How to Keep Cooking When You’re Cut Off

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We were looking at houses last week, and I think I surprised our realtor when I told him passionately that cooking on a flattop, glass, electric stove makes me want to throw frying pans out the window. I’m usually much more mild-mannered, but get me going about how I love to cook over a gas stove, and the fire is in my eyes!

We real foodies like to cook, yes?


I can’t imagine having no cooking source. That has to be one of my worst nightmares. In an emergency situation, however, that nightmare could quickly become reality. (photo source)

An important part of being ready to eat (and drink even, if you have to boil your water) is having cooking fuel or an alternative method. Here are some ways to make sure you’re ready, in order of the simple baby steps to the advanced stuff:

Baby Steps

  • Make sure you have at least one extra propane tank on hand for your grill
  • If you have a small travel grill or camp stove, keep the little bottles of propane on hand too. If you have to evacuate quickly, you might be able to take these with you.
  • Don’t toss your pressure cooker: even though Sally Fallon of Nourishing Traditions fame does not recommend a pressure cooker for everyday cooking, I’m recently thankful that we received one for our wedding and I never garage saled it. Why? In an emergency, wouldn’t you rather cook dry beans in 30 minutes rather than use 4-8 HOURS of precious cooking fuel? Keep your pressure cooking guide handy, too- you can make just about anything in there in a fraction of the time traditional cooking takes. I’d be willing to lose a few nutrients if it meant extending my fuel supply by 2-4 times, wouldn’t you?
  • UPDATE: check the comments for some fuel-conserving cooking ideas, too.

Making Strides (a Bit More Effort)

Leap of Faith

Want to make a homemade stove or make a big investment in a new appliance for preparedness? Here are your sources:

Don’t Forget Light and Heat

I’d be counting on the few candles we have in house for light, but there are plenty of other options.

  • Just think old-fashioned: wood stoves, corn stove or furnace (especially if you live in the heartland and would have corn fields to glean from) Whoops – apparently corn stoves need electric to run. Thanks to a reader for the correction!
  • Kerosene lanterns can also be pretty handy in a pinch. They’re a little less messy than candles, and give a better light.

Why Cook with Real Food?

Why have I been making such a fuss about stockpiling real food instead of imageprocessed stuff? Your family’s health and nutrition are an important responsibility. If you are interested in learning more about why traditional foods are the way to go, or if you have a junior high or high school aged student in your home who should, you’ll love Food Renegade’s Real Food Nutrition and Health home study course.

For the summer, she’s opening up the course in a work-at-your-own-pace style and offering $20 off (coupon SUMMERSAVE20) so you can try it out. See more HERE, and you can even download a free chapter of the eBook you’ll be using in the course. (Registration closes June 16th.) Let me know if you have any questions!

As usual, I’ll update this post with reader ideas so it’s an even more comprehensive resource. Got anything good for me?

Disclosure: I am an affiliate of Emergency Essentials and Food Renegade and will earn a small commission on sales made starting here. See my full disclosure statement here.

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15 Bites of Conversation So Far

  1. says

    Woo hoo! I have to come back and review all of this when I have more time. But I say I agree w/ you on the pressure cooker. I love mine even not for emergencies. I don’t think they’re so evil. I’m open to being told that I’m wrong, though.

    Also, I have to echo you on the glass topped stove too. I almost can’t wait for ours to give out. :(.

  2. Susan Alexander says

    We plan to buy a volcano for our emergency food needs – it cooks with multiple types of fuel. :)

    Also, if we ever got settled somewhere permanently, our plan is to get a fire pit with a grill on top and stock up on wood for it – that way we can enjoy the ambiance for now, but if we ever needed it, it would be a great emergency cooking source (especially with my cast iron pans!)

  3. says

    Good ole cast iron cookware and an open or camp fire is another option. Experience gained while camping comes in useful for all sorts of situations. I’ve got friends who camp and cook their entire meal using cast iron. It’s like biscuits cooked in a wood stove; cast iron and a camp fire means food that will make your tongue sing a song.

  4. Aya says

    We are buying a house this month, and I had to laugh at the beginning of your post because the flat top electric stove will be one of the first things to be replaced in that house!

  5. Kristin says

    Corn stove/furnaces are not a good heat source if you are out of power. Unless you have a back up generator for electric power, you won’t be getting much heat from a corn stove, since they need to have electric to work.

  6. Melissa says

    Oh man, I SO agree about the glass top stoves! I was totally sold on gas stoves the day I learned how to roast red peppers right on the burners, and the biggest disappointment in the house we’re living in now is the electric stove.
    One thing I wanted to mention for anyone who’s leery about using a solar oven, a few years back a university out west (in california or colorado, I think) did some research on them, and determined that they can get up to 450-500 degrees, depending on how well the lid is sealed, and that they will work even when the temperature is pretty low outside, like in the 20s even. I haven’t had that much experience with them myself, but rest assured that it’s on my list to acquire or make one very soon!

  7. says

    Whenever we buy a house, it will have to have a gas stove…I hate electrics! I was looking at houses a while back and it seemed like every one had an electric stove. I was starting to think that some ordinance had been passed banning gas stoves from being installed in houses or something.

  8. sandra says

    When we were choosing appliances for our new home I had planned to choose a gas stove too…until I saw my sister wipe her new glass top stove impecabily clean in 30 seconds! I was sold on the spot – I hate clearing and scrubbing the the gas burners!
    I know that when the power is out we are in trouble…. but we do plan on buying a small gas fueled camping stove. Just haven´t gotten around to it yet. Also we do plan on getting a brick outdoor bbq – wood as fuel (maybe next year). I’m not going to bother with the wood fired clay oven because my mother has one and she lives right next door (she uses it to bake bread every week). Another good idea is one of those solar ovens . I think they cost about 200€ – some are very nice! but of course you need to live somewhere sunny for that to be of any use. I have also seen instructions to make your own solar oven on the web – could be a fun craft day for your kids.

  9. Bebe says

    There are also fuel-conserving cooking methods. I tried a Chinese method once for cooking a whole chicken where you bring it to boil in a pot of water, put the lid on and leave it sit for ??? three hours ??? I’d have to google it to make sure but I’ve used a similar method for cooking rice where I just simmered it for ten minutes, lidded it and let it sit. Of course it was white rice but I guess the point is that cooking CAN be done utilizing less fuel then we’ve grown accustomed to.
    Firepit cooking is all fun and cool unless you find yourself in that situation in the dead of winter. Wait, I know there was a firepit under this snow SOMEWHERE!

  10. Brighid says

    Once we were out of electricity for 12 days due to a bad storm. Luckily, our propane gas stove and oven can be lit with a match. That’s another bonus when you’re looking at appliances. Many neighbors did cook on their grills or wood stoves.

    For those of us with generators, we learned that many appliances didn’t run well on the generator power. My 1000 watt mixer would speed up randomly, flinging flour everywhere. I went back to kneading and stirring by hand.

  11. says

    One of the criteria my wife and I had when buying our home a few years ago was that we wanted a fireplace. The home we bought does have one and gives us the peace of mind that we could have heat, light and be able to cook if we needed to. Comes in handy in the northeast.

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