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How to Cook Without Electricity

In March of 1993, the “Storm of the Century” struck much of the eastern United States. Experts have estimated that up to 40 percent of the nation’s population was affected by this massive snowstorm. This storm struck the southeastern states particularly hard, as authorities in this area seldom plan for significant snowstorms. Many Southerners in rural areas lost power for over a week.

If you have a stash of food,[] a storm cellar, and a heating plan for your home, you may consider your preparation for power outages and extreme weather complete.[] But if you have not contemplated how to cook your emergency food, you could end up in a bind. Of course, you can rely on peanut butter and jelly sandwiches for a day or two, but if your power remains out for longer than 24 hours, you will need a concrete plan for cooking without electricity.

To cook without electricity, you have several options. Many people count on cooking with a propane grill. This may be a short-term solution, but you must keep in mind that propane cannot be safely used indoors, as burning propane creates deadly carbon monoxide fumes. In case of winter weather, you must have a protected outdoor area in which you can cook. Additionally, propane cylinders are difficult to store, expensive, and potentially explosive.

In good weather, you can cook outdoors over a wood or charcoal fire using a Dutch oven. These pots can stew, fry, roast, or steam food. The best Dutch ovens are made of cast iron, which retains heat longer than aluminum pots. However, cast iron pots are quite heavy and can be prone to rust if not properly maintained. If you have a fireplace, you can cook using a Dutch oven in your fireplace.

Camping stoves are another popular choice for cooking without electricity. These stoves burn butane or other fuels. However, these stoves also release carbon monoxide and should not be used indoors. Again, a sheltered outdoor area must be available to use a camping stove in the winter.

In clear weather, you can also use a solar oven to cook and bake. A solar oven is fairly simple to make yourself, or you can purchase one pre-made. Solar ovens convert the ultra-violet rays of sunlight into infrared rays. The trapped infrared heat in the oven causes food to cook. However, these ovens are limited by the amount of sunlight available. In the winter, you may only have a few hours in which to do your cooking, so you must plan accordingly.

To cook safely indoors without electricity in the winter, you can also use “canned heat.” These are the small, flaming canisters that caterers use to keep food warm and can be found under the brand names of Sterno, Heat-it, or Safe-Heat. These canisters use an alcohol-based, gel-like fuel that will not spill. They are fairly easy to find in a department store’s camping section. Although you will need a stand to hold the pots of food over the heat, using this source of heat is fairly simple. A seven-ounce can will burn for up to two hours.

If you do not have a wood-fueled cook-stove in your home, you will have to plan for cooking without electricity. A good emergency plan[] may include all of the above options, depending on the circumstances of the power outage. Above all, be sure that you cook with safety in mind.

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