How Do I Cook When The Power Is Out?

With the devastation that has hit the Gulf Coasts of Alabama and Florida this past week, we are reminded that the infrastructure, even here in the United States, can only hold up to so much of Mother Nature’s force. While the damage is somewhat localized and fortunately didn’t extend very far inland like monster storms such as Katrina, there is still a substantial loss of power and other infrastructure that we get so accustomed to having at the flip of a switch or turn of a dial, that we forget how to function without it. Cooking is something we usually take for granted right along with clean water, which you can read about in my post here.

Safety Concerns When Cooking With Alternate Heat Sources

The reason I thought about this topic was seeing a safety warning about a sad situation where several people were killed from carbon monoxide poisoning due to a cooking fire they had going in the garage of the home when the power was out. This is an all to common occurrence in disaster stricken areas, especially in cold climates where trying to cook outside is even more difficult. Remember that any time we use any sort of flame for heat or cooking, fuel and oxygen are consumed. The byproduct usually contains carbon monoxide which is odorless, colorless, and deadly. It is also present in car exhaust so never leave a vehicle running indoors!

Besides the inhalation hazards of fumes, cooking over a flame requires fuel. Flammable gasses can fill the air if a valve is left on or if the flame is blown out without us noticing it. A small spark can then cause an explosion capable of burning and injuring anyone near it. Liquid fuels can also be dangerous. Not only do they have flammable fumes, but liquid fuels can also be spilled or caught on fire if they aren’t properly contained. We owe it to ourselves and our families to make sure we don’t risk lives in the name of convenience.

Alternate Heat Sources For Cooking

Somewhere back in the stone age, cooking over a flame was born. Harnessing the power of fire was one of the largest evolutionary steps that our distant ancestors made. The act of cooking make eating and getting the number of calories needed to survive much more efficient as well as expanded the variety of foods that could be safely consumed. So open fire cooking is as good a place to start the discussion as any.

Cooking Over An Open Flame

This method can be as basic as it gets or open fire cooking can be elevated to culinary art. It all depends on the resources we have to go along with the fire. The most basic methods of open flame cooking are roasting food on a spit or on a rock angled to catch the heat of the fire. In a wilderness survival scenario, we may not have our mess kit with pans, grills, and racks. In such a case, we simply look to our ancient history and use whatever means we have to get the food close enough to our fire to cook. If we are better equipped, then the options become much more civilized. If we have some cookware, then we can use pans to fry or sauté foods. We can use pots or kettles to prepare soups, broths, and vegetables. A kettle or pot can also supply us with hot water for coffee, instant foods, cleaning, and hygiene. The art of cooking meals over an open flame is one that takes practice, luckily for many of us, cooking out while camping is an enjoyable experience and the effort required to learn is welcomed. Click on the pictures below to see several items that we can add to our prepping cookware supply as well as some items that control the fire itself to help us cook better.

Cooking Over A Camp Stove

For as far as I can remember and I’m sure as far back as my parents can remember, Coleman was the name that came to mind when we discuss almost any camping products. From lanterns to stoves to tents and coolers, the Coleman name was synonymous with camping and being outdoors. I’m sure that time has brought many changes to the quality of some of the products and I have no doubt that other companies have found ways to advance the technology so I will consider camp stoves as a broad category.

Camp stoves come in a variety of sizes to meet many needs and can run on a variety of fuels as well. The smaller varieties are best suited for heating a metal cup or bowl and work well to heat up enough water for instant coffee and a meal of ramen noodles or oatmeal. These are easy to pack and use very little fuel. Some of the backpacking stoves are able operate at extremely high altitudes and poor weather conditions with advanced fuel cells. Others use a petroleum distillate known as “white gas” and sometimes even unleaded gasoline to heat with. The larger camp stoves can have anywhere from one to 4 burners and make camp cooking similar to the indoor range cooking we have become accustomed to in our kitchens. These larger stoves often use propane as a fuel because if the simplicity and convenience. As with open flame, there is a learning curve to using a camp stove, however we can control the flame with a knob instead of having to manipulate an open fire for temperature control so it is a great deal easier. Click the pictures below to look at some good quality camp stoves.

I’ll also include what most people call “Fish Cookers” or “Turkey Fryers” in with camp stoves. they are usually made for larger pots and use more fuel but they excel at getting large volumes of water boiling or large amounts of cooking oil up to frying temperature. I have used them as a camp stove cooking eye as well, however the heat can be difficult to control when using small pans or pots.

Cooking Over Charcoal

Probably the most common outdoor cooking done in the United States, if not the world, is grilling. While propane and natural gas grills are very common and convenient, there is a huge group of people, myself included, that feel that there is no substitute for the flavor of food grilled over a charcoal flame. The level of control that we are afforded by varying the amount of charcoal that we add to the grill, as well as the venting and grill height variables that we can manipulate, help us dial in cooking temperatures for many needs. A very low controlled burn can be used to smoke large beef and pork roasts as well as whole turkeys or chickens over several hours and render them completely done yet still tender. A fast hot grill can be used to sear in the flavors of steaks and cook burgers to perfection. Types of grills vary as much as grilling styles so get some charcoal put away for emergencies then grab a few more bags and start grilling! Clicking the picture below will take you to a book of tasty advice for outdoor cooking.

If you are a gas grill fan, I haven’t forgotten you. The combination of charcoal grilling and camp stove knowledge combined gives you an arsenal of ways to use that gas burner!

Extras For Outdoor Cooking

Food cooked outdoors always seems to taste a little better and there’s no reason that we should have to skimp on flavor just because we have to take our kitchen to a more basic level. When we are at home and cooking outdoors for recreation or during a power outage, we still have access to all of our spices and condiments. Depending on our personal tastes and any health concerns, we usually can find a tasty variety of herbs and spices such as garlic, sage, salt, pepper, and thyme that can make meals so much better. When traveling we can’t take everything, but with the containers below, we can have some of our favorites on hand no matter where we find ourselves.

Don’t Forget The Fuel!

We need to remember to have an ample supply of whatever fuel we plan to cook on. That should include fire wood if we plan on open fire cooking.

Disclosure: I am an Amazon affiliate and may make money on qualified purchases.

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