I’m a bit scared to say it – but I think we’ve cracked it!
There are a few things we’ve learned so far, that will perhaps other new solid fuel Rayburn newbies. Opening the spin wheel completely, doesn’t make it hotter if it is windy outside. This may be different for you if you’re in a built up area; but where we are – exposed at the top of the hill – means that I think the draft was so much it was actually putting the fire out! About half way open seems to be right for us most of the time.
Also, whilst the instructions say it’s ok for the wood to burn on a bed of ash, we’ve found this isn’t the case. At the end of week one, we were really struggling to get the oven hot at all. Then, one morning when the fire had gone out overnight and I didn’t have time before the school run to light it from scratch in the morning; I left it till lunch time, and we gave the firebox a good clean out. There were several clinkers (hard molten ash) stopping the rest of the ash falling through. We thought it was strange that we hardly ever seemed to need to empty the ash tray when I’d read on forums they need emptying up to 3 times a day. So, after we did that and re-lit the fire, it got lovely and hot and finally I had my first bath.
The next day, not so good. Then we realised the air vents at the back were still covered in ash; so when the fire died down a bit, we brushed all the ash forward and the oven heated up really quickly. At last! we thought we’d solved all the problems. Yet, once again, the next day we were stumped. All the ash was pulled forward so the vents at the back were clear; and yet, we couldn’t get it up to temperature again. This time we realised, that in pulling the ash forward, we’d blocked the air vents at the front, that draw the air in. So we brushed the ash into the middle and that seemed to do the trick. For the last couple of days since we figured all this out – we don’t seem to have had any problems. I hope it lasts!
Cooking has been fairly successful. On Easter day I did roast lamb, with roast vegetables, which tasted delicious. I’ve done several cakes – and they are so lovely – slightly different from electric oven cakes in that they are more crumbly, and for some reason they don’t rise. Maybe because they’re in for longer on a lower heat. However, on Easter Sunday, while the oven was on the R of ‘Roast’, I cooked a lemon cake and a chocolate cake, and both had the same problem: although they rose nicely, and sprung back to the touch, when I tried taking them out the tins, it turned out they weren’t cooked inside. So they had to go back in the oven for a while. I did a pretty good job at rescuing the broken-up cakes with lemon curd and chocolate icing respectively. Yum!