Regardless of whether you enjoy outdoor adventures, learning to cook without the convenience of electricity is an important survival skill. Knowing alternative cooking methods is fun for camping and back packing with friends, but it becomes vital in natural disasters or emergency situations when we find ourselves without power for an extended period of time.
The trick to making any of these methods reliable is practice. Practice each one a few times before you are in a bind. Attempting to figure out what works well and what is hard to use is increasingly more difficult when you are already tired, hungry, and–in the worst situations–scared.
7 Non-Traditional Methods of Cooking
The most obvious, tried and true method is to cook over an open fire. However, unless you are something akin to an Eagle Scout, you likely won’t be able to start a fire with two sticks and a rock. Having reliable fire starting supplies on hand is essential. Always keep matches and at least one other fire starter, such as Bic lighter, in your camping supplies, emergency kits, and vehicles.
Make sure you demonstrate basic fire safety – have water nearby and create a ring of rocks around your fire pit. Also, be aware of burn ban areas; in times of drought, even the most carefully tended fires can quickly burn out of control.
A small grill grate and a few high heat pots, pans, or kettles will allow you to take your fireside cooking a little further. These items can be found at many outdoor adventure stores. Pick out a lightweight and smaller option for easy transport to your campsite, or for storage in your emergency kit.
These portable stoves are great for cooking when you are unable to build a fire, or simply do not want to go to the trouble of starting one. The butane canisters that power these small and portable stoves are relatively cheap and have a shelf life that is virtually indefinite. Stock up on a butane stove(s) and a few butane canisters to ensure you can cook with relative ease on a camping trip or in an emergency. A few of my favorites are the Mountain Series portable stoves from Camp Chef, which feature a lightweight but durable frame, and the Multi-Fuel Cooktops from CanCooker, known for their easy storage and ultra-quiet design.
Fold-up Stove and Sterno Fuel
Another method to mirror conventional cooking without traditional appliances is with a small fold-up stove that can be heated with any canned fuel. The most commonly used fuel is Sterno. A fold-up stove can hold a sizeable pot of water without tipping over or collapsing, and they are also powerful enough to boil water in about 30 minutes! This comes in handy when wanting to make a large pot of soup or noodles, but they become lifesavers when clean water is unavailable for drinking, or for tending to cuts and small wounds.
Rocket stoves allow you to create an efficient heat source with only a small amount of wood or fuel. They work by burning wood or other fuel sources, such as charcoal, inside of a small combustion chamber. The heat travels up the makeshift chimney keeping the temperature high while preventing direct contact between the flames and your food. Especially useful in emergency situations, rocket stoves can be made out of many different types of materials and into whatever size is needed.
Volcano stoves are great for emergency situations due to their versatility and compatibility with nearly every type of fuel (propane, wood, charcoal, etc.). The stove itself is collapsible, making transportation and storage a breeze. In addition, the stove is relatively sturdy and can safely heat large pots or skillets in addition to providing the option to cook raw meat directly on the metal grates.
The Kelly Kettle is perfect for boiling water quickly and efficiently. Once a small fire has started in the base, fill the kettle with water and place it on top of the base, then periodically drop dry twigs, leaves, scraps of paper, and even grass, down the chimney to keep the fire burning. While the Kelly Kettle is less than ideal for cooking a burger or hot dog, this kettle is perfect for a reliable and quick source of clean water that can be used for drinking, making coffee, soups, and more.
In the most extreme of circumstances one must think outside of the box (or the car) during an emergency. In case of this, consider using your vehicle’s engine as a heat source. Just start the engine to warm it up, then place your food or liquid inside a metal container (or foil if you are lucky enough to have some) and on top of the engine to let it warm. You may be surprised how hot an engine surface gets in a very short amount of time.
One word of caution, make sure to fully assess your situation before burning precious gas to heat your food. Take advantage of an already hot engine if you can and have a plan for how much fuel your vehicle needs to get to your destination.
Practice Makes Perfect
Just like any other method of survival in emergency situations, you must practice at home with a cool and calm disposition. Waiting to try these methods for the first time in an emergency situation is asking for trouble! Practice these alternatives, carefully understand safety measures that can prevent injury, and you will be prepared for anything!
Author Bio: Bryan Koontz is CEO and Founder of Guidefitter, the online hub for guided hunting and fishing adventures, connecting outdoor enthusiasts with professional guides. The online community allows users to share their experiences and serves as a hub for sportspeople and outdoor adventurists. In his free time, Bryan enjoys fly fishing, hunting, and spending time outdoors with his Labrador retriever.