How Portable Electric Kitchen Appliances Can Be Useful after Disasters

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portable electric cooking appliances: a griddle, a rice cooker, a crockpot, a waffle makerIn our typical daily lives, where food inconveniences are barely a blip on the radar, we tend to forget the morale boost that a hot, homecooked meal can provide. But after disasters, a portable electric kitchen appliance could still provide you and your loved ones with just that.

Depending on the circumstances, maybe you’ll still be able to live at home and you’ll have power but you must live on the second floor for the weeks or months it could take for repairs. Perhaps you’ll evacuate but you don’t know if you’ll end up somewhere with a full kitchen. Maybe you’ll have to temporarily live in your car. It could be you won’t know what you’ll be coming home to, or you recognize the possibility that you may not have a home to which to return.

For months after Hurricane Harvey, some people only had small portable appliances to cook on, and wherever you land after a disaster, you, too, might be grateful for something that can offer some semblance of a homemade meal.

How Versatile are Portable Electric Kitchen Appliances?

But what good is a single small kitchen appliance, really? Can it actually make a variety of meals, and not just one-offs or snacks?

Good news! A waffle maker can make more than just waffles. And that rice cooker? Yup! It can make more than just rice. Let’s take a prepper’s eye view at some of the appliances you may have squirreled away in your cupboard and what they can really make for you in an emergency (or any other time.)

Electric Griddle

My electric griddle usually only sees pancakes, but it turns out it can be more of a workhorse than you might first suspect, especially if your options for cooking are limited. For instance:

  • French toast
  • Hashbrowns
  • Grilled sandwiches
  • Fried eggs
  • Hamburgers
  • Sausage links/patties
  • Bacon
  • Tortillas
  • Quesadillas
  • Pork chops
  • Steak
  • Foil-wrapped salmon
  • Grilled tilapia
  • Shrimp
  • Asparagus
  • Crab cakes

That’s breakfast, lunch, and dinner covered. And folding electric griddles are available now, too. However, if you want a gadget that has the functionality of a griddle but even more options, read on.

Electric skillet

Electric skillets can do everything an electric griddle can and more. They’re great for sautéing, pan-frying, stir-frying, browning meat, and deep-frying, along with griddling those breakfast favorites.

Pretty much any meal cooked in a skillet on the stovetop can be cooked in this. Some units offer optional accessories for steaming and grilling, which extends its usefulness even more.

So what can it make? Everything from the electric griddle list plus things like:

  • Chicken Lo Mein
  • Scrambled eggs
  • Hamburger/Tuna Helper-style meals
  • Donuts
  • Biscuits
  • Brownies
  • Lasagna
  • Cornbread
  • Meatloaf
  • Pot roast
  • Cake
  • Chicken enchiladas
  • Seafood chowder
  • Scalloped potatoes
  • Oatmeal cookies
  • Fried chicken

Phew! I could keep going, but you get the idea. And I was pretty much sold at donuts, anyway.

Waffle maker

Several times a year my family has a hankering for waffles. When that happens, I dig the neglected waffle maker from the depths of the pantry, and we feast on those wonderful butter and syrup delivery systems. Otherwise, it sits forgotten. Imagine my excitement to learn a waffle iron is much more versatile than one might think. Indeed, there are myriad other foods one could make using it. For example:

  • Panini
  • Brownies
  • Pizza
  • Quesadillas
  • Cinnamon Rolls (The ones from the can would be fast and easy.)
  • Tater tot hashbrowns
  • Bacon
  • Cornbread (Cornbread waffles topped with chili? Yes, please!)
  • Potaffles (Potato pancakes that are “waffled.”)
  • Biscuits (Just add gravy for a yummy breakfast.)
  • Chocolate chip cookies

Definitely no need to waffle about keeping that waffle maker anymore.


Ah, the crockpot. My mother once owned five, all different sizes and shapes. Over the years they offered up a vast selection of delicious soups, stews, spiral hams, and roast beef. Just like the others, though, there’s quite a bit more this common kitchen appliance can do, such as:

  • Oatmeal
  • Roast chicken
  • Mac-n-cheese
  • Meatloaf
  • Bread
  • Baby back ribs
  • Poached pears
  • Corn-on-the-cob
  • Deep dish pizza
  • Baked potatoes
  • Lasagna
  • Corned beef
  • Granola
  • Yogurt
  • Cinnamon rolls
  • Applesauce

Anyone else looking at their slow cooker with new eyes? I know I am. But if you’re a crockpot newbie or maybe just need a refresher on how to get the most from this cookware, this article will help (whether it’s winter or not.)

HotLogic Portable Oven

What? A portable oven? Yup! Think of it as a car oven. If I’ve intrigued you, then head over to this HotLogic product review and learn all about why The Survival Mom thinks this small appliance is ingenious. If you’re tired of fast food or sandwiches on long road trips, then you don’t want to miss the HotLogic!

Rice cooker

Have you got a rice cooker that’s been languishing in the back of a cupboard? I do. I bought it to replace a beloved steamer/rice cooker combination that died on me and was no longer manufactured; for some reason, the new one just never clicked with me. I ended up making rice on the stovetop, and that poor little rice cooker was banished to cupboard purgatory.

But that could all change now because of a secret some of you may already know. If the electric skillet and the slow cooker had a child, that offspring would be a rice cooker. That’s right. You can cook one-pot meals in a rice cooker, steam veggies, and make other side dishes, appetizers, and breakfasts. You can even make desserts.

I had no idea.

Here are some other things I was pleasantly surprised to discover can be made in a rice cooker:

  • Roast chicken
  • Hard-boiled eggs (Deviled eggs, anyone?)
  • Black beans
  • Baby back ribs
  • Carrot cake
  • Pull-apart pizza bread
  • Frittata
  • Pancake (One big one!)
  • Bonus non-food use: Humidifier
  • And this rice cooker cookbook gets a ton of great reviews.

With those options, my little rice cooker might just see the light of day again.

But now for the pièce de résistance of all portable electric cooking appliances–the Instant Pot!

Instant Pot

All Instant Pot converts know that I’ve saved the best for last. This Wonder Woman of small kitchen appliances took home cooks by storm a few years back and I’ve yet to meet someone who doesn’t love it.

Depending on the unit it can function as a pressure cooker, slow cooker, rice/porridge cooker, cake maker, steamer, yogurt maker, warmer, sterilizer, and can also sear, saute, bake, and sous vide. In many cases, it will do all that faster than the comparable stand-alone unit. And there are sizes to meet every family’s needs.

A small appliance that can do the work of ten seems like a no-brainer in a disaster scenario. Not to mention its versatility for those with space constraints, those who tend toward minimalism, and those who wonder what to make for dinner 30 minutes before dinner should be on the table. Not that I know anything about that.

For more about this little gem and what it can do, read Survival Mom’s ode to the Instant Pot.

Should I include portable electric kitchen appliances as part of an emergency plan?

After a disaster, if you don’t have access to a kitchen, but you do have electricity, then being able to use these appliances in non-traditional ways could save you from a litany of fast food. You can eat healthier, for less money, and enjoy the morale boost of a homecooked meal.

If you don’t have electricity, then a solar option might be right for you. Read more about what it takes to power small appliances using solar power here.

Mostly it takes a willingness to experiment and to make mistakes and learn from them. But above all, as with any survival skill, practice, practice, practice is essential. You’ll have an easier time using that rice cooker for something other than rice if you’ve already done it. And for reader tips on how to cook without a kitchen (with and without electricity), check out this article from the archives.

And if you need help preparing for an emergency evacuation and creating a plan, Survival Mom shares what to do in this article, when she and her family had to prepare to evacuate due to flooding from Hurricane Harvey.

So how about you? What are some ways you’ve extended the usefulness of a portable electric kitchen appliance?

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