A pechka is a traditional indoor, wood-burning stove used for cooking and warming the home. The Fort pechka is housed in the Officer’s Barracks near the kitchen. Please carefully read through this entire document to bring the necessary supplies and properly prepare for your on-site visit.
Requirements and Recommendations –
- Required – The pechka requires that you bring extra firewood:
- For baking: bring 8 additional boxes or ¼ cord of wood
- For cooking: Bring 4 additional boxes or ⅛ cord of wood. Unless you are planning to ONLY cook in the pechka and not cook in the outdoor firepit at all, then wood will be provided.
- Strongly Recommended – Use the pechka for cooking on rainy days only. Please note that the pechka is tricky to navigate and time consuming. We strongly recommend cooking in the outdoor fire pit instead, whenever safe and possible.
- Recommended – For an easier way to experience the pechka, plan to do most of your cooking in the outdoor fire pit — or propane stoves as needed during rainy days. And bring previously baked bread, piroshki or other foods just to warm up in the pechka (you still must bring all firewood needed).
- Recommended – The pechka takes approximately 3 hours prep time before it’s hot enough to bake from scratch. Groups following an Early Sunset schedule, or coming for an ELDP should not use the pechka for baking.
- Extra Firewood – It is best to heat the pechka with dry hardwood — oak is preferable to fir. For baking: bring 8 additional boxes or ¼ cord of wood. For cooking: Bring 4 additional boxes or ⅛ cord of wood. Unless you are planning to ONLY cook in the pechka and not cook in the outdoor firepit at all, then wood will be provided.
- Kindling – Bring kindling and newspaper
- Matches – the Fort supplies matches to the Officers
- Fire Tongs and Gloves – the Fort supplies these
- Cast Iron Flat-Bottom pots and Griddles – the Fort supplies these
To Start the Fire – Start the fire right inside the back section of the pechka, with the flue wide open and the metal doors partially closed. Use newspaper and dry kindling, then smaller pieces of wood, then bigger logs on top (if logs are split thinner, they’ll give off more heat).
To Cook or Warm up Food – Use the flat-bottomed pots or griddles to cook in the pechka — the spider pots have legs and are difficult to maneuver. Do not put food in without placing on a pot or griddle as it leaves the pechka dirty and difficult to clean. Let the wood burn down enough to get some coals. Then you can begin cooking by putting your pots on the coals. Make sure you keep a close eye and stir often, especially if you’re working with more flame than coals. As long as you have flame and smoke, you’ll need to keep the flue open, this is critical to ensure that smoke doesn’t gather inside and set off the fire alarm — and to ensure that carbon monoxide isn’t accumulating inside! As much as possible, try to keep the metal doors mostly closed, in order to keep the heat inside the oven. After you’ve cooked your food, and the fire and coals are burning out, you can start to slowly close the flue. Again, make sure there is no flame or smoke before closing the flue. You may want to keep your food warming until it’s time to serve. To do this, push some coals further back inside the oven, this will help to keep the oven warm. When you’re done, you must gather all remaining burning/smoking embers into a metal tub, which is located on the floor near the pechka, then take the tub outside to empty the embers into the outdoor firepit.
To Bake – The oven must get hot enough prior to baking. Use three or four large armfuls of wood, adding one load at a time, and allowing each load to burn down to embers before adding the next. After you’ve added your final load of wood, and the initial burn has slowed, start to close the flue little by little. Once all the wood has burned down to embers and there is no flame, then you must gather all remaining burning/smoking embers into a metal tub, which is located on the floor near the pechka , then take the tub outside to empty the embers into the outdoor firepit. It is critical to have no flame and remove any smoking embers to, before closing the flue, to ensure the building doesn’t fill up with carbon monoxide or smoke — and set off the fire alarm. At this point it is safe to fully close the flue, to keep in the heat. This whole process takes approximately three hours — before you can begin to bake. Once the oven is hot, and you’ve closed the flue, place your bread or piroshki inside and close the back portion of the oven with the wooden oven door. The food should be cooked in a flat-bottomed cast iron pot or griddle, so the oven doesn’t have food residue left behind! The wooden door is located next to the pechka, have your employees thoroughly soak the oven door in water first so it doesn’t burn during the baking process. If you’ve heated up the brick oven enough to bake, you can make use of the heat for breakfast by letting your kasha or hot cereal slowly cook overnight in a warm closed oven.
Learn More with these Additional Resources –
Background – The Russian word “pechka” (печка) comes from the word “pech” which means “to bake”. The pechka, may be considered the most important part of the home as it provides warmth for living and a place to cook. The larger “Russian Pechka” includes a large platform on the top, on which children and elders can sleep. The pechka is made of whitewashed brick and mortar, with a labyrinth of flues which maintain the heat, and is typically located near the center of the house. Once fired up, the pechka can warm the whole house with wonderful, radiant heat for a day or more, depending on the temperature outside.