How to Cook Without Electricity

Most experts agree that a full-fledged future disaster will involve the electrical grid going down, possibly for a lengthy period of time.

That means knowing how to cook without electricity will be essential. The good news is, there are several different ways you can accomplish this. But it’s important to learn how to do it now so you’ll be ready when the SHTF. Following are five options:

Open Fire Cooking

This is a simple outdoor solution for cooking during a disaster. Set a barbecue grill plate over an open fire and cook. If you don’t have a grill, you’ll need to find branches (ideally two inches thick) and carefully secure three of them over the fire.

Set your pan or pot on top of the branches and watch closely. The branches will burn away; as they do, you’ll need to carefully slip in replacement branches. Plan ahead with how many branches you’ll need, based on required cooking time.

Canned Heat Cooking

This is a safe, inexpensive and easy indoor emergency cooking procedure. 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. The canisters are safe to store indoors, take up little space and have a long storage life.

Canned heat can be used with a chafing dish, fondue pot or certain stoves and grills. When cooking, make sure the heat is under the center of your pan or dish. Be sure to cover with a lid to help achieve a higher temperature and conserve fuel.

Solar Oven Cooking  

This outdoor emergency cooking method works by converting sunlight to heat. The trapped heat is used to cook food. Solar ovens range from DIY ovens made out of a tire tube with a piece of Plexiglas over the top, to heavy-duty commercial ovens for purchase.

You can bake, boil, steam, stew and dehydrate food – giving you the ability to cook just about anything. This method is very portable and incredibly low maintenance, as food almost never sticks or burns. 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 emergency cooking method. The two best options in this category are powered by propane and butane.

Butane stoves are very portable and can generate enough heat to do most cooking. However, the 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 and therefore too heavy to easily carry.

Engine Cooking

Finally, as a last-resort cooking method, you can use excess heat from your car or truck engine. If you have enough gasoline, engine cooking will feed you in a crisis and is relatively simple.

After identifying a hotspot such as the exhaust manifold, wrap your prepared food in several layers of tin foil, which will act as a heat conductor and protect your food from possible contaminants present in the engine compartment. 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.


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