Cook Off-Grid Without Power: How Many Methods Do You Have?

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Power’s out! All you have to eat is cold food. For hours. For days. How soon will you get tired of that? How soon will the kids? If you haven’t planned for alternative ways you can cook off-grid without power, now is the time to start thinking about it. By having various options for cooking, you can ensure that they always have a reliable way to prepare their meals, regardless of the weather or any other unforeseen circumstances. The morale boost of a hot meal cannot be overestimated!

In this article, I’ll give you plenty of options to consider, both ones I’ve used and ones I haven’t.

image: woman cooking over open fire with pot hanging from stick tripod

Practice Cooking Without Power

When you buy or otherwise acquire preparedness supplies, do you practice with them, or are you a prep hoarder? I think I’ve been guilty of both, especially with off-grid cooking methods.

Maybe you know what I mean. Preppers are notorious for wanting every new survival gadget that comes out. We’ve got no less than ten ways to cook that aren’t tied to the power grid, yet when another new off-grid cooker comes out, we simply must have it to add to the stash in the storage room.

And there they sit, safe for when we need them, gathering dust and maybe spiders,

Do you ever try them out when they come in the mail, or do we add them, still in the package, to the ‘cooking shelf’ in our bug-out trailer? It’s important to do so.

I can say that I have used each of my off-grid cooking methods several times. Some had a learning curve that I mastered, and I’m still climbing that curve with others. Some are easier to clean and store than others.  Fuels differ, conditions they can be used in differ, and set-up, clean-up, and storage instructions are not the same, but we need to learn how they work.

In a major crisis, when emotions are high, and everything and everyone is confused is not the time to try and figure out how to put that HERC stove together!

My Family’s Off-Grid Cooking Methods

For my family, my list of methods looks like this:

Other Methods to Cook During Power Outages

Here are some other possibilities to consider, although I have no personal experience with them.

  • Portable Power Stations. Use these to power small cooking appliances. With a solar recharging option, it’s not on-grid; as long as you have sunlight, you have power.
  • Kelly Kettle
  • HERC Oven (Home Emergency Radiant Cooking). Cook just about anything using only tea lights but a bit on the spendy side these days. Read the Survival Mom’s review of her HERC XXL here. These can also keep food warm by placing it on top of the oven while something else is cooking.
  • Fondue Pot. Keep an eye out at yard sales and thrift stores for this blast from the past!
  • Kerosene Stove. For outdoor use only.
  • Wood burning stove (If you have enough room to cook on the top.)
  • Esbit Fuel Tab Folding Pocket Stoves
  • Toilet Paper Tuna Torch. In a true survival situation, I’d probably be able to get past the toilet paper aspect and eat the tuna. If you could elevate a pot over the can, you might be able to heat water at the same time. Also, note to self: Can opener
  • Buddy burner
  • Reflector Oven. Bake using the radiant heat from an open fire.
  • Swedish Torch Fire. One log, wire, and an axe. Mixed feelings about this one, but the video is fun to watch, eggs and all. Here’s another version using an auger.
  • Outdoor Percolator. Coffee. ‘Nuf said.

Additionally, you’ll need to be sure to have the necessary kitchen tools that work without electricity to make food using your chosen methods.

Of course, if you know how to cook from scratch, it also helps immensely. Read this post if you need convincing about why scratch cooking is an essential skill.

How Many Off-Grid Cooking Methods Do You Need?

How many different cooking methods do you have for when the power goes out? You really need at least 2 of them, making sure those two do not rely on the same fuel type.

Are you familiar with using all the different methods you have? Are your children? What if you, THE MASTER OF ALL THINGS PREP in your home, are not around or are injured or ill? Who is going to do the cooking then? Learn them yourself. Teach them to your family.

Spring and Summer are a GREAT time to get out the different tools/toys you have for cooking meals off-grid and practice, practice, practice. If you’re trying to be an urban off-gridder or are considering the off-grid lifestyle, think about how you could cook off-grid in your location.

Pick one night per week and make it an adventure. Have a cookout in the backyard. Learn all about that method and gather some recipes to try out.

A Year of Dutch Oven Cooking

I know of a woman who wanted to learn how to use her Dutch oven, so she committed to cooking something in it every day for a YEAR.  She blogged about the experience and shared what she learned online. I dare say that she is now a Dutch oven expert.

I think she’s also super tired of using her Dutch oven because she hasn’t updated her blog in a while, but her adventure is documented for the world to learn from. You can read about it and get some great new dutch oven recipe ideas for yourself, be warned though, you might not surface for days. Toni’s Dutch Oven adventure. 

I’d love to hear about your favorite off-grid cooking methods. Share in the comments!

Originally published April 23, 2015; updated and revised by Team Survival Mom.

11 thoughts on “Cook Off-Grid Without Power: How Many Methods Do You Have?”

  1. Tea lights are a great cooking source. They are cheap and easy to find now. You can cook dry beans using five tea lights from dry to done in five hours. They were boiling the first hour. I’ve even tried a cake which takes 2.5 hours. I was surprised how easy it was. I bought a few parts from Goodwill and that was all I needed. You need something to hold your pot above the flame like a casserole holder, and to bake, something you can contain another pot and hold over a flame (camp chef charcoal basket). You can also cook indoors which prevents any scent from floating away.

    1. Annie~SavorThisMoment

      Along the same lines, I picked up a new fondue set at the thrift store thinking I can use it to heat things up with sterno fuel or even tea lights. It doesn’t take up much room in the cupboard, and we’ve even experimented with making fondue.

      Our home is all electric, and our next big purchase will be a generator. Living in California we can BBQ year round, and our camp stove and turkey fryer run on propane, so we store large and small tanks.

  2. Trina,
    That’s a great idea, Thanks for the tip, I’ll have to play around with that. I have a huge bulk bag of tealights that I got for something…around here somewhere. 🙂

  3. So far I’m relying on my fireplace and gill for cookig options bu cooking without power and getting a better handle on water supplies and are my two biggest priorities.

    Step by step. Thank you for the tips!

  4. My version of the Wonder Oven: (Mine is a different type, but I’m planning on getting one of these because of the additional tools that come with it. Yes, I’m a junkie; guilty as charged.) I love the Thermal Cooker and I use it a lot now, especially to fix whole grain breakfasts the night before that are sitting there piping hot no matter what time people get up in the morning.

  5. I asked for a thermal cooker for Christmas a couple years ago and it is great! It works like a wonder oven, except more compact. You bring your food to a boil in the inner pans and then place them in the outer holder and seal it up to cook with the residual heat. Mine is the smaller one from Saratoga Jacks. Here is a link

  6. I love alternative cooking, much like I love my children. I even have many of my alternative cooking things named. Sometimes I even take family pictures with them. I use them all and alternate with them. Once I took a few weeks only cooking with my butane stove (Gas One) and got three days breakfast, lunch and dinner out of it. When I used my solar oven, cooking bag/ wonder oven, rocket stove, and Gas One stove the butane from the Gas One lasted two weeks. I encourage others to also practice, practice, practice. I made a youtube video on how to make a Wonder Oven and introduced a lady in Ghana the idea of thermal cooking and they went CRAZY when they learned what a Wonder Bag was. It is amazing what they’re doing! You have to read the testimonials. . I am interested in learning all the dutch oven lady has to teach.

  7. Colleen Mills

    We use several types of alternative cooking. My husband made me a wood fired pizza oven. It can be used to bake bread and bake pizza.
    We have a solar oven to make cake and also roast meats.
    My husband said that we could also feed our gas grill off of our
    giant propane tank.
    In the winter, we will be using our wood burning stove that sits in our original fireplace cavity.
    Final heating and cooking area is a rocket stove.

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