We, as a society, have become used to the comforts of the contemporary world. Using electricity as a means of cooking is one such example. But did you know that there are many ways to cook your food even without electricity?
When you are used to certain amenities, things may become difficult when you don’t have access to them.
So, learning how to cook without modern equipment and tools is essential, especially when you decide to choose an off-grid lifestyle for your living.
In this article, we have tried to focus on 18 different ways to cook without electricity. Each of the cooking apparatus is explained along with its pros, cons, and average cost.
- How To Cook When Off The Grid
- 18 Ways To Cook Without Electricity
- Notes For Cooking Without Electricity
- Fun Facts
- Final Thoughts
How To Cook When Off The Grid
The off-grid lifestyle may be very fascinating for individuals, but at times, it can also be frightening.
For example, extreme weather conditions, natural calamities, or even an equipment failure may come unexpectedly, without any warning, and leave you without electricity for days.
So, having or rather learning an alternative electricity-free cooking technique is the only way to really be prepared for survival when you are living off the grid. Moreover, it is simple to learn and requires very little experience.
Cooking off the grid without electricity is best done using locally accessible fuels such as wood, charcoal, methane, etc.
These fuels are widely used with a wide range of commercial and homemade stoves and ovens for cooking.
18 Ways To Cook Without Electricity
If the idea of cooking without electricity interests you, there are many creative ways for doing it, which are simple and inexpensive. So, now let us look at 18 different ways of cooking without the use of electricity.
A gas stove is a piece of equipment that burns combustible gas, such as natural gas, propane, butane, or liquefied petroleum gas. It is one of the most widely used cooking apparatus around the globe.
They are suitable for both indoor and outdoor cooking. Other uses include reheating, stir-frying, grilling, etc.
A gas stove burner is made up of a burner assembly linked to a tiny gas valve connected to the main gas line. When you turn the knob, gas enters through one of the wide ends.
There is also a tiny air hole in the section to suck in the oxygen to prepare a combustible mixture which will burn when ignited.
- Gas stove can quickly alter temperature, switching from high to low heat by just turning a knob.
- Very durable and can handle heavy loads.
- May not be readily available while you are living off the grid.
- Cost is increasing day by day.
Cost: A gas stove can range from $400 to $3,000 depending on size and its features.
Note: Always remember that you are cooking with an open flame. So, be very careful while using a gas stove.
An alcohol stove is a sturdy, lightweight, reusable cooking equipment that uses alcohol to provide heat.
These stoves are generally not used for heavy cooking but for light cooking or keeping the food warm during outdoor camping trips.
There is a small reservoir at the center of the stove to store the alcohol. When the stove is lit, the vapors escape from a ring of small holes to create a nice even flame.
REDCAMP Mini Alcohol Stove
The burning capacity can vary from 5 to 15 minutes depending upon the size of the stove.
- Alcohol is an inexpensive, easy-to-obtain, and relatively safe fuel.
- It is safe to store and the best thing about an alcohol stove is that it does not produce a lot of toxins while burning.
- Reservoir capacity is small and fuel needs to be constantly refilled.
Cost: An alcohol stove is relatively cheap, and the price may vary from 10$ to 100$. You may also find many DIY options for these stoves.
Mini Folding Camp Stove With Canned Fuel
Clamp stoves are portable stoves with fold-out supports that use butane or propane gas. Clamp stoves are similar to a cooking burner in your kitchen.
The only difference is that these stoves use different fuels and they’re portable.
A mini folding clamp stove has its own portable container making it easy to carry around. These stoves are suitable for hiking, picnic, and short camping trips.
- Lightweight and portable.
- Has a built-in flame adjuster.
- You need a compatible fuel canister for the clamp stove, which may be more expensive than alcohol and liquid fuel-burning stoves.
Cost: The price ranges from $7-$85.
A solar cooker or oven uses energy from sunlight to heat or cook. It was mainly invented to reduce the use of traditional stoves, which used wood and animal dung.
There are three types of solar cookers: box, panel, and parabolic. The sun rays are trapped in the cooker and converted into infrared light rays.
Infra-red radiation makes the water, protein, and fat molecules vibrate vigorously and heat up.
- Solar energy is free, quick, and easy.
- It helps in preserving natural resources.
- Solar cookers do not produce dangerous emissions
- The manufacturing cost is very high.
- Cannot be used in the absence of sunlight.
Cost: A solar cooker can cost between $99 to $1,000 depending on range, capacity, and features.
A rocket stove is a stove that uses small-diameter wood as a fuel is mostly used for outdoor cooking. It has a small combustion chamber that burns fuel and may contain an insulated vertical chimney.
The name rocket stove is a result of a “roar” from the distinctive sucking of flames down into the burn tunnel. You can burn anything in a rocket stove from small twigs, dried dung, straw, coal, and wood.
- Healthier and more efficient than the traditional open fires.
- Reduce harmful emissions and smoke.
- It is cheaper compared to the woodstove.
- Not as convenient and quick like a gas stove.
- If not used in a well-ventilated area can cause carbon monoxide poisoning.
Cost: A good rocket stove can cost from $99- $139. Moreover, you can make a DIY rocket stove at a much cheaper price.
Lorena stove is another variety of earthen stoves, of which there are many variations. It is built from sand/clay and has long horizontal fireboxes/flues that expose a number of open holes in series for cooking the food.
These stoves are also termed as ‘smokeless ovens,’ and they are basically a kind of indoor cooking device that eliminates the need to inhale smoke while cooking food.
- Very cheap to make as clay and sand are readily available in most places.
- Construction requires very simple skills.
- The materials used for construction are versatile; hence you can build any size or shape.
- How well the stove works will depend on the workmanship of the person who built it.
- Lorena stove can take several days for complete construction.
Cost: Very cost-effective, and the total price may vary depending on how much you spend on the materials.
Cast Iron Wood Stove
Cast iron wood stoves are cooking appliances that were invented by our most recent ancestors. This is a stove made from iron mixed with carbon, in which wood or coal can be used for cooking or warming.
- They are multifunctional, can cook and heat your home.
- Extremely durable and simple maintenance.
- The price of wood rarely goes up, and in some places, it’s free and readily available.
- Constantly needs checking to ensure it has enough fuel.
- Wood smoke causes pollution, which affects the environment and humans.
- A lot of work to maintain like cleaning and emptying the ash.
Cost: A cast iron wood stove costs between $400 to $4,500 depending on size, material, and fuel type.
These stoves are very simple cooking appliances made from cans. You need to cut the door of the can to rest on the floor, which can be used to feed firewood.
You can place a pan or a pot on the hobo stove once you get the fire going.
- You can use various materials from small twigs, coal, pellets, and wood.
- Convenient and very easy to use.
- It’s the most portable stove to carry.
- You can easily burn yourself if not handled carefully.
- It can do damage to some individual pots, especially if the handles are made from plastic.
Cost: Depending on the type of hobo stove you want; it can cost from $0- $15.
Caution: Some types of cans may have interior coatings containing certain chemicals, which may be injurious to the health of the user if the can is not properly cleaned and decontaminated.
Folding Steel Stove
Folding steel stoves are made from steel with a portable backpack. It has a stable cooking platform and is suitable for boiling, cooking, and even BBQ.
- The stove can distribute heat evenly.
- You can use different types of fuel.
- Very easy to assemble.
Portable Folding Stainless Steel Backpacking Stove
- The combustion (burning) of fuel exposes you to chemicals, including carbon monoxide and soot.
Cost: This stove ranges from $50 to $300.
Portable Butane Stoves
A portable butane stove is a cooking device designed to be handy for purposes like an overnight trip to the mountains, camping at the seaside, etc.
These stoves are not designed for daily household cooking, but you can use them in case of emergencies.
As the name suggests, the fuel used is butane for generating heat to cook your food. A regular 8 oz. butane can last for up to four hours while simmering and burn for about two hours if used at high heat.
- More affordable and less toxic.
- It is portable and lightweight.
- You can use it indoors and outdoors.
- Butane is highly flammable.
- Can produce carbon monoxide and carbon dioxide if used in an area that is not well ventilated.
Cost: The price ranges from between $16-$35.
It is mainly used for outdoor cooking. The stove comes with a top grill for barbecuing and a bottom grill for holding briquettes.
These stoves use propane, wood, or charcoal as fuel. You can easily control the temperature as the stove is equipped with a draft system.
- Portable as it comes with a carrying bail.
- Very durable.
- Easy to clean.
- Cannot use it indoor due to the high open flame.
Cost: The cost of volcano stoves may vary between $50 to $200.
Kerosene heater is a portable, kerosene-fueled heating device. It is also the cheapest in comparison to the 18 ways to cook without electricity.
The operation of a kerosene heater is similar to a large kerosene lamp. It contains a wick that draws kerosene from the tank via capillary action, burned to generate heat for cooking.
- They produce more heat and require less ventilation.
- The use of kerosene as a source of fuel makes it cheap to use.
- When stored properly, kerosene can be stored for many years.
- They produce pollutants like sulfur -dioxide, nitrogen dioxide, and carbon monoxide.
- Kerosene heaters should not be left unattended for a long time as they can cause a lot of damage.
Cost: The price ranges from $80 to $400.
The wooden fireplace is an open area where a fire can be safely contained. The placement of the fireplace determines whether it shall be used for cooking or heating.
Fireplaces are normally made from bricks, stone, concrete, or blocks. You need to develop the right skills to cook your food on a fireplace, whether it is indoors or outdoors.
- A fireplace can create a very beautiful ambiance in a room.
- It can make a space warm and relaxing.
- It’s a very practical alternative for heating during cold days or when there is no electricity.
- The fire burns out more quickly; hence a lot of wood is needed.
- Danger of children or pets falling into the fire.
- Firewood can send sparks that can cause fires, damages, and injuries.
Cost: The cost of building a fireplace ranges from $1,500 to $30,000, depending on whether it is done during construction or simply adding.
Dutch ovens are basically heavy-duty pots with a lid. They are normally used for browning and simmering foods as they can retain heat for longer durations.
They are made from cast iron and have a tight-fitting lid. It uses the properties of cast iron to provide a constant and even heat throughout the surface for cooking and baking.
- Can withstand very high heat and maintain temperature well.
- They come in many sizes but are not too cumbersome to handle.
- Comes with a tight lid that prevents evaporation.
- Their light-colored interior makes it easy to stain.
- Most of them come in rounded interiors, which means their bottom has a smaller base diameter.
Cost: Dutch oven price ranges from $40 to $500 and works on any type of stovetop.
Wood-Fired Earth Oven
The oven is built using readily available clay, and the required fuel is wood. It can be a simple DIY cooking apparatus and does not require great skills to make it.
- It makes it easy to use recycled and natural materials.
- Very cheap as the materials are readily available.
- You can build any size you want.
- Not easy to control the temperature.
Cost: The cost ranges from $40-$200.
A tea light is a small candle sold in a cup to contain the wax. They are generally used for lighting but can also be used for emergency heating, cooking, and baking.
The small oven uses about 10 tea-light candles to provide heat for cooking. A larger version of up to 20 candles is also available.
- Thermal energy cooks food evenly.
- The stove folds easily for storage.
- Portable, durable, and economical.
- Take longer than a conventional stove.
- Should not be left unattended.
Cost: It costs around $400.
As the name suggests, an open fire is a fire where the material is burned in an open place or inside without a chimney or stack.
The best material to use for the open fire is dry wood. However, you need to have some water nearby to prevent flare-ups.
- Readily available materials, hence cheap to use.
- You can cook almost anything.
- It is very easy to light.
- Smoke released by open fires can cause respiratory and heart diseases.
- Can be hazardous if left unattended.
Cost: Very cheap as the materials are readily available.
Car engines for cooking? Yes, You heard it right. You can even use your car engine for cooking a meal.
Simply wrap your food heavily with aluminum foil. The foil should be smeared with butter or some cooking oil to prevent food from sticking. Then, drive your car for a while, stop, open the hood and check for the best spot.
- Can be the cheapest way to cook for people who travel long distance.
- Saves time as once you reach your destination, the meal is ready.
- If you are not using the car, it can be quite expensive.
- You can only cook dry foods and not stews.
Cost: It is very expensive to use your car engine for cooking only. The best and cheapest method is to cook using the car engine if you are driving to someplace.
Notes For Cooking Without Electricity
Here are some key notes to understand when you are cooking without electricity.
- When you do it yourself, the basic design of the stove can also be modified.
- Use the right pots, pans, and kitchen utensils for each type of stove to achieve effective cooking.
- Long handles and heating pads or gloves or at least a folded rag to grip the hot handle is a must.
- Whenever you burn fuel in your home, there is a risk of carbon monoxide poisoning. Make sure you have adequate ventilation (even in winter). Also, make sure there are carbon monoxide detectors and fire extinguishers nearby.
- Never use gasoline for combustion.
- Never leave a flame (not even a candle) unattended by an adult.
- Make sure the “open fire” is controlled with surrounding metal or rock. Avoid spreading fire.
- In emergency or survival situations, you must know how to light a fire. However, if you simply want to cook without using electricity, have a few lighters at home.
The core problem of cooking without electricity is that you generate heat in other ways from using electricity.
In addition to using firewood, you can use other fuels as long as it is not dangerous and harmful to your health and the environment—for example, old paper, old clothes, dry leaves, etc.
Did you know about the “burn money to cook eggs” anecdote?
The story is about a rich guy. He used to burn money to generate light which helped his friends to find objects in the dark.
Because of his wealth and generosity, people draw this story of him “burning money to cook eggs.”
Of course, I never did that. I don’t have enough money to do it. And even if I have enough money, I would never do it. Anyway, you can try burning paper to make a paper stove for generating heat for cooking.
How do you cook when the power goes out?
There are so many ways you can cook your food if your power goes out. For example, you can cook on a rocket stove, fireplaces, cast iron wood stove, and many others, which we have discussed in this article.
How can I get heat without electricity?
We are surrounded by various materials and natural resources that can be used as fuel to generate heat without electricity. So, find out and locate those fuels which are eco-friendly and can help you survive even during a power outage.
How do you heat food without a microwave or stove?
Whether you’re living without a microwave or stove by choice or circumstance, you can still heat up your food. We have already discussed above various natural ovens, open fires which can be used for cooking and heating the food.
Disasters and emergencies strike when you are least expecting them. When they strike, you’ll need to be ready to deal with it.
The off-grid cooking alternatives discussed in the article can let you accomplish exactly that. Choose a technique that works best for you, practice it a little, and you are ready for any adverse situation.
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