Current attention to improved cook stoves (ICS) focuses on the ‘‘triple benefits’’ they provide, in improved health and time savings for households, in preservation of forests and associated ecosystem services, and in reducing emissions that contribute to global climate change. Despite the purported economic benefits of such technologies, however, progress in achieving large-scale adoption and use has been remarkably slow. This paper uses Monte Carlo simulation analysis to evaluate the claim that households will always reap positive and large benefits from the use of such technologies. Our analysis allows for better understanding of the variability in economic costs and benefits of ICS use in developing countries, which depend on unknown combinations of numerous uncertain parameters. The model results suggest that the private net benefits of ICS will sometimes be negative, and in many instances highly so. Moreover, carbon financing and social subsidies may help enhance incentives to adopt, but will not always be appropriate. The costs and benefits of these technologies are most affected by their relative fuel costs, time and fuel use efficiencies, the incidence and cost-of-illness of acute respiratory illness, and the cost of household cooking time. Combining these results with the fact that households often find these technologies to be inconvenient or culturally inappropriate leads us to understand why uptake has been disappointing. Given the current attention to the scale up of ICS, this analysis is timely and important for highlighting some of the challenges for global efforts to promote ICS.