Alcohol stoves burn denatured alcohol, and over the years they’ve suffered a bad rap: Older, pressurized models achieved widespread notoriety not for their cooking ability, but for their uncanny knack for setting anything above them (sometimes including the cook) on fire. Pressurized stoves were famously difficult to light; they required pumping and priming with alcohol to get the burners hot enough for sustained cooking, which often led to flare-ups and disaster. Compounding the problem was that an alcohol flame is nearly invisible, resulting in burns from touching a burner that was invisibly lit. Fortunately for fans of this fuel, newer, nonpressurized, highly functional models are available to eliminate the danger as well as the priming process. The Dometic Origo system uses canisters fitted with wool “wicks” that soak up the alcohol, allowing the fumes to be lit in a controlled way that avoids flare-ups. In addition to being nonexplosive, alcohol stoves are easy to install; every component needed comes with the stove. But while alcohol has advantages, it also has drawbacks: Like kerosene, it has an odor when the stove is in use that makes some people queasy. It burns at a much lower temperature than either kerosene or propane, using more fuel and taking longer to cook food or even boil water, but fans of alcohol stoves claim they don’t notice or mind the slightly longer cooking times.
Though more expensive overall than propane, stove alcohol is widely available in the U.S.; worldwide, it’s harder to come by. Nonetheless, alcohol-stove proponents cite not having to worry about a possible onboard explosion and ease of installation as two benefits that outweigh all the drawbacks combined. According to retailers, the Dometic Origo 6000 is today’s top-selling alcohol stove/oven, followed closely by Dometic Origo stove-top units. New ranges are priced between $1,500 and $1,800; stove-tops are in the vicinity of $200 to $350.