Cooking Off the Grid

by | Mar 18, 2010 | The Survival Mom | 12 comments

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    This article has been contributed by The Survival Mom for your reading pleasure. Visit The Survival Mom Blog for more emergency preparedness information and resources.

    People have to eat and water has to be safe to drink no matter what.  A lot of preppers are planning to use propane, butane, and kerosene fuels for these uses in case of emergencies, natural disasters or the end of the world, and that’s smart.  Longer term planning, though, raises the question, “What do I do when the fuel runs out?”  It’s very easy to imagine shortages of all fuels, including gasoline and diesel, even as a temporary condition.  As another alternative, I suggest giving some thought to how you’ll prepare food and heat water without any liquid or gas fuel whatsoever.

    One option is a solar oven.  A solar oven can be as simple as a box lined with aluminum foil or, my preference, the Global Sun Oven.  If you’re like me, anything that is overly complicated or inconvenient is rarely used, and that is why I love the Sun Oven.  It’s portable enough to be taken on camping trips, light enough for my kids to carry, and the set-up takes less than a minute.  As long as there is sunshine, this baby can cook anything from hard boiled eggs to roasted chicken to casseroles and cookies.  I learned that I can make homemade chicken soup with a simple combination of noodles, veggies, water, and raw chicken.  Yep, raw chicken.  As the soup heats up and cooks, the chicken and water create a rich broth, so I don’t have to use canned broth or bouillon cubes for flavor.

    You can even pasteurize water in a solar oven.  Water actually pasteurizes at temperatures below boiling, and recently, I discovered a terrific low-tech method to determine when water is safe to drink.  The Water Pasteurization Indicator (WAPI) is a simple, small polycarbonate tube that contains a small amount of wax.  This wax melts at the same temperature required for pasteurization of water and milk.  Dangle the WAPI into a container of water, and when the wax is melted, you know the water is safe to drink!  When the WAPI is removed from the water, the wax hardens, and it’s ready to use again and again.  Brilliant!

    With solar ovens, you never have to worry about fuel, and this is a big advantage.  The cooking process may take a bit more time, depending on the type of oven you use and how much sunlight is available at the time.  You can help the oven cook faster by refocusing it toward the sun every half hour or so.  This is just a simple process of angling the oven in the direction of the sun, taking no more than a minute or so.

    On overcast days, a solar oven isn’t going to work, but there are other options for grid-free and fuel-free cooking.  Take a look at stoves that require very small amounts of charcoal or wood.  Although wood is technically a fuel, it isn’t something you normally have to purchase or rely upon an outside source to provide.  The Stove Tec Rocket Stove is an example of this type of stove.  It’s small and portable, and as long as you know how to start a small fire using tinder and small sticks, you’re good to go.  Along with a stove of this type, you’ll need a few pieces of cookware that can be used over an open flame, and then plenty of practice!

    Cooking off the grid is a challenge but one that is worthwhile, whether you use your knowledge on camping trips, during a power outage or all-out TEOTWAWKI.

    This article has been contributed by The Survival Mom for your reading pleasure. Visit The Survival Mom Blog for more emergency preparedness information and resources.


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      1. I have bought 2 dutch ovens.
        I expecting it’s not too difficult to find wood.

      2. I love my Stove Tec Rocket Stove.  I can cook a meal on twigs.  The stove is only $40.00

      3. No doubt Red Dog. It is a great piece of equipment to own in the event of a grid-down situation. You can cook off of just the sticks in your backyard. Water boil time is around 10 – 15 minutes.

        It is not suitable for hiking, trekking or a bug out scenario, but as a reserve cooking device it, or something like it, is definitely a must.

        There are two models and we went with the coal/wood combo model as opposed to just the wood model.

      4. I have built my own solar stove , It wasn’t hard  to do . 1 sheet of 3×5 galvinized metal . pop rivets and a small stove temp guage . I bent and cut the sheet so that it fit togather with out having to cut the sheet all apart. Cut a hole for the Temp guage and folded a remaining piece for a top and added a Handle and  Painted it black with heat resistant paint and done.  However , a warning !  you will have sharp edeges to deal with , its not a kids toy . I did put a small grate inside so when you cook the pan will be off the bottom of the oven . The finnished product will fit a loaf of bread to bake inside of it. And it can also be put over a small fire as well. I set it out into the sun and got the temp up to 130 degrees !

      5. Welcome back AB71:  But I gotta tell ya, buddy, you are no Edison! For a guy who lives in Mesa Arizona you only got the temperature up to 130 degrees?

        That must have been in the dead of night and the middle of winter! 🙂

      6. Thanks  Z .  I failed to note that the temp guage came from the local .99cent store so go figure !!  LOL   Close enough for me !!

      7. Comments…..I have a solar oven and I use it extensively.  It’s easy to cook in and the best thing about it, there’s no costly fuel involved.  It also came with a water purifier which I haven’t used yet.  I bought mine from the Solar Oven Society.

      8. Saw the one made and sold by Solar Oven Society.  Looks pretty good.  Today at work we were discussing ways to make one that created more intense temperatures by incorporating some of the technology used in the lightwave ovens that came out for the restaurant industry.  They were supposed to replace the MW ovens but never caught on because of the incredible cost involved.  I got a hankerin’ to build one; important considerations dealing with UV as a heat source-absorption, reflection, refraction and retention.
        Today at the shop (we’re commercial food equipment techs.) I took a stainless hotel size food pan, set it in the sun and covered it with a sheet of plexiglas.  It was 69 in the NC Mtns. this afternoon, but with full sun it probed at 160 degrees in approx. 20 minutes. Not a bad result! The downside of the test-stainless pan too reflectivecausing poor UV absorption and plexiglas was severely scratched which robbed UV waves from properly entering the “chamber” within the pan.  I think with a flat black coated pan and a highly clean, polished piece of plexiglas the results would have been in excesss of 200 degrees.
        Well, fun to play with anyway.  Whether I make on or buy one it seems silly not to have one!

        For 190.00 the one at Solar Oven Society looks pretty good.  I’ve never used one before so who knows!

      9. If you’re serious about using a solar cooker often, either as a way to save on electricity or as a hedge against TSHF scenarios, take a good look at the Global Sun Oven.  In bright sunlight, it heats up to 350-400 degrees, making it an actual OVEN that just happens to sit outside!  You can find them online in the $250 price range, Amazon has it for about $260, and it’s $299 on the homepage, but it comes with a cookbook and a pot or two.

        Be sure to use dark pots and pans in your solar cooker.  If you don’t have the right size pot for your food and have no choice but to use something shiny, put a towel over it.  Learn how to focus your solar cooker in order to get the highest possible cooking temperatures, although it can also be used as an outdoor crockpot by placing it due south in the morning and then just leaving it there all day.

        My Sun Oven has been worth every penny I paid, is simple to use, and this summer, I intend for it to completely replace my kitchen oven.  Who needs all that extra indoor heat during a Phoenix summer anyway??  :o)

      10. hey guys!

        After reading about the solar ovens, I started looking around at the ones for sale and was a little worried about the bad odor/taste problems the sun oven seems to have.  Plastics used in construction seem to be the culprit.

        You would think that it wouldn’t be too difficult to make one of these out of some sheet metal and black engine paint.  You could even get a nice piece of tempered glass for it.  It would be very interesting to see where mountainboy and a couple of others could go with this.

      11. Jonny, a new Sun Oven comes with directions for the first time you use it.  Place it in the sun, and let it heat up for at least an hour.  Bring it in, let it cool, and then scrub the inside of the oven and inside of the glass lid.  The first time I used it, I baked a pan of brownies.  They turned out perfectly, but my husband mentioned a slight plastic-y taste.  It might have been due to my leaving it in the sun, initially, for just about 20-25 minutes.  It had heated up to 350 degrees so quickly that I thought it was finished with the initial heating process.  I haven’t had this same experience since. 

        But, there are numerous ways to construct a solar cooker!  A Sun Oven isn’t the only one out there.

      12. Thanks Mom!  I’ll probably end up with the Sun Oven as it seems to be the most available one.  Still working on the “bugging in” plan, and I figure that you can’t have too many options for heating or cooking food.  Good working stuff like BBQ’s and (maybe) sun ovens can be used all the time.  You have to be competent with your equipment.  Hope it works out.

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