Friday, April 1, 2022

Product Review: AOTU Isobutane Stove

Not actually Erin.
& is used with permission.

This is a review of the AOTU gas stove and Coleman gas cannister I mentioned last week

For comparison across all the different products I've tested, the tests have always been and will continue to be:
  1. How easy is it to light and keep fed, using natural materials. 
  2. How quickly it will bring 16 ounces of water to boil in a steel mug. 
  3. How quickly it will bring 24 ounces of water to boil in an uncovered aluminum pot.
  4. How quickly it will cook a single egg on an aluminum skillet. 

First Impressions
The AOTU burner didn't come with any instructions, but its operation was pretty obvious; the only problem I had was that it's not clear which is the "on" position for the gas flow. I assumed that "off" was to the left, as that's the position it was in when I pulled it from its package. Furthermore, when the fob is all the way to the right the stove sticks out preventing proper storage, but when all the way to the left it folds nicely under the legs. 

Gas Off position
Stowed position

The hiss of escaping gas as I screwed the stove onto the cannister showed that I was wrong in this assumption.

Other than that, I really like this stove. I greatly prefer four legs to three for stability, and the fold-out feet provide a greater area for cups and pots. 

Test 1: Fire Starting
Once I sorted out the gas-flow issue I had no further issues. I turned the knob to let some gas out, clicked on the red button, and an electric spark lit the gas. 

The built-in electric starter is very convenient, although seeing the electrode glowing orange from the heat is disconcerting. I assume that the heat won't bother it since it doesn't have any moving parts and is just there to conduct a spark to ignite the gas, but I still worry that it'll break somehow. Still, in a worst-case scenario I'll just light the gas with a match or similar. 

There was (of course) no issue with keeping the fire fed as I had a full cannister of gas which burned consistently and without issue. 

Test 2: Cup Boil
Being inexperienced with cooking over gas, I had no idea at what rate I should set it at for testing, so I turned it on until the flames reached the bottom of the cup and decided that was good enough. 

It took 6 minutes for 16 ounces of water to reach a rolling boil, and I was worried that it took so long because perhaps I didn't have the gas up high enough, so once the cup had cooled during Test #2 I did it again, this time with the burner on "full blast". 

I increased the color and decreased the light so you could 
more easily see the flame around the edges.

This cut the boil time down to 3 minutes, but felt super wasteful to me because the flames were licking around the outside of the cup, so I won't be doubling up the other tests. Still, now you have an upper and lower bound for boiling 16 oz of cold water. 

Test 3: Pot Boil
This test was a bit strange in that it seemed to take forever for the water to bubble, and then it suddenly went from bubbling to steaming to boiling. 

This also took 6 minutes, which perhaps can be attributed to aluminum conducting heat less efficiently than steel. More gas and a steel pot would likely result in faster cooking times. 

Test 4: Egg Cooking
To no one's great surprise, cooking a single egg takes much less time than heating water. The egg was done in about a minute.

I say "about" because I took the pan off the flame at 1:16 because I was stirring the egg, and while the egg wasn't specifically burnt there was an impressive amount of egg residue baked onto the pan that needed a Scotch-Brite pad to remove. 

If anything, I think I had the gas on too high for this test.

Speaking of the Coleman Gas, reviews on it on both Amazon and are mixed, but I found that it performed fine in this limited test. I would occasionally see little bursts of yellow-orange flame mixed in with the blue, but the gas burned evenly and dependably for me. I just wish I knew how much was left; something as simple as "provides an average of X minutes of burn time" would be useful. 

My Rating: A
(mainly for cost and ease of use)
I like the performance of the AOTU stove, and (so far) the value to cost ratio is high. I don't know how it will hold up over time, and it may break from future use, but for right now I'm happy that I bought it. 

My biggest complaint stems from not having any experience with gas cooking. I have no idea what intensity I should have set it on, and the completely analog and unmarked dial was frustrating. Some sort of scribed indicator would have been very helpful. 

Hopefully, further experience with gas cooking will give me a better idea of which settings work best. Until then, and barring any further developments, this is a welcome addition to my preps.

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