While improved cookstoves have been designed and distributed for decades with the goal of addressing the human health and environmental issues caused by traditional biomass cooking methods, they often have not achieved the intended impact. One of the main reasons for this shortcoming is that engineers often focus on technical attributes of cookstove designs, such as improved fuel and combustion efficiency, but neglect usability. If a stove design does not meet a cook’s needs and preferences, the stove will likely be used only as a supplement to a traditional stove, or not used at all. To help close this gap, a testing protocol for cookstove usability was developed. The proposed protocol is based on established usability practices from fields such as software and consumer product design, and includes usability criteria taken from existing cookstove research and interviews with subject experts. The protocol includes objective and subjective testing methods, is designed to elicit user perceptions of and the relative importance of each usability criterion in a given context, and incorporates ethnographic methods to improve validity in cross-cultural applications and in diverse testing scenarios. This protocol may be useful to stove designers as a way to better understand users and validate or improve designs, to implementers as a method to assist with the selection of the most appropriate stove for a project, and to researchers as a tool to assess cookstoves and cookstove programs. Preliminary field and laboratory work to test the validity of the protocol demonstrated a mixture of meaningful and uncertain results, indicating that while it is a reasonable tool to assess cookstove usability, the protocol requires interpretation of qualitative data and assessment of uncertainty to be most effective.

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