6 ways to cook without power.

6 ways to cook without power

Coleman propane stove with fuel, and Weber Charcoal grill.


We recently lost our electric power for a little over 30 hours due to a crazy line of storms that rolled through our area. We weren’t alone as several hundred thousands other Virginia residents also went without electric power (some longer than us).As soon as it came time to eat after everything went dark my better half ask how are we cooking breakfast this morning?

My mind immediately started running through the options that I have set up over the years to cook  without municipal power. Here are my 6 ways to cook with out power. Most of my option are leftovers from camping for over 50 years, but as part of my prepping routine I keep many of these items clean, and organized for emergency situations. Here’s my list of emergency back up cooking options.

A neighbors simple fire pit made from stacked cinder blocks.


  1. Propane Camp Stove: This is a “Coleman” unit that I have used for years Camping, Fishing, Hunting, Float Trips, and in these types of situations. They are easy to set up, Cheap to use, and rock solid dependable. Every home, and bug out location should have at least one of these stoves. Note: The small 1lbs propane cylinders can be bought relatively cheap and stored in a dry environment almost indefinitely. We pick up a 4pack of these every time we go to “Sam’s Club” for dry goods, and we have accumulated several dozen over the years. Probably more than we will ever use, unless the power grid goes down for months.
  2. Dual Fuel Camp Stove: This is also a Coleman unit, and I have had this one since I was a kid. Like most everything Coleman makes, it is dependable, and durable. I use this much less often than the propane model now a days because of the sheer convenience of the propane model, but in a SHTF scenario I would go back to this stove, because of it’s ability to operate on several different types of fuel, including unleaded gasoline. I took it apart and replaced all of the rubber O rings in it last summer. This should be done before use after long periods of  idle storage.
  3. Gas Grill: That’s right. The old Barbeque grill, that usually sits outside neglected until a summer time holiday rolls around, and it’s time to do the ritual hamburger, and hotdogs thing. This is when you usually find out that between the rust, rot, Bee’s, birdnest, and rodents, that it has been rendered useless over the months. If you already have one, try to find a way to keep it sheltered from the elements, and all of the critters than seem to love making them home. Do not leave the propane tank connected to the grill for long periods of time, and like all stoves check the O rings and rubber hoses for rot and damage before trying to light it up. I’ve seen and read about some real disasters from not doing so.
  4. Fire Pit: The simplest and most primitive method of cooking is over an open wood fire. This goes back in history almost as far as man does, and as far back as modern man does. Some of the finest meals I have ever eaten were cooked over a camp fire. We keep this option open to us in case all else fails. As long as you can put your hands on some wood, and a match, you can cook, boil water, and bake. Though the most simple method, it is far from the easiest, or most convenient method. When camping, fire wood is usually abundant, but this is not always the case in “Suburbia”, and even less so in an urban setting. This method must be Prepped for far in advance of emergency situations. We keep a wood pile that I gathered from land we own in the country. Anytime I lose a tree to wind, insects, or what ever, I cut it up, haul it home and stack it behind the garage for future use. I share it with my neighbor who made a simple fire pit from standard cinder blocks for a cookout/party he had just 6 weeks before Hurricane Isabel blew through this area, and we were all with out power for 9 straight days. Shortly after watching him use his fire pit to cook and heat water, I built my own fire pit out of a 55 gal drum that I got for free. If you have a yard to put it in, I suggest you consider building some type of fire pit. You can also use it to can food outside as opposed to inside in the heat of summer.
  5. Wood Stove: I don’t have a wood stove in the house, but I do have one in the garage. I installed it because I also have my radio station in the garage, and It’ hard to talk to your radio cronies when you’re freezing to death in the winter time. The winter of 1999 on Christmas eve we had an ice storm that took out the power for almost five days. Our house being totally electric made this a very interesting period. I had to use every prep trick that I had to keep the family relatively warm and everybody fed. This is when I realized the full value of having a wood stove. I fired up the Kerosene heater inside the house, along with the “Coleman” propane lanterns at night, and was surprised to learn that this kept our small brick house fairly warm(about 60 degree’s). We put the “Coleman” propane stove on top of the kitchen stove, and cooked just like we do with the power on. It was the third night into the outage that I wanted to check with the radio gang to see how everybody was getting along, so I connected a battery powered hand held radio to my big antenna and was surprised again at how many of the guy’s had abandoned their houses to talk on their mobile radios, and enjoy the heaters in their trucks. I had built a fire in the woodstove and brought left overs from Christmas dinner at my mom’s. I didn’t want all this food to go bad, and I was hungry anyway. After about a hour and a half, the garage was seventy degree’s and the food was hot. In another hour I had a garage full of friends and family enjoying a hot meal and the comfortable temps of the garage.  Wood stoves are great!
  6. Charcoal Grill: When it comes to cooking without electricity, charcoal is probably the least complicated, and the least expensive. I have a friend that cooks with a charcoal grill on the balcony of her small apartment 5 stories off the ground in a city setting. Charcoal can be bought at any convenience store, and small charcoal grills are available almost every where at reasonable prices. Though we rarely ever use it, we keep one just in case. There’s no such thing as being too prepared, and I believe in plan B,C, and so on. Charcoal also does as good a job of cooking as any of the other methods mentioned above.     


Fire pit made from old 55 gal industrial drum. under the cover is a wire grill face for cooking.

This short list is of a few of the ways we cook without electric power. There are many more ways like , Solar ovens, Generators powered by the sun and fossil fuels, and probably others that I know little or nothing about. I would be very interested in your comments on how you do it.