Outside, a winter storm is raging when you are suddenly engulfed in an eerie, silent darkness. After getting a flashlight, you realize that your hungry family will be hungry in a few minutes. What will you do for dinner if you don’t have access to electricity?
Preparing to cook safely indoors may be simpler than you think. You can cook securely indoors with a range of excellent indoor cooking gadgets and fuels. For indoor use, the challenge is to employ a mix of the proper gadget and the right fuel.
These are our top picks for safe indoor cooking solutions when the power goes out.
- In the cooler months, a wood-burning cookstove is an excellent option for cooking indoors.
- Propane can only be safely burnt indoors in an equipment designed for that purpose.
- Candles are an emergency fuel source that can be used to heat food slowly and safely inside.
- Although conservation tactics are not a substitute for actual gasoline, they can considerably extend the life of the fuel you already have. They’re worth looking into.
Emergency Powerless Cooking Advice
Reduce the number of options on the menu! Any crisis carries with it a slew of problems that will eat up a lot of your time. Simple, healthful, and comfortable meals are ideal. Emergency choices include heating canned foods or boiling water to make mashed potatoes from potato flakes.
Keep a supply of shelf-stable foods on hand that you can eat without having to cook. Due to the inability to refrigerate leftovers, prepare only the amount of food that will be consumed immediately.
Fuels that Produce Carbon Monoxide
Carbon monoxide is your adversary, and it must be avoided at all costs. If there isn’t enough oxygen for full combustion, any flame can emit carbon monoxide. Some carbon monoxide-producing fuels can be safely burned indoors by venting combustion products to the outside (think fireplace chimney).
When burned, carbon monoxide is produced by charcoal, coal, gasoline, diesel, Coleman fuel (white gas), kerosene, natural gas, fuel tablets, and wood. We strongly advise that these fuels be used only in properly ventilated appliances or outside.
Make sure your carbon monoxide and smoke detectors are working in your home. When burning anything, we recommend maintaining a carbon monoxide detector with a digital display nearby that will alert you to low levels of carbon monoxide.
Wood Burning Cook Stove or Fireplace
A wood-burning cookstove was formerly a commonplace element in every home. The stove was the only device for baking and cooking, and it warmed the entire house.
Our way of life has changed dramatically, yet if you’re fortunate enough to have a good wood stove, it will come in handy when calamity comes.
Our wood-burning stove is one of my favorites. I agree that the ashes are a little dirty, and the stove requires some attention in order to maintain a consistent temperature, but the wonderful warmth is well worth the effort. Our model features a 5-gallon copper water reservoir, which keeps us in hot water for a long time.
Alcohol My favorite fuel for indoor cooking
Because it burns cleanly, ignites easily, and stores indefinitely in a well sealed container, alcohol is an excellent cooking fuel. It does not burn as hot as certain other types of fuel. It is not, however, explosive like some other fuels.
With a little ventilation, pure forms of alcohol can be safely burned indoors. Some types, such as methanol (wood alcohol), can be dangerous if absorbed via the skin or inhaled, therefore use cautious.
Carbon monoxide can be produced when any fuel is burned in an oxygen-depleted environment.
Denatured alcohol is a good alcohol fuel that can be found in the paint area of most hardware stores. Denatured alcohol is recommended as a fuel by most alcohol device makers.
Ethanol, often known as ethyl (Everclear), is a grain alcohol that contains roughly 95% alcohol. It’s an excellent cooking fuel. Be careful not to burn yourself with Everclear because it produces an almost undetectable blue or clear flame.
Isopropyl alcohol (rubbing alcohol) is an approved alcohol fuel. It is available in a variety of strengths. The higher the alcohol percentage, the better it burns. There are three types of rubbing alcohol available: 70 percent, 91 percent, and 99 percent strength. Isopropyl alcohol burns with a yellow sooty flame and not as cleanly as other types of alcohol.
I’d want to try the Dometic Origo 1500 Single Burner or 3000 Double Burner, which is a non-pressurized free-standing alcohol stove. It boils 1 quart of water in 6-8 minutes and produces 7000 BTUs per burner when powered by denatured alcohol. 6-8 hours of cooking time can be obtained from a quart of alcohol.
Alcohol Space Heater/Stove
The Dometic Origo Heat Pal 5100 is a single-burner stove with a safe, non-pressurized heat source. This stove is great since it can be used as a heater as well as a single burner stove.
The Heat Pal can carry 1 gallon of alcohol and burn for up to 5 hours. It’s small and light (5.10 pounds), but it produces up to 5200 BTUs. This stove was meant for use on ships, but it’s also great for cooking inside during a power outage.
A portable folding stove is placed beneath a small metal burner that has been filled with alcohol and lighted. Vapors exit through a ring of microscopic holes, resulting in a lovely, even fire. Depending on the burner and type of alcohol, two ounces of alcohol will burn for about 10-15 minutes in a stove.
To put out the flames, smother them. You can lose your eyebrows if you blow on them. The lid should not be replaced until the burner has completely cooled. As the lid cools, it will become increasingly difficult to remove.
Boy Scouts and trekkers typically utilize alcohol burners or stoves since they are tiny and portable. A brief search on the internet will turn up alcohol burners constructed from soda cans. Brass, titanium, and aluminum-alloy burners are all high-quality options.
A military surplus merchant can sell you an alcohol burner that is military-grade. These burners are virtually indestructible and extremely easy to operate.
The FireCone is an unbreakable alcohol burner with a distinctive design. It is made up of a base and a cone that create movable inlet ports for greater versatility. This is yet another product that piques my interest. Let me know what you think if you’ve tried the FireCone.
The alcohol burner is a disposable form of canned heat. Caterers regularly use these little metal cans under chafing dishes to maintain hot items at serving temperature. An cheap option to provide 72 hours of emergency indoor cooking fuel is with a case of SafeHeat and a folding camp stove.
The burn time of the can varies by brand and ranges from 2 to 6 hours. The 6-hour cans are my favorite. The fuel inside canned heat is flammable alcohol or petroleum gel that takes a long time to burn.
The can produces a visible flame as well as a significant amount of heat. The heat and flame are directed straight up with little spread, concentrating the heat in one area and necessitating regular stirring to avoid burning the food.
With proper ventilation, canned heat can be safely burned indoors. It keeps well and may be used to safely heat food indoors in the event of a power outage. A portable folding stove, chafing dish (similar to a double boiler), or fondue pot are commonly used with canned heat.
Because canned heat is such a great fuel for indoor cooking, we like to get a little creative with it. The amount of heat produced is determined on the number of cans utilized. In an EcoQue portable grill, formerly known as Pyromid, we can use up to four cans of SafeHeat.
We made a little stove out of a portable, counter-top charcoal barbeque and three cans of canned heat. It was a great success. Note: The manufacturer suggests using no more than two cans at a time. You do so at your own peril!
We buy canned heat in bulk from Amazon or from warehouse shops’ catering area. They come in 12-piece flats that stack neatly for storage. The shelf life varies by manufacturer and can last anywhere from a few years to indefinitely. Cans should be stored between 40° and 120° Fahrenheit, upright and away from heat sources, and damaged or dented cans should be discarded.
In our piece Canned Heat – Safe Fuel for Indoor Emergency Cooking, we go over more about cooking with canned heat.
Butane is extremely flammable, colorless, and liquefies rapidly. It creates both carbon dioxide and carbon monoxide when burned. It is necessary to ensure adequate ventilation. Butane does not operate well at temperatures below freezing.
Butane cylinders must be kept away from open flames and heat sources at temperatures over 32°F and below 120°F. They pose a significant threat. Because butane is heavier than air, it can pool and cause an explosion if it leaks.
Butane is a practical fuel. It’s a little pricey, but it works well in a variety of situations. At near-freezing conditions, butane does not evaporate effectively and may splutter or misfire. A butane canister has an eight-year suggested shelf life.
Butane burners are popular among caterers because they are light, convenient, and safe to use indoors with proper ventilation. The majority of stoves have excellent flame control, and many include an automatic piezo-electric igniting system. At maximum output, one eight-ounce butane canister can last up to 2 hours, and on low, it can last up to 4 hours.
For more information on using butane stoves indoors, see our post Butane Stove: Portable and Convenient Power Outage Cooking. Many butane burners are only meant to be used indoors in a well-ventilated location. If you’re going to buy one, be sure it’s rated for indoor use. Additional information can be found in the previous post.
Propane produces a good, clean, hot fire. The fuel will last an endless amount of time. Because propane is heavier than air, any leakage could gather in low-lying locations, posing an explosive threat.
When propane is burned, carbon dioxide, nitrogen, and water vapor are produced. However, if there is insufficient oxygen, incomplete combustion can occur, resulting in the generation of carbon monoxide.
Propane is a terrific fuel, but it can only be used inside in an indoor appliance. It is not advisable to use a propane Coleman stove indoors. Coleman issued the following statement regarding the use of their goods indoors:
Your Coleman liquid-fuel or propane-fueled stove and lamp are only intended for use outside. Due to the risk of fire, the emission of carbon monoxide (CO) from burning fuel, and the effects of carbon monoxide exposure, all fuel appliances (Stoves and Lanterns) should be used outdoors in well-ventilated areas free of combustible items.
Finding a propane appliance that is not built-in and is rated for indoor usage can be difficult. Tar Hong produces a single or double propane gas stove that may be used indoors. I have no knowledge of the product’s quality. Indoors, I’d use alcohol and outside, I’d use propane.
Wax candles are a tried-and-true way to bring light and warmth. When paraffin and beeswax are burned, they release minor amounts of carbon monoxide, carbon dioxide, sulfur, and nitrogen. When it comes to cooking, I prefer not to use scented tea lights.
Did you know that you can use candles as a fuel source to heat up a can of soup or bake bread? That is correct. For some inspiration, see our post Candles as an Emergency Fuel Source for Warmth, Light, and Cooking.
A few of bricks, a cooling rack, and some tea lights were used to form a makeshift stove. This approach will never get a can of soup to a raging boil, but it will warm it up in 20 or 30 minutes.
Tea light candles are used to power a HercOven. This masterpiece was created by Kristofer Johnson to use thermal energy, convection, and radiation energy to bake 20 tea lights for 4-5 hours.
Before putting the candles in the HercOven, make sure to trim the wicks and set them up straight as directed in the guidelines. I neglected that step and ended up with a small fire in my oven. It’s entirely my fault. It’s not uncommon for me to have to learn the hard way.
Military Meals Ready-to-Eat (MRE) heaters are meant to heat MRE meals rapidly and safely without the use of fire. They’re produced with food-grade iron, magnesium, and sodium powder. A chemical reaction heats up almost fast when water is added to the ingredients in the heater.
The MRE heaters have a five-year shelf life. It takes longer for older heaters to heat up. Indoors, MRE heaters are quite safe. Ventilation is necessary when utilizing 10 or more heaters in a small location. The heaters emit hydrogen gas, which could displace air and provide an explosive risk.
To warm up, an MRE meal is usually placed in the activated bag. We were fortunate enough to have a case of them to play with, so we got creative.
We put a can of chili in a personal ice chest with a pair of activated MRE heaters, closed the lid, and left it for an hour. The can was hot and ready to eat when we opened the ice chest. Another approach to be resourceful with whatever you have on hand.
Indoor Cooking Fuel Conservation Techniques
In a crisis situation, fuel conservation is crucial. Make the most of your available fuel resources by using conservation strategies whenever possible. Let’s take a look at some of our favorite fuel-saving tactics.
Thermal or Retained Heat Cooking
Hay Box/Fireless Cooker/Insulation Cooker/Wonder Box/Thermal Cooker/Retained Heat Cooker/Wonder Box/Thermal Cooker/Retained Heat Cooker The concept is the same, but the names are different. These cookers have been utilized to make the most of limited fuel throughout history, although they do not truly “cook.”
The food is heated to a rolling boil and then transferred to an insulated box or container to cool. Due to the great heat retention, the dinner will continue to simmer for several hours.
Hay, Styrofoam beads, blankets, towels, or anything else that will insulate the pot with at least four inches on each side as a general rule can be used as insulation. The key is to properly insulate against outside temperatures.
We tried making hay boxes out of a cardboard box with hard packing insulation and an old bean bag on top. Due to the high moisture content, the insulation began to stink over time. It’s best to use something that can be washed.
The finest of both equipment is combined when the food is cooked in a pressure cooker and then placed in a hay box. When we initially tested the hay box, we were doubtful, but when dinner time rolled around, we withdrew a scalding hot pot from all of the improvised insulation. The dinner was fully cooked and too hot to eat at 170 degrees.
With retained heat, we’ve managed to keep the right serving temperature for 14 hours.
Thermal cooking takes around four times as long as conventional cooking but consumes a lot less energy. This method works best with soups, chilis, and stews.
Large roasts are not optimal since the middle of the roast is cool even though the liquid is boiling on the outside. Cut the roast into small slices and cover with a liquid or sauce that may be brought to a rolling boil before finishing in a thermal cooker.
A word of caution: if done incorrectly, it is possible to create an environment in which germs can thrive. When you remove the food from the oven, it should still be hot (over 140 degrees), not merely warm. If the temperature of the meal has dropped below 140 degrees, bring it back to a boil to kill any germs that have been multiplying.
Thermal Cookers: Powerful Solution for Efficient Emergency Cooking explains more about thermal cooking, often known as retained heat cooking.
Ice Chest Thermal Cooker
To make a thermal cooker, we stuff a boiling pot of goodness into an ice chest with old blankets and towels. Keep in mind that the key is to insulate well and not peek. The heat you’ve worked so hard to keep will be released when you open the cooker.
There are some excellent commercial thermal cookers on the market. Shuttle Chef, Tiger Non-Electric Thermal Cooker, Saratoga Jacks, and more names for thermal cookers can be found by searching for the terms “thermal cooker” or “vacuum insulation cooker.”
Our thermal cooker is quite convenient for me. It comes with a stainless steel cooking pot and lid that may be used to heat food. To finish cooking and/or keep at temperature for up to six hours, the pot is placed in a double-wall vacuum insulated outer container.
To enhance efficiency, we cover our thermal cooker in a tiny blanket and tuck it into a box. It doesn’t function as well as our DIY hay box, but it’s a lot easier to use.
Another advantage of a thermal cooker is that it can keep cold foods cold as well.
Wonder Box/Wonder Oven/Wonderbag
These DIY thermal cookers are loaded with Polystyrene beads and fashioned from soft cotton or broadcloth (any washable cloth will suffice). The hot pot is placed in the insulated fabric box’s bottom and covered with the insulated fabric lid (pillow).
It is critical to select washable fabrics because the bag will begin to stink after a short period of time. Allow plenty of time for the bag to dry and air out. These bags are small and light, but they are powerful tools for cooking with retained heat.
Vacuum Insulated Bottle Cooking (Thermos Cooking)
Begin with a high-quality stainless steel vacuum-insulated bottle with a large mouth (such as Thermos or Stanley). It can withstand a lot of heat and is nearly unbreakable.
Fill the bottle halfway with hot water to warm it up. Just before putting the ingredients in the bottle, drain the water and replace it with hot water. Shake for 20-30 seconds after quickly securing the lid. Allow the bottle to work its magic by setting it on its side.
Rice, spaghetti, soups, and hot cereals are suitable candidates for cooking in a vacuum insulated bottle because they are liquid-based.
A pressure cooker is an airtight vessel that uses steam pressure to cook food quickly. When it comes to energy conservation, this is a must. Pressure cookers cook meals up to ten times faster than traditional techniques, resulting in significant fuel savings.
Pressure cookers come in a variety of sizes and types, but my personal favorite is stainless steel. In just 10 minutes, a pressure cooker can soften tough older beans.
Consider bringing the meal just to the point where the weighted pressure regulator (rocker) on the top of the cooker begins to rock when fuel is limited. Remove it from the heat and bury it in a pile of towels or blankets, either in a thermal cooker or in a pile of towels or blankets. Make sure you don’t let the pressure out by moving the regulator. Using a pressure cooker will save you a lot of money on gas.
Word to the Wise Use Kerosene Outdoors
Kerosene is a fuel that is both safe and efficient. When lit and extinguished, it stinks and smokes, yet it burns well. When burned, it produces carbon monoxide, nitrogen dioxide, and sulfur dioxide, hence it should be used outside whenever possible. Kerosene is not recommended for indoor use.
If you want to use kerosene indoors, make sure you have enough cross ventilation. That means one window is open on one side of the room, while another is open on the opposite side. It is just advisable to plan a safer indoor cooking option.
Are you prepared to cook inside if the power goes out? The highest priority should always be safety. It is preferable to consume cold food than to be poisoned by carbon monoxide.
Ascertain that all necessary safety precautions are understood and implemented. Surviving a first disaster only to create a more perilous situation that could badly damage those you are trying to protect would be a terrible tragedy.
One thing I’ve learned is that cooking outside in the cold is an unpleasant experience. Cooking outside on windy days is a chore. Planning for safe indoor cooking alternatives when the power is out is a crucial element of emergency preparedness.
You now know how to cook safely inside during a disaster. Make use of your imagination and enjoy the learning process. You can accomplish this on a shoestring budget or spend a lot of money on the best of the best. While food is inexpensive and Wendy’s is still open, get creative and practice.
Is it safe to cook with propane indoors?
The key to successfully operating a gas stove, like any other cooking item, is ventilation. Any stove with an open flame emits exhaust into the living space. The most consistent technique to ensure adequate ventilation is to install an overhead range hood. This ensures a consistent supply of clean air while removing any pollutants created from burning gas by sucking exhaust from above the range and sucking in fresh air.
Which is better for cooking butane or propane?
Butane is less effective in vaporizing to give heat at lower temperatures than propane because it has a significantly higher boiling point. Cooking in the colder months may come to a halt if the propane in a canister runs out, leaving just butane, which cannot withstand the cold.
Are butane stoves dangerous?
Portable burner butane stoves are convenient for camping, boating, cooking demonstrations, and buffet restaurants, but they can also be dangerous. Design flaws in these gadgets can result in flames and even explosions. Sudden pressure releases, overheating, and gas leakage are all potential hazards. The safe usage of these portable stove and burner devices necessitates thought and caution.
How can I cook indoors without electricity?
Some of these indoor cooking techniques need fuel. Carbon monoxide poisoning is a problem whenever fuel is burned indoors. Make that you have enough ventilation (even in winter). Also, keep a carbon monoxide detector and a fire extinguisher close hand.
Gas Camping Stove
Butane, propane, or isobutene canisters are used in gas camping stoves. In a situation, some people can even use different types of fuel, such as unleaded gasoline.
You’ll need a camping stove that links to huge propane tanks for long-term preparedness.
If you need to cook things like dry beans or boil water, you’ll go through little canisters quickly.
Which is safer butane or propane?
So you’ve undoubtedly read or been told that propane and butane are both types of LPG gas, but what exactly does that mean and what are the distinctions and similarities between the two?
Let’s take a look at LPG and what it is before we get into it. The phrase “liquefied petroleum gas” (LPG) refers to a group of light hydrocarbon gases. Propane and butane are the two most well-known gases in this class.
Because both of these gases have commercial and household applications as well as comparable properties, they are frequently misunderstood. Both gases can be used as fuel for heating, cooking, hot water, cars, refrigerants, and a variety of other applications.
What is propane and what is butane?
Propane is a flammable hydrocarbon gas that is liquefied through pressurization and is obtained from natural gas processing and oil refining. It is usually used for heating and cooking, but it may also be utilized for a variety of other domestic and commercial applications, ranging from home water heaters to powering a restaurant kitchen.
Butane, on the other hand, is a combustible hydrocarbon gas produced by natural gas processing and oil refining. Butane, on the other hand, is utilized as a fuel, propellant, and refrigerant more frequently.
Why should their differences matter if they are so similar? Despite their comparable characteristics, propane and butane have several variances that may be advantageous or unfavorable depending on how you intend to utilize them.
What are the differences between the two?
When comparing propane with butane, the boiling point of the gases is the most significant difference. The boiling point of propane is -42°C, while the boiling point of butane is -2°C.
This implies that in colder climates, propane will continue to evaporate and transform to gas, which is ideal for the cold winters we have in Ontario and for outdoor use. Propane exerts more pressure than butane when held as a liquid in a tank at the same temperature. As a result, it’s better suited for outdoor storage and use.
Are there any similarities?
Propane and butane are both derived from the same sources and belong to the same LPG family, which means they share a number of characteristics, the most important of which is their environmental friendliness.
While propane produces more heat and is more efficient in burning, butane has an environmentally friendly feature in that it liquefies rapidly, making containment simple.
There are no long-term harmful consequences on the ecosystem from either gas. Propane and butane are both clean-burning, non-toxic fuels that provide a lot of energy.
Propane and butane gas emit much fewer greenhouse gases per productivity unit than oil, gasoline, diesel, kerosene, and ethanol because to their reduced carbon content.
Do you want to learn more about propane’s environmental benefits? For more information, read our latest blog, ‘Can Propane Help Me Live a Greener and More Environmentally Friendly Lifestyle?’ or contact our team of specialists now.
Can you use a propane fire pit indoors?
Propane fire pits, like any other gas fire pit, should only be used outside. Without sufficient ventilation, do not use your gas fire pit inside a building, garage, or any other enclosed space.
Can I use my Coleman stove indoors?
Indoor use of a camping stove is dangerous since it can release carbon monoxide or create a fire.
If you don’t have any other options, you can use a butane or propane burner inside, but make sure there is ample ventilation and that any flammable goods are kept away from the stove.
Consider safer options such as eating cold food or bringing canned heat if possible.