Be prepared for any emergency when you set up systems to cook outdoors. Here are five easy ways – solar ovens, rocket stoves, bread ovens, grills, and Dutch ovens – to prepare nutritious meals for your family, even in a power outage.
As the summer approaches, our family moves more and more of our cooking outdoors. Beyond the benefits of keeping heat out of the kitchen, establishing outdoor cooking systems also makes you more prepared. If your electric oven or electric-ignited gas stove loses power in a storm, you have backup cooking systems already in place to make warm, nourishing meals for your family. Below are five of my favorite ways to cook outdoors without electricity.
Five Ways to Cook Outdoors
Solar ovens are fantastic tools for baking and cooking without any electricity. Solar ovens utilize reflective panels to harness the sun’s rays, allowing you to bake, roast, dehydrate and heat with great ease.
My family has been cooking and baking in a Sun Oven brand solar oven for the past four years, successfully baking countless dishes such as frittatas, roasted root vegetables, lasagna, braised rabbit, rice, blueberry muffins, bread, cookies, and cheesecake. I have also used our Sun Oven to dehydrate zucchini chips and sun-dried tomatoes and to cook down tomato sauce into paste and applesauce into butter. Essentially, any food that you can cook in a home oven, you can cook outdoors in your solar oven.
I first began my homesteading journey while living at Aprovecho Research Center in Oregon. It was there that I learned about the new stove we bought, rocket stoves, another fuel efficient way to cook without electricity.
Rocket stoves are hot burning stoves that use small sticks as fuel. The wood is burned in a small combustion chamber below a vertical chimney, and the design promotes near complete combustion.
We use a StoveTec rocket stove in our outdoor kitchen, but you can also make your own rocket stove with a few discarded cans! My experience has been that rocket stoves are best for boiling and hot frying. In an emergency situation, you could utilize your rocket stove to boil water and cook hot and nourishing meals quickly.
Campfires and Dutch Ovens
Cooking over an open fire or baking in a Dutch oven is a marvelous way to cook, even when you’re not camping! We cook over an open fire in two ways: with a live, roaring fire (this works best for boiling large quantities of water (think canning!) or for boiling down black walnut sap), or over coals.
With either method, we’ve found that it works best to establish a three or four stone base, on which to put your pot or cast iron skillet. Coals can also be placed on a Dutch Oven for baking.
Outdoor Bread & Pizza Oven
One of my favorite homestead projects has been building an outdoor pizza oven. Our brick-cob bread and pizza oven is heated by building a fire in the hearth, and then either sweeping the coals out or moving the fire to the side or rear of the oven for live-fire cooking.
When we bake pizza or bread, we prepare a number of other dishes to make full use of the heat of the oven. When the bread comes out of the oven, a meat roast or a tray of root vegetables goes in, followed by cookies or muffins and then, as the oven cools, a slow-cooked stew or soup. With just one firing, we are able to make enough food for several days, thus making the outdoor oven a very efficient way to cook outdoors.
An outdoor grill is another great cooking tool, and best of all, most people either have one or can purchase one very inexpensively via Craigslist or yard sales. Although we could heat our grill with charcoal briquets, we choose to use wood because we prefer the flavor that wood smoke imparts.
Beyond grilling meat for a barbecue, grills can be used for smoking and even for baking. I have not yet tried to bake on our grill, but check out these gorgeous raisin scones baked in a barbecue.
With some advance preparation and some dry wood, you can create outdoor cooking systems that will serve you well in the event of a power outage. You may find, like I have, that you enjoy cooking outdoors so much that you set up an outdoor kitchen for the entire summer! Enjoy the freedom and ease that comes from knowing that you are able to provide healthy meals for your family, outdoors.