How Many Different Ways Can You Cook?

Cooking will always be a way of life as long as there is food to cook and people to cook it. With the construction of the outdoor kitchen underway, I have been thinking about different ways to cook. There are many, many ways to choose from, so I thought I would see if we could get a good conversation going. Like Frank says, we’re all in this together, and we always learn so much from interaction with the folks that stop by and visit here.

As I pondered this question, I came up with several possibilities. Here they are in no particular order.

We cook with propane in the house, and will be able to continue to do so until the tanks run dry. For now, it’s easy to call up a company and have them come and fill the tank. When that is no longer an option, we’ll have to come up with other alternatives.

We have our wood stove in the livingroom that has a flat top. It’s not ideal and isn’t meant to be a cookstove, but we can put a cast iron dutch oven on it and cook beans or soup. I’m not sure how well it would work for making a pot of coffee with a camping percolator, though. Yes, we really like our coffee, and until our supply runs out, we’ll be having some everyday, even after the SHTF.

Now we come to the outdoor kitchen. We will have a wood cookstove there along with a grill/smoker.

Another addition for quick cooking and heating will be a Rocket stove. Once we have everything set up out here, I will practice with all three.

An option for baking we have acquired is a Coleman camp stove oven. It folds down flat, so it isn’t air tight, and makes me wonder how effective it will be. It is about an internal 10 inch cube, so no 25 lb. turkeys. In one of the reviews Frank read, someone suggested putting bricks in the bottom to help hold the heat. We have firebricks to put in the wood cookstove, and will try some in the oven as well.

Another oven option is a Sun Oven, which we also have, but it hasn’t made it’s way out of the box yet. I’ve read about several people using them very successfully, including our friend Grace down the road, so it’s time I learn how to use this one.  

Of course there is always a campfire with a metal grate across it, or an open pit fire that you can hang pot over or put a rotisserie on. If you have the right cookware, you can cook all sorts of meals this way.

Another possibility is a small cast iron hibachi type of system. It’s small, doesn’t take a lot of fuel, and will provide a small, hot fire. Again, with some cast iron cookware, this would be an easy way to cook a quick meal. 

Now that we have different ways to cook, we need to think about fuel for all of those fires. Right now we have an abundance of firewood stored, but that won’t last forever, just like the propane. There will come a time when we need more wood, along with a way to cut and haul it.

There will also come a time when it may not be safe to cook because of the smell. If you are trying to keep a low profile for security reasons, the odor of cooking food would be a dead give away, especially to someone, or a bunch of someones, that are hungry. Then what do you do? Even the smell of a fire would draw attention.

On the other hand, if your retreat is your homestead then there are all sorts of noises that come with the territory. Your chickens make all kinds of noises, from crowing to singing the egg song. Your goats will holler good morning when they see you. The pigs will excitedly greet you asking for breakfast. Your dog will bark. Your radio will come to life with a greeting or message from down the road. Not to mention everyday conversation that comes with the activity of the day.

These are some of the things I think about as I go through my days. The sounds and smells of life are a rich addition to all we do. There may come a day when some of these things have to be curtailed for a while for our safety. If that happens, and you can’t cook, how will you provide adequate nourishment? Let’s face it, if a collapse happens in winter, it will be easy to see where the people are. There will be fires for warmth, and where there is fire, there is smoke.

So, what do you think? How many different ways can you cook, and will you be able to cook when the SHTF? Will it make a difference if it is winter or summer? Will it make a difference if safety is a concern? I have thought many times recently that two is one, and one is none. I’ve applied that to many things, including cooking, canning, gardening, clothing, animals, tools, radios, just about everything. That’s what brought me to this article about cooking. I want to make sure I have enough options to be able to put good, nourishing food on the table when we need it the most. I’d love to hear your ideas and thoughts.

Until next time – Fern

33 thoughts on “How Many Different Ways Can You Cook?

  1. It's amazing, the things that are being tried in an effort to control. Too bad everyone doesn't see it that way, then it wouldn't be allowed to happen. As long as some folks find it useful or fascinating, it will continue.Fern

  2. For a first trial meal I'd try just heating up something like soup – it's not going to be done in 15-10 minutes, more like 60-90, maybe longer if you want it to simmer for a while. Sometimes you have to re-position the oven to get the most direct rays of the sun. Just takes some practice.

  3. Fern and Frank – we have similar backups to backups for cooking that you mentioned in the post…and that commenters have left in the comments.i just want to direct you and your readers to my friend Dani's blog…she lives in south africa and has been cooking for years in her solar oven and has a recipes of all of her tried and tested solar oven recipes…Dani is the real deal, lives 100% off the grid and cooks in her solar oven all of the time. if anyone is interested here is a link to her blog: here is a link to some of her recipes: hope that you all enjoy!your friend,kymber

  4. Although solar ovens may not emit those enticing cooking aromas to us, that doesn't mean that the critters can't smell them! Several years ago, I was cooking fresh corn on the cob in my solar cooker. Went into the house for a bit – when I came back outside to adjust my cooker to a more optimal angle, I made the unfortunate discovery that the raccoons thought the corn was \”done!\” Yup, tracks everywhere and the cooker was a mess. Gotta laugh at mistakes like this while it is still a \”painless\” mistake. ;-)I sure won't repeat it when things get more serious.

  5. MatSu here again with something I forgot to mention. Several years ago, we bought five heavy duty Dietz hurricane style lanterns (; one has a little cook unit that goes on top for emergency heating a metal pot of water – of a cup of coffee. ;-)These lanterns are great for traveling from the house to the barn, etc. or even for use on boats. The glass lantern latches down and the wind won't blow them out. Besides being heavy duty and for indoor or outdoor use, they can use different grades of kerosene/lamp oils AND they are exceptionally bright -much brighter than the average kerosene or oil lamp. Some of them have a 45 hour burn time. For a farm, they are perfect for tending to animals in the dark.While we would love to use solar power, it's not possible here most of the year. 🙂 We're stuck with the invigorating smell of kerosene or lamp oil.

  6. It's very interesting that using a Sun Oven doesn't emit a lot of cooking odors. That is good to know. I have Enola's cookbook on the shelf. Looks like I need to revisit it again. Thank you for sharing.Fern

  7. These are things that I have been thinking about too, Carl. We'll start another conversation about things like water, washing clothes and dishes, and hygiene in some upcoming articles. Good thoughts, keep them coming.Fern

  8. We have some matches, SJ, but learned in Alaska that there is nothing like a Bic lighter (disposable lighter). They work even if they're old and rusted. We carried them everywhere we went up there, just in case. You know, just in case the plane went down and you were caught out in the middle of no where.It's interesting how other people's comments make us sit back and re-evaluate things. Thank you for adding to the conversation.Fern

  9. Hi Matsu. All good suggestions. The Wartime series has been suggested before, and is a good reference for folks that haven't heard of it. As long as we have coffee, the percolator will probably live on the stove, or side of it keeping the coffee warm. That is something we will really miss when we run out. Our lighting will be 12 volt, run from the solar panels and battery bank. We do have some emergency candles stored, but the 12 volt will be our first choice. Great additions to the discussion, Matsu, thank you.Fern

  10. Sounds like you have many options to keep you going initially, then some firewood to back it up. We have a good selection of cast iron that I use regularly. Then we have more cast iron stored for when more folks will be cooking outdoors. They will need some. The Coleman ovens aren't hard to find, Amazon and a number of sites carry them. Thank you for sharing.Fern

  11. Your experiences with your Sun Oven give me encouragement, Bellen. I think mine will be coming out of the box in the next week or so. I've watched the videos and read the instructions, but I'll need a refresher. What do you recommend for a first trial meal?Thank you for sharing these ideas, it gives us more to think about.Fern

  12. Very good thought process, Vicki. I wonder if we can figure out how to heat up a jar of food using the sun, kind of like sun tea. Sounds like your family has a plan in place and that's good. It's more than most do.Fern

  13. I use my cast iron dutch oven in the oven all the time, but not on the woodstove or anywhere else. That is something I need practice doing. There are lots of folks that use them for just about everything. Thank you for the suggestions, Meary.Fern

  14. Oh, and I forgot to mention that there's little or no smell from the solar oven while it's cooking.We have a summer kitchen out in the 30 x 40 shop (so it's protected from weather and wind) with a couple of propane burners (for summer canning, currently). We also have a charcoal/wood/propane grill-smoker, a couple of fire-pits/tripods and 2 flat-topped wood burning stoves, as well as my late father's antique wood cookstove with oven. While we haven't figured out where to put the cookstove (there's a laundry chute between the kitchen and the chimney), I have added Enola Gay's \”The Prepared Family Cookbook\” to my collection, which has great information on cooking with wood.

  15. Another option for coffee is to use a french coffee press. Not only do I have my stash of coffee, I've got back-ups for my back-ups for making it. 🙂 And if that runs out, I'll learn to like it with some grounds in it.

  16. I have 2 sun ovens, a Solar Oven Sport and a Sun Oven. The Sun Oven is my favorite, primarily for ease of use. I started out simple, with crock pot type recipes, with great success. In my Sun Oven, I've done everything from roast veggies to meat loaf and a pretty successful run at bread baking. I still have yet to try cooking from dry beans, but that's next on my list (Scotch broth turned out great, though).

  17. Your post defiantly created food for thought Fern – if you will pardon the pun. DD and I were discussing this topic this morning as we baked. We came up with a list, which while offering options, also showed us how limited we could be. We have an electric oven and gas stove top. Both fine until we run out of gas or the power goes out. DH has a generator that will run the entire house and would run the oven – but it would need fuel which, when it runs out, rules out that option. Plus the generator is noisy and could attract unwanted visitors. I have a wood stove with oven in the kitchen that heats our water as well as warms the house. As long as we have wood we are ok – but how much wood do I need to stockpile? It's like asking how long is a piece of string. We live in town and where we get wood (for free) is a friends farm about half an hour away. That might not be an option in a grid down situation. I have a huge wood fired pizza oven that runs on very little wood. Fantastic and DD and I were thinking that we could cook a weeks worth of meals – but then how do we keep them cold until we are ready to eat them and for that matter how do we heat them up again? There is also the outdoor fire place that I could put a camp oven in it and bake or BBQ on a grill set over the fire – but again that relies on wood. We also have two small gas stoves that are designed for camping and run on small gas cylinders easily purchased in camping stores – Note to self must get more of those cylinders. I bought DS a Trangia Stove which runs on tiny amounts of metholated spirits with no smoke but you would get the smell of cooking. It is still an option though and metholated spirits keeps and isn't expensive.As for lights well I have candles and the old fashioned kerosene lanterns. Our house is also wired for solar so even in a total grid down situation we would still have light. Heating is another issue – if we run out of wood. Summers heat are super hot – so a solar stove might be a good option for cooking. Keeping cool is another matter. Thank goodness DH super insulated this house. I also have to agree with Vicki to. Canned foods will at least mean we could eat meals even if they are cold. Not perhaps the tastiest but in a pinch it would do.I can see more thinking and discussion happening in this household on this subject. Thanks Fern for this post and for the upcoming brain storming. Thanks also to everyone else for posting. The more ideas the merrier.

  18. Fern, after commenting this morning, I was out picking apples and got to thinking about this some more. Besides cooking itself, what about clean up like washing pots and pans as well as dishes and utensils? Heating water will be similar challenge. For me I have a couple of large pots designated for this. One of the many things I learned in Boy Scouts back in the 60's was how to set up a sanitation station by heating water over a wood fire in pretty large quantities.. Just thinking the whole thing through.Carl in the UP

  19. I also highly recommend th \”Wartime Farm\” series, I watched it on YouTube. Besides showing how to make do, they also showed how to garden in unexpected places – like the side of the road. Also made a major point of how much food England imported and what measures they took to change that.

  20. Hate to harp, but I've commented a couple of times about the PBS series (older now) \”Wartime Farm\”, an 8 part series free on YouTube and think it is worth everyone's time to hear of once again. One segment showed the \”Hay box\” method of slow cooking as Herdog described above. Rather than placing the dutch oven in a cooler, they wrapped a blanket around it and put it into a literal box surrounded with hay to cook. There are lots of ways to accomplish this slow cooking method.I re – recommend this series, because it not only concerns farming in reduced circumstances (WWII Britain), but also shows a myriad of ways they coped and made do replacing items they no longer had – like soap, animal feed, and reducing their cooking times, etc. I urge everyone to watch this series and to understand the needful frugalities of that time. The segment on making animal feed from silage is priceless! They either did that or they and their animals starved.Where we live in the Mat-Su Valley in AK, we have to use electricity for cooking (we could use propane). We have a woodstove that will accommodate a large dutch oven or cast iron frying pans. We can put a Coleman type \”oven\” on top,and I see no reason it wouldn't work well enough. As for coffee, Fern, no need to use the stove top percolator. Instead, heat the water on the wood stove and pour through a drip filter containing your ground coffee (Melitta makes plastic and porcelain ones) into your steel thermos to keep hot all day.Remember, whatever heats your home can light your home! So if you don't have electricity, propane, or kerosene for heat, you also don't have LIGHT! Besides battery operated \”lanterns\”, we have a big collection of oil lamps – at least one large one for every room and a few for the living room and dining room. We also keep a stash of the large base 3 wick candles as well. These usually are on sale from Thanksgiving through Christmas. Since we use the oil lamps during power outages, we keep them out and ready to go and have a few mounted on the walls. None of our acquaintances or neighbors (who are not preppers) think anything about it, because I have antique furnishings and doilies and such everywhere.

  21. Good afternoon , We presently use an electric range for cooking and canning our food . Our backup means of cooking include 2 outdoor propane grills , a \”camp chef\” 2 burner,propane standing stove and a briquet bar-b-q . We have a wood stove in the house for warmth and it can also be used for cooking with our cast iron cookware . We have the \”camp chef\” unit so we have the ability to can foods from our freezer in the case of a power outage . We have several small tanks of propane set aside for that purpose .We do not keep a lot of food in our freezers , and we have a small generator to keep it frozen until it all is canned or eaten . I also have been collecting concrete blocks so I can build a waist high outdoor grill-stove that could also be used , the fuel source would be wood .I experienced this type of outdoor cooking unit while in Honduras , they were very common there . The pleasant odors of cooking food can obviously be a giveaway to unwanted visitors . I am not sure how to overcome that issue except maybe to cook at night and just warm food inside during daylight hours . Thanks for your blog. Blessings to you both .Bluesman

  22. Your picture of the Coleman camp oven reminded me of a group I camped with years ago. One of the couples had a camp oven – and, oh, the goodies that would come from the oven during our camping trip!I, too, live in an apartment that is all electric. So coming up with alternative cooking options was on the top of my to-do list. First was a propane BBQ with side burner. Since I'm on my own, I opted for two smaller propane tanks rather then the 40# tank I had at my house.I also have a portable camping stove/griddle and a Mister Heater Junior Buddy, a small propane heater. For these I have some propane 2# cylinders. And, yes I know that if I use them inside I need to have outdoor air. I also have a CO2 detector. For me, thinking about cooking in my all electric apartment also meant thinking of a heat source.This summer I collected various cinder blocks to make a rocket stove outside. I also have a few new clay pots initially purchased for heat but could easily be adapted for cooking. Essentially, you put one candle inside a small pot and then cover that pot with an inverted larger clay pot. The effect is to create a heat source.I also toured WallyWorld's camping section and purchased a survival stove. The base is a small metal box about 4 inches square and comes with its fuel source that fits into the interior of the box. A cooking pot can rest on the top of the metal box. The fuel source is essentially a candle. So I also purchased a fair amount of matches as well as some butane lighters for the BBQ. I also have been collecting various sized cast iron cookware and an old fashioned drip coffee maker. And to that end, I have a collection of backpacking Add-water meals at the ready. Not a lot but a few days worth – for those situations where I may only be able to heat water. I also have a few bags of charcoal kicking around.My unit is all electric but our common room actually has a wood burning fireplace. The down side there is how public it is. But I'm hoping if things got bad and the power was out for an extended time, the people here would congregate in that building and at least stay warm. And be able to boil water.Thanks as always for your well written post. Until I wrote this, I hadn't really thought about all my options I've created. My next purchase is to get a Kelly Kettle for my car – they look really efficient, if pricey. Cheers, SJ in Vancouver BC Canada

  23. Hey F&F, I've another way of cooking that would come in handy and that's thermal cooking. While I haven't tried this way of cooking yet, it's on my to do list (along with the solar oven out of a car sun shade). Sounds like it would save fuel and would also help with the smell factor a bit.You do have to get the food up to a boil first using that bit of fuel and smell but then you wrapped the pot in towels and place in a cooler for a slow cook much like a crock pot. Different methods of thermal cooking are haybox cooking and Cooking in a can. I always love camp cooking with the dutch over and wow the kids with a cake, or cobbler. To this day I get a smile when I 'bake' in the dutch over. I don't do it enough now.

  24. My house stove is electric. But I salvaged a propane gas stove from a neighbor and have it in the garage, I plumbed it to connect to 20lb tanks. To run the oven does take electricity, which I can provide with my generator or soon to be setup solar system. I do have several 20lb tanks available. Next I have a 2 burner propane cook top and a 2 burner coleman gas cook top. I also have fuel stored for both. I do have a propane gas grill as well. Next I have a fire pit that I have fitted with a grate system and lots of fire wood. I agree with having a cast iron Dutch oven and beyond that a good selection of cast iron pans and pots. I have everything from a 14 inch skillet to small baby pots. I would like to get one of those Coleman camp ovens,Carl in da UP eh

  25. Ever since Hurricane Charley we've been very much aware of needing alternative sources of cooking. Why? Because for about 3 weeks after the hurricane we had to depend on the Red Cross for 1-2 hot meals a day as we had no way to cook.So, now we have a 2 burner butane cook top, a large outdoor propane gas grill, a sun oven and a hard wired propane generator that will power our electric stove. All but the sun oven will work until, of course, the fuel runs out. I've used them often enough that I know how they will cook.The sun oven works well but it does take practice and it does take a long time. However, we have made coffee, biscuits, cookies, muffins, lasagna, casseroles, soups, stews, etc. It is actually harder to do here in Florida than most would assume – cloud cover really reduces the heat in the oven. Best advice I have is to be sure to use light weight, dark cookware and covers, if not a lid then a dark towel. Do not use clear glass or foil – they do not absorb the heat from the sun.Also, your canned goods will be wonderful to have. There is no such thing as a quick meal unless you start with prepared meals – you are going to be working too hard on other projects to keep you going.I did find a great selection of recipes, and I'm sorry but I don't know what blog, that had 500 Camping Recipes for Dutch Ovens, but could be adapted to any cooking source. The first one that caught my eye was Baggie Omelet – cooked in a baggie in boiling water – the water could be used for something else – a double use that we're going to have to master when the time comes. The web site:

  26. Living in a city apartment limits my options for cooking. One reason I decided to stay in this apartment in an old building rather than move to a newer, more modern apartment is that this apartment has a gas kitchen stove, where the newer ones are all electric. I have been able to cook during a power outage because I can light the burners using a match if necessary. Knowing that the gas to my building could be shut off, I purchased a propane camp stove that has a burner on one side and a griddle on the other. This I can use sitting on top of my kitchen stove which has a window for ventilation right next to it. I store propane canisters for the camp stove as well as for a propane space heater. I have considered a small charcoal grill and a sun oven for use on the communal deck on my building, but am reluctant to do that because the smells of food cooking would most certainly attract attention in a city environment. One of the reasons I home can so much of the food I store is that after canning, everything is cooked and edible straight from the jars. Granted, the food would be much more palatable if heated, but in an emergency situation, cold food is better than no food. The idea is to survive. I know that eventually the propane will run out and the canned food will run out. I have faith that those in my immediate family will who own their homes will have things like gardens and chickens figured out by that time. They will have at least one year to get their ducks in a row.

  27. Dutch ovens are good for much more than just soup or beans. As the name \”oven\” suggests, you can bake all sorts of things in them. I regularly do casseroles and cakes and biscuits in mine. You can make a roast and potatoes dinner or fry a steak or pork chop. If you have a dutch oven, you are going to eat well.Meary

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