So you are storing extra food for times of emergency, right? Unless you have all canned goods or MRE’s, that food will need to be cooked. Even canned meals and MRE’s taste better warmed up. However, in many emergency situations you are without power which means no microwave! Making a plan for powerless cooking as part of your prepping will help ensure you’re not eating all your food storage cold and raw. So here are eight great ways to cook when the power is off.
1. Fire. We’ll start with the most primitive. Build a fire in a fire pit, barrel, or other enclosure. Be careful, you don’t want to add a burning house, field, tree, etc. to your emergency! You also don’t want to cook your food over something that produces toxic fumes as it burns like tires. Roast your food on a stick or use metal to make a grate over your fire and cook in sturdy pots and pans.
To make it work you’ll need: a safe place to burn, fuel to burn, and matches or other fire starter.
2. Wood or coal stove. If you have a wood or coal burning stove in your house, you can cook on the top of it if it’s flat enough. An old wood burning kitchen stove would be awesome although I expect this method would have a pretty steep learning curve for those of us accustomed to cooking with power. A benefit of this method in the winter is being able to warm your home with the same fuel you’re using for cooking. Not so beneficial in the summer!
To make it work you’ll need: A wood or coal stove safely installed in your home or bug out location, fuel to burn, matches or other fire starter.
3. Rocket Stove. These are little stoves that burn standard biomass fuel like sticks, but use less of it than an open fire. You can make your own rocket stove with empty cans, or purchase one like the EcoZoom stove or the similar-to-a-rocket-stove fuel saving Volcano Stove.
To make it work you’ll need: Some form of rocket stove, fuel to burn, matches or other fire starter.
4. A barbeque grill. This one is easy if you are used to cooking on it anyway. An outdoor grill, either gas or charcoal, is a simple powerless cooking option. Grill meats, large veggies, fish, etc. Anything small enough to fall through the grate can be cooked in foil or a pan.
To make it work you’ll need: A grill, propane in your bottle if it’s gas or charcoal if it’s a charcoal grill, possibly matches or other fire starter depending on your grill style.
5. Camping stove. These are the portable stoves like the Coleman Stove your grandpa used when he went camping. Except now there are so many varieties out there from super light weight backpacking stoves to more stable single burner stoves to larger two burner stoves, there’s surely one that will fit your needs for preparedness and probably make itself a regular use cooker during camping season as well. Each stove will have a specific fuel type, so make sure you’ve got the correct fuel for your stove.
To make it work you’ll need: Camping or backpacking stove, fuel specific for that stove, fire starting method if your stove doesn’t come equipped with electronic ignition.
6. Larger camping stoves. Larger camping stoves, like a Camp Chef, are a bit more cumbersome than their backpacking counterparts, so won’t work as well if you’re doing a quick evacuation, but they are great cookers. They generally run on large bottles of propane and come with legs so you’re easily able to cook standing up rather than on the ground or balancing your stove on a rock.
To make it work you’ll need: A stove, propane, and a fire starting source if your stove doesn’t come with auto ignition.
7. Your gas stove top. If you’re lucky enough to have a gas stove in your kitchen and the gas lines are not damaged, you can use the stove top in your home. Just light it with a match or other fire starter. Due to fluctuations in flame to adjust for temperature, your gas oven won’t work without power. Cook up anything in a pot or pan on your stove as you normally would once you bypass the electric ignition and get it lit.
To make it work you’ll need: Gas stove already installed, matches or other fire starter to get it lit.
8. Solar oven. You can make your own or purchase one like the Global Sun Oven. You can even make one out of a Pringles can. These work great on hot sunny days, but also work on cold sunny days! Depending on your design, your oven may not work too well on windy days. A solar oven can cook anything you’d put in your normal oven as well as dehydrate foods.
To make it work you’ll need: Solar oven, sunny day.
Of course, for each of these cooking methods you may need specific pots or pans for them to work best. Testing out your gear before an emergency is always a good idea.
And I know these are obvious, but I’ll throw in these safety disclaimers as well. Some of these methods of cooking use open flames. Don’t burn your house down. Others burn fuel that need ventilation–don’t use those stoves indoors. Okay?
Now here’s a challenge for you. Some time this week, cook a meal using a powerless cooking source of your choice. This could be as easy as a Mother’s Day BBQ or as challenging as building a solar oven and baking a cake in it. Get out and give it a try and let me know how it goes!