Click on the titles below for handouts about Cooking in an Emergency. After you click on the title, click "open" to view or print the handout.
How to Cook in an Emergency
If the Power goes off for One Week – How will you Cook?
Five Principles of Emergency Cooking:
1. Cook Safely
2. Do what is easy, use what you have
3. Be efficient – use inexpensive methods and conserve fuel
4. Make it interesting – add variety and “comfort foods”
5. Practice your skills
Choose cooking methods and fuels that are safe. Never use charcoal indoors. It depletes oxygen and gives off carbon monoxide, a deadly poison. Be careful with volatile fuels such as white gas (Coleman fuel) that can spill, or evaporate and create an explosion hazard. Always fuel white gas appliances in the out-of-doors, and away from buildings. Advice on emergency cooking and use of fuels is available at http://gilescounty.org/pdf%27s/Community_Version.pdf pages 92-96. As always, be careful to avoid burns when dealing with hot appliances and utensils.
Do What is Easy
With no power, you can still do a lot of things to provide food. Eat cold cereal and use up the milk in the fridge. Eat everything else in your fridge before it goes bad. Eat other items that don’t need cooking such as peanut butter and jelly sandwiches. Leave your freezer closed as much as possible, and power it with a generator if you can; eEat things that might go bad before they do so. Be sure you have a hand-crank can opener for when the power is off. Use disposable aluminum baking trays, paper plates, plastic utensils, and paper towels to reduce water usage. MREs are easy to prepare and provide lots of calories. You can use your propane BBQ, especially if it has a side burner, to cook in the same manner as you normally do. If you have an indoor fireplace or an outdoor fire pit, try some Dutch oven cooking.
Efficiency can make limited resources do a lot and last a long time. This may not matter if you use a wood stove to heat your home, it is the middle of winter, you can cook food on top of your stove and you have several cords of dry firewood available to you. However, if you only have your propane BBQ and it has just a few inches of fuel in the bottom of the tank, making it last a week will take some creativity. Check out “haybox” at http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Haybox or fireless cooker at http://www.paceproject.net/UserFiles/File/Energy/make%20a%20fireless%20cooker.pdf or the apple box oven at gilescounty (p. 94) to see how using a burner for a few minutes can cook a meal for an hour or more. Think about the most efficient way to cook; imagine what you would get if you had $100 to spend on emergency cooking gear.
Make it Interesting
Adding variety can make your meals much more interesting and homey, as well as more nutritious. Having some comfort foods can help your family feel better and can relieve some of the stress of the emergency, as described here; http://beprepared.com/article.asp?ai=53&name=Emergency%20Comfort%20Foods. This website has many useful “insight articles” about emergency preparedness and emergency cooking.
Practice Your Skills
Once a week cook a meal using no electricity and making use of an alternative cooking method (pizza or take-out does not count!) Once a month, use alternative cooking methods for an entire day. Refine your cooking methods and what food you keep on-hand accordingly.
To Cook, You Need: Heat, Food and Water
Heat – What to Cook With
1. Don’t cook at all (see “Do What is Easy” above).
2. Flameless Heating / MRE Heater
a. Advantages: Great for a few people for a few days due to ease of storage and use.
b. Disadvantages: For larger groups and longer periods of time is expensive, bulky and boring.
3. Primitive Stoves, Fuel Tablets, Stove in a Can, #10 Can, Sterno, “penny” alcohol stove
a. Advantages: Inexpensive, easy to use, can cook things other than just an MRE. Sterno and alcohol stoves can be used indoors.
b. Disadvantages: Difficult to control flame size, limited cooking capacity. Alcohol presents spill hazards and the flame is invisible.
4. Camping or Backpacking Stoves – Coleman White Gas, Kerosene, Propane, Butane, Jetboil, etc.
a. Advantages: Portable, powerful, can adjust flame size on most, butane is safe to use indoors
b. Disadvantages: Must have the right fuel for them.
5. Wood Fire, Fireplace, Wood Stove, Kelly Kettle, Rocket Stove, Charcoal Briquettes and Dutch Oven
a. Advantages: You can find fuel anywhere, heat output is easily controlled, can heat water and food separately. Wood stove can heat your home. Briquettes can be stored for years, Dutch oven cooking is delicious!
b. Disadvantages: Need wood or other combustibles, wood fire can be smoky. Charcoal must be used outdoors, can be difficult if raining.
6. Volcano Multi-fuel Stove – Wood / Charcoal / Propane
a. Advantages: Can use almost any fuel, heat output ranges from tiny to huge, can use propane to light wood fire.
b. Disadvantages: Wood fire can be smoky; must have propane fuel if using propane fire ring.
7. Propane Oven / Stove Combo or Propane BBQ
a. Advantages: Can bake or pan-fry or both. Very easy to use, very easy to store fuel for, many BBQs have a side burner that you can use for cooking in a pan.
b. Disadvantages: Must have propane to use; remember to fill the tank!
Food – What to Cook
1. MRE – the work is already done for you
2. Prepared Fresh – more work, but more nutritious and delicious
3. Dehydrated – you can dehydrate your own food and store it for everyday use or for emergencies
4. Freeze Dried – somewhat expensive; good nutrition and flavor with ease-of-use – just add boiling water
5. Canned – easy to store and can usually last several years
Fuel Options: Energy Value and Cost Comparison
Gel fuel i.e. Sterno
7 oz can
Price/100,000 BTUs: the lower the amounts, the lower the cost of the fuel (energy) source.
The above information does not take into account the efficiency of the cooking or heating device being used.
Fuel Conserving Tips & Other Information
BTU: British Thermal Unit, a standard unit of energy.
Covering the pots, sauce pans reduces heat loss.
Fuel is wasted by boiling the water faster.
Food doesn't cook faster if water boils faster because the temperature of the water remains the same.
Bring covered pot to boil. Remove from heat and place pot with lid in an insulated container.
Significant heat is lost each time a pot lid is lifted, an oven door or BBQ is opened.
One pot cooking, i.e soups, stews saves fuel.
Turnoff energy source several minutes before food is done, but don’t open the door, or remove the lid.
Soak grains and beans for 12-24 hours; reduces fuel costs.
A pressure cooker can reduce the needed fuel by 70%.
$20 buys you a conversion hose that allows you to use a propane tank on stoves that require the small cylinders.
Conversion kits to convert a natural gas BBQ to/from a propane one are available and easy to do-it-yourself.
Dutch ovens; the Lodge brand is the only way to go.
March 1, 2012