stoves can install this cookstove and vent it outside to use it on a regular daily basis. I would have no problems cooking for many people every day on this stove. Given the fact that the stove top is susceptible to rust from moisture and indoor application might be the best use of this stove.
The EcoZoom Plancha is a well designed, well built cookstove that performs very well and has enough size to allow for larger meals to be cooked on it. you can boil large amounts of water in little time, try that on a charcoal grill. While this cookstove is not for everyone, it’s a useful and nicely built stove that will bring the right owners years of reliable service. With the price of charcoal, electricity and propane these days, the Plancha can be used for a fraction of the cost of other more traditional cooking fuel sources. Basically it will burn on just about any dry sticks, twigs and branches you can find. The last time I checked these are free so the cost of operation are close to zero once you own one.
FROM THE MANUFACTURER
Three billion people in the world rely on biomass and charcoal for their cooking needs, often burning it indoors on open fires or dangerous unimproved cookstoves. We believe that people of any economic status should have access to beautifully designed cooking products that will improve their health, income, and environment.
EcoZoom is a for-profit, certified B Corp making clean cookstoves accessible and affordable in developing countries. Since starting in April of 2011, we’ve sold over 70,000 cookstoves into our 14 target countries.
EcoZoom designs, manufactures, and sells stoves to multinational for‐profit and nonprofit organizations, NGOs, and governments who distribute to end consumers in commercial, development or relief projects. EcoZoom is focused in four key regions: Eastern, Western and Southern sub-Saharan Africa, and specific countries within Latin America.
Our biomass-fueled stoves have been designed and tested in both lab and field, and verified for performance by independent third parties such as the US EPA, USAID, Millennium Villages Project, and UNDP. EcoZoom cookstoves are healthy, efficient and environmentally friendly. They:
· reduce fuel need by 60%,
· emit 70% less smoke and emissions than a three stone fire,
· and stay cooler to the touch while in use to prevent burns.
The Need for Clean Cookstoves Around the World
· 3 billion people in the world reply on biomass and charcoal for their cooking needs often burning it indoors on open fire or dangerous unimproved cookstoves – United Nations Development Program (UNDP).
· Cookstove smoke is one of the top five threats to public health in developing countries – World Health Organization.
· Toxic cooking smoke kills over 4 million people each year – Global Burden of Disease study conducted by The Lancet.
· Health effects from indoor air pollution are equivalent to smoking 2 packs of cigarettes a day – World Health Organization.
· Women and children can spend up to 4 hours a day gathering fuel, impeding opportunities for education and other economically productive activities – Global Alliance for Clean Cookstoves.
· An average family in a developing country can spend 20-30% of its income on fuel – UNDP.
o Americans spend, on average, 4% of their income on energy – US Department of Housing & Urban Development.