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    17 Survival Cooking Methods – Which Is Best?

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    17 Survival Cooking Methods - Which Is Best?

    Have you ever thought about how you’d cook without a stove? If a survival situation arises, this thought could become a reality. Without electricity, many people would lose the ability to cook over the stove as usual.

    Not many of us would be ready for cooking using alternative methods. This is why it’s important to know what other options there are for cooking your family nutritious meals without an electric stove. If you have ever been camping before, you know cooking outside is a whole other ballpark.

    Here are 17 survival cooking methods that you can use in an emergency along with the pros and cons of each. Some of these cooking methods could save your life in a catastrophe. Or, these cooking methods could aid in your next outdoor wilderness retreat!

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    1. Campfire

    Perhaps the most loved outdoor cooking method is cooking over a campfire. Families commonly roast marshmallows and hotdogs punctured with a stick over the campfire. There are even more amazing cooking methods over a campfire that will be discussed later, but the notion of campfire cooking is a highly desired method of cooking. An open fire brings a truly unique flavor to your cooking.

    Pros: High heat, even heat, can use hot coals and cast-iron for “baking”.
    Cons: Immobile, lots of TLC to keep the fire consistent.

    2. Car Engine Cooking

    While you may have seen this type of cooking in comedy movies, you actually can cook on top of the engine of your car. By using a pan over the engine and turning the car on, the engine will become a heat source under the pan. You can then cook eggs, vegetables, grilled cheese – you name it! You may get some odd looks from people passing by, but that wouldn’t matter in a survival situation.

    Pros: Good for traveling, even heat source.
    Cons: Uses gasoline, needs an additional cooking vessel such as a pan or skillet.

    3. Camping Stove

    A camping stove is a mobile grill that many people use specifically for camping. Usually, these appliances are foldable and easily transportable. For people on the move or who live a nomadic lifestyle, this type of mobile cooking is well-loved. You may also see camping stoves at tailgate parties.

    These stoves come in either gas or charcoal options. Supplying either may prove difficult in an emergency, but a charcoal stove may be more usable due to the availability of wood vs. gas.

    Pros: Mobile, comes in gas or charcoal varieties, great for a small family.
    Cons: Small cooking surface, need to supply charcoal or gas cartridges to use.

    4. Canned Heat

    If you have ever been to a catered event, you have likely seen canned heat. This little can is placed under a heatproof dish or aluminum pan to keep food warm at buffet tables. While it is not sustainable to use canned heat for regular use, it is a viable option for random off-grid cooking.

    Pros: Great for one-time cooking, easy to use.
    Cons: Not sustainable, small flame, low heat.

    5. Cast Iron Skillet

    A cast-iron skillet does not generate its heat source, but it is worthy enough to make the list anyway. Cooking over a fire using a cast-iron skillet produces a flavor that is not found with any other cooking method. Cast-iron can be used over almost any heat source, creates an even heat, and is fairly inexpensive. After all, you can’t cook over a fire without a good pan!

    Pros: Inexpensive, amazing flavor, even heat distribution, varied size options.
    Cons: No internal heat source, heavy, not easily transportable.

    6. Earth Oven

    An earth oven is one of the oldest cooking techniques in human history. It is an oven built from clay, mud, sand, and rocks. It is quite literally an oven made of earthen materials. Any natural, heatproof material found in the wilderness can be used to make this type of oven. It is constructed like a giant mud pie that hardens in the sun. The heat source comes from the bottom while the top of the oven has another heat source, much like an ancient pizza oven.

    Pros: Two heat sources, made of natural materials, inexpensive.
    Cons: Laborious to build, immobile.

    7. Grill

    A standard grill, either gas or charcoal, is a popular survival cooking method. Many people already own a grill in their backyard, but it can also be used in a survival situation without electricity. Bringing your large grill on the move is unrealistic, but if you are stuck at home in an emergency, the grill is a great place to cook healthy meals for your family.

    Pros: Likely already owned, even cooking, temperature control, can act as a smoker and an oven.
    Cons: Expensive, heavy, needs gas or charcoal to light.

    8. Haybox

    Also known as an off-grid crockpot, a haybox can be used for slow cooking. A haybox is a wooden box filled with hay. It all begins with bringing your soup/stew/meat to boil in a pot. Then, once boiling, place the pot inside the haybox stuffed with hay. Close the lid and allow it to cook for a few hours. The haybox traps the heat and continues to cook the food without an additional heat source.

    Pros: Inexpensive, easy to travel with, good for low-heat cooking.
    Cons: Have to source materials, will need an additional pot for cooking.

    9. Portable Gas Cooktop

    You may have seen these portable cooktops used on cooking shows where there isn’t a stove available. You can also take those cooktops on the go! They are light enough to travel with, although you also need to account for the gas canisters required to use this cooktop. Even so, portable cooktops can cook anything a regular stove can make.

    Pros: Portable, heat control, many cooking capabilities.
    Cons: Needs gas canisters to function, single small burner.

    10. Rocket Stove

    A rocket stove is a homemade stove using whatever materials are available at the time. It is small, portable, and works like a wood-burning oven. With just two cans with lids and some twigs, you can create a mini stove to cook almost anything. Rocket stoves require an additional skillet or pan for cooking.

    Pros: Simple to make, wood-burning.
    Cons: Need to source materials, small.

    11. Rotisserie

    Yes, you technically need a campfire to use a rotisserie, but it is still worthy of high praise. A rotisserie cooks meats evenly by turning itself over the heat source, ensuring an even cook and juicy meat. You can even set up a pan with vegetables underneath to catch all of the delicious meat juices. This is luxury survival eating!

    Pros: Creates delicious meals, easy to use, fairly inexpensive.
    Cons: Can be large and awkward in size, needs an additional heat source.

    12. Solar Dehydrator

    Solar dehydrators can either be built from scratch or bought online. These dehydrators harness the power to solar to properly remove moisture from meats, fruits, vegetables, or anything else you’d like to keep long-term. No additional equipment is required, plus, solar energy is free!

    Pros: Inexpensive, easy to use, good for preserving food.
    Cons: Can only use when the sun is out, might be awkward to travel with.

    13. Solar Oven

    A cheap yet effective way to cook during an emergency is by using a solar oven. You can build your own inexpensively or buy one prefabricated. This oven harnesses solar power to cook foods, although solar ovens cook more slowly than other cooking methods. What might take 30 minutes to cook will now take a few hours using a solar oven. 

    Pros: Inexpensive, easy to build, only requires solar energy to cook, mobile.
    Cons: Long cook times, can only use in the sun.

    14. Tea Light Oven

    The most popular tea light oven is actually a kid’s toy! The Easy-Bake Oven was a popular cooking toy for children that utilized a tea light to bake premixed cakes and cookies. Adults can also use this cooking method in an emergency by baking over a tea light. You can either build your own or buy one from a manufacturer. 

    Pros: Even heat source, totally off-grid, inexpensive.
    Cons: Low heat.

    15. Volcano Stove

    This collapsible stove is super versatile! It can be heated with charcoal, wood, or propane, depending on what you have. Some models collapse down to 5-inches tall, perfect for storing when not in use. You can use it as a grill, wok, fire pit, baking, Dutch oven, and more.

    Pros: Compact, versatile, mobile.
    Cons: Smaller cook surface than other options.

    16. Wonder Oven

    You can buy your Wonder Oven or make one yourself. It is a fabric bag that is heatproof and comes with a lid to trap heat. The principle is the same as the Haybox. Simply bring your food to a boil in a pot, then place the pot inside the wonder oven. The oven will keep a consistent temperature and slow-cook your food.

    Pros: Inexpensive, easy to travel with, good for low-heat cooking.
    Cons: Requires an additional pot for cooking.

    17. Wood-Burning Stove

    A wood-burning stove is what most kitchens had before gas or electric cooktops were introduced. They require a lot of wood to keep burning to both cook and warm your home. Many cabins to this day utilize a wood-burning stove as their only heat source. Wood stoves with ovens are available to purchase so you can use both an oven and a stovetop completely off-grid.

    Pros: Modern convenience of a stove and oven, acts as an indoor heater.
    Cons: Cannot be moved around.

    So, Which Cooking Method is Best?

    After talking about each off-grid cooking method, the best cooking method in this writer’s humble opinion is…

    The Volcano Stove!

    While other heat sources are amazing for their unique traits, the volcano stove really has it all. In an emergency, it is this cooking method you want. It is lightweight, compactable, easy to travel with, and can be used for a variety of cooking tasks.

    While all cooking methods on this list create some tasty food, each person’s unique situation will determine which method is best for them. What’s great for one might not work for another. For a traveling family in an emergency, the volcano stove is the top pick for the job.

    In the end, we all want to be able to provide for our families during an emergency. Without electricity, most of our modern amenities would disappear, including our ways of cooking. Having some preparedness in alternative cooking methods might save you a lot of time and energy later on. We all hope our modern comforts stay intact, but it never hurts to prepare just in case.

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