Picture this scenario: The power has gone out due to a major blizzard and is expected to be out for several days. You and your family are starting to get really hungry, but you can’t use your electric stove or microwave.
Normally, you’d just go outside and fire up the grill, but it is absolutely freezing out there. Even if you can bear the stinging gusts of cold wind, you don’t want to open the door and let any heat out of your home. You could bring your grill indoors, but you’d just fill up the house with smoke and unintentionally murder your entire family. So what can you do? This article will answer that question.
Cold weather isn’t the only reason you might want to cook indoors. Maybe it’s raining and you don’t have a covered porch, maybe you live in an apartment and literally can’t go outside, or maybe it’s too dangerous to go outside due to roaming gangs of looters. Whatever the reason, you need to know how to safely cook food indoors without electricity and without filling your house with smoke.
Fortunately, there are many options. Here they are, in no particular order:
If your home is equipped with a fireplace, then you’ll have the ability to cook with an open flame without smoking up the house. Of course, fireplaces still produce smoke – it’s just transferred outside via your chimney.
This smoke may or may not be a concern depending on how worried you are about alerting others that there is someone living in your house. If this isn’t a problem, though, you can get creative and use your fireplace to cook in a variety of ways.
2. Alcohol Stoves
As the name suggests, alcohol stoves are burners that use alcohol as their fuel. When alcohol burns, though, it doesn’t produce any smoke.
Alcohol stoves are typically sold as single burner units and are a popular product for campers that are looking for a portable cooking method that uses an easy-to-acquire fuel. They will function just as well, however, for cooking indoors in an emergency scenario.
It is important to note, though, that alcohol stoves won’t work with just any type of alcohol. Both liquor and rubbing alcohol contain too much water to produce a roaring flame in the stove, so you’ll have to use a purer form of alcohol known as denatured alcohol.
Since you probably won’t have any denatured alcohol in your cabinet, be sure to set aside fuel for your alcohol stove ahead of time if you intend to rely on one as part of your survival plan.
One highly-rated alcohol stove that is worth considering as part of your survival supply is the Solo Alcohol Burner made by Solo Stove. This alcohol stove features a simmer ring that lets you control the heat of the burner as well as a sealed cap that enables you to store unused fuel in the stove without having to worry about it spilling or evaporating.
If you’d prefer, you can also make your own alcohol stove.
3. Wood Stoves
There are two main types of wood stoves – stoves designed for cooking and stoves designed for heating. Wood stoves that are designed for cooking indoors will typically have more cooking-related features such as burner tops and an oven Wood stoves designed for heating will most often hold more wood and burn hotter. Nevertheless, wood stoves that are designed for heating can certainly be used for cooking as well if you place your pots and skillets on top of them.
As with cooking in a fireplace, cooking on a wood stove isn’t exactly smoke-free – it just transfers the smoke outdoors. So, again, if having a smoking chimney is something you would rather avoid, then you will probably want to consider other options.
Otherwise, here is how to cook on a wood stove.
4. Propane Stoves
There are a wide range of burner tops, grills, and even ovens that are fueled by propane – which won’t produce any smoke when it burns. Best of all, propane tanks can be stored indefinitely without ever having to worry about the fuel going bad. This makes stocking up on fuel for your propane stove much easier, especially when you consider the ready availability of propane.
If you are looking for a good propane grill, consider the Coleman Camp Propane Grill/Stove. This 2-in-1 stove allows you to use both the grill and the burner top at the same time, and it puts out a total of 20,000 BTUs of cooking power.
If you want a more comprehensive propane cooking solution, the Camp Chef Outdoor Camp Oven is worth considering. This propane stove features a two-burner range as well as an internal oven, allowing you to cook just about anything that you could cook on a full-size electric or gas stove.
The oven in the Camp Chef Outdoor Camp Oven will reach a maximum of 400 degrees Fahrenheit while the two burners on top of the stove are designed to put out up to 7,500 BTUs a piece. Best of all, the entire stove weighs just 35 pounds, making it a highly portable option as well.
I’d be remiss if I didn’t point out that you need to be very careful when using a propane grill indoors. First of all, a grill that’s not meant for indoor use could emit CO2, a colorless and odorless gas that can be deadly. And second of all, if the flame goes out and you don’t turn off the gas, it can pool above your floor and could cause a major explosion if ignited.
Here are some safety precautions you should take:
- Tighten all the connectors to make sure there are no leaks.
- Use in a well-ventilated area, or use it near a cracked window.
- Don’t leave it unattended, and turn the gas off if the flame goes out.
- Install a carbon monoxide detector near your grill.
5. Candle Stoves
Cooking over a candle may not be ideal if speed and high-heat are what you’re looking for, but in an emergency situation, it can be done.
If you want to use candles to cook with, though, you’ll have to get a little creative. Your best bet is to put together a makeshift emergency stove by building a platform, resting an oven rack on top of it, and placing multiple candles underneath it.
When choosing candles to use for your candle stove, try to choose larger candles with thicker wicks. Candles with multiple wicks will put out more heat as well. It’s also best to use candles that burn cleanly such as beeswax candles, and avoid candles that are dyed or heavily scented.
For an instructional guide on building a candle stove with readily available items and using it to cook, check out this video.
Every option on our list thus far has relied on some type of open flame in order to produce heat. However, that isn’t the case with hydroheat.
Hydroheat stoves such as the Hydroheat Flameless Cooker use a chemical reaction in order to produce flame-free heat to the stove’s heating element. All you have to do is place a heat pack into the stove, add water, and allow the chemical reaction to take care of the rest.
Typically, the term “chemical reaction” isn’t something you want going on around the food you are cooking, but hydroheat stoves are completely nontoxic and safe to use. Of course, you’ll have to make sure you have plenty of heat packs stored up if you plan to use this stove very frequently, and it’s also important to note that hydroheat stoves simply won’t get hot enough to cook everything that you could cook on an electric or gas range.
Nevertheless, for applications such as scrambling eggs, boiling vegetables, and more, hydroheat stoves are a great option to consider.
7. Canned Heat
Canned heat is an alcohol-based burner that is popular for keeping food warm at outdoor events and on buffet tables. However, canned heat can certainly be used to cook food as well.
The most popular brand of canned heat is Sterno, which sells individual canisters of canned heat that are designed to burn continuously for up to two hours before the canister runs out of fuel.
There are, however, a few important things to keep in mind if you plan on cooking with canned heat. For one, canned heat canisters are designed for a single use and cannot be refueled like an alcohol stove once their fuel runs out. Also, if you plan on heating up anything more than a small pot of liquid using canned heat, then you are probably going to have to use multiple canisters to get the job done.
The good news is that canned heat canisters are highly portable, affordable, and can be safely used indoors without producing any smoke. While you may not want to rely on canned heat as your only smoke-free cooking option, canned heat canisters are certainly a valuable thing to include in your survival supplies.
8. Use a Generator
Naturally, the most effective way to cook indoors is to use the same range and oven that you always use. If the electricity and/or gas has been shut off, though, this may not be an option.
However, assuming you have an electric stove, you can always use a generator to provide power to your stove long enough for you to cook a meal. The main drawback to using a generator, though, is the attention they draw. However, there are a few things you can do to minimize generator noise.
The other drawback is the fact that generators require either diesel or gasoline to fuel – both of which are likely to be precious resources and both of which can only be stored for so long. (Here’s how to make it last longer.) If you’ve got fuel to spare, though, and are longing put your electric stove back into action, powering up your generator will give you the electricity you need.
What to read next: The Ultimate Guide to Cooking Without Power
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