There are many different ways to cook food when we don’t have the use of our stove or microwave. Some of the methods are more reliable than other, and others still are more convenient. Still, almost all of them can be useful when you lose power or gas service to your stove top and oven.
A big complaint I have with the preps of most survivalists is that they think all about what foods they need but not how they will be able to prepare meals from that food. The action of cooking is just as important as what food is saved up.
Many survivalists and preppers have canned goods, but do they have the means to het them up? We have methods of getting water, but what about pasturizing it? We have dehydrated foods stored, but what about the ridiculous amount of heat and time required to rehydrate those foods? Even freeze-dried foods take some energy input to prepare them into a delicious and rehydrated meal.
Wood Stoves or Fireplace
The first place that you should look, if you have one, is no further than your own fireplace or wood stove. In a fireplace you can wrap food in aluminum foil or place in a cast iron skillet or dutch oven, and just place it over the fire. If you have a wood stove or wood stove insert, you are cooking much more efficiently with wood. Just heat it up and cook on top of it.
If you have nothing else, you may have a grill. If you have a temporary grid-down situation, you can easily cook on your grill. You may prefer charcoal or propane/gas, but either way, a grill is a grill and is a great backup. Propane can last a little while as well if you have a few 20 gallon tanks or several bags of charcoal. Lump charcoal works really well in the ceramic grills and lasts a long time.
Like the fireplace, a campfire is an open fire. You can cook on this all the same. I have actually spent time explaining how to start a fire and then I posted about how to build a fire for cooking. Never discount this as an option, even though it is inefficient, because it requires the least amount of specialized gear of any of the cooking methods.
Camping stoves were designed for camping, because they were efficient ways of cooking reliably with a very small space footprint. These are awesome and I think everyone should have a decent camping stove. Many good camp stoves are fairly inexpensive as well. They use 1 gallon propane canisters, which last quite a while on these stoves. If you want more, there are adapters that allow you to place a camp stove on a 20 gallon propane tank.
Rocket stoves are a specialty device well known for their cheap, well-insulated builds resulting in an efficient high-heat flame from small fuel. They typically will be used with twigs and woodchips. The heat generated and flue size create a natural air flow that creates an efficient burn of the kindling-sized fuel. The only thing about these is the issue of localized burning of food due to high heat cooking. These work well with double boilers, fryers, and dutch ovens. The idea is to regulate and spread the heat.
This is another great tool that you should have, because with a little DIY ability, you can make a great stove from a 5-gallon bucket, some soup cans, and DIRT.
I personally consider this a method of food curing and storing more than cooking, but there are enough similarities that I thought I should add this to the list. Dehydrating can be done with an electric dehydrator, your oven, your microwave (although labor intensive), and even the sun. Solar Dehydrating belongs in this category AND in solar cooking, but I chose to house it here. Talking grid-down, we can run an electric dehydrator on a fairly small battery bank.
Solar Dehydrating is done several different ways. One way is to build yourself a dehydrator box out on 1×1 wood and screen material. Install several racks inside the dehydrator so you can do a lot of food at the same time. I prefer to install a small fan, so I have the option to run it to keep the food drier and make the process faster.
Another way to solar dehydrate is by hanging bundled herbs up outside. This works best when it isn’t humid outside. Also a lightly wrapped paper sack can be placed around your herbs to keep bugs and things off of them.
A third way to utilize the sun for dehydrating is to place thinly sliced food on to cookie sheets and place them in your CAR. Yes, your car. It gets terribly hot in there and can dehydrate quite well. You then, just have to deal with your vehicle smelling like food all the time.
When I talk about solar cooking, I mean a couple different things. I already covered solar dehydrating, so there is no need to rehash.
Another method of solar cooking is basically, just warming up canned foods. Think veggies and soup. These may not be the healthiest choices, but if you are eating them anyways, or your choice is between canned food and starvation, you can just sit the can out on the driveway in the sun to heat them. You can power up the heating by placing a black pan down and putting the can inside.
The last one is a solar oven. You can do many things with these. If you can do it in an oven, you can do it in a solar oven. These things can get to 350F or much more depending on if it was a DIY, or quality manufactured. Generally they are insulated boxes that have a glass window on top and reflective mirrors around the window to redirect the sun’s energy to inside the box. The inside is usually black to soak up the energy as well. I love this option.
The problem with solar cooking is that it requires the sun to be out. Temperature outside is not generally the problem, since most are well insulated, but if the sun is not out you cannot harvest the radiant energy. I prefer to keep energy costs low by cooking with this when possible, and having the option when the grid is down, but have another means of cooking when the sun is not visible.
The grid can go down anytime, so make sure you have an alternative cooking method. If these alternative methods become some of your main cooking techniques, then there is very little impact on your cooking habits when your stove, oven, or microwave are MIA (missing in action) due to the power going AWOL (absent without leave).
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