For emergency camp stove cooking inside a house, the preferred choice is
the propane camp stove -- with proper ventilation. Place it right in
front of a window open at least one inch. Coleman fuel stoves are not
recommended for indoor use, although they would be fine outside, on a
porch, in a garage, or other well-ventilated place. Most propane camp
stoves run on one pound disposable cylinders; if you are cooking three
meals a day, you can probably get 3 or 4 days cooking out of each
cylinder, depending on what's on the menu. While it's possible to bake
biscuits on top of a camp stove (you usually will have to flip them to
get them to brown on top), it is better to buy a camp oven that sits on
top of the propane burners. These are sold in camping supply stores or
Buy an attachment for the propane camp stove that will allow you to cook
on it while using a bulk propane tank (such as a 20 lb, 5 gallon tank)
for fuel. These stoves are cheap enough that you could buy three or four
and thus be able to do a lot of cooking, while also having one or two
that you could loan to a neighbor in distress.
Remember that a blue flame is the cleanest burning flame, so adjust the
flame so it burns blue.
(1) Place a heat diffuser on top of the burner(s). This could be a large
cast iron skillet or grill, or a cookie sheet.
(2) Put something on top of this to raise the cooking pan up off the
heat diffuser and allow air to circulate underneath the pan. This could
be a low cake pan, or a couple of empty tuna cans.
(3) Put the food to be baked in a covered pan on top of the "risers".
(4) Make a tent from several layers of aluminum foil over the cake pan,
so that air can circulate underneath it, and put a small vent hole in
the top of the aluminum foil cover. Keep an eye on the food as it is
RV's, campers, and mobile homes are often equipped with kitchen stoves
that burn propane. A natural gas stove can be converted to propane by
adjusting the natural gas jet orifices to burn propane (in some cases
they will need to be replaced). Propane companies will often do this
conversion for free. I found a company here in Oklahoma City that
charges $40 for the conversion. Other sources for propane stoves are RV
and mobile home distributorships and suppliers. Never try to run a
natural gas appliance with propane gas without such a conversion; the
natural gas jets are much larger than the propane jets.
A chafing dish consists of: (1) a stand that supports a pot, (2) a heat
source, which is usually cannister of a jelled cooking fuel that is sold
specifically for chafing dishes; typically, this sits on a little
platform in the middle of the stand, (3) a pan for water, (4) a cooking
or warming pan that can sit either directly over the flame or over the
pan of water. A fondue pot is a type of chafing dish with the heat
applied directly to the pot.
For chafing dish fuel, there are multiple options. Sam's Club sells
"Safe-Heat" brand canned fuel for chafing dishes, a dozen to the case,
each can burns six hours, 72 hours of cooking for about twelve dollars.
Candles and denatured alcohol burners are other alternatives, although
alcohol burns very fast, and candles cook slowly. Chafing dishes come in
many sizes. The small stand that supports the chafing dish can be used
with a skillet or omelet pan, or a pot for soup or stew. You can often
find small chafing dish stands that are made for use with a candle at
thrift stores; they will support a small pot. These can be used for
warming canned foods (chili, pasta and sauce, ravioli, soup, etc.) It
takes a half hour to an hour to heat a can of food using a small candle,
depending on how hot you want it. Oatmeal could also be made this way,
especially the instant oatmeals (or instant grits, depending on what
part of the country you hail from).
Woks work well with the chafing dish fuel canisters such as Safe-Heat.
You can make a wide variety of recipes in a chafing dish: griddle cakes,
eggs benedict, salmon cakes, creamed dried beef, crab meat bisque,
chicken a la king, stew, soup, macaroni and cheese, Swedish meatballs,
etc. Very useful in the event of either setting up for a party buffet or
getting through utility problems in January 2000. Even if the
electricity and natural gas are disrupted, you can still enjoy a gourmet
meal, prepared at the table, served by candle light.
Solar cookers can be made with cardboard boxes, aluminum foil, duct
tape, and glass. Such ovens can easily get to 350 degrees, hot enough to
bake meats and casseroles. You can easily make one. There are several
books on the subject, one that comes well recommended is Cooking with
the Sun, by Beth and Dan Halacy, with complete plans for different
A solar cooker works by (1) absorbing solar heat in a dark pot through a
clear transparent cover such as glass or an oven baking bag, (2)
insulating the pot so that the heat does not radiate out but rather
cooks the food, and (3) they usually have some way to reflect additional
sunlite onto the pot via a panel of reflective material. Any recipe
suitable for a crockpot will generally work in a solar cooker.
One of the easiest solar cookers to make is the "two box model". Glue
aluminum foil to the inside of two boxes, one a bit larger than the
other. The smaller box is placed inside the larger. It's not necessary
to use insulation between the two boxes, as long as there is at least a
half inch air space between the two.
The smaller box should be just larger than the pot that will be used in
the cooker. Slit it at the four corners (down to the height of the pot)
so that its sides will fold out, and duck tape them to the sides of the
larger box. Make a tight fitting lid for the outer box, and cut a large
hole in the center of the lid so that sunlight covers the smaller box.
Glue an oven baking bag to the inside of that lid, completely covering
the sun opening. A second piece of cardboard (the size of the lid) is
covered with aluminum foil and attached to the side of the box so it
reflects sun down onto the box.
To cook food, place a covered pot inside the smaller box and put the lid
on the larger box; face the box toward the sun. Position the reflector
to direct more sunlight down onto the box. It will get 300 to 350
degrees inside. Start your dinner in the morning; eat it at night. Use
an oven thermometer to monitor the temperature.
You can make an improvised non-electric crock pot with an ordinary box,
or a five or six gallon plastic bucket. Line the inside with aluminum
foil, and put several inches of insulating material on the bottom. Bring
the food you are cooking (generally, crockpot recipes) to a boil, cover
the pot and put it in the container. Pack the spaces between the pot and
the sides of the box or bucket with insulating material (whatever is
handy, crushed newspapers, cloth, straw, sawdust, etc.) Pack the top of
the box or bucket with insulating material, and put the lid on. Let this
sit for several hours or overnight (depending on the crock pot cooking
A wood stove not only can keep your family warm, you can cook on top of
it, using a pot or a frying pan. With some bricks, you can make a stand
for a pot in an open fireplace, and Dutch ovens can be cooked in fires
built outside in the yard or in the fireplace. Dutch oven cooking is an
art in and of itself, and there are many good sources for recipes and
instructions. A good place to start is with materials prepared for use
in Scouting, or the cookbook and camping sections of your local library.
Charcoal briquets can be used with your cast iron skillets, Dutch oven,
and other pots and pans, but such cooking must be done outside.
The outdoor barbecue grill is an obvious outdoor stove, but if you don't
have one, it can be built. Many families are building outdoor bread
ovens in the traditional European style. This is a backyard project
accessible by most people, and plans can be found in most major
Coffee can cooking. Layer food in a coffee can (such as onions,
potatoes, carrots, meat, repeated ). Cover with heavy duty aluminum
foil, place on medium-hot coals, put some coals on top of the foil, cook
for about a half hour or 45 minutes.
Pie-pan oven. Grease a metal pie pan and put biscuits or bread into it.
Grease a second metal pie pan and place it over the first. Use 4 metal
clamps (the kind you use with paper) to hold them together. Put some
coals on top of the pan. If doing this on a camp stove, instead of a
campfire, use the procedure described above in "baking on a camp stove".
Muffin pan oven. Take a metal muffin pan, and either grease the cups or
line them with cupcake liners. Put different foods into the cups --
meats, vegetables, biscuits of muffin batter. Oil the second pan, fit it
over the first and clamp them together using four big clamps (the kind
you use for paper). Cook for 25 to 35 minutes. This can be used over a
campfire; put some coals on top of the muffin pan as well as underneath.
If you are doing this over a camp stove, use the procedure described
above in "baking on a camp stove".