Because emissions from solid fuel burning in traditional stoves impact global climate change, the regional environment, and household health, there is today real interest in improved cook stoves (ICS). Nonetheless, surprisingly little is known about what households like about these energy products. We report on preferences for biomass-burning ICS attributes in a large sample of 2120 rural households in north India, a global hotspot for biomass fuel use and the damages that such use entails. Households have a strong baseline reliance and preference for traditional stoves, a preference that outweighs the $10 and $5 willingness to pay (WTP) for realistic (33%) reductions in smoke emissions and fuel needs on average, respectively. Preferences for stove attributes are also highly varied, and correlated with a number of household characteristics (e.g. expenditures, gender of household head, patience and risk preferences). These results suggest that households exhibit cautious interest in some aspects of ICS, but that widespread adoption is unlikely because many households appear to prefer traditional stoves over ICS with similar characteristics. The policy community must therefore support a reinvigorated supply chain with complementary infrastructure investments, foster experimentation with products, encourage continued applied research and knowledge generation, and provide appropriate incentives to consumers, if ICS distribution is to be scaled up. © 2015 Elsevier B.V.