by BCtruck – subscribe to his YouTube channel for great do-it -yourself projects.
I’m a firm believer in redundancy or the old adage,” one is none and two is one”. Over the last few months, I’ve put a lot of time and effort into experimenting with different methods of boiling water and cooking off grid. While I haven’t tested them all by any means, I’ve tested several and I have come to some interesting conclusions. Who knows, maybe my experiments will save you some time or perhaps cause you to reconsider an option for cooking that you have put in your preps, that might not work as good as you thought.
To begin, I’ll break the methods down into what each type of cooking uses for fuel.
- compressed gas
Solar is the easiest to address. I’ve built and cooked with a solar oven. They typically take several hours and some monitoring and repositioning, but they work well and are easy to build, and not terribly expensive to buy. I’ve even got water to boil in the one I made.Here is a picture of mine, before I made reflectors for it.
It worked fairly well like this, but when I made reflectors and found the optimal angle to attach them at, my internal temps went way past 300 degrees.
Fire is the next type of fuel I’d like to discuss. Of course, you can just light a fire and use that to cook over. It worked for our ancestors and still works today. However, the type of fire I’ve become confident in for its survival applications is fire that burns hot enough to both create woodgas, in a device designed to take advantage of that woodgas and burn it off before it exhausts from the device. Those are a rockets stoves and woodgas stoves. The next two pictures are of a rocket stove I built and gave away at prepper stock and the woodgas stoves were also built by me to be given away as prizes at the same gathering the next year.
These can be purchased (I don’t mean from me) if you don’t have a shop or aren’t handy with tools. In fact, they make some very nice rocket stoves and woodgas stoves commercially and I’ve tried the ones silverfire makes and while they are a bit pricey, they are extremely well made and I see no reason they wouldn’t last a very long time.
Rocket stoves and woodgas stoves may both use the same means of achieving extreme temperatures very quickly. By creating woodgas and using up that woodgas in a complete combustion, before it exits the stove as smoke. This is why a properly burning stove like either of these produces such extremely low emissions. Both the rocket and woodgas stove can boil larger volumes of water very quickly and I’ve cooked some really great meals over each of them. While they both need to fed with biomass (wood, dung, pine straw, grass, leaves) the woodgas stove isnt quite as convenient to feed as the rocket stove, because the pot needs to be lifted in order to do that. In a complete grid down, SHTF scenario, my choice would be a rocket stove for long-term survival.
Next, I’d like to discuss compressed gas stoves and tell you about some interesting findings. A one pound bottle of propane contains roughly 22,000 BTU’s of energy. I have had a small two burner propane stove that runs on a one pounder, for about 20 years. I’ve used it hundreds of times for cooking and a few times for emergency heat in a small room. This stove even made a few trips to bike week with my wife and I. Though I have used it many times, I had never given much thought to just how well it would serve in a grid down scenario. While I was experimenting with candle cooking, I decided to get the stove out and hook it up to a brand new bottle and answer a couple of questions. How long would it last on one bottle and how long does it take to boil two cups of water. The water boil test was what I expected. It boiled two cups of water in about 4 minutes, with the burner on its highest setting. I decided to leave that burner running at its highest setting and see how long a one pound tank would last. Five long boring hours later, it was still going. It was going well enough to even use for cooking though I doubt at that point it was enough flame to boil water. I gave up watching it, but I would feel comfortable saying you would get at least five hours from a tank.
Let’s do some math. Now I admit up front, my methodological skills are sorely lacking, but here goes. A one pound tank containing 22,000 BTU’s, will run a single burner at its highest setting for five hours. So, a twenty-pound tank containing 430,000 BTU,s would theoretically run a single burner at its highest setting, for roughly 95 hours!! That’s a lot of cooking right there! There are a couple things I would like to add to this before we jump back into picture mode. The little propane stove can be run on a twenty pound tank, using a special hose (see picture), or the one pound tank can be refilled, using an adapter, from the twenty pound tank.(see picture). The stove is about 30 bucks on amazon, the hose is about 25 and the adapter to refill the one pounder is about 12 bucks. Let me just say that this is my “go to” preferred method of off-grid cooking for shorter term emergencies. You know, emergencies that you could see ending in a few months and life returning to a more normal state. I currently have 42 of the one pound tanks and so much propane in larger tanks that I don’t even want to give a number. I will say, I think I could easily go 4-5 years on propane using it carefully and not being wasteful. Now for some pics and thanks for taking the time to read this article.