How to make a small, but very efficient stove in about ten minutes using a few empty cans

A rocket stove is an ingenious cooking device that produces a whole lot of heat with very little fuel. I’ve seen manufactured ones you can buy, but they’re actually super simple to build using found materials like brick, stone, or, as in my case, recycled cans.

Now, when I want to use my barbeque or smoker, but I don’t need a whole bed of coals because I’m cooking something small or cold smoking, I can get things started with a bit of scrap paper, a couple of twigs and a single piece of wood or charcoal.

It took me less than 20 minutes to build my little rocket stove, but I was stumbling along without a plan of action. If you have your tools and supplies ready, I’ll bet you can put this little wonder together in 10 minutes or less.

Supplies Needed
Stove parts
  • Large coffee can (1-½ to 3lbs size)
  • Two empty vegetable / soup cans (12-16 ounce)
  • Sand, gravel or pebbles
  • Small grill grate* or an 8″ square of wire mesh
* You can find these in the kitchen, BBQ and camping sections of most any home improvement or big box store. If you’ve got a dollar store nearby, try that — I found mine there.
Tools
  • Tin snips or metal shears
  • Drill with a 5/16-in or larger bit
  • Pencil or marker pen
Instructions
Tip: you want to remove the labels from the cans before you light your stove (bits of flaming label everywhere are no fun), but wait until after you’ve cut your holes. Making the cut marks on the label is much easier than the can itself.

    Remove the tops and bottoms from both vegetable cans

  • Step 1 – Remove both ends of the vegetable cans.
  • Trace one can on the side of the other, cut out piece with snips

  • Step 2 – Hold the opening of one vegetable can on the side of the other and trace the outline onto the side. The bottom of the opening shold be a little lower than bottom of the other can so you’re tracing a “U” shape instead of a full circle. Using tin snips, follow the trace to cut a “U” shape from the side of the can.
  • Trace the opening of the can on the side of the coffee can, cut out and remove.

  • Step 3 – Trace the outline of the vegetable can on the side of the coffee can near the bottom, about ½-inch from the rim. Use a drill and bit to make a starter hole at the edge of the outline on the coffee can. Then use the tin snips to cut out the full circle and remove.
  • Assemble the stove by aligning the holes and sliding the 3rd can in place

  • Step 4 – Place the vegetable can with the cutout into the coffee can and turn it so the holes in both are aligned. Pass the other vegetable can through the side of the coffee can and into the smaller can inside to make the firebox and chimney.
  • Add sand, gravel or pebbles to hold the cans inside in place

  • Step 5 – Fill the inside of the coffee can about half full of sand, gravel or pebbles, taking care not to let it spill into the center can. This material will help keep the firebox and chimney in place while also keeping the outside of the stove from getting red hot.

That’s it! The rocket stove is complete. Add your grate or wire mesh for the grill top and you’re ready to cook.

To get it running all you do is place a few sticks and a bit of paper in the “firebox” on the side, light it and bang, you’ll have a hot, fuel efficient fire you can run on twigs.

Rocket stove started with twigs and paper

Note: This is a small stove for short burn times. I don’t recommend running it for extended periods. For that type of use, try a rocket stove made with bricks or concrete blocks.