Alternate Cooking Options
Camping families will have an easy time adjusting to recommended survival cooking procedures and equipment, while non-camping families will do just fine with a little practice. In all cases you will need to pay close attention to the suggested safety precautions. A good back-up for your electric or gas range, should they become inoperable, is a portable Coleman® or other comparable camp stove. This information paper will provide some cooking alternatives, which can be very inexpensive, and then focus on the two basic varieties of portable camp stoves in more detail.
Alternative Cooking Options
1. Backyard barbecue: This may be the most obvious alternative cooking option. You are no doubt familiar enough with this option. Some propane models have a small burner attached to the grill. Suffice it to say you will want extra propane or charcoal. Do not attempt to use your barbecue inside. If using a charcoal grill, you can buy lump coal from a roofing supply vendor very inexpensively. Make sure you have a charcoal starter (tall open-ended can to get coals hot in).
2. Hobo Stove: This is reportedly a very efficient and inexpensive option. Puncture three holes in the bottom edge of a one-gallon paint can, then turn the can over and puncture three identical holes in the top edge. Make one of the holes in the bottom large enough so you can stick a match through and light the fuel. Air will be drawn in through the bottom holes and exhausted through the top. If you want to keep your pans from getting full of soot, cook with the can lid on. You can burn sticks, Canned Heat, or trash. Again, only operate outside.
3. Solar Box Cooker: You will find plans for a solar cooker on the Internet at http://forums.cosmoaccess.net/forum/survival/prep/survival.htm. Materials needed for the project are two cardboard boxes, another sheet of cardboard, a small roll of aluminum foil, a can of flat-black spray paint. at least 8 ounces of white glue or wheat paste, and one Reynolds Oven Cooking Bag® (you should have spare foil and bags in case of wear or tear).
4. Open fire: This option requires special cooking utensils. If you set a pan directly on the hot coals, your food will likely burn. If you hang your pan too far above the coals, it will not cook. A spyder (three or four legged gizmo) will hold your pans above the coals. You should consider getting cast iron cooking pots and sturdy long handle utensils for lifting heavy pots out of the fire. You might also want to acquire a spit for slow roasting meat over coals. This could take 6-8 hours if you can stand the aroma.
5. Snap-On-Stove®: Uses a product called ALCO-BRITE® gelled ethanol fuel. This may be one of the more viable alternative cooking options, and it appears to be the safest product for cooking inside in confined areas since it requires minimum oxygen and emits harmless carbon dioxide gas. One 16-oz can burns 4 to 4.5 hours depending upon altitude and oxygen supply and produces 2,500 BTU’s of heat per hour. The downside is that six cans retail for about $30, and replacement fuel may not be readily available.
Most modern stoves use either liquid or compressed gas fuels. Both burn fuel by igniting it in its gaseous form. The propane variety camp stoves are probably the better option. The liquid fuel stoves take a while to get adjusted for a clean burn, so they are particularly smelly and sooty when first lighted and at the moment of shutdown.
a. Liquid fuel stove: The liquid fuel variety is less expensive to operate using white gas, kerosene, unleaded gas, or Coleman® fuel. Check the instructions packed with the stove. At the height of camping season you may find Coleman® fuel going for about $5 a gallon, while the off-season discount store prices may be closer to $2.50 a gallon. Fuel is forced from a container attached to the front of the stove by pressure. This pressure is either already present in a pressurized fuel container or it must be created by you using a small pump device. This pressure forces fuel through the fuel line and out through a small nozzle or “jet” into the burner where it is mixed with oxygen and ignited. As it travels from the fuel tank to the burner it passes through a chamber where it is heated and turned into a vapor form.
b. Bottled propane gas stove: This fuel comes right from the container through a line ready to burn just as in the case of gas barbecue grills. It burns cleaner, and is much easier to work with than liquid fuels. The trade-off is that it is more expensive and not as readily available around the world. You may find six 16-ounce cylinders of Coleman® propane fuel at a discount store for around $10.
c. Ovens: Coleman® stoves have a collapsible oven accessory available which sits right on the grill and allows you to make biscuits, pies, etc. With the liquid fuel, pots and pans do become sooty. Over the years we have seen Coleman® camp stoves in garage sales as low as $5.
d. Safety: Both liquid and propane camp stoves emit carbon monoxide gas that is invisible, odorless, and can kill you. Instructions on the Coleman® liquid fuel say never to use in homes or unventilated or enclosed areas, while the Coleman® propane cylinders reads, “Burning propane in a tent, camper, van or other enclosed area can be dangerous.” Therefore, you must use only in well-ventilated areas and should have a battery operated carbon monoxide detector.
Carbon monoxide results from the incomplete combustion of carbon-based fuels. The term "carbon-based fuels" encompasses all fossil fuels including kerosene, natural gas, gasoline, propane, butane, etc. Organic substances such as wood, paper, and cigarettes are also carbon-based fuels. Basically anything you would burn for heat or use to power an engine can release carbon monoxide. The less efficiently these fuels are burned, the more carbon monoxide released by the burning process. Of course, if you have a gas range in your home, that too is a source of carbon monoxide.
Neither the liquid fuel nor the propane should be exposed to heat (direct sunlight included). They should not be stored in living spaces.
When operating camp stoves, have a fire extinguisher nearby.
As with other Y2K preparations, diversification is important. Fossil fuels (gasoline, natural gas, propane, kerosene, etc.) may not be available because of distribution problems. Some systems require a combination of fuels/power sources, and if one part doesn't work you may find the whole system useless. Do not count on one type of alternative cooking method. Whatever you choose, get utensils and cookware that are suitable for that method. Open flame and grill type cooking will be very hard on your cookware, and working with such cooking methods often requires safety equipment and special utensils. If you will be cooking with flame indoors (with methods approved for indoor use), make sure you have a carbon-monoxide detector.
© 1999. Prepared by the Harvester Teaching Services (HTS) Y2K Committee. HTS is a ministry of Harvester Presbyterian Church in America, Springfield, Virginia. This information may be copied and distributed in whole or in part, with this notice included; it may not be sold. Use at your own risk. www.harvesterpca.org 03/27/99