Owners Manual: Cat Stove
Congratulations on buying or building the Cat Stove. If you are used to other alcohol, gas, or solid fuel stoves, the Cat Stove is very unlike most others you have used. To help you use, cook, and care for your stove I have put together this simple manual.
Simmer ring and cap
Wind screen with paper clip
The Cat Stove is one of the sturdier stoves out there, but care must still be taken when packing the stove. The best recommended method is to store the stove and stand inside the pot you use to cook with the simmer ring and cap attached. For the windscreen and bottom heat shield, rolling them inside your sleeping mat is recommended. To make it easier, I normally fold my windscreen in half before rolling it inside my sleeping mat.
Very little maintenance is required for this stove. The part that most often needs replaced in my experience is the simmer cap which tends to get parts melted off from continuous or improper use - which will be covered later. The simmer ring, windscreen, and simmer cap are all made from oven liners which are very cheap and easy to cut with a pair of scissors. The holes in the windscreen are made using a standard hole punch.
I am often asked about how long the fiberglass wick will last or how often it needs replacing. In my experience it will last for years, so don't worry. The only time I ever replaced it was when I spilled a bunch of stew in it and it turned into a burned stew plug. The stove will operate fine without it, it will just take a little longer to reach boil temperatures.
One recommendation I can make is to bring an extra paper clip or two for the windscreen. I have lost mine on the trail and it is a hassle.
FUELING AND LIGHTING
The ONLY fuel this stove is designed to use is denatured alcohol. Never use any petroleum product or other flammables such as acetone in this fuel. The results could be catastrophic. Always use this stove in well ventilated areas, and never inside a tent. The flames of a Cat Stove are much taller than other such stoves and could surprise you in a bad way if you were to try cooking in a tent and remove your pot for some reason.
To fill the stove, simply pour the desired amount of alcohol (covered under cooking) into the center opening of the stove. To light the stove, use a match or lighter to get the flame against the top of the fiberglass wick. The stove will light immediately, and you can start cooking on it as soon as it is light - no priming necessary.
If you are planning to simmer, first allow the stove to cool back to room or outside temperature (very important), put the simmer ring on, then light normally. After the stove lights, put the simmer cap on quickly to prevent the stove getting too hot too quickly - this can damage the simmer cap and also make the flames larger than you desire for proper simmering.
An important thing to remember about cooking with a Cat Stove is that once you light this stove, it is almost impossible to put out. Some other models of alcohol stoves are easy, and users sometimes just fill these stoves and cook until done, then snuff the stove and save the unused fuel. This isn't possible with the Cat Stove, but once you practice cooking with the stove, you won't find this a problem at all.
The windscreen included is made to custom fit your pot. When set to the right position, a gap no larger or smaller than about 1/8" should be around your pot. If you ever get a different pot, or need a new screen, then you should use the guide I include in the article: Build a Better Windscreen.
Some small deterioration to the top rim of your windscreen is normal with continued use. If is gets a little ragged at the top - don't worry.
The windscreen is equipped with a number of holes for good air supply. In a strong wind, an object placed near the windscreen to block excessive air from getting in is highly recommended.
This is a short how to, for a more thorough guide to cooking with a Cat Stove, read this article: Cooking With the Cat.
For a fuel container I use an empty soda bottle that weighs about 1 ounce empty. The cap makes an excellent measure, one full cap equals 1/4 ounce.
Start by knowing what you want to cook. I use a simple rule of thumb for cooking which divides my cooking into three categories: 1. Heat water; 2. Cook Food/Boiling Water; 3. Cooking with Simmer.
1. Heating Water - when heating water, I assume I'll need a pint (16 ounces) but don't really need it hot enough for full roiling boil. For this I use 2 caps (.5 ounce) of alcohol. Burn time is about 4.5 minutes. This is the standard I use when making breakfast.
2. Cooking Food/Boiling - Many foods I eat require you boil the water before cooking or just require you boil some water and let the food stand until ready to eat. For this I use 3 caps (.75 ounce) of alcohol. Burn time is about 5.5 to 6 minutes. This is the standard I use when making dinners.
3. Simmer - Some foods require you to simmer after boiling. The times vary, so I use a rule of thumb that one cap full equals 5 minutes of simmer. Thus, if I wanted to simmer for 10 minutes, I use 1/2 ounce of alcohol. To do this, first you should cook your food under method 2, then allow the stove to completely cool before adding any fuel. This is not for safety - alcohol shouldn't flash ignite like other fuel. The reason is to prevent the fuel from vaporizing too quickly and making the flame larger than it needs to be. Additionally, allowing the flame to get too hot in simmer will damage the simmer cap. This will happen somewhat with repeated use, and isn't a problem if just a little bit gets melted off, but if you do it too often it will destroy your simmer cap.