My husband likes to tease me sometimes by saying I was meant for a different era. We do have our disagreements, however in this respect I tend to agree with him. 😉
Case in point: I love camping. Real camping. Sleeping-bag-under-the-stars-don't-waste-my-time-with-a-tent camping.
I love to be covered in dirt. Every time we feel a storm moving in, I secretly hope the power goes out for at least twenty-four hours. I would prefer not to shower but once a week. I don't own a pair of shorts. Not one. I carry a knife and a set of pliers on my hip almost everywhere I go. Not to mention my fascination with chuck wagons, cow camps, range rifles, cast iron, and leather in general.
Not unusual things in some circles. However, in my demographic of late-twenties American females, I'm regarded as somewhat of an oddity.
I do believe that of all the things which make me, well… me, my husband's favorite of these traits would be my love for outdoor cooking. Gads, I wonder why he loves that so much! 😉
I. Love. Food.
There, I said it. I do. I love food, and I especially love to cook outdoors. My favorite time of day for such an activity is early morning. Sunrise. Tending a hot fire and a warm meal while the cool air kisses your cheeks is one thing that everyone on Earth ought to experience in their lifetime.
Cooking outdoors, or cooking without power, can be extremely simple and enjoyable. However, it takes practice to feel truly confident doing so. Begin now, and if the necessity for cooking without power arises, rest assured knowing you are prepared to feed your family!
The fact of the matter is, faced with the challenge of preparing meals in the absence of power, most people would feel utterly overwhelmed.
Methods and Reasoning for Cooking Without Power
There are several reasons to sharpen your outdoor cooking skills:
- Emergency Preparedness
- Pure enjoyment
There are also multiple ways in which to cook outdoors:
- Rocket Stove
- BBQ Grill (propane)
- Camping Stove
- Solar Oven
I Like It Hot!
Right now, I am going to concentrate on the rocket stove. This little guy is, by far, my favorite friend in the outdoors.
Versions of the rocket stove have been around for centuries. You can find hundreds of plans on Pinterest and Google to build your own. (Like this one!) A rocket stove is extremely efficient and the design is simple.
A can-type stove consists of a combustion chamber (where your fuel is burned) which allows for maximum temperature to be sent up through a vertical insulated chimney. The result is a stove which burns very little fuel, wastes very little heat (all the energy is sent to the cooking surface), and gives off very few emissions.
It has been used in many energy poor areas of the world for cooking purposes, the heating of spaces, and the sterilization of water.
I can prepare a four-course meal on my rocket stove using one 2″x4″ piece of lumber a foot long, and I'll still have wood left when I'm done. I have also prepared meals using only scrub, or twigs, from my yard. These stoves are built to burn any biomass you can find!
A Rocket Stove Menu
Below you'll find basic instructions for a rocket stove dinner, and you can vary it based on what's in season. Do start with organic, locally-grown, pastured meat and high-quality organic produce. I visited the farmers market and purchased several in-season veggies I knew would work well for this dinner (my variations are pictured above). If you need help sourcing local organic meats and produce, visit Local Harvest online.
- ghee, coconut oil, or olive oil for sautéing
- salt and pepper
- minced garlic and/or garlic powder
- 2 quarts water
And here are the steps to prepare this delicious and easy rocket stove meal.
1. Marinate your meat. Cut away excess fat from the meat of your choice. Cut the meat into 2-inch cubes for even cooking. Place the meat inside a dish or plastic bag with olive oil, salt, pepper, and garlic and let it rest in the refrigerator for an hour.
2. Prepare your vegetable ingredients. Wash and cut your potatoes into 2″ cubes. Set aside. Wash and cut your veggies into manageable pieces. I used asparagus and bush beans, which I cut into 2″ lengths, and peas in the pod which I left whole. Set aside.
3. Light your stove. Refer to the manufacturer (or YouTube) for instructions on the proper way to light a rocket stove. Place your cast iron skillet or pot on top to preheat. Since I boil potatoes first in this recipe, I set a deep pot full of water on the rocket stove rather than my skillet.
4. Make the garlic mashers. Boil your cubed potatoes in water and a little salt until they're soft. Drain the excess water and add any goodies you desire. My garlic masher add-ins consist of salt, butter, garlic powder, parmesan cheese, green onions, and parsley. Mmmmmmm. Mash them with a wooden spoon, put the lid on your pot, and set it aside.
5. Make the meat and veggie main dish. Dump your marinated meat into a hot skillet. I like to add butter to my skillet for the sauteing; it accompanies the oil used for marinating. Saute the meat until it is cooked through. Place the meat into a covered container and set aside. Use the juice/leftover oil in your skillet to saute your vegetables. Sprinkle with salt, pepper, and garlic powder while they're cooking. Once they're almost done, place the meat back in the skillet, and saute it all together until the veggies are tender and the meat is slightly browned.
Voila! Bon Appétit!
What Keeps the Fire Glowing?
During the cooking process, in order to keep a flame going, you will need to feed the fire. In order to do this on a rocket stove, you just push your fuel sticks further into the combustion chamber every few minutes.
What Can I Cook On a Rocket Stove?
The kinds of things you can cook on a rocket stove (or on any other alternative cooking systems outdoors) are limitless! Here are a few ideas to help you get started:
Stir Fry. Think meat. Think veggies. Ground beef, ground pork, chicken, steak strips, pork loin, bacon. Peas, asparagus, bush beans, pole beans, bean sprouts, broccoli, shredded carrots, cauliflower, cabbage. Really — if you have it, and it can be sautéed, you can make a stir fry with it! Make sure hard veggies, like carrots, are shredded or cut into small chunks. Just as I did in the instructions above, cook your meat in an oil or animal fat, and set aside. Then cook your veggies in the remaining oil or animal fat left over from the meat, and then return your meat to the pan to brown it and finish the dish. Tada!
Skillet Casseroles. Skillet dishes are a wonderful addition to every kitchen, both inside and out! Essentially, you're making hamburger helper from scratch, minus the nasty non-foods and additives, plus the wholesome goodness of real foods and true home cooking! We really enjoy a Cheesy Hamburger Pasta skillet dish that can SO easily be cooked on a rocket stove.
Stews/Boiled Dishes. Mexican Meatball Soup, White Chicken Chili, and Pantry Stew are all excellent options for a rocket stove. Place all your ingredients in a Dutch Oven and simmer until you're ready to eat. Potatoes, dumplings, spaghetti noodles and other pastas are all “rocket stoveable”, too!
Skillet Breads. No power to bake, but you want bread? Done. Heat a skillet on your rocket stove and make flour tortillas, corn tortillas, or corn cakes.
I'm Convinced! Where Can I Get Mine?
I purchased my Rocket Stove through StoveTec. Or, another option is SilverFire, a rocket stove company started by my friend Todd Albi, the founder and former general manager of StoveTec (he branched off and started a new company, apparently improving the Rocket Stove in the process). I have several of the StoveTec stoves, but I have not (yet) had the opportunity to try out one of the new SilverFire stoves. So if you do, you can let me know how you like it. 🙂
Update: Todd Albi from SilverFire is a guest on Wardee's podcast! Click here to listen.
Outdoor cooking newbies: What are you going to try for your first dish in the wild?! What recipe would you like to be able to convert for powerless cooking?
Old hats: What is your favorite method for cooking outdoors? What's your favorite recipe or technique for outdoor cooking?
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