Preparing to cook during a disaster without power involves far more than off-grid food preparation tools. Cooking on a grill or camping stove will allow you to heat food, but not necessarily in a way that adheres to potentially life-saving sight, sound, and smell discipline tactics.
When the SHTF, it will take mere days for the unprepared folks around you to notice that your self-reliant family is still living well. A grand total of 72 hours is about how long it will take for the people who lived their lives blissfully unaware of disaster threats to go through the food in their homes.
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During those first few days, the sight, sound, and smell of food cooking on a grill or camping stove will not stand out … but that will change quickly.
Standing at your backyard grill preparing shelf-stable food a week or more into a disaster will garner the attention of people living up to a mile away — further depending on how the wind is blowing. I am fairly sure everyone has had a moment when a delicious whiff of a neighbor grilling steaks has caught your attention during the summer months.
That happened frequently when we still lived in a small town. Now that we live on a 56-acre survival homestead literally in the middle of the woods with no houses or roads in view, it can still happen — just to a far lesser degree.
You never want anyone outside of your family or survival tribe to know that you have food and a way to prepare it. Seeing people cooking outside, hearing them gathered around breakfast, lunch, or dinner time, and smelling the wafting scent of food can get you killed by a member of the panicked and starving populace — which brings me to the purpose of this article…
Ways To Cook Without Attracting Attention
1. Solar Generators
Invest in a solar generator(s) instead of a traditional gas, diesel, or kerosene generator for use during a long-term disaster. While a typical generator is fine for a couple-day seasonal weather power outage, they make far too much noise to use for cooking during an SHTF disaster.
Solar generators do not make any noise. As long as you do not have any lights or electronics that can be viewed through a window to passersby, no one will know that you have a viable power source to use for cooking or any other on grid equipment during the disaster.
Owning a solar generator will also allow you to safely cook indoors using an electric skillet, hot plate, crockpot, toaster oven, roaster, or convection oven type cooking equipment.
2. Gas Stove
Purchase an oven that is run upon natural gas or propane. Even if the power is out, you can still cook on this type of stove. A natural gas oven and stove combination does rely on a human component working at a compressor pump plant, giving such a cooking source an approximate three to six-month shelf life before reserves already in the line run dry.
A propane-powered stove and oven would run as long as your private tank still has fuel. If you live in a city or the suburbs, putting in such tanks may not be allowed or have size restrictions placed upon them. In a rural area where no zoning laws or government permit office exists for anything other than sewer and well installation, you could purchase any size or number of propane tanks that you want to power your stove.
Being able to cook indoors would eliminate any sight, sound, or smell OPSEC (operational security) cooking concerns during an SHTF event.
3. Wood Stove or Fireplace
Using a wood stove, fireplace, or investing in an old fashioned Amish wood-fired cookstove will also allow you to keep your cooking sights, smells, and sounds going on indoors. Again, if you live outside of a rural area, this method of disaster food preparation could become a problem.
Even though fireplaces might be common in some suburban and urban homes, going outside and chopping down your own firewood is not going to be a viable option.
There will be the sight and smell of smoke coming from the chimney when using these methods to cook upon, but the scent of frying meat or a pot of soup will not be shared outside of the home. If you live in an area where wood stoves or fireplaces are found in every home, the puffs of smoke coming from the chimney will blend in with all other homes around you during cold weather months, and not create OPSEC concerns.
But, if your chimney is smoking during July, then yes, folks will know that you still have food when they are starving.
4. Dakota Fire Method
Cooking outdoors should involve the use of the Dakota Fire Method. This type of campfire cooking provides a heat source needed to prepare food or boil water but does so with a minimum of smoke and flame.
Dakota fire holes are typically small, so even an urban or a suburban prepper can likely dig one in an area of the yard that is not visible to the general public. This method of SHTF cooking from a sight and smell discipline perspective is not as ideal as the ones mentioned above, but it is a far better option than using your backyard grill or stoking a traditional campfire to prepare food.
5. Use Foils And Bags
When cooking outdoors is your only option because you were unable to invest in and install the first three recommended prepper cooking methods or are in a bugout situation, utilize aluminum foil and cooking bags to reduce the smells being emitted from your fire.
While placing food wrapped in several layers of foil or a cooking bag will not eliminate 100 percent of the yummy aroma, it will reduce the scent significantly and help deter unwanted attention to your pending meal.
6. Buy or Make Freeze-Dried Foods
Purchase or make freeze-dried foods so no real cooking is required. These shelf-stable meals in a bag only require hot water to prepare them. You will still have to be able to heat water, but that can be done using just a small portable solar generator, solar shower camping bag, or a portable rocket stove – which emits only a tiny amount of smoke and can run on leaves and small twigs.
If you are making a freeze-dried meal during the summer months, simply placing water in a glass jar out in the sunshine can heat it enough to turn the contents of a packet into a decent hot meal.
7. Thermal Cooker
A thermal cooker is a handy and portable food preparation device that is essentially a really big thermos that a pot can fit inside. It takes roughly 10 minutes for the food inside of the pot to hit the boiling point.
Once the thermal cooker is removed from a heat source — which could be a rocket stove or Dakota fire hole — other ingredients to the base liquids can be added. The food inside the thermal cooker will continue to cook for about six to eight hours – without any smell discipline issues.
It is not only strangers seeking refuge away from the chaos you will have to worry about when cooking during a disaster, but also the nice folks you have known for years in your own town or neighborhood. Fear and empty bellies can change a person rapidly — especially if their own children are going without food and proper shelter.
Preventing anyone from knowing you have food and a way to prepare it should be at the top of your disaster preparedness list right behind water and shelter … at the top. If other folks know you have food, you will not have it for very long.
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