cooking off the grid

Safe Indoor Emergency Cooking Solutions

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cooking off the grid

Cooking on a military field kitchen in field conditions

by Robert H

If you live or camp off the grid or plan to then you’ll need to figure out and plan how you’re going to cook off the grid. There are several ways and fuel choices and I’ll talk about those below. If you have any other suggestions or ideas then please leave those in the comments section below.


The use of propane is easy and quick.  A small propane stove could be purchased and then stored until the need for use.  Propane is clean and produces good heat for cooking and canning.  The downside of a stove/oven would be the amount used.  Either multiple bottles or a large tank would be needed to keep operating it during a SHTF scenario.

A propane fish cooker would be a second option.  With the proper regulator, gas usage would be minimal.  The cooker would be large enough to can food or just cook a meal.  As a plus, in the event that you would have to bug-out, the cooker would be able to be loaded in a vehicle and carried with you to another location.

The use of a propane camp stove is a good third option, either using 1 pound bottles or a hose connector.  An adapter is made to refill the 1 pound bottles which would help out in the long-term. The use of a gas grill would allow you to cook also.

With the storage of propane the use of a grill would allow portability with a large cooking area.  Grills can be used with either bottles or hooked to a large tank for long-term use. All four of these options allow the use of a camp oven.

Storage of propane is simple and the propane does not go bad in storage.

White Gas

Camping stoves that use white gas are available new, in stores, or for sale used.  They cook very well.  A downside of these stove are fuel storage and parts/repair kits. White gas usually comes in metal cans which can rust and cause leakage.  Fuel viability over long-term would be iffy.  Parts kits are available, but, when they are gone, they’re gone.

These are very portable and yes, you can use a camp oven with these too.


Charcoal, either lump or briquettes, are a good option for cooking food.  Charcoal can be used with a grill or can be used with a dutch oven.  Dutch ovens will allow you to bake or stew meals as an alternative to using other methods of cooking.  Charcoal can be made by burning wood in a low oxygen environment.

Charcoal storage is easy.  The use of metal barrels or trash cans will keep it dry and ready to use.  Moisture is the enemy to worry about. Although not very portable, concerning space used, if you are staying put this is a good alternate source of cooking.

A camp oven can be used with most grills too. WORD OF CAUTION:  the use of charcoal indoors is VERY DANGEROUS as carbon monoxide poisoning is a deadly and real threat if it is used indoors.

Cooking with wood

Cooking with wood allows many and variable options also.  Getting a wood burning cook stove would be the ultimate in wood cooking.  These stoves have many options that could allow baking, cooking, and even heating water for clean up or bathing.  As a bonus, the cook stove can be used to heat during the winter.

Cleaning and amount of wood used are minor drawbacks.  Cooking in the summer would be a chore, but if the stove is put in a room that would allow a cooling breeze to enter and carry out the heat, it would be bearable.  If a room was added to an existing structure then it could be open in the summer and closed off during the winter so as to allow the heat to remain in the home.

Rocket stoves and wood gas stove allow cooking with the use of minimal wood.  These are available for purchase on the internet or can be made with pipe or even tin cans.  Heavier stoves that can be made would last a lifetime. The use of a camp oven could be used with the making of some type of bracket system to hold it off of the fire.

A rocket mass heater can be made to include an oven and a stove top to cook on.  Mass-heaters are a good way to heat but would have a few drawbacks for cooking.  Portability would be a big issue for some.  Using it to cook would heat a room and continue to radiate heat for even days.

No smoke or very little smoke would be a very large added plus though.  If a way to move air and remove excess heat were taken into consideration, then this would be a good option for bugging in.

A fireplace can be used to cook on if care is taken to reduce the risk of fire.  A fireplace does not use fuel very efficiently though.  When using a fireplace to cook with, a plume of smoke would also give away your position.

But, the chimney would also send the smell of cooking higher into the air and would dissipate the odors faster and better.  It would be very hard to use a camp oven with a fireplace but it could be done.

In a rural setting or suburban setting, wood can be gotten with a little effort or even just picking up sticks and branches around the yard or neighborhood.  Cutting of firewood after the fact would be a large chore that would burn a lot of energy.

But, with a good sharp axe or saw, the effort can be minimized.


Kerosene stoves and even burners can be had on the market.  Some of the stoves include ovens and even hot water tanks.  The kerosene burners would allow the use of a camp oven without the expense of a full-size stove.

Kerosene can be stored longer than gasoline or white gas but will still go bad over time.


Solar ovens can be bought online or made with wood and mirrors.  They can even be made with cardboard and aluminum foil.  These ovens can be used to cook with as long as the sun is shining and you have the time to wait.  Very good used to cook all day meals as a slow cooker.  Some of the ones purchased, allow baking bread and treats as it will get to very high temperatures.

Mud / Cob stoves

Cob stoves can be made using local materials usually.  With sand, clay, and some labor you can make an oven that can be a focal point at a backyard BBQ or used in a SHTF scenario.  These can be used to make bread or cook in an oven type environment.

Heat retention is very good and you can bake multiple batches of bread at a time.  If this is built outside, then some type of cover would be needed to keep the rain off of it.  This will prolong the life of your hard work.

The oven can be heated using rocket stove technology or even a fire built inside of it and using the coals for heat.  As it is being built, rocket stove inserts can be added at the side to have access to stovetop cooking.  The use of a wok for frying or cooking would be an added bonus.  The oven can be made of cob or as a steel box with racks and a door.

Wood Ovens

Ovens can be bought with wood stoves or kerosene stoves.  Wood ovens can be bought and used in bad times.  Ovens can be bought or made.  A camping oven can be bought or you can go all the way to large wood-fired ovens that could even cook a turkey.

Ovens can be made using cob, steel, even brick. You can make simple ovens using an ammo can.  But the easiest would probably be a large rural mailbox.  It is large enough to bake in by turning it on its side.

The door is ready-made.  If it burns out, more are readily available in a rural setting.  Large ammo cans are thicker metal and would last longer, but the latch would have to be modified to make it more user-friendly.  Dutch ovens are good for cooking and are used with coals or charcoal.

All in all, there are many ways to cook.  These may range in price from many thousand dollars down to free.  It can just depend on the time and effort you are willing to spend on your project.

M.D. Creekmore

Owner / Editor at
Hello, I’m M.D. Creekmore. I’ve been interested in self-reliance topics for over 25 years. I’m the author of four books that you can find at as well as Barnes and Noble. Over the years, I’ve learned a lot about prepping, homesteading, and self-reliance topics through first-hand experience and now I want to share what I’ve learned with you.
M.D. Creekmore


  1. One item you didn’t mention is the use of butane stoves ($25+) with butane cylinders at Sam’s (4 for $5). This has the advantage of easy portability – the whole thing weighs less than 10#. We have used things for the last 8 years and have experienced no problems. So, with the low
    cost and the easy portability that’s my “go-to” bug-out cooking problem solved.

  2. This is a very good summary of types of cooking methods. I have used most of them on camping trips of a week or two. That is about how long momma will put up with them.

    For day-to-day family life on the homestead I like the propane kitchen range and the wood fueled kitchen cook range. Propane or multi-fuel kitchen ranges can be found on the internet with free shipping to your location; but you need an installer who is experienced in hooking up and adjusting the propane ranges.

    The Amish and Mennonites both make wonderful kitchen wood stoves that do everything! Installation is an event as they are heavy and must be put together inside the cabin or house. Once installed they can cook, bake, heat water and heat your entire house. Plus they are beautiful and of quality workmanship.

  3. My SHTF option for cooking and heating is kerosene. Long storage life. Have both wick and pressure stoves as well as heater.

  4. If you’re in a semi-permanent camp off-grid, bringing some fireplace bricks and making a rocket stove would be my first choice for cooking. If you need heat too, well, probably would invest in a surplus pot belly stove from the military and install that. Can cook on it too but it isn’t very efficient.

  5. I don’t know about cooking with kerosene stoves, but I have a clear recollection of my Grandmother storing the fuel in glass jars (actually jugs, green I think they were) and kept them on top shelf, out of the way until needed. Dietz ‘Hurricane’ lamps I think the lantern units were. She also had some antique glass based kerosene lanterns as well, they threw dim but better than nothing light.

  6. Is anyone going to mention alcohol stoves ? Denatured alcohol is not the best for cooking, but for heating up liquids, not bad.

    1. Had an (still have it) alcohol stove when i was in the military in Germany, (1975-1977) They work good heating up soups, Water for Coffee/Tea, C-Rat. NO smoke, no smell of burning wood (good for stealth fire) and will help to heat up the inside of the tent

  7. The only time we need to worry about heat is if we are in the mountains of Baguio here in the Philippines. I will be fine with an extra sweater or sweatshirt but not the rest of my warm-blooded Filipino family. We use a two burner gas stove in our dirty-kitchen on a day to day basis. We “went deluxe” in that we bought a slightly larger stove manufactured by Rinnai with a small grill in the middle. Not something you would want for a family BBQ but super to grill a fish filet or a chicken breast to top a salad, It could easily be thrown in the back of a vehicle with the two tanks I keep and go with us. We plan to fabricate a sheet-metal oven for roasting. Baking bread is out, no source of decent flour here at this time. In fact, I NEVER eat the junk they label as bread here, made with crap bleached flour, loaded with sugar and to top it off, made with hydrogenated oils. Not on my list of edible foods. I purchased a wonderful Palermo four-burner gas grill with cast iron cooking surfaces from a friend who had to close his Sharwama shop and go home to care for his ailing Mom. He brought it in from Australia. It is large and a bit heavy but could be placed in a car trunk as there is no legs or special stand. just the cooktop/grill unit. It is a great unit for base camp/home use as long as the bottled gas holds out. My gas delivery guy tells me that in the Phils, you get a
    70%butane/30%propane mix. That is perfect to refill the small camp cylinders for backpacking stoves that are very expensive to replace. Please note that butane is sensitive to cold and the canisters need to be warmed up to work in cold conditions, Some stoves actually have a small strip of metal that warms up and transfer heat to the side of the butane canister while the stove is in operation. For an emergency one burner with carry case, we chose a dual fuel model that will use the cheap butane canisters available everywhere here (hardware stores, Asian markets, online) or can run off a large fuel cylinder with the included adapter. We do have small backpacking stoves in the EDC bags and in the vehicle storage. When smoke is not an issue, we have stainless steel collapsible wood gasifiers and quality folding saws to prep scavenged wood. We have studied up on what makes a great rocket stove and plan to fabricate the same for all our locations, both home and remote. There is no need to do excess work finding and preparing wood fuel and no need to create any more smoke than the bare minimum, We go for what yields the most benefit for the least effort in an emergency situation. We remain aware that excess smoke in many places could compromise your security. Because they are clean-burning and small, we also have some ALOCS alcohol stoves. I like the fact it comes with a simmer ring to control heat output and extend the burn time. They may be purchased alone or with many different pot-stand/windscreen combinations. The ALOCs in my Son’s EDC bag fits nicely inside the top portion of his small stainless steel wood gasifier. He need not carry anything but a small bottle of fuel and the stove/simmer ring to use it, even in high wind conditions. It is a clean burning option and you never know where you might scavenge some fuel. Hungry people will be looking for food, not so much paint and solvents so there may be a fuel source for a time.

  8. Keep a watch out if there are RiteAid stores near you as Wall Green now own them. A RiteAid near me closed and I was able to get the last day at 90% off 20 cans of propane 16.4 oz (1.02 lbs) for $1.00 each the cans work on lots of items Coleman lamps, stoves along with the head for my Propane Torch for copper pipe soldering unit.

  9. Add in some sterno cans, a warming rack (like caterers/buffet restaurants use) and some disposable foil pans from the dollar store. Also some tea light candles and a clay plant pot – might be enough to heat water. Tea lights can be used to heat inside a toaster oven.

  10. tangent cooking subject >> covert cooking – hand in hand with the need for alternative cooking will undoubtedly a food shortage – lack of food means staying out of site with food prep and cooking with the need to defuse smells & odors …

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