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99 Capacities Series – Capacity #3: Cook Food Without Electricity

The third capacity I introduced in my eBook is that you must [be able to] cook food three times a day (and boil water) without electricity for two to three weeks. In it I state that:

You must “cook food three times a day (and boil water) without electricity for two to three weeks; and don’t expect to rely upon natural gas service either. You need something completely off-grid. If you intend to rely on a propane grill, for instance, how much propane would this honestly require? A simple propane level gauge can help you decide this. Know how much propane you would need now and always have that amount of propane on hand; it’s probably more than you think.”

Most of us suburbanites are entirely reliant on the grid to provide the electricity and natural gas to power our stoves and ovens that cook the food we eat and, equally important, the water stations that provide fresh water to our homes on demand.

Have you ever REALLY thought about what you would do if these services stopped unexpectedly? Not just for a few hours or days, but for weeks on end? Now that’s a serious inconvenience!

While I would suggest that it is optimal to be completely off-grid for your water and cooking sources, that’s just not feasible for most of us. Rather, you should prepare to fend for yourself for at least a few weeks. This may sound like no big deal, but it is… especially when you consider the potential need to boil ALL of your water before consuming it.

BBQ Grills

You might think that cooking food is no big deal, after all, you can just fire up the grill and you’re in good shape. Not so fast!

First, you need to realize that you’re going to be using your grill at least three times a day, everyday, for weeks on end, likely attempting to cook foods and meals you’ve never tried to cook on your grill before. Not only is this is a lot more use than the typical weekend grilling most of us do, you may be attempting to cook foods in ways you’ve never done before; this is not a good combination in a disaster scenario.

Second, most grilling is not very conducive to boiling pots of water and certainly not for doubling as an oven for baking. While there are grills that include a side burner for pots, what are you going to do if your grill doesn’t have a side burner, or the meal you want to cook requires multiple pots to be heated?

You need to decide exactly how you’ll use your bbq grill if that’s the plan. What foods can be cooked on it? You also need to have an idea of how much propane you’re going to use in this situation. While a single 20 lb tank might last for the summer with minimal use, it will be used lighting fast when it’s your only source of fuel (and maybe even heat). As such, not only should you have at least an extra full tank on hand at all times but a way to monitor propane usage, such as with a propane level gauge.

Propane Single Burners

Assuming propane is your fuel source of choice, another option to consider would be a propane single burner stove (or something similar). Such a burner would be ideal for boiling water and, when used with a large 20 lb tank, will last a long time. I keep one on hand for such scenarios and suggest you do as well.

Solar Ovens

Another option for cooking foods is the Global Sun Oven, which is considered the “gold standard” of passive solar ovens. Solar ovens such as this one might be ideal for such an emergency situation. I have one but really need to learn to use it before I can expect to rely upon it. That said, I know people who use it every week to cook, even in the winter! If cost is a concern, there are plans available to build your own solar ovens, but I’m not sure how effective they will be, at least when compared to a factory-made unit. (This would be an interesting test some day.)


Fires have long been used to cook our foods and make water safe to drink. While I’m not a boy scout, I would assume there are times when a campfire may be the way to go in an emergency situation. Of course, you need to understand how to build one properly, safely, and in bad weather conditions. A few questions to ask: Do you have enough firewood available? Will this take away precious firewood for heating during the winter? Do have the fire-starting devices to start and maintain a campfire? Do others (besides you) know how to start a campfire?

Whatever you choose to do, the thing to take away from this post is that you need to have a plan in place and gather the resources and skills needed to use enact that plan. I would also encourage you to have more than one method of cooking (and boiling water) as you never know when or why your primary option may not work when you need it most.

Was there anything I missed that might prove useful? Feel free to comment and let me know.

Note: This post is part of an ongoing series detailing the ideas from my free eBook, The 99 Capacities You MUST Acquire BEFORE Disaster Strikes You!, which you may freely download here.

2 comments to 99 Capacities Series – Capacity #3: Cook Food Without Electricity

  • Nathan Harpelle

    In my ever evolving world of preparedness, there are technologies that have been tried and true for eons. They have been reinvented and re-envisioned time and time again however…when the principal is sound, how much can you improve on it.

    When I envision the circumstances that would cause a temporary or longer breakdown, I first consider what needs need to be met and how.

    I am currently working on a 50-150 person “Wagon Train” survival system that is compact, versatile, and simple for anyone to use, reuse, change, or adapt.

    Now, to my point…I would offer, that the simplest outdoor cooking system in all climates and conditions is the tried and true Brick Rocket Stove.

    Made out of almost any kind of standard housing brick, using small kindling and alike (which in in a WROL environment would be plentiful), and has little or no visible smoke plume.

    No specialized fuels, no technical specs or complex assembly, and no overwhelming worries. It just works…every time.

    Youtube is your friend!