We’re back to the Family Survival Planning guide; this time around, we’re talking cooking, fuel sources, and supplies. This is a fun one, because there are few “right answers,” and lots of ways to do things–we humans have been cooking our food for a bit north of ten thousand years, and we’ve come up with lots of different ways to do it.
They start with listing various types of stoves and ovens. The first is the “apple box oven”, made of the cardboard box you might find apples in in the grocery store, wrapped in aluminum foil. Add some holes in the bottom, rig something to raise it off the ground, then put some charcoal briquettes on the ground below it. Voila! I imagine they intend for you to invert the box, thus holding the heat inside it; the suggestion is to use it for baking cookies and the like. While I can see how it would work, I’m not really comfortable with cooking in cardboard–it seems to me it would be far too easy to let things go a bit out-of-control, and burn your oven down (not to mention your food, and whatever else might be nearby)…
Next, they suggest a “paper box oven;” similar to the “apple box oven,” but with a more common (and lighter-weight) box. I assume, from the name, they mean something like, well, the box that you buy bulk paper reams in, similar to a cardboard banker’s box. “Smaller, so it requires fewer coals. A blanket cover will hold in heat.” While they’re not wrong, my fear of flammable cookware remains.
Dutch ovens come next, and I couldn’t agree more. In fact, cast-iron cookware is, in my opinion, one of the best things ever invented. Given the right piece of cast iron, and “proper” heat, you can do absolutely amazing things. They’re basically indestructible, easy to clean, almost non-stick when properly seasoned… I can’t say enough about them.
Sun Ovens are a “fuel-less” option (linked here, or here, or here, for various types). They tend to be expensive, but they’re dead simple to use; the only drawback is that they require the sun. You can still cook if it’s partly cloudy, but it’ll take longer. Cooking at night is a no-go. And it somewhat limits the type of cooking you can do–no deep-frying, obviously; sauteeing might be difficult. But soups, stews, and most (small-ish) baking is good, easy, noiseless, and doesn’t require going out to track down a fuel source. The FSP folks list “Solar Parabolic Ovens” separately, but I’d lump them in; they’re typically more expensive than the “standard” sun ovens, but many of them track the sun, making them more efficient.
Butane stoves, Liquid Fuel Camp Stoves, Sterno and Backpacking stoves: I lump these together for similarity, and think of them collectively as “camping stoves.” With much care, they can (except for the liquid fuel stoves) be used indoors, which is a plus. But you’ve got to have the right fuels, and those can start getting costly–to say nothing of storage issues. (Can you say, “large, bulky supply of extremely flammable materials?” I knew you could…)
The Volcano 3 Collapsible Stove looks fascinating, but I haven’t played with one myself. I’m also fond of the standard barbecue–they list the propane variety, but I’m partial to the charcoal type. Again, not for indoor use, but these are ubiquitous, and the fuel tends to be readily available (you can use wood, in a pinch).
They also list the Wonderbag Non-Electric Portable Slow Cooker. This looks like a new take on an old tried-and-true technique of using a hot-box, or straw-box: you line a large box with straw or other (non-meltable) insulating material, enough for a couple of inches of insulation at the very least. Put some stew ingredients in a large pot, heat it just to a boil, then (with the lid on) put it in the box, and cover it with more insulating material. Four to six hours later, it will have cooked fully, in all the heat that couldn’t radiate away.
For fuel sources, they list the standards: clean, dry wood; portable generators (and associated fuel–usually gasoline, propane, or diesel); fuel gel, cubes, MRE heaters, battery packs; charcoal briquettes (or lump hardwood charcoal); propane and butane. Think about how long you’ll want to be prepped for, and think about how/where to store enough of your particular fuel…
Cooking supplies begins with more fuel: “40 pounds of charcoal, two cans of starter fluid. Or a propane unit with two 20-pound containers of propane.” If you know what you’re doing, you shouldn’t need the starter fluid, just some matches and maybe a bit of paper. As to the propane, if you’ve got a propane camp-stove, look into an adapter to go from a “big” 20# propane tank (the “standard” propane grill tank) to your stove, which is probably fitted out for the small 1- to 5-pound camping containers. (My household stove and oven are propane; we take three to four months to go through a 40# propane canister, and we like to bake…)
And finally, things to store, for use with all of the above:
- “Pot and pan” for cooking. (I’m a big fan of redundancy, here, thus the scare quotes around the singular. Also, think about cast iron here, folks…)
- Kitchen knife. (Again, more than one is a good idea; your “EDC” knife can assist.)
- Silverware: spoons, forks.
- Styrofoam cups. (I’d go for something more like a plastic cup–smaller, just as lightweight, a bit more durable…)
- Waterproof matches or lighter. (Or several of all of these. And other fire-starting devices as desired.)
- Zip-lock bags. (Thousands of uses.)
- Aluminum foil. (Multi-tasker! You can even make temporary cookware from foil.)
- Thermos, for storing excess, or hydrating dried food.
Next time around: More of the “things you forgot to store when prepping.” I hope you’ll stick around!