Regardless of how many #10 cans of “just-add-water-ready-to-eat” stuff you have, at some point, you’ll have to learn to use a kitchen in much the same way as your granny or your great-granny did. To help you better prepare and be more successful, we’ve put together this list of must-have kitchen items for any survivalist or prepper.
Table of contents
- Why You Should Acquire Manually Operated Kitchen Tools
- Basic Must-Have Kitchen Items
- Next-Level Must-Have Kitchen Tools
Why You Should Acquire Manually Operated Kitchen Tools
This list likely includes things some of you use already for everyday cooking. That’s great!
However, the idea here is that these tools will still function in a long-term situation where you don’t have power or need to ration your power. Under those circumstances, your favorite electric kitchen gadgets like the instant pot miracle meal maker may not be an option, or at least not for long. Therefore, even though you may consider it a must-have kitchen item, it’s not included on this list.
Also, suppose you don’t already know how to cook from scratch. In that case, you should prioritize learning now, when stakes are lower, and you can order pizza delivered if your efforts on any given evening are not entirely edible.
Let’s get to this list now, shall we?
First, we’ll cover the basics. Then, we’ve got some suggestions if you want to take off-grid cooking up a notch.
Basic Must-Have Kitchen Items
These manual kitchen tools allow you to perform most common cooking and baking tasks in an off-grid, short or long-term situation.
If you’re going to learn to cook like granny, you’ll need matches. Preparing meals this way will probably include cooking on top of a wood heat stove or a wood cook stove with an oven. I know there are ways to start a fire with a magnifying glass, some straw, and some kindling, but matches are easier. Much easier.
If you’re good at starting and keeping a fire throughout the three daily meals, you could use as little as one match a day. If you’re not, 20 may not be enough.
We’ve found that the most economical matches are book matches like you get with a pack of cigarettes. They come in a box of 50 books, 20 matches per book, for about $1.50 in many stores. That’s a lot of lights for cheap. On the other hand, wooden kitchen matches go for about $3.50 for 250 matches. See the difference? When you’re living off the grid, every penny counts.
As an off-gridder, I’m definitely not talking about the can opener that plugs into a wall. Have at least two good, sturdy hand-operated can-openers. The newer ones from China do wear out. We’ve worn out quite a few.
We also have an Army C-Ration P-38 can-opener. Using this device takes a little practice, but once you get the groove going, you can open a #10 can in a few seconds.
Also, if you carry a Swiss army knife, you’ve got yet another version.
Back-ups for your back-ups, my friends!
Hand Grain Mill
You’ll need a hand grain mill to grind wheat, rice, barley, oats, rye, and lentils into flour. We personally like the Wondermill Junior Deluxe Hand Grain Mill. (Read The Survival Mom’s review here.) For the money, it’s the best we have found.
It can also make nut butter, like pinion butter, walnut butter, and chestnut butter. Oh, and cornmeal. The uses are virtually endless, especially if you eat a lot of whole, natural foods.
However, not all grain mills can be used for this many purposes. Read your manual or research before buying to understand the limitations of the unit in question.
Cast Iron/Stainless Steel Cookware
If you are cooking over a wood stove of any kind, you need durable stainless steel or cast iron cookware. Aluminum (besides not being good for your health) tends to warp on wood cook stoves.
Black cast iron pans heat evenly, hold the heat for a long time, and do not warp – not to mention giving you a little dose of iron in your food. You’ll definitely want skillets and a dutch oven. A griddle is also helpful.
A lot of people love cast iron. A few don’t. Some were forced to give it up because of its weight.
I get that.
Still, it’s hard to beat cast iron for off-grid cooking over campfires or with charcoal.
Enamelware is best, and so is stainless steel. Make sure the roasting pan will fit into your oven! Wood cook stoves don’t have the same huge ovens as gas or electric stoves.
Stainless steel or copper works best for this archaic kitchen appliance. In the winter, a steaming tea kettle on the wood stove not only serves as an at-the-ready for tea or coffee, but the steam also warms and moisturizes the air. Just don’t let it boil down before refilling it.
Metal (stainless steel) is best. However, if you have or want some plastic colanders, understand that they will break over time, and most of them are made with BPA in the plastic.
These versatile sheets can be used for breads, biscuits, cookies, and drying fruits or veggies. Avoid Teflon coatings or aluminum cookie sheets – get stainless steel.
Again, my recommendation is metal (stainless steel). It’s much better than plastic, and with stainless steel and cast iron cookware, you don’t have to worry about scratches.
- Serving spoons
- Serving forks
- Slotted spoons
- Pastry cutter (easier than two knives, in my opinion, but those work, too)
- Rolling pin
- Sharpening steel
- Cheese grater/slicer
- Potato/vegetable peeler
- Meat tenderizing hammer
Measuring Cups and Spoons
Once again, stainless steel is the best choice for these. A 4-cup glass measuring cup with a pour-spout would be a nice addition, too.
Pay attention to the measuring spoons and cups you use most and have at least one or two backups. Those also come in handy on days when you’re doing a lot of cooking and/or baking and repeatedly reach for the same measuring tools.
Good knives keep a sharp edge for a reasonable amount of time and won’t go dull instantly upon use. If you can find old, carbon-steel knives in yard sales or flea markets, they are best. Old Hickory, Old Timers, and Imperial are some brands to look for.
Hand Crank Grinder and Coffee Press or Percolator
The best part of waking up when there’s no power is remembering that you can still make coffee. With a tool to grind the coffee beans and another to coax a mind-altering beverage from them, you’re set.
The grinder gets you the ground coffee from those magical beans you’ve stored, while the coffee press and percolator permit a more modern java-sipping experience.
However, if you prefer good, old-fashioned cowboy-style coffee, stock up on a good supply of coffee filters. Or grit your teeth and drink. Literally. That’s cowboy humor. Maybe.
You don’t know how much you use something until you don’t have it. I use the timer on my oven or my microwave every. single. day. Multiple times. It can at least ease the pain of learning how to “read” the food as I cook.
Next-Level Must-Have Kitchen Tools
These next-level must-have kitchen items would provide more variety and nutrition to the foods you can make.
This division is personal and arbitrary. You may disagree. That’s okay.
Hand Crank Meat Grinder
You’ll appreciate a hand-crank meat grinder if you have livestock or access to someone who does. You’ll be able to grind meat any meat–beef, chicken, rabbit, venison, etc. If you have the grinder and someone else has the meat, you might even be able to barter.
Mortar and Pestle
When the ease and convenience of store-bought herbs and spices is not an option, you’ll appreciate the help of a mortar and pestle to grind homegrown ones. It’ll also crush other dried goods like nuts.
Outside of the kitchen, the mortar and pestle also have pharmacological uses.
I’m still wondering if a fermenting crock should go on the basic must-have kitchen items list since staying healthy is even more critical when the power goes out. After all, during outages, especially long-term ones, the usual avenues of care may not be available.
Fermenting foods increases the nutritional value and shelf life of foods. And, with its probiotics, it’s good for gut health. Plus, it both prepares and preserves your food. That’s a win-win.
Definitely get this ahead of time and practice, though, so you’ve got the hang of it.
Hand Crank Dough Maker and/or Dough Hook
If you currently use a bread machine or a stand mixer to do the kneading and mixing for you, then you might want to make a hand crank dough maker part of your basic must-have kitchen items. But, for the rest of us, a dough hook is a game changer. Use it for bread dough or mixing just about anything else.
If folks are tuckered out after cranking the ice cream machine, have them step over to the butter churn. Here’s another kind of sweet, creamy goodness worth the effort required to produce.
You could purchase the old-fashioned butter churn or handheld mason jar version. The size needed may depend on your access to cream.
A Zeer pot is a refrigeration method. A terracotta pot holding a small amount of food and surrounded by wet sand nests inside a larger one. Using the principle of evaporative cooling, it cools:
Manual Hand Mixer
Yes, a heavy-duty whisk performs a similar function, but a manual hand mixer, or egg beater, does it faster and with less effort. So I’d consider it another layer.
Dehydrating requires heat and airflow to remove moisture from the food. There are many plans for building DIY solar dehydrator units available in various sizes. Some designs use rising heat to compensate for the lack of a fan. You can also buy a hanging dehydrator for herbs.
Off-grid living requires a level of wisdom and ingenuity not unlike during the Great Depression. Prepare in advance with tools AND skills, and when disaster strikes and you’re without power, these must-have kitchen tools will give you the means to continue to provide healthy, nutritious foods to your loved ones.
What kitchen tool do you consider essential if you don’t have power?
Updated article originally authored by Sheila at SurvivingSurvivalism.