Friday, April 29, 2011

Cooking Options Post SHTF

So here it is...the time has come that power will be off for a week or more, the water supply is questionable at best and the grocery stores are either closed or empty.  You have a good supply of food on hand to feed you and your loved ones.  Now, how do you cook without that electric stove & oven?  There are many options available to you and they are all better suited to one of two situations.

Situation 1 - You own your own home or have outdoor space available to you.
Fire is the number one option here.  Either a wood stove in the house or a small campfire outside will easily do the trick.  Either way, have all the utensils and cookware you need.  For wood stoves, cast iron pans & a dutch oven will suit you well.  For open fire cooking, a grill and long handled utensils will be needed.  In either case, keep pot holders, oven mitts, a fire extinguisher and plenty of wood & fire starter on hand.

There seems to be a trend towards a product called a rocket stove lately.  These stoves are designed to use a minimum of fuel, usually wood, to produce a high heat for cooking.  I have never used one of these myself, but have read great reviews about them and they seem like a great product if you can't store cords of wood for a traditional fire.  I am not convinced of their ability to cook slow simmering foods and I would immagine that baking bread in a dutch oven on one of these could prove difficult at best.

Charcoal or Propane BBQ's are also a good option.  They are great for grilling and can also be used with pots for boiling.  Many models of gas grills come with a side burner that seem handy, but beware of how much weight you put on these as there is a tipping danger.  Keep plenty of charcoal on hand and for a gas grill, a spare tank kept full would be a great idea.

Situation 2 - You live in an appartment and simply cannot have an open fire or BBQ.

Ccamp stoves are my personal favorite for this type of scenario.  Available for propane or liquid naptha, both will provide great cooking possibilities.  Be sure to use them on a non flamable surface such as your now useless kitchen stove top.  Ventilation is important, so when  using them, crack a window to provide fresh air to the room.  Propane models are designed to work with 1lb disposable canisters, but you can also get a regulator for the 25lb BBQ tanks for longer capacity.  Naptha models provide good heat, but require storage of liquid fuel which may not be a great idea for indoor spaces, not to mention spills can turn into a disaster all of it's own.

Compact sterno stoves are easy to find and the fuel is cheap and stores safely.  However, sterno, or canned gelled alcohol fuel does not produce great amounts of heat.  This type of stove is best suited to heat N serve foods that require short cooking times.

Tea candles, solid tablet fuels, & other such "emergency" cooking sources are really only used for heat n serve types of food.  If you stocked up mostly on canned soup & ravioli, then a good choice.  Solid fuels like this are safe to store, but when used, are open flames so keep safety in mind at all times.

Whatever your situation and cooking method, remember to keep safety in mind at all times.  Store the types of foods that you can cook or get the appliances you need to cook the kinds of foods you want to store.


  1. Residual Heat Cooking is also good - Heat a food to or just shy of boiling, wrap in a blanket or other insulator, walk away... Very energy efficient compared to most other methods.

    I used it this morning to cook a hot cereal that calls for 10 minutes at a low boil, took roughly half an hour in a small food thermos which I heated by pouring in hot water from a kettle.

    While I was waiting I was otherwise preparing meals for the rest of the day, tidying, etc.

    During the Great Depression it wasn't uncommon for people to build boxes of wood and fill them with straw and blankets to cook very large meals in large pots this way with a minimum of fuel used.

    Great for soups, pastas, hot cereals, stews and more.

  2. Another is solar cooking, slow but very effective and typically requiring little work - just prep the food in the pot, throw it into the cooker and wait. Depending on your cooker design you may also need to turn it as the day goes by.