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    The Easiest Way to Cook During a Power Outage

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    The Easiest Way to Cook During a Power Outage

    Any power outage brings a range of challenges. The big question we always ask is, how long is it going to last? The first steps usually involve finding a flashlight that works, candles and matches, and some thoughts about how to stay cool or warm without electricity. Eventually, we get hungry.

    Is cooking during a power outage even necessary? Probably not in the short-term. Most power outages are measured in hours and sometimes a day or two. It’s the power outages that stretch into weeks and even months that cause a radical shift in everyday lifestyle.

    However, even a short-term outage may force you cook as anything left in your refrigerator or freezer slowly begins to spoil.

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    The Easiest Way Varies

    How easy cooking is during a power outage depends on your location, your skills, and the resources and materials available. Someone who has a fireplace in their home has a very easy option.

    A Dutch oven or cast iron frying pan on the fireplace grate over a bed of coals is all you need to cook just about anything. Hopefully, you have plenty of firewood, but if all you’re using your fireplace for is cooking, you actually won’t be using a lot of wood.

    In fact, it’s smart if you have cast iron in your pot and pan collection, not only for everyday cooking, but because it’s ideal for the more rustic styles of cooking.

    Related: 10 Ways to Bake Without an Oven

    If You Don’t Have a Fireplace…

    Many of us don’t have a fireplace and need to consider other alternatives. But before we get into other options for cooking without electricity, there’s the possibility that your kitchen range top and even stove might still work if it’s powered by gas. Natural gas is delivered to many locations under pressure alone without any additional power or pressurization for delivery.

    Electronic pilot lights obviously won’t work, but you can always light a gas range top the old-fashioned way with a match or lighter. Light a length of a wooden skewer and use that, or use a lighter with an extended tip, especially if you’re going to try and manually light your gas oven.

    Then again, you may not have any gas pressure for any number of reasons, so we’re back to other options.

    Wood-Burning Stove

    Wood Stove Picture

    You may not have a fireplace, but some people have a wood-burning stove. Some are large for home heating and some are portable for camping or heating a tent or shed.

    People who live on larger tracts of land or have ready access to a wood supply often see this as a viable heating option, and you can cook on any wood-burning stove. Especially if it’s a wood-burning cook stove but not everyone has that option.

    If you’ve ever considered a wood-burning stove for heat, it’s certainly a good idea as a prep for a power outage, especially if you live in a northern latitude. Even the simplest wood burning stove can provide enough heat for cooking. Cast iron again emerges as the best choice for cookware.

    Related: How to Cook on a Wood Stove

    A Charcoal or Propane Gas Grill

    Many of us have charcoal or gas grills out on the deck or patio. It’s an obvious go-to option for cooking without electricity. Better yet, it’s an option that even city dwellers living in an apartment can use.

    Most people with a patio in a high-rise have propane gas grills because of the hassle of storing charcoal. Maybe think about keeping an extra tank on the patio just in case.

    If you’re out of propane and the situation is desperate, you can remove the gas burners and other equipment in the grill and just use charcoal or firewood in an emergency. The question is whether or not someone with a gas grill can find wood, let alone charcoal.

    It Doesn’t Have to Be Charcoal

    You can burn any wood in a grill. Dry, seasoned, and natural woods are best. Lumber is another option, but avoid any treated woods. The idea is to get the wood burning and let them burn down to a bed of glowing coals. A roaring fire is very unforgiving for cooking.

    The other obvious solution is to just go out and buy some more propane or charcoal, but stores are often affected by local power outages as well, so you may be out of luck. If it’s a long-term outage, even stores that manage to stay open may simply be out of stock.

    Campfire Solutions

    Campfire Cooking

    Anyone who has ever been camping is very familiar with campfire cooking. If you have a backyard and any trees in the yard, a fire is easy to build.

    There are certain contraptions and setups for campfire cooking you might want to think about having on hand, although here again, a cast iron Dutch oven can work very simply and easily on its own. All you need is some space on the ground with some coals underneath, and on top and you can cook anything.

    Unfortunately, many people don’t have a backyard, although a local park might have an area for cooking, even with some set up grills. Just hope you can find one that isn’t in use.

    Related: The Beginner’s Guide to Campfire Cooking

    The Hobo Stove

    Hobo Stove and Skillet

    If you live in a high rise apartment with a patio and don’t have a charcoal or gas grill, you can still improvise a cooking solution. It’s called the Hobo Stove, and it’s made from a metal coffee can or other, large metal can.

    The idea of the Hobo Stove emerged during the Great Depression when many men were reduced to wandering the country looking for work or simply adapting to homelessness. The basic design is a coffee can with the top removed but the bottom still intact.

    Holes are punched into the bottom which is still intact. A church key can opener was the easiest way to do this. These vent holes allowed air to be drawn into the can and fuel a fire of small sticks and wood. The metal contained the fire and the heat was directed up to pan or pot set on top.

    Additional holes were also punched in the top side of the can to allow smoke to escape if a pot or pan had sealed the top opening. Anyone can use a Hobo Stove for cooking, but if you live somewhere that doesn’t allow or enable a regular fire it’s an option to consider.

    Portable Gas Stoves

    Butane Gas Stove

    If you’re a camper or backpacker, you might have one of these in storage. Some run on propane or butane, and others have small tanks that are pumped to burn either white gas or regular gas.

    If you’re buying one to prepare for a power outage, get the duel-fuel version that burns regular gas. If propane or white gas is in short supply, you can always siphon some regular gas from your car for cooking.

    Any kind of gas stove requires good ventilation and here again, outside on a deck or patio is best. Its portability also gives you some options on the road in case you have to evacuate the area, especially if the wildest bug out location you can find far from home is a church parking lot.

    Related: 17 Things to Get Before the Coming Blackouts

    The Solar Oven Option

    Solar Oven Picture

    Yes, it’s true that solar ovens won’t work on an overcast day, and most certainly not at night. However, the biggest benefit is they can be used most everywhere, and the fuel is free and easily replenished if the sun is shining. They also don’t release any noxious or toxic fumes and don’t present an open flame as an obvious and constant fire hazard.

    Better yet, a solar oven can be used indoors by a window with northern exposure. The only fumes or odors will be from the cooking process, and you get that whenever you cook in the kitchen. Then again, you can always open a window and vent any odors from your cooking.

    Solar ovens come in a variety of configurations. Some are essentially reflective panels angled towards a center point to concentrate the heat. Others are curved or parabolic designs that also work to concentrate the sunlight as heat.

    Most anything can be baked, roasted, cooked, or boiled in a solar oven even breads. The key is to keep an eye on the direction it’s pointed for anything requiring any amount of time to cook. As the sun moves across the sky the sun rays will move with it and your solar oven can lose heat.

    It’s not terribly difficult to manage, and the extra step is compensated by the fact that you can use it almost anywhere and the fuel is free. You may also need to reduce the amount of sunlight at times to effectively reduce the temperature for simmering or slow cooking.

    The only big disadvantage would be for someone living in an apartment building with a northern exposure. No sun means no heat for a solar oven and the sun rarely shows up on the north side of a building except at sunrise and sunset.

    Related: How To Make A DIY Solar Reflector Oven

    Equipment and Tools to Consider

    Cast Iron Cookware

    If you make any degree of preparations for power outages, the things you might need to cook without power should be on your list. Here are some options to consider:

    Which ones you buy and store depends on your budget and your inclination. As we’ve been trying to emphasize, do what’s easiest for you.

    Related: 15 Blackout Supplies to Get Before The Next Power Outage

    So Which is the Easiest?

    It depends on several factors such as the limitations of your location. Here are the key considerations:

    1. It’s safe and will neither start a fire nor release toxic fumes that can’t at least be vented.
    2. It’s dependable enough to provide high and steady heat safe cooking and to bringing water to a boil.
    3. It’s easily renewable with fuels that can be replenished or improvised.
    4. It’s portable in the event of an evacuation or use in various locations around the home.
    5. It’s manageable, allowing for some degree of heat moderation and control.

    With those parameters defined, a solar oven is probably the easiest way to cook without power. Unless it’s a cloudy outside. In that case, an outdoor campfire seems to be the easiest solution.

    If you don’t have space for a campfire, your next best option is a fireplace or wood-burning stove. If you don’t have either of those, then a Hobo stove is probably your best option as they’re fairly easy to make and can be used almost anywhere.

    Like I said, it depends. With a little practice, all of these methods can be easy. Just keep at it.

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