While we have earlier discussed the need for stockpiling foods that require little or no preparation before consuming, particularly during an extended emergency you’ll want to have the ability to cook. However, if the utility services have been interrupted, your microwave and stove top may not be particularly useful.
A hot meal is comforting and having the means to actually cook food opens up more possibilities for meals. Further, as we discussed in the lesson water purification, boiling water is one the best ways to prevent the ingestion of bacteria and other harmful organisms.
There are several methods you may utilize to cook food when the power is off.
Grills: Whether propane or charcoal, grills need not be limited to just cooking meat. Of course, many propane grills today are equipped with side burners designed for use with pots and pans. But even without that feature, you can simply place your pot on the grill to heat it up. I was talking to a woman a couple years back who had suffered through a severe ice storm, knocking out power for several days. She lamented that while they had a charcoal grill, they didn’t have any briquettes for it so in her eyes it was worthless. I pointed out that she could have just used small size firewood and that thought had never occurred to her.
If you don’t already own a grill, consider investing in one. Charcoal ones in particular can be had fairly cheap if you shop around a bit. You could also check out your local Freecycle group(s) as well as Craigslist to find used ones. Don’t forget to pick up long handled utensils as well. Your fingers will thank you.
Decorative fire pits: These have become very popular in the last few years. Portable fire pits, usually made of metal, you put on your patio for keeping warm on chilly nights. All these really amount to are portable campfires and people have been cooking over an open flame for quite some time now.
Campfires: If nothing else, you can obviously cook over a small campfire in your backyard. Clear a spot away from your house and outbuildings and utilize the techniques you learned in Week 14 to get a fire going.
When using any sort of campfire set up, remember that the best way to cook is to use the coals, rather than a roaring fire. The coals give off a higher, and more steady, heat.
While you can use your normal pots and pans if that’s all you have, they really aren’t designed for cooking in these ways. Shop around for a decent set of cast iron cooking implements. At the minimum, get a good sized frying pan and a dutch oven. These two items will serve you well in preparing just about everything.
If you’re not already familiar with cooking over an open flame or coals, it does take some practice. This isn’t something you’ll just naturally pick up overnight. Grilling also is just as much an art form as it is a way to prepare a meal. These aren’t skills you’ll just pick up from reading a few books. You need to get out there and practice.
Solar oven: If you hit up Google for “DIY solar oven,” you’ll get umpteen thousand hits. They are fairly simple to construct from common materials and work very well during daylight hours. Again though, there is a learning curve when using these ovens. Don’t wait until they are truly needed before you put one together and see how it works.
Camp stoves: These can be found in any decent sporting goods store. They are small little stovetops that usually use small gas cylinders for fuel, though there are a wide range of models and designs. These generally work very well and store in a small space. I see them offered up fairly often at yard sales, usually from families who decided they didn’t like camping all that much.
It should go without saying but please remember, these methods of using any sort of open flame for cooking should NEVER be used inside the home. There is danger of fire as well as carbon monoxide poisoning.
Your assignments this week:
1) Select a couple ways to cook food without using your normal kitchen appliances and begin acquiring the necessary items. Don’t overlook Freecycle and Craigslist to find decent used supplies.
2) If a charcoal grill is on your list, begin picking up bags of charcoal when it goes on sale. If you shop around, you should be able to find 14lb bags for around $3-4.00 or so, often sold in two-packs for about $6.00. If propane is more your style, make sure you have at least a couple filled tanks as backup.
3) Get outside this week and cook a meal outside. I mean the whole meal, not just the main course. Pretend the kitchen cooking appliances are off limits. You may just learn you like the taste of this sort of meal better than anything that comes out of a microwave.