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One of my favorite things about the pioneer days is their ability to accomplish so much without electricity. It’s amazing when one looks at how they lived and what they did. Many of us would be hard pressed to make it a few days, let alone years, without our electricity and stores.
Now, I’m not saying I don’t appreciate my power and the use of said stores. As long as they’re here, I plan on using them. However, I also believe in knowing how to do things without said benefits. I’m often an eclectic mix of old-fashioned and modern. You, too? See, I knew we’d be fast friends.
Cooking outdoors and off-grid, aka without power, is something I believe everyone should know how to do. While I don’t cook every meal without electricity, I do have the confidence and knowledge that I am able to do so.
Just this afternoon as my father helped me shell beans to can we were talking about his growing up through the Depression years. He said, “I know what it was like and I’ll always live thinking it could happen again and wanting to be prepared for it.” As beans dropped into the bowl at our feet he said, “But you know something, hard times bring people together.”
I believe he’s right.
And I also believe he’s right in wanting to be prepared.
We go without power every winter. Some times for a few hours, a few days, and once for a few weeks. I have a feeling most folks will experience a prolonged power outage in their lives a time or two. Or like us, a time or two every month or so… 🙂
When the power is out, there’s nothing like still being able to serve your family a hot full course meal. Here’s several ways to choose from to cook and bake (because trust me, living without baked goods is not really living) your food without power. I hope you learn how to do several of them well before you need to.
You’ll need a few cooking tools to make use of your off-grid cooking. Actually, I use some of them indoors, too, but that’s what makes them so versatile and awesome and why ya need to have them in your arsenal.
Spider Dutch Oven– absolute must for cooking over an open fire. I actually own 3 in different sizes.
Dutch Oven w/ Casserole Skillet– This is the coolest thing ever. The lid turned upside down becomes a skillet. You get two items in one. Can I get a high five?
Dutch Oven Lid Lifter– Trust me, those Dutch ovens get hot. Cast iron retains heat (yeah, baby) and those burning coals are not something you want your fingers near. For less than $10 you’ll save yourself a lot of hurting.
Outdoor Percolator — AKA coffee maker. Because a world without coffee isn’t a place I want to be for very long. This little percolator will make coffee on almost every single way we have of off-grid cooking.
1. Dutch oven cooking. I love cooking outdoors with my cast iron Dutch ovens. Let me say it again, I love cooking outdoors with my Dutch oven. It makes me feel like a bonafide pioneer woman, saves me money on my electricity bill, and I swear, food tastes better when cooked outside. Whatever the case, here’s Dutch Oven Cooking Over an Open Fire with full on pictures and a round-up of some fun Dutch Oven Recipes and tips here.
2. Outdoor Camping Stove. This stove is the perfect starter stove. It’s light weight, talking 3.9 ounces peeps, and great for boiling water or reheating food. Wanna know the best thing? It’s under $10. Yes, for less than $10 you can have a stove to cook with outdoors.
Get it here–> Best deal stove for under $10
3. Solar Cooking. Use the power of the sun to cook your meals. I love this one because all you need is a sun oven to cook a meal. Not having to worry about fuel, smoke, or heat makes this my new favorite way to cook outdoors.
I received an All American Sun Oven from Sun Oven (in exchange for my review) and it’s seriously my favorite new toy. I didn’t think a solar oven would work all the way up here in the Pacific Northwest and I was shocked when it heated up to 300 degrees in just twenty minutes. Not only does it save on electricity, but no heating up the house on hot days, and it can double as a dehydrator–> All American Sun Oven
4. Wonder Oven. Basically, you bring food up to temperature, pop it in a wonder oven, and it continues to cook without any fuel. You still have to have a way to bring food up to temp before putting it in, but these are easy to make at home. Think the off-grid slow cooker. Food cooks all day while you go play!
Not having to stand over a stove or feed a fire all day option, go here –> wonder oven and some great reviews to boot.
5. Outdoor fires and smoking. I love how this uses just a plain old outdoor fire and smoke to cook and preserve food. This is true pioneer fashion at its best. Did you know you can even smoke your own cheese at home? How to Smoke Cheese at Home
We’ve owned several smokers and this one is by far our favorite. We only have to load it with fuel once and it holds the temperature for over 12 hours without adding anymore. Our favorite smoker— Weber Smoky Mountain
6. Cooking on top of a wood stove. We use our wood stove as our main and only heat source. I love being able to use our heat source for a second purpose and frequently cook on it even when the power is on. Here’s my tutorial on how to cook on a wood stove.
7. How to cook on an open fire. This is the way many a pioneer cooked on their trip’s west or on the frontier. And if all you have is a cast iron skillet, it will get the job done. This picture tutorial is great if you don’t have any other supplies on hand. Did you know you can make a pumpkin pie in an open fire, without a skillet? This is one of the coolest recipes I’ve ever seen, and I’ve seen a lot, Pumpkin Pie “Pioneer Style”.
8. Earth Oven. An earth oven is an oven made from clay, sand, water, straw and newspaper. I kind of love DIY and being able to make my own outdoor oven would be a priceless skill. Here’s how to cook in an earth oven and make your own.
9. Tea-light ovens. Yes, you read that right. You can cook a meal using tea lights. And, you don’t have to purchase those expensive ones, you can make your own for less than $40! Sometimes little things can have powerful impact… here’s how to make and use a Tea Light Oven.
10. Volcano Stoves. Volcano stoves are the ultimate in versatility. You can use either wood or charcoal. It packs down to 5″ and comes with a carry bag. The neat thing about this little stove is you can use it on multiple surfaces and it can be used to grill, bake, Dutch oven use, or open fire cooking. Because you know I’m all about multi-use tools!
For a 4 in 1 stove go here –> Volcano Stove
11. Propane and Grills. One thing most folks has is propane grill or camp stove. But not everyone realizes just how much and how many different things you can cook or do with them. You can use your outdoor grill for canning (hello no more hot kitchen in the summer), cooking meats, corn on the cob, and even baking. This is our favorite propane stove for both canning uses and cooking seafood. My husband loves crab but I hate the way it makes the house smell, so we only do our crab and seafood boils on this outdoors. Best part, the legs come off and it breaks down into a fairly compact bag for storing and traveling when not in use. We take it camping and use it for all of our cooking when the burn ban is on. Our favorite propane 2 burner stove –> Camp Chef Explorer Stove
And a bonus. 12. How to cook with a Solo Stove. The Solo Stove allows you to cook and boil water with only using twigs as fuel. You don’t have to gather large amounts of cooking wood, purchase, or carry fuel with you. It only weighs 9 ounces so it’s light for back packing, camping, or anytime you need to travel on foot. You can boil water in less than 10 minutes and not as much smoke as a regular fire. I love using Amazon because you can see from the reviews how well a product does in real life.
Click here to check out the –> Solo Stove.
Second bonus!! 13. How to cook in an outdoor pizza oven. This video shows how to make pizza and other baked goods in an outdoor oven, plus shows where to get the info to build your own outdoor oven. I’m seriously drooling over this oven and it’s on my list of must have. What’s your favorite way to cook off-grid? Want to learn how to cook outdoors with ease and on a shoestring budget? Traditional Cooking School by Gnowfglins and I paired up to do just that. I personally teach a Dutch oven cooking, open fire cooking, and smoking meat portion in this course, and that’s just three parts to the whole. Check out all that’s covered in this awesome e-course Outdoor Cooking
More Off-Grid wisdom? Here’s 10 Ways to Keep Warm Without Electricity!
Melissa K. Norris inspires people's faith and pioneer roots with her books, podcast, and blog. Melissa lives with her husband and two children in their own little house in the big woods in the foothills of the North Cascade Mountains. When she's not wrangling chickens and cattle, you can find her stuffing Mason jars with homegrown food and playing with flour and sugar in the kitchen.