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Improving the thermal as well as emissions performance of biomass cookstoves has been of interest to researchers for a long time. Despite there being a vast literature on the subject, several technical issues remain unresolved with a variety of data and opinions being presented. The present article aims at bringing together literature spanning over three decades that addresses technical aspects of biomass stoves, i.e., their design, analysis and testing. Literature on various design principles, features which determine the stove performance and different methods of performance prediction have been reviewed. Different cookstove testing protocols have been compared and various issues related to cookstove testing are critically discussed. The results of laboratory and field studies on cookstoves by various researchers are presented. Literature on health impact of cookstoves, their dissemination and adoption has also been included. The focus has been on critically analyzing the findings presented by various researchers over the past 3–4 decades in the backdrop of the advancement of the state of knowledge in the area. Wherever conflicting findings were encountered, efforts have been made to reconcile the same using the understanding of the fundamental phenomena.