This paper presents the results of two studies conducted to evaluate the performance and usability of household biomass cookstoves under field conditions in rural sub-Saharan Africa. Cooking tests and qualitative surveys compared improved, manufactured stove models based on the ‘rocket’ design with the traditional three-stone fire. All tests and interviews took place in household kitchens in two village areas in Western Uganda and Western Tanzania. The performance parameters evaluated in cooking tests were specific fuelwood consumption and cooking time. Surveying of household cooks gathered information about prevailing cooking practices, stove preference and usability, and willingness to pay for novel stove types. Test results showed that the manufactured stoves, in general, yield a substantial reduction in specific fuelwood consumption relative to the three-stone fire, with results varying by stove type and type of food cooked. Survey data suggests that while cooks recognize fuelwood savings as an important benefit, overall stove preference depends upon a combination of this and other factors, including cooking time, stove size and ease of use. These findings highlight the importance of testing multiple cookstoves for preparation of a variety of food items, as well as combined use of quantitative stove tests in combination with qualitative surveys in efforts to determine suitability of cookstoves for household use in a given community.