While we never expect to be without our stoves and ovens and electrical appliances, we need to be sure to be prepared for those grid-down moments. Whether they are an afternoon or days after a disaster, or for longer periods, having alternatives can only make your life easier. Learning to cook off-grid is a time honored tradition of many and something that you can easily learn to do on your own, with a little practice!
Note from Jane – I’m going to tell you something amazing. People are ingenious. Simply ingenious. Since first publishing this piece a few years ago, I’ve met and talked to people who have come up with awesome ways to cook and heat food and water that make me wish I was more of a maker than a consumer. I’ll add the new things that I’ve found further down the list. They’re simply amazing!
5 Ways to Cook Off-Grid
Whether you have a fire pit or a fire ring, or just dig a trench in the ground, open fire cooking is the most basic of methods to cook food. It requires little in products to carry around, is extremely portable, and just takes a little fire starting knowledge. This would also include you fire place. You’ll need to determine how you’ll cook over the fire – hanging food, creating, spits, using dutch ovens, etc., but it is easy. You can use this method to smoke your food for long-preservation.
Most folks have grills at their homes, in either propane or wood. You can use a grill like a stove top if you don’t have an additional burner just for saucepans. You can use a camp stove on propane that you can use as a stove top or add a griddle to for a grill experience (here is a stove you can put over the open fire or a grill to have an oven).
Bio Mass or Wood Stoves
You might know them by these names:
- Kelly Kettle Camp Stove,
- Volcano Cook Stove,
- Hobo stoves – click here to see ours.
- Rocket stoves – click here for directions on building a brick rocket stove.
They allow you to cook on them in a smaller space than a grill. They are portable, and work every bit as well as a large grill. They are more efficient than cooking over a grill because you have a small heat source to focus on your cooking surface, and you can control the heat a little more.
Without having to have any fuel at all, solar ovens work just like your regular oven. Whether you make your own from foil and boxes, or you buy a Sun Oven or like product, you can take advantage of the sun to help create the heat to cook your food. It might take a little longer than in your stove, but you can do it without having to worry about gathering fuel or heating up an indoor space. It takes some practice to learn how to cook with a solar oven, and if you have a cloudy day, you might be out of luck in being able to cook with it. The good news is you don’t have to have a hot day, so even cooking in the winter is doable as long as you have clear skies!
Here are some great DIY’s.
Yes, this is actually a valid cooking method and you don’t need heat! Using a homemade dehydrator or your car, you can preserve food to eat at later meals or put away to store.
While this way does require you to use another means of heating to get it started, it can be a way to continue the cooking process when you need a lot done in a small amount of space or you only have a small amount of energy to burn to cook with. Think of the Wonder Oven or even a do it yourself version. It is a thermal pillow of sorts, that holds in the cooking heat and continues to cook or keep warm something you’re making. Think of it as a soft and fluffy slow cooker!
Cooking by candlelight might be better described as flame cooking – but you’re not doing it over the actual flame, but using the heat of that flame to cook your food – like an oven, but not solar, and not simply thermal like a Wonder Oven.
• The HERC Oven (Home Emergency Radiant Cooking) is a marvelous piece of steel engineering that allows you to cook full meals in a small square foot with the simple heat of candles radiating off the interior of the unit. The concept is pretty amazing. The price and the setup, not so much. I’ve never ever used mine since I got it.
Lesslie over at Bluebonnet Acres came up with an amazing DIY tealight radiant oven to show you how to make one yourself with a simple toaster oven!
• Fondue pot – yes, the throwback from the 70’s is a great item to have to cook by candlelight OR sterno (it looks like a candle flame!). You can boil water in it, you can heat up soup in it, you can make fondue…there’s nothing this little pot can’t do.
Other sources for info:
Your Thoughts – what have you planned for your cooking options if the grid goes down?
Becky is a wildlife enthusiast and pet and livestock care expert with a diploma in canine nutrition. With over a decade of experience in animal welfare, Becky lends her expertise to Simple Family Preparedness through insightful info about pets, livestock, bee keeping, and the practicalities of homesteading.