To use the BioLite, you turn on a little fan, powered by a small lithium-ion battery inside the electronics. The fan makes the fire hotter, creating electricity from a solid-state generator inside.
If I were really camping, I would place an aluminum pot on top of the BioLite and would be heating up my freeze-dried chili about now. The device works as a regular camp stove, making it a co-generation device—heat and electricity. For cooking, it boosts the heat with the small fan, basically the equivalent of making someone in your campsite sit there and blow on the fire. It produces a max of 5.5 kilowatts of heat (although heat is usually measured in BTUs, this amount of heat output is a little more than a small propane camp stove).
After about 10 minutes, the status light on the front console switched from orange to green, signaling that it was up to full power and ready to charge anything with a USB connection.