Could You Cook Food Without Electricity?

With about six more weeks of winter coming – according to the Punxsutawney, Pennsylvania groundhog and the calendar – and with spring tornado season approaching, we’re going to need backup power.

We were hit with plenty of winter storms in December and early January. And it’s very likely more are on the way.

Even if we get lucky the rest of this winter, we can count on spring to pound us with thunderstorms and tornadoes. Which means flooding.

I love what Mark Twain once wrote about this approaching time of year. “In the spring I have counted 136 kinds of weather inside of four and 20 hours.”

Ancestors better prepared than we are

The common denominator with violent winter and spring weather is power outages. Blackouts are on the way, so it’s important to know how to cook food without electricity.

We are accustomed to modern-day electronic devices and appliances. Many of us don’t know what we’d do without electricity for a week, let alone a month.

It’s sad when you think about it. Our ancestors lived during the 1800s and earlier. They spent their entire lives without electricity and managed to survive just fine.

In an extended outage, you and your family members will want food requiring heating. Granola bars taste great, but you’ll tire of them. Here are some other ideas:

Solar oven cooking

This is a great option in warmer, sunnier climates. The solar oven cooking method works by converting sunlight to heat. The trapped heat is used to cook food.

You can bake, boil, steam, stew and even dehydrate food. This is a safe option without flames. No fossil fuels are required and no air pollution is produced.

This method is portable and low maintenance. Food almost never sticks or burns. Most meals don’t require much stirring during cooking.

If you’re new to solar oven cooking, choose recipes that do well with slow cooking. Such as stews and casseroles.

Portable gas stoves

These are best used as an outdoor cooking method. The two best options with portable gas stoves are butane and propane.

Butane stoves are portable and can generate enough heat to do most cooking. However, butane canisters can be pricey and hold a limited amount of fuel.

Propane is a highly dependable fuel at freezing temperatures and high altitudes. The tanks, however, are thick-walled. They’re too heavy to easily carry.

Smaller stoves in this genre are single-burner stoves. But there are also two-burner stoves. If portability is not an issue, larger camper stoves with legs are effective.

Wood and coal-burning stoves

Wood-burning and coal-burning stoves are convenient for use in the winter. When you can cook and heat your home simultaneously.

If it is flat enough, you can cook on top of it. The fire should be going strong before you start cooking. It’s best to use cast-iron cookware. It conducts heat, but does not retain it.

Frying time is similar to using a conventional gas or electric stove. But cooking time is longer.

If your food is cooking too quickly, turn down the drafts. Transfer food to a cooler part of the stovetop. If it’s cooking too slowly, open the drafts and add wood to the fire.

Grills and open-fire cooking

If you’re able to hunker down at home – or you have one of these grills at your bug-out location – it will come in handy. They use gas or charcoal.

This is a great way to grill various meats and fish. As well as large vegetables. Grills have an advantage over open-fire cooking because their lids trap more heat.

Open-fire cooking is a simple outdoor solution during a crisis. Set a barbeque grill plate over an open fire and cook.

Another option is using a large, flat rock. Place the rock over the fire. Once the rock is hot, put your pan or pot on top. The harder the rock, the less likely it is to crack.

Fireplace and fondue pot 

Another option if you’re hunkering down is a fireplace. Use logs rather than charcoal, which can produce carbon monoxide.

Add a little vegetable oil, salt and pepper to your food before wrapping it in aluminum foil. Then cook it over the flame. Use tongs and rotate the food often. Use a meat thermometer for meat to make sure the inside is 165 degrees Fahrenheit.

You can use a fondue pot to cook a small meal. Make sure your fuel is approved for indoor use.

Stainless steel is the way to go here, both for cooking and for cleaning up afterwards. Make sure the handles are strong and the base is wide.

Canned heat and engine cooking

The canned heat method is safe, inexpensive and easy. You’ve probably seen this flaming canister used by caterers to keep food warm.

The no-spill, gel-like fuel is simple to use and can burn for several hours. Canned heat can be used with a chafing dish, fondue pot or certain stoves and grills.

Engine cooking uses excess heat from your car or truck engine. It’s a last-resort cooking tactic.

Identify a hotspot such as the exhaust manifold. Wrap your prepared food in several layers of foil. Secure the food with a steel wire and make sure it’s not touching any moving parts. Close the hood and let your food cook.

Bug-out bag musts

Because cooking without power might have to be done outdoors, include the following items in bug-out bags.

  • Pots, Pans and Plates. A store-bought mess kit will do just fine. You can find them in a big box store’s sporting goods department. Because they inter-stack and lock together, they’re easy to carry, use, clean and pack. 
  • Silverware. The big box stores should sell interlocking knife/fork/spoon sets. Don’t choose plastic. You don’t know how long you’re going to be using these utensils.
  • Aluminum Foil. Use aluminum foil to wrap vegetables, meat or fish when they are cooking over a campfire. As well as to carry cooked food when you start moving again.
  • Coffee Pot. Lash a small percolator to the outside of your bag to keep it from banging around or breaking. To really be efficient, keep small, clean clothing items inside it when you’re moving.
  • Cooking Pot. Include a large cooking pot with a lid in one of your bags. You’ll be able to heat up larger quantities of food that way, including stew.
  • Serving Utensils. When it comes to getting food from the pot or pan to your plate, items such as spatulas, ladles and meat forks are much preferable to knives, forks and spoons.
  • Canteen. Make sure you have at least one military-grade canteen in your bug-out bag. The better ones also include a matching cup (which can double as a boiling pot), an insulated carrier and a utility belt for transportation.
  • Water Purifiers. Carry a personal water filter and a small bottle of water purification tablets. Nothing spells disaster for a bug-out experience faster than drinking contaminated water.
  • Dishwashing Liquid. To keep your cooking utensils clean, include a non-breakable, spill-free bottle of dishwashing liquid.

Don’t wait to experiment

You don’t have to wait for a tragedy to experiment with cooking without electricity. It can be a fun activity to practice.

Why not give it a try, save some money on your energy bills and become well-versed in cooking without power. You’ll be happy you did.

In fact, my top recommendation for cooking during a blackout is by using the 4Patriots Sun Kettle™ Personal Water Heater. Using the power of the SUN, this incredible device will boil water and cook food - no fuel, flames, or electricity needed. If you’d like to learn more or get your own, go here.


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