*ALTERNATE COOKING METHODS*
To many people depend entirely on their kitchen stoves and ovens and never consider that in a time of crisis, they may not have the use of these. Sure some people think about this and they have Coleman stoves or some sort of backyard grill, be it charcoal or gas, but being survivalists, we are always looking at more than one backup system. I know for one thing, I look at the redundancy factor to the point of being anal in some areas…that is why I am writing this article.
First off, let’s look at the grills…. you have either charcoal or gas.
Gas grills come in a variety of styles, some with a side burner for a pot, or twins side burners, some have multiple racks inside for cooking food at different heights above the heat source and for keeping cooked food warm until mealtime. Some use lava rocks, some don’t, one thing they have in common is that sooner or later, you WILL run out of propane, or they will rust and fall apart.
Charcoal grills, some are pretty elaborate, looking and cooking like a propane grill, but for the most part, they are a container that holds the charcoal and has a rack, sometimes with adjustments, sometimes without much adjusting available. Charcoal is bulky and you tend to use it up pretty fast, being bulky it takes up a lot of space and you always seem to be running out when you need it the most.
These are the main types of grills, there are those that use natural gas, these generally are not something everyone has, but they are nice and you don’t have as much of a chance of running out of natural gas, if you are connected to your own well, if you have a gas company connection and they shut off the gas for a natural or manmade disaster….no gas grill.
There are Coleman stoves, one, two and three burners are something anyone that camps is acquainted with, and there are many, many other brands out there. Some are multi-fuel, using white gas, gasoline, some use lamp oil, kerosene, butane, etc., they run the from small pocket size to pot size. There are propane stoves that look like a regular gas stove top with multiple burners and single burners that are used with a large kettle…a turkey deep fryer is an example. Camp stoves are all definitely useful, but again, what happens if the fuel source runs out?
Another thing to think about, what if the fuel source does not run out, but the stove or grill becomes unuseable? This is what I wrote this article about, alternate methods of cooking.
First, lets say you have charcoal and no grill, you could just dump it out on the ground and fire it up, but this is not the most efficient method of using it. How about using a metal bucket, a water bucket, small paint can, lard tin, something like that? You will need to poke a few holes in the sides to allow air to get to the charcoal, if it is a paint can especially, as setting a pot on the top will smother the fire if the pot or pan is larger than the diameter of the can. It is best to poke the holes about 1/3 of the way up from the bottom and about ˝ “ down from the opening on the top. If you want to regulate the heat under your pot or pan while cooking over a paint can, you can make a rack out of a coat hanger that slips in the rim and is bent on top to hold the pot/pan, or just stack a few cement blocks or stones on either side of the can and take a rack from your oven and set over the top of the can at the appropriate height.
If you garden you can always throw some dirt or sand (keeps from burning out the bottom) in the bottom of your wheelbarrow, line with some aluminum foil and start your charcoal in the wheelbarrow, if you don’t have aluminum foil just place the coals on the dirt or sand, use your rack from your grill or oven to lay across the top of the wheelbarrow and start cooking.
If you have an old metal breadbox, you can use it as an oven, much the same as a Coleman oven that sets upon a stove, drill a hole in the top and insert an oven thermometer to keep track of the heat, and open the door a little or a lot to regulate the heat. You can use this breadbox a couple of ways, one is to place your fod n the top rack and place coals in a pan on the bottome, or you can set the entire box on a grill over a bed of coals. You can set your Dutch oven on some of the coals and place more on top for cooking and even baking in it. You can make a small oven from ammo cans, remembering not to close and latch the lid for safety reasons, an old tool box will work as well.
You can make reflector ovens for cooking some foods, by using a cardboard box lined with aluminum foil and leaned at an angle towards the fire, a gallon metal olive oil tin makes a small reflector oven by cutting open one side and poking three holes in the top and bottom with a nail, slide three pieces of coat hanger through top and bottom to form a shelf and set your food inside on this rack, set next to the fire and it will cook.
You can wrap your food in aluminum foil and place it directly on the coals to cook, no need for pots or pans. You can also take your canned foods (metal cans, not glass canned) and poke a hole in the top or open partway and set the can in the coals, to cook, again, no pots and pans to dirty.
If you have no charcoal but have Coleman fuel, or white gas, rubbing alcohol, even drinking licker if you don’t have an aversion to burning instead of drinking it. You put sand in a bucket or paint can, even a juice size can and saturate it, strike a match and cook over it, the degree of heat will vary from can size and liquid burned.
What if there is no charcoal left, well there is always wood, newspapers soaked in salt water and rolled tight, tied with some twine will form logs that when dry will burn the same as wood, after all, originally they were wood. In an emergency many things will burn, cow manure, is used in some countries for fuel, the husks of coconuts, and many plant fibers will burn, take some hay and twist it tight, wrap some long strands of hay around this to hold it in place and it will burn in a stove if necessary, and good old corncobs, even dried corn kernels will burn the same as pellets in a pellet stove..
Cooking over an open fire is not the ideal way to cook for those not familiar with it, not because it is not efficient, but because you do not actually cook over the flames, unless to sear a piece of meat, you should cook over the coals, the heat is more uniform and can be adjusted by raking more coals under your pot/pan if not hot enough or removing some if to hot.
You can use wood, the newspapers and many other burnable items in your grill, in the wheelbarrow, in cans or buckets or in a fire pit. You can dig a hole, build a fire, when it burns down, set a Dutch oven in on the coals, shovel additional coals on top, cover the hole and hours later you have stew, or a roast or many other meals slow cooked to perfection.
You can build a fire on the ground, when it has burned to coals, rake some of the coals away, drive a metal stake, rebar works great, into the ground in the center of the bed of coals, skewer a turkey or chicken on this rebar, wire it in place, set a metal can over this, garbage will work. Then take the coals you raked away, pile some on top of the can and around the sides and let it go, if you think you will need more coals, have a second fire going to rake coals out of to use as the first ones cool. You will be roasting your turkey or chicken under this can.
Remember the old hobo stoves from childhood days, a 3-pound coffee can, top cut completely off, leave the bottom, cut a door opening from the open lip about 3 inches across and the same next to the rim by the bottom only on the opposite side of the can. Make this cut from the rim up the side, across and back to the rim, but do not remove, fold this out parallel to the bottom, this can be adjusted to create some draft if needed by closing and opening to different degrees. Set the can open end down, shove twigs inside the opening you cut, light with a match and you can actually fry an egg on the top (what was the bottom) of the can. If you want to use a skillet, you might want to take a bottle opener, remember these, they have one side that is rounded for opening bottles, the other pointed for poking a hole in a can, use this to poke a series of holes around the bottom to let more heat reach the skillet of pot. We called them church keys.
For a larger version of the hobo stove, take a 35 or 55 gallon drum, cut it in half on the side, you will have two small open top barrels, make the same cuts only larger to the barrel half for feeding wood and for venting, and the bottom becomes the stove top, you can set a few pans on at one time. If you use the one with the bung in it, take out the bung, make a small stovepipe to fit the bunghole and it will work as your draft instead of cutting the upper hole, this hobo stove works best for cooking for a larger group.
You can make a decent fire ring for cooking over by taking a wheel from a car, not the tire and wheel, just the wheel. With a cutting torch you can cut away everything but the outside ring, cut some notches around the bottom so air can get to the fire, throw in your fuel, be it wood, or whatever, when it burns down, lay a grill across the top for a cooking surface. You can use the rack from an oven, the grill from an old charcoal grill, rebar laid across to support pots, pans and skillets, you can hang you pots over the fire with a tripod a piece of chain and a carabiner to hold the pot to the chain and the chain to the tripod at the same time this will hold the three legs of the tripod together. You can adjust the height of the pot over the fire by raising or lowering the chain.
If you cut three or four of these wheels, weld them together you have a decent burn barrel that will take years to burn out, can be rolled over to empty and then used for a cooking grill, giving it multiple use and still available when needed. I have seen barrels stoves made from wheels that were used in place of the barrels and they don’t burn out like a barrel will.
There are many, many ways to cook without conventional means, all a person needs to do is look outside of their normal
thinking. I have cooked fry bread on the blade of a shovel while camping, and on a metal plate that was stacked over bricks
with a fire built under it. There are as many ways to cook outside the norm as there are people to think of them, in an
emergency is not the time to start looking for these methods, think about them now and you will save a lot do grief. Propane
and white gas and alcohol will not last forever and in some cases the stove or grill might break down while you still have fuel
left, be thinking of multiple ways to use all and you will never have to eat cold food.
All materials at this site not otherwise credited are Copyright © 1996 - 2002 Trip Williams. All rights reserved. May be reproduced for personal use only. Use of any material contained herein is subject to stated terms or written permission.