In an extended power outage, one of the most valuable commodities is cooking and heating fuel.
Cooking during a disaster, without an electric or gas kitchen stove, is easy to do if you are prepared. For instance, if you use a wood stove or fireplace insert for heating purposes, it can easily double as a crisis cooker during an emergency.
To come up with an effective crisis cooker, you will need a good set of cast iron pots and pans.
Wood burning cookstoves
Wood burning cookstoves are getting harder to find, but they are very handy during a power outage. While the heat from a wood cookstove is welcome in the winter, it would be most unwelcome in hot weather.
Planning to cook with a generator as your only energy source during an emergency is not a good idea because of the expense and the probable scarcity of the fuel to run it. You may also not want the attention that a running generator will attract in an economic collapse.
What about campfires?
Cooking outdoors on an open fire is relatively safe and is a great way to spend time with your family before a disaster and its ramifications.
It is also a good way to learn how to cook on a campfire. Dig a small pit to build the fire in and stack rocks around the edges of it. Place an oven rack or metal grate on the rocks to hold a frying pan or cooking pot.
Again, you will need a good set of cast iron pots and pans for cooking on an open fire. This is a critical advantage of storing foods in metal cans. In an emergency, you can just open the can and place it on the grate or on a rock near the fire. Since the food is already cooked, simply warm it up and it is ready to eat, right out of the can if necessary.
Dutch Oven as a Crisis Cooker
You can also use a dutch oven, which is a heavy-duty cast iron pot with a matching lid. If you decide to purchase a dutch oven, be sure and get the lid handle, which is often sold as a separate accessory. It is well worth the extra couple of bucks because it is very handy.
Once a good bed of coals is established, dig a shallow hole about the diameter of your dutch oven, shovel a few hot coals into the hole, cover them with about an inch of ashes, and set your food-filled dutch oven in place.
Next, shovel about an inch of ashes onto the lid, add some hot coals, and cover them with a few more ashes as well. It will take practice to regulate the cooking times and temperature, and to avoid scorching the dutch oven contents.
The right time to start practicing your dutch oven expertise is now, not after an economic collapse. Robert L. Ririe has written several good books on the subject of dutch oven cooking, such as Let’s Cook Dutch and Doin’ Dutch Oven.
There are several other options for use as emergency cooking stoves: the propane grill, charcoal grill, sterno folding stoves, or camp stoves.
A propane, kerosene, or dual fuel Coleman stove can be brought inside and used for cooking in well-ventilated rooms, but should never be used to heat a room.
Never use an outdoor grill, either gas or charcoal, indoors for any reason. If an accidental fire doesn’t get you, the carbon monoxide certainly will.
An important choice in choosing the best emergency stove, especially for the aftermath of a disaster, is the type of fuel it burns.
Some people prefer the dual fuel model (such as the Coleman dual fuel stove) over the propane because the stove is a bit cheaper and the fuel is quite a bit cheaper. Like the lanterns, the dual fuel stove burns white gas or unleaded gas.
A down side is that you have to frequently pump air pressure into the fuel tank with a small plunger on the dual fuel stove, which can be unhandy in the stress of a crisis.
One gallon of fuel will cook at least 8-10 meals. Another major advantage of dual fuel camp stove is fuel availability.
However, our personal favorite emergency stove remains the propane model. The small one pound propane bottles are very convenient and handy, they aren’t nearly as messy as gasoline, they seem to burn cleaner, and they can be interchangeably used with the Coleman propane lanterns.
Interchangeability of fuel between cook stoves is not only convenient, but can be critical in a disaster.
With the proper fittings you can also use a 20 lb. bottle, like the one on your outdoor grill, to fuel your propane camp stove.
Additionally, you can stockpile propane bottles and store them indefinitely in your emergency preparations, which is a big advantage over dual fuel stoves.
We also feel that propane stoves are safer than white gas stoves because there is less chance of the fuel getting knocked over and catching fire to your home while you are refueling the stove. For this reason, refueling white gas stoves should always be done outside.
Important points to remember when choosing a survival stove
- Kerosene cook stoves are a good option for emergency planning because they work well, cost about the same price, and the fuel is easy to find, odorless, cheap, and efficient.
- Cooking on a camp stove outdoors is a lot easier if you have a small table, a stump, or something else to set it on. As always, follow safety instructions and have a fire extinguisher handy.
- Fuel should be stored some place other than your house because of the fire hazard posed, and because it can contaminate your food and water stores.
- Special attention should be paid to storing fuels in appropriate containers. Fuel is critical to your survival and in a shortage, it will be one of the first things to get scarce whether you live in town or in the country. It is hard to overstate the importance of storing fuel for warmth, lighting, and cooking.
We would like to hear your say. Which are your favorite portable stoves for emergencies? Leave us a comment below.