Having a secondary cooking source is a really important area of preparedness. Being able to boil a kettle gives you a great way to make water safe to drink and also being able to heat food is great for making us feel better and making it good to consume.
|Bringing firewood for next winter - for cooking and heating|
I talked to a few friends after the winter storms we had this year. I was surprised how few had a secondary way of cooking, let alone heating themselves had the power gone out. Many are on gas but lots of modern gas cookers have an electric ignition/fan, etc so won't work without the power (worth testing if in doubt).
Living where we do, many have the option of using wood or coal burning stove or Aga to provide heat and to cook on. This is the perfect solution in winter. Great to have a kettle always on the boil and food can be left cooking slowly all day. I plan to have another wood burning oven in our new kitchen, which will mean that I can still bake bread and cook like I normally do in an oven without power rather than just using the stove top.
Using wood or coal means you have to keep a good stock of fuel and have easy access to it. It's also not ideal in the middle of summer! No way would I want to light our wood burner at the moment, we'd be cooking alongside our food! When we visited Blists Hill earlier in the year on a hot day, the kitchens where they were cooking were unbearably hot and I couldn't stand them for more than a few minutes!
My first option for a back up way of cooking would be a simple and cheap gas camping stove. There are many on the market so a lot of it is down to personal preference.
Be warned though you shouldn't really use these inside though. If you do make sure windows are open and you have a carbon monoxide monitor fitted.
I have two camping stoves that I use frequently. The first is the type you can buy from most discount stores and comes in a little black suitcase. These are great as they're quite large so nice and stable (I even used the canner on mine not so long ago), the suitcase can also be used as a handy windshield should you need it. They use cans of butane that are cheap and seem to last a long time. I think the stove I've got was about £10 and the gas is about £10 for four canisters.
The second is a much smaller stove, so far better suited to wild camping or if you were packing a bug out bag as it folds down to nearly nothing.
This type of stove is far less stable so needs to be on a flat surface if possible.
The gas bottles come in many sizes so great to have a small one if space in a pack is an issue. They all reseal themselves so the stove top can be removed as many times as needed.
|Different sized bottles|
Another more common option most people have is a BBQ. There are many options on this as well! Lots have a charcoal BBQ, these are great to cook on (so much flavour!) but they do use a fair bit of charcoal (although you can burn wood on them) and take a bit of timing to use them right.
Charcoal can be made at home although it's not easy, so a good stock of charcoal should be kept if this is your backup. Under no circumstances use a charcoal BBQ inside though! We used to burn oak at work to create a BBQ, takes a little longer but still works well, we normally did it between two concrete blocks with a bit of wire on top.
A gas BBQ is by far an easier option. I use ours all the time as it's like having a kitchen outside, it even has a hob on the side so a frying pan or saucepan can be used at the same time.
You can spend anytime from £50 to a huge amount on a gas BBQ and the gas will set you back about £35 fr a bottle shown above. That normally lasts us all summer though so having one spare would easily see you through any power outage we see in this country.
A simple low budget option would be to enough loose bricks to make a quick rocket type stove should you need to. The one pictured above took about 10 minutes to knock up and light. Within another 5 minutes we had a kettle boiling using nothing but small sticks and off cuts.
The principle is easy, it's just a chimney with a hole in one side for the fuel to go in and a way for the air to draw under and through the fire (we used a bit of metal channel). The beauty of this method is how little fuel it uses to heat a kettle or a pan, far more efficient than an open fire.
|Cooking on an open fire - lovely but not the best use of firewood!|
If your fuel is in short supply or you're trying to make it last then using cast iron pans that take ages to heat up might not be the best idea. We have some cheap thin bottomed camping pans and kettles that are ideal, as are army mess tins or billy cans. You do need to be more attentive when cooking so they don't catch and burn the food.
Doing simple things like putting a lid on the saucepan to heat it up faster or making sure you don't cook things for longer than they need all help to save fuel as well.
This isn't supposed to be a comprehensive list of off grid cooking methods, there are many more out there. Things like a Ghilli kettle or hexiblock burners, hundreds of different types of stoves and rockets stoves are out there as well and many that use other sources of fuel. A generator would also be another really useful solution.
Hopefully this post has made you think about what you'd use if the power went off for any length of time or your primary method of cooking food was compromised for whatever reason.
So do you have a secondary means of cooking?
How long could you use it for? Would having some extra fuel be helpful?