A practical, wood-burning kitchen stove had been invented in 1834, but they were not widespread in 1850. More importantly, even if one had access to the new invention, and the money to buy it, the large, iron stoves were tremendously heavy, and they were simply not the sort of thing one would try to take in a wagon across country. As a result, people on the frontier continued to cook the way people had cooked for centuries—in the large fireplaces that also heated their homes.
Hearth cooking was practical on one level—you were going to have a fire in that large fireplace, so might as well use it for cooking, too. However, it was also impractical, as wood was not as abundant on the prairies as it had been back east. Plus it was dangerous. The long skirts worn by women too easily snagged hot coals, and serious burns and even deaths were fairly common for the home cook. Still, with the passing of hearth cooking, many mourned the loss of the smoky flavor of meat slow roasted on a spit over a wood fire.