Emergency Cooking – 10 Ways to Have a Hot Meal When the Power Goes Out
There are a number of different options for emergency cooking. In this post we'll cover everything from simple heating to large scale cooking for emergency situations.
Before we get started: For those who are new to preparedness, using an emergency generator to power an electric stove or microwave is not a good idea. Gas, wood or charcoal heating is best.
Stoves and microwaves use a lot of power in a short amount of time. It's much more practical to use other means to heat/cook your food. Most standard gas stoves uses an electric ignition, so will not automatically work if there is no power.
- Always be careful to use options inside or outside as appropriate. Don't end up asphyxiated from cooking fuel fumes or burn your house down while trying to make a hot meal. Carbon monoxide is odorless make sure you have a Carbon Monoxide Detector.
- Make sure you have cooking equipment suitable for your heating option of choice.
- Practice with your method(s) of choice until you can reliably produce a meal. Don't use it for the first time in an emergency (except for the “heat themselves” food items).
- Hot Meal Option #1 – Meals that Heat Themselves/Portable Cooking Bags
- Hot Meal Option #2 – Mini Folding Camp Stove with Canned Fuel
- Hot Meal Option #3 – Portable Butane Stove that Operates off of Butane Cylinders – Personal Favorite
- Hot Meal Option #4 – Propane Grill – For Exterior Use Only
- Hot Meal Option #5 – Charcoal Grill – For Exterior Use Only
- Hot Meal Option #6 – Open Fire – For Exterior Use Only
- Hot Meal Option #7 – Combination Stove like the Volcano Portable Stove – For Exterior Use Only
- Hot Meal Option #8 – Large Propane Burner/Deep Fryer – For Exterior Use Only
- Hot Meal Option #9 – Solar Cooker – For Exterior Use Only
- Hot Meal Option #10 – Wood Cook Stove or Masonry Stove with Bake Oven
- General Emergency Cooking Tips
- Related Posts
Hot Meal Option #1 – Meals that Heat Themselves/Portable Cooking Bags
One of the simplest methods of heating food without power is food packaging with built in heating elements. A twist, snap or shake triggers a chemical reaction in some portion of the packaging (for instance, twisting the bottom of a soup container). This chemical reaction produces enough heat to warm the contents of the container.
Some MREs (Meals Ready to Eat) include this option in their packaging and you can buy the MRE Flameless Heater. To the best of my knowledge, there are no natural/organic options at this time.
Another variation on this theme are flameless fuel packs. The fuel packs allow you to heat the food of your choice without open flame – similar to the flameless heater.
Hot Meal Option #2 – Mini Folding Camp Stove with Canned Fuel
These tiny folding stoves fold flat for storage, and are basically designed to give you a larger, flatter surface to cook on that fits over the top of a small, round fuel container (Sterno or liquid canned fuel).
Heating output is limited, so this option is better for warming or reheating than cooking an entire meal from scratch.
These are safe to use inside or out, as long as there is some ventilation. Sterno cans are used for hours on buffets in hotels and restaurants. These tiny stoves fold up very small, so they would be good for camping, an emergency pack, or a bug out bag.
Buy a Coghlan folding stove here
Hot Meal Option #3 – Portable Butane Stove that Operates off of Butane Cylinders – Personal Favorite
Similar in size to a larger laptop (but thicker), these portable butane stoves can go just about anywhere. They generate enough heat to do “real” cooking, but the butane canisters are fairly expensive and hold a limited amount of fuel. These are best used for short term emergency cooking inside for those with limited space.
I first read about these in the book Apocalypse Chow: How to Eat Well When the Power Goes Out. We used our butane stove while we waited for a replacement stove to be hooked up in our kitchen. it worked very well for stove top cooking, including boiling water.
For a small stove it puts out a surprising amount of heat. I demonstrate how to use it in the video below.
CRV Safety Cap for Butane Canisters
For extra safety, we recommend butane canisters with CRV safety cap.
Rikki's Scouting Resources notes:
The CRV (Countersink Release Vent) is a Butane can safety feature that allows gas to vent through the perforations in the can rim when extreme heat or pressure is too much. Non CRV cans will exploded with damaging results.
The CRV approved cans are identified by their certification marked on the can and packaging (certification and compliance of either EN417 or UL147B) they also have a light blue color rim.
Hot Meal Option #4 – Propane Grill – For Exterior Use Only
Your standard propane grill can do double duty as a summer party mainstay and an emergency backup stove. The positive on this one is that many people already have these stoves and know how to use them.
The down side is that they are not safe to use indoors and can be quite unpleasant, if not impossible, to use during really nasty weather, such as blizzards or hurricanes. Keep a spare propane container on hand.
Note: Always store your propane cylinder outside and upright in a protected location – not inside a house or garage or near combustible materials. Avoid conditions where it will rust, potentially causing cylinder failure. See Storing Propane Cylinders for more information. Propane will store indefinitely, as long as the seals and the storage take remain intact.
Hot Meal Option #5 – Charcoal Grill – For Exterior Use Only
Charcoal grills are less common than they used to be but are still used by some, including yours truly. They have the same limitations as propane grills, and may be even less practical for small amounts of cooking or long, slow cooking.
Stock up on charcoal when it is on sale. It lasts forever, store it anywhere dry.
If you have one, do invest in a cylindrical chimney starter to get your briquettes lit without starter fluid.
Newspaper is less expensive than lighter fluid, plus you skip the extra dose of chemicals. Plan for extra time (20-30 minutes) for the grill to get up to temp for cooking.
Hot Meal Option #6 – Open Fire – For Exterior Use Only
If you've ever watched a “survival” show with average people, or a cooking show competition where they forced people to cook over open flames, or better yet, you've done it yourself. Be warned there is skill involved with open fire cooking.
There is no knob to turn or button to push to adjust the temperature. It's quite easy to burn food on the outside and/or leave them cold in the center.
Practice. If you plan to cook over an open fire during emergencies (or even if you don't) it's a good idea to practice. Try it out in a low stress situation, like camping in your backyard. You need fireproof cookware or aluminum foil or large leaves, depending on your technique.
For more info, see Cooking With Cast Iron—How And Why To Get Started.
Hot Meal Option #7 – Combination Stove like the Volcano Portable Stove – For Exterior Use Only
There are new products on the market that can be used with several different fuels, such as the Volcano Portable Stove, which works with charcoal, propane or wood. Fairly small and portable (Weight = 4lbs, Footprint when open. 17″ diameter circle), this would be a nice option to have on hand to take advantage of whatever fuel you have available.
Another interesting option that I just spotted on Amazon.com is the EcoZoom Stove, which can use wood, biomass, or charcoal. You can check out my review here – Ecozoom Rocket Stove Review – Portable Cooking with Multiple Fuels.
Hot Meal Option #8 – Large Propane Burner/Deep Fryer – For Exterior Use Only
These big, high powered burners can crank out a lot of heat. The more common uses are: deep frying turkeys, fish boils and making enormous pots of soup (known as booyah in our area). They can also be used to heat water for laundry or bathing.
Some people also use propane burners for outdoor canning, but it should be noted that the intense, point source heat may warp the bottom of your canner. These can also be used to heat water for scalding chickens for processing.
Hot Meal Option #9 – Solar Cooker – For Exterior Use Only
A better option in warmer, sunnier climates, a solar oven can be used to do everything from bake bread to cooking main dishes. Designs range from a tire tube with a piece of plexiglass over the top to heavy duty commercial cookers and solar distillers. Solar heat can also be used to dry foods.
The Sun Oven is available with an optional dehydrating package. Check out “What's the Best Solar Cooker?“and “Getting Started with Solar Cooking” for more information.
Hot Meal Option #10 – Wood Cook Stove or Masonry Stove with Bake Oven
My grandmothers used wood cook stoves and some of my homesteading friends still do. Look for these beauties where off-the-grid folks such as Amish and Mennonites shop, either online or in person if you are lucky enough to have a community nearby.
Like any wood burning appliance, these stove require proper ventilation and safety precautions, but they have served many people faithfully for years. Some also come equipped with water reservoirs for heating water. The Ecozoom or Camping Rocket Stove are good small wood burning options.
The built in oven in my masonry stove has been a little more difficult to master, as you can't burn more wood to adjust the temperature because the oven is part of the combustion chamber.
While the oven does give tasty smoky goodness to the things I cooked in it, I would not want to rely on it for frequent cooking.
General Emergency Cooking Tips
Think “Heat” Instead of “Cook”
Whichever option you choose for emergency food preparation, keep in mind that fully cooked foods that just need to be reheated will be much easier to “heat and eat” than whole, non-cooked foods.
For instance, canned beans are much easier to use than dried beans, because they don't require additional water, soaking time or extended cooking time. Include “heat and eat” options in your long term food storage, such as canned foods or freeze dried foods.
Many canned foods are pre-cooked and could be eaten directly from the can without heating. If you have heat and water freeze dried foods are good quick meals. See our Best Freeze Dried Foods article for more information.
Stock Manual Kitchen Tools
Make sure you have people powered tools instead of electric tools for cooking. Electric can openers do not work when the power is out. Get a manual can opener. To be honest, for many kitchen tasks I prefer using hand tools all the time because they are quieter and more compact.
Use the Right Pots and Pans
Make sure you have pots and utensils that can be used with your cooking option of choice. Fires and grills can be much hotter than your average stove burner. (No plastic spatulas, please.)
Long handles and hot pads, oven mittens, fire gloves or at least a folded rag to grab hot handles are a must. Cast iron cookware is a workhorse. A Dutch oven will allow you to bake bread in the stove, on the grill or campfire.
Know How to Use Your Emergency Cooking Option
Practice, practice, practice with your cooking option of choice. At the very least, practice making the quick to fix foods that would be emergency fare. If you are truly inexperienced in the kitchen, just practice cooking – any cooking.
“Camp out” once a month to make sure you have all the tools, fuel and other supplies you need. Like any skill, food preparation gets easier the more you do it.
Know How to Cook Without Frills
Practice cooking with only minimal equipment. Go camping, have backyard cookouts – cook a meal on the beach. Anything you can do to mimic cooking without your stove and all your regular “stuff” will make things so much easier if you end up without power.
Repetition builds muscle memory so that even in difficult times, your body will remember when your brain may be distracted. It also reduces stress because you at least know how you will eat.
I hope you found this post useful and much appreciate your Likes, Shares, Stumbles and Pins. Feel free to comment and share your favorite off grid cooking system or any questions you may have and I'll do my best to help.
You may also enjoy our other Preparedness posts, including:
- Emergency Power Options for Your Home
- Winter Vehicle Maintenance Checklist and Preparing a Winter Vehicle Emergency Kit
- Emergency Heat During a Power Outage and other Winter Storm Preps
- Emergency Water Storage & Filtration – What You Need to Know BEFORE Emergencies Hit.
Originally posted in 2013, updated 2022.
Thanks, Homefry. I bet you have several of these available. 🙂
a few…3,4,5,6,8,10! LOL! I got cooking covered! I am experimenting with a Coleman folding camp oven set on top of my woodstove now. Trying to get it over 300 deg….
Would you please what brand your tea kettle is that you have sitting on the brick? Thank you, Sue
I have no idea offhand. It’s something I picked up at an estate sale. I’ll have to check and see if I can find identifying markings.
Plow and Hearth has several great cast iron pots for use on wood stoves, etc. One looks like the one pictured.
We have plenty of exterior methods of heating food (a couple of campstoves, a firepit and a grill) and have done a lot of cooking on them as we love the outdoors but we don’t have anything for indoors yet and I would like to get something since if we lose our power in a blizzard it might not be very fun to go cook outdoors or even in the garage with the windows open.
This summer when camping the stove we were using acted up and my inlaws bought what you have as option 2 for us to use. We were not at all impressed. Maybe we didn’t use it right but it always wanted to burn right in the middle of the pan and then do practically nothing at all anywhere else.
I really like the look of your woodstove and oven. We will be building a new home, Lord willing, next year and were thinking of putting a fireplace in (as we like that look) but what you have is also very pretty but I am sure quite a bit more practical.
To be completely honest, I have mixed feelings on the masonry stove. It gives a wonderful slow heat, which we love, but it was expensive. Also, since we don’t have wood on our property, we have to buy wood. Thankfully, my brother-in-law has a saw mill, and we can usually purchase their scrap lumber, but he is thinking about retiring. The stove requires small diameter wood (no larger than 4″ diameter, smaller is better) so that it burns with a hot, quick fire. This is hard to find in quantity, unless you buy and split. (He makes wooden stakes, so his scraps are great for us.) I wish we had been able to afford geothermal, which can do heating and cooling.
Try a Coleman Tri-fuel stove or one of their LP units. Great for camping and wonderful for blizzards! Been there!
I need to make up a Christmas list. 🙂
You didn’t mention the actual fireplace to cook food. I use a cast iron dutch oven and can make all sorts of food in it. Just set it to the side in the fireplace, rake coals around it and on the top. There is also a great number of fireplace gadgets for cooking as well.
Very few people have open fireplaces anymore because of building codes and such, but that’s certainly a good option if you have one available.
We live in the Chequamegon National Forest, where the Forestry Service takes bids for logging off select parcels. The trimmings from the logs are left to rot, which can impede fire crews during a fire. In our community we are permitted to park along the fire lanes to glean those trimmed off branches for personal use. There is plenty of wood larger and smaller than 4″ in diameter. It might be a good idea for non-residents of a rural community to check with the local Town Council to be sure this practice is permitted. We have also seen sections of our local roads where crews have gone through to increase the width of setbacks, and those trimmings are typically left along the setback. Collecting that is rather more of a risk, since the roadside margin is pretty close to traffic. It would be a good idea to get the landowners permission to pull a little farther off the road if possible.
I have several propane options (for outdoor use) that we use in our tailgating. One is a propane crockpot, and the other is just a single burner that sits on a small propane bottle.
Thanks for sharing. I didn’t realize they made propane crockpots. Very handy.
Propane Crock Pot? Where can I find one of there????
All-in-1 Stove/Grill/Slow Cooker/Skillet Propane-Powered Cooking System can be used with a crockpot add on (this is the add on – Max Stock Pot/Cooker For All In One Cooking System).
Thanks! I will test it out in the ice shack next year!
I ordered mine from Amazon. It’s a Coleman Heat n Serve.
Sharing this to our FB page today! Good stuff!
Thanks for the share.
I enjoy the webpage and have been following all tips and ideas which is very helpful. I do canning from my garden and enjoy in my winter season. It save money,time and energy.
Keep sending important information
Pop can stove. Easily made from a soda can. You Tube. Heats up great and is extremely small. Backpack item. Different fuels used for different models made.
One of my favorites is the Wonder Oven. After you have brought your food up to boiling or to a certain temperature, then it can go into the Wonder Oven which insulates and finishes the baking / cooking process. Think of it as a slow cooker without electricity. They used to call these Hay Box ovens… some people use a pillow cushion others use an insulated cooler for the same effect.
For boiling water – hands down, I prefer the Kelly Kettle! Love mine!!!!
Cindy, I read about the Wonder Oven, and saw some concerns about it not maintaining a high enough temperature to avoid breeding bacteria. Did you have any thoughts on that? I haven’t tried the Kelly Kettle, but should check it out.
I have a solo stove. It work great using a bunch of small twigs and small chunks of wood. They have an alcohol can yet I have never used it. Here is a link to their site. I have the stove and pots not to rub it in. http://www.solostove.com/#oid=1073_1_text_2.
I had one of the folding stove like you have shown but it got lost long ago. I carried it during a trek on the Appellation trail when I got out of the USMC back in 1977.
Looks like a handy little stove for small amounts of cooking.
Small to medium sized fondue pots – the kind that use a tealight – are also good for heating up a jar of soup or water to drink. They are also pretty cheap at second hand stores. They do involve open flame, but as long as they are attended to, and put on a stable heat proof surface they do work well.
That’s a good idea! Thanks for sharing. I see those all the time at the thrift shop.
What a wonderful Idea. Thanks for sharing.
I spent a summer working in Alaska a few years ago, installing satellite internet at remote schools. We “camped out” at the school after the work was done each day, then climbed aboard a bush plane that met us the next morning with a new load of equipment, and flew us to the next village to install another internet system.
We had to carry everything with us, including food and implements, and I was pleasantly surprised at how tasty the freeze dried food from Mountain House was. All you need is a way to boil some water, pour it in, stir it up, and wait about five minutes. Yum! It’s a little pricey, depending on where you get it, and can be a bit high in sodium, but for emergency fare, it’s hard to beat. I only found one entree that I didn’t care for (the beef stew), but the rest were amazingly good, and they even have a few breakfast choices that are very good. The packages are usually labeled as “2 or 2.5 servings”, and I guess two people could share, but a full-sized feller with a good appetite will probably be inclined to eat the whole package himself. Amazon sells it in “12 pouches – 29 serving” collections, but that equates to really only 12 meals for a hungry man or growing teenage boy. The bonus is that you can store it for a good long time.
I agree that Mountain House are some of the better freeze dried meals that we’ve tried – good enough that we stocked up on some “just in case”. I think your portion comments are spot on, too. The boys could easily polish off a pouch by themselves if allowed to do so.
I have an old metal bucket I picked up at a yard sale that kept me fed warm meals for about 3 weeks during the 2009 ice storm. I drilled a few holes in the bottom to aid ventilation and use an old cookie cooling tray on the top. In that 3 week [without power] period I used Canned Heat, Charcoal, Wood and even, at one point, a bunch of old bills that would normally have gone through the shredder!
There is also a Stive called biolite.
Very helpful and well done. Thanks very much! JoAnn
You’re welcome. Thank you for taking time to say something nice. 🙂
Laurie, this is great information; thanks for providing it. My husband was surprised it could be used indoors. I didn’t misunderstand did I? Also, would the Chef Master portable butane stove be substantial enough to handle a fully loaded All American 915 Canner which holds 7 qt or 10 pt jars? Do you think the heat can be regulated enough to keep it at the right pressure? Our stove is non-functioning, and we’re using hot plates, but they do not work well with a canner. It takes forever to get it up to pressure, greatly increasing the time necessary for each run. Thanks for your help.
You’re welcome, Karen. The little butane stove is indeed rated for indoor use. Off-gassing during the burn time would likely be similar to what you’d find from a gas stove burner – not much. As I mentioned, we used it for several days while we were without a regular stove. There was no detectable odor.
I don’t think the little butane stove would be up to handling a fully laden canner. Boiling a few quarts of water and other light duty cooking, yes, but canning takes a lot of energy over a long period of time. I know people have canned on the big outdoor propane stoves, but that’s a bigger investment.
Thanks for an informative page on emergency cooking. We have a generator but it’s dedicated to the three “F”s: freezer, fridge, and flush. We’re looking for an indoor cooking option when it’s too nasty to use the propane grill. Just a note, though. Your readers should understand that carbon monoxide is odorless. The odor you smell with natural or bottled gasses has been added so you can detect it, but when it’s used to cook there is no odor. Hence all those warning labels, which should be carefully followed.
As you noted, butane is pretty safe for indoor use, as it create very little CO. But propane cookers should absolutely be used outdoors unless the specifically rated for indoor use (and I don’t know any that are).
Thanks and happy power outaging, everyone!
I added an extra note about carbon monoxide in the safety section. I have not come across any propane cookers rated for use indoors, so hopefully folks will pay attention to the warning labels.
I have read that many Amazon reviewers are using butane portable stoves indoors, but I am consistently reading that manufacturers are still issuing instructions that recommend NOT using butane stoves indoors. I have yet to come across a manufacturer that has rated their butane stove for indoor use. Can you tell me what model of the Chef Master is rated for indoor use (I assume by the manufacturer or an industry association) or any other butane stoves that are so rated?
The Iwatani model linked in the post is “CSA listed. ANSI Z21.72-CSA11.2-2011 Camp Stove and ANSI Z83.11-CSA 1.8-2016 Foodservice Equip.” by the manufacturer. Section 1.8 of that code notes:
“A tableside cooking appliance may employ a low pressure gas delivery system or may incorporate a delivery system operating directly from the self-contained tank supply.”
This would indicate to me that it is intended to be viable as an indoor cooking device.
The Chef-Master 90011 1-Burner Butane Countertop Range – 9,925 BTU is listed as ETL certified for indoor use in commercial restaurants, but is not as well rated as the Iwatani models.
Both stoves note that they are resistant to drafts from air conditioning.
This commentary about safety issues reminded me of an experience I had when visiting my brother while he was convalescing on a medical bed in his living room, which included the use of a pressurized oxygen supply. No one was smoking in the house, but my sister–in-law liked to grill indoors with a butane hot plate in her all electric kitchen. She pulled it out to make a special meal for my brother, and I had to explain to her that this could cause an explosion. So grid down, with all the other complications, we are going to have to factor in medical equipment.
Oh my. I hope everyone was okay. Very good point.
So glad I found this helpful site ! so much in a little time. I want to build a solar oven! I have a tiny woodstove, but need more options! I dont want to buy a bunch of sterno to store. I have some but dont want to go boom! suggestions please! Thanks!!
I’m not sure I understand the question. There are a number of options listed in the post, so it’s a matter of finding which one is a best fit for you. Sterno won’t go boom, but it will dry out over time. There are ideas for simple solar ovens you can build in the post “Getting Started with Solar Cooking – DIY Solar Cooker Ideas, Printable Cooking Guide“.
Here in Modesto California we have a lot of triple digits days, sometimes a week or more in a row. Heating up the kitchen only adds to the misery and makes the air conditioning work harder. I “cook” a lot on the dash of my van. I have used a pint canning jar and a freezer bag laid in a dark baking pan. One recipe was a Italian rice dish including a small can of mushrooms including the juice, a small can of tomato sauce, one fourth teaspoon of Italian seasoning, one third cup of instant rice. The jar took thirty minutes to heat up and solidly filled the jar. A quart jar may work better. The freezer bag took only twenty minutes to cook. It was not as dense as the stuff in the jar. I put the bag in a dark pan to reflect the heat back into it. I also did it in case the bag leaked. I didn’t want to have to explain to my mechanic why trice, mushrooms and tomato sauce was in my vans air conditioning. A vehicle makes a great solar oven.
When we moved to the mountains in Colorado in 1978, we had no utilities at all (electric or water) except propane to run the kitchen stove and a Servel refrigerator and its tiny freezer. Since it was summertime, I found some cinder blocks and took one shelf-rack out of the gas-stove oven to build a fire pit in the front yard, setting cast iron frying pans on the rack. I used aspen and pine sticks from our woods to fuel it and quickly learned how to cook over an open fire. My family had never done any camping in the woods, or open-fire cooking, when I was growing up, so I had to learn a LOT of new skills! When we hooked up an OLD upright parlor stove and burned wood and coal in it, I learned to heat water on it (we were hauling water in an old metal 10-gallon milk can, so I had to make it last as long as possible!), and eventually learned to cook on a wood stove – we later got a bigger, more modern King heater that had a top lid that opened so I could cook an entire meal on it. I loved that stove, and wish I still had it!
We’re now in upstate New York and have a non-electric propane kitchen stove (everything on it works without electricity), a small Jotul wood-burning stove to warm the house (too small to do a really good job in bitter cold), and this spring I purchased a Sun Oven. It sat in its unopened box for several months before I finally got up the courage to try it – all I’ve done so far is dehydrate wildcrafted herbs, but at least I’m getting my feet wet! Now, if the weather would just cooperate – it requires enough sun to cast a good shadow, and we’re getting rain at frequent intervals, so there’s very little sunshine to work with. I also ordered their little “cloudy-day” stove and a dozen fuel cakes for it, but that will be for emergencies only. I love the fact that the Sun Oven people have been sharing their stoves in needy countries, and even make a community-sized model for schools and/or villages to bake bread in, to sell for their own use as well as income. (www.sunoven.com) It will also boil water, and can be used with the included reusable Water Pasteurization Indicator to pasteurize water for safe consumption. The Sun Oven may seem a bit pricey ($300 on sale, to $500 not on sale, including all the extras that come with it), but a good chunk of the price goes to this humanitarian work, which I gladly support! It also seems to work really well. The first time I took it out of the box and set it up, aimed at the sun, the closed box went to 200 F. in about 10 minutes, and to 300 F. in another 5 or 10 minutes – and the glass lid was still cool to the touch, but the black box was HOT! It’s very impressive to sit and watch the thermometer rise that fast, just by using the sun. Because the heat is uniform inside the box/oven, there are no hot-spots to burn food, so I’m going to try warming cold leftovers in it whenever we get some sunshine this week.
Thanks for your informative posts – I’m learning some new things, and refreshing memories of stuff I taught myself to do through the years. Keep up the good work, and may God always bless you and yours.
Thanks for sharing your story, Becky. We’ve had a lot of cloudy weather lately, too. The Sun Ovens are also built to last a lifetime, so they’re not something that’s going to need replacing in a few years. It’s a long term investment.
Our community is currently working on emergency preparedness/disaster protocols. I have been tasked with coming up with ways to keep a pot of soup ready for about 30 people; in a medical-type camp-serving workers and some patients. This would be done outdoors (tarp covered), in any type of weather (we are in the Western Washington state area).
I’ll have access to propane; and perhaps fire for the cooking fuels.
What would be my best bets for keeping a pot of soup within consistent and safe temperature levels (I have been a food-service worker, and have had some experience-mostly indoors, and in controlled conditions).
Some ideas on how far the proximity for an outdoor fire would be.
I have access to large aluminum pots, thermometers, and large burners.
We are already organized to have individual services ready for the general community.
Any websites or official agencies for this would be helpful, as well. I have all ready signed up for FEMA updates.
Any tips would be invaluable! Thanks!
Do you folks make booyah or something similar?
Around here, community groups regularly cook big pots of chicken soup (booyah) on propane cook stoves. Helping out for a community event with an experienced soup cooker would be excellent training.
Like any fire, you don’t want anything or anyone to get close enough to get burned or catch on fire, so several feet of clearance is needed around your cooker.
No emergency cooking specific agencies come to mind. Like most skills, I think experience is the best teacher. Try cooking outside or assist someone cooking outside to find out what works and what doesn’t.
You can use your gas stove in a power outage. I keep a lighter by mine for that purpose; just turn on the gas, point your lighter near the burner and click.
My sister-in-law grew up in a farmhouse with a charcoal stove, and she loves flame-grilled food. She learned to use a little one burner gas cooker and kept it on the electric stove in the kitchen.
When my brother came home bed-bound and on oxygen, I stayed with them for a couple of weeks to help out.
The respiratory therapist explained to me that there could be no open flames near his bed, since the oxygen would accumulate and might become a significant, explosive fire hazard. His bed had to be placed in the living room, and it occurred to me that the kitchen was close enough!
English was almost her second language, and explaining why she couldn’t cook his favorite meal in her kitchen took some diplomacy.
Respiratory compromise has become a pretty common issue in our culture, and during an emergency, that high risk may get by-passed in the hustle of getting everyone comfortable. That might be another point to add to your precautions.
In addition, I don’t think I saw any discussion of alcohol stoves, which an ethanol expert has told me would have a 400F flame and would burn off completely, so it may be a candidate for indoor use. It is also possible to switch jets for other gasses with ones that will work successfully with alcohol. We have a propane stove that we have intended to convert for use with alcohol, but haven’t found the proper jets. I would love a suggestion for a vendor.
Another option is a rocket stove, which is easy to make for welders, or can be purchased on line. It uses a variety of burnable fuels successfully, and makes a very quick, hot flame suitable for an outdoor cooking location.
I love to sip hot water in cold weather. Your point about practicing is going into effect TODAY!
When considering a portable camp stove – which is more efficient in terms of heating or heating and cost? The small butane canisters or small propane tanks…thanks
Most propane stoves are not recommended for indoor use – even some that advertise online as being “safe for indoor use” say “outdoor use only” on the box. The problem is ventilation, and fumes building up indoors, especially with how tight houses are nowadays.
Odds are that you you can find a propane stove that would be safe to use indoors, it would be a little cheaper to operate than the butane stove, as those little butane canisters are expensive. Mini propane canisters are more expensive than bulk propane, but still cheaper than butane. That said, I’ve used our mini stove a number of times when we had power outages, and for several days while we waited for our new stove to get hooked up, and still haven’t used a full canister yet.
The little butane stoves are commonly used in restaurants for tableside or buffet cooking, so they are by default fairly low emissions.
If you have an outdoor cooking area you can use in all weather conditions, standard outdoor propane cooking devices that hook up to the bigger propane tanks will be the most economical to use.
Ah, yes, I was thinking more in terms of general fuel costs. We have an outdoor, double burner, Coleman cook stove – that uses those small canisters of propane. I was wondering if you knew if there was a cost comparison between those and the canisters of butane or those small circular containers of butane – that are okay to burn indoors. I don’t know how they both are in terms of output and how long they last kind of thing.
With costs increasing dramatically from week to week now, any comparison would be out of date quickly. I haven’t seen anything like that specifically, but I haven’t gone looking.
Interesting article on an important topic, thank you. We have a regular pot belly stove, a Lopi, that takes the larger pieces of wood, and that has a flat top that we used to cook scrambled eggs and make coffee on when the power went out. You can’t bake with it ( that I know of) but heating or basic stove top type cooking/warming is easy. By itself, it can’t keep a drafty old house warm, but very close to it is nice and hot, and I am a huge fan of hot water bottles as low tech bed warmers when the power is out. Also, we have not tried this yet, but we now have several easy to put up tents for the living room next time the power goes out in the middle of winter; the idea is that tent plus good sleeping bag should be much warmer than sleeping in a cold bedroom. Of course, the mostly below ground basement is another option which can be warmer than other places in the house, due to the insulating factor of the earth around it.
I made and gave away about a dozen “hobo” stoves or jet stoves at a talk I gave at my church about preparedness. They cost nearly nothing to make and cook using a small amount of twigs and easy to store. I threw a cheap lighter and a bag of tinder in each one I gave away with the plastic lid snapped on it for storage. That way in an emergency they wouldn’t need to panic.
One other option for small, individual “meals” – Lehman’s Rayo Lamp Emergency Camping Kerosene Heater Cooker
Interesting. The use the heat from the lamp chimney for cooking.
Some miscellaneous thoughts
Conserving stored cooking fuels during an emergency (that might turn into something long term) can be really important. Some ways to do that could include learning how to use thermal cooking. There are books on Amazon and links online to help.It involves heating up a well insulated cooking vessel — such as a high quality thermos bottle (such as the “Thermos” brand) or larger thermal cookpot (see Amazon or eBay for sources), then adding the food to be cooked and bringing it up to temperature, then putting on the lid, removing the heat source, and letting the food slow-cook for however many hours it takes.
Some kinds of solar systems are well suited for thermal cooking. Either parabolic reflectors or large Fresnel lenses are well suited for the quick heat-up described above — especially if good sunlight is only available intermittently.
There are a couple of brands of solar cookers that have both solar and built-in electric capabilities. They are called hybrids. The electric option works really well for learning (while there is still power available) but can use solar when power goes out. They can even be set (while using solar) to automatically switch over to electric power when either the sun gets clouded over or when nightfall sneaks up on you. The US-made brand in Sun Focus while the brand made in India (the same brand in camo paint that’s issued to some units of the Indian military) is the Tulsi.
There are many varieties of burners that can use kerosene for cooking fuel — in addition to the Lehman’s example in this article. Part of that is knowing that the K-1 grade of kerosene is sufficiently cleaned so as not to leave a greasy film on the walls and ceilings of your kitchen — as happened back in the day when my mother was SO glad to switch from kerosene to electric cooking in her kitchen because of the poorer grade of kerosene she had available. I was too young to recall her discussion about that at the time. Kerosene also has the virtue of being able to store indefinitely — and without any explosion hazard (unlike propane).
Propane systems for cooking have been designed for indoor use. Back in my long-ago military years I lived for over a year in a 1958 manufactured mobile home with two propane tanks outside that were mounted on the towing tongue. The inside propane-fired cookstove was reliable and never gave me any problems.
There are examples of people on YouTube using a wood-fired rocket stove in their house open fireplace. With that kind of ventilation there are probably other kinds of cookers with otherwise risky fuels (like propane) that could be used in such indoor fireplaces.
Finally … the comment about dried beans taking a long time to cook … can be improved on considerably. If first cleaned of any loose particles and then ground into bean flour, the cooking time can be reduced enormously. Page 116 of Rita Bingham’s Country Beans book (my edition is from 1996 — there may be later editions with different page numbers) states that “When added to boiling water, bean flours thicken in only 1 minute, and in 3 minutes are ready to eat. Bean flours added to baked goods increase vitamins and minerals and provide a source of complete protein.” The book discusses some brands of home kitchen grain mills available back then. It could be worth while to run a current day online search to learn what brands are available today.
There is a new kind of ethanol stove for indoor and outdoor use called the Fishbone stove.