When it comes to deciding what the best cooking option is during an emergency grid-down situation for preppers, there are quite a few options available. On the other side of that coin, there are many options that won’t be available to us in an off-the-grid situation and many precautions we will need to take.

As preppers, we need to think not only about how we are going to cook our food in an SHTF situation but how we are going to do it without ringing the dinner bell for the entire neighborhood. We don’t give this much thought these days because when a neighbor smells us grilling outside, they don’t come running over.

Disasters and emergencies come in all shapes and sizes. Natural disasters such as severe storms or infrastructure failures can disrupt the power grid for an extended period. An extended disaster of SHTF scenarios means having the means to cook food and do it safely becomes crucial.

Precautions & Dangers

If you look at what’s going on in places around the world, you see that when the availability of food is limited, the people with it become powerful, and the people without food have no choice but to bend to their will. Criminals would be stealing food rather than televisions and cars, and drug dealers would be dealing food rather than cocaine and heroin.

Cooking Smells

I think of this as attracting the zombies. In the movies, if you make any noise, the zombies focus their attention on you. When you’re cooking in an off-the-grid situation, the real-life zombies will be hungry (not just for brains) and follow that aroma back to you.

Smoke Signals

If you light a roaring campfire, the odds are you will be giving off smoke signals to your neighbors and ringing the dinner bell. To avoid this use alternative cooking methods or cook foods that won’t give off smoke.

Trash Removal

If you have a bunch of tin cans or long-term food storage packaging lying around, not only is it unsanitary, people will know you have food long after you have been cooking. Burning your trash is probably not a good option, but burying it will keep it out of sight and out of mind.

What You Cook

The different types of foods you cook, the types of spices you use, and how you cook them will all matter in an SHTF scenario. Boiling some Legacy food might not give off much of an aroma, but cooking it on a wood fire will. This is the main reason I love the Sun Oven so much.

The Changing Times

As we dig into our long-term food storage, our idea of what breakfast, lunch, and dinner are might (and probably will) change. If you look at what you have right now that doesn’t require refrigeration and think about how you would cook it, you will see how your diet will change. The odds are you won’t be grilling a lot of meat; you won’t have milk or all the condiments in your refrigerator door.

When Good Food Goes Bad

What would you do with the food in your refrigerator if the grid went down? Most people will be having a “neighborhood BBQ,” and it’s an interesting debate on whether you should or should not participate. You could also figure out a way to preserve that food as much as possible.

There could also be more cases of foodborne illness because people will be eating anything they can get their hands on. This may include preppers as well.

Neighborhood Cook-Off

Participation in a neighborhood cook-off would be a way of extending the olive branch to your neighbors. If you do this, make sure you are not giving out too much information. Make your neighbors think you are in the same boat as them.

Preserving Food

The first day or two after a disaster might be the safest time to get this done. Dehydrating, smoking, or canning the meat in your freezer will extend its shelf life… Just don’t let your neighbors see you doing it. Digging a hole and making a small root cellar could extend the shelf life of some refrigerator foods as well.

Is it Dinner Time? 

It might be a good idea to change when you cook. People are used to eating breakfast early in the morning, so think about cooking before they wake up. You could also wait until very late to cook dinner, although cooking at midnight could put you at a disadvantage because someone could sneak up to your house in the dark.

The “Inconvenient” Truth

There will be no more fast food, no more convenience stores, or prepackaged frozen meals to cook. For most people, this is going to be a huge adjustment, but as preppers, we should be ready for this. Having food storage is one thing; knowing how to use it is another.

Below is a list of off-the-grid cooking options we might have available, but the most important part of this is knowing how to cook it. Knowing how to make bread or knowing how to put together a soup is just as important as having these ingredients stored.

Off-Grid Emergency Cooking Options

Disasters and emergencies come in all shapes and sizes. Natural disasters such as severe storms or infrastructure failures can disrupt the power grid for an extended period. An extended disaster of SHTF scenarios means having the means to cook food and do it safely becomes crucial.

Gas and Propane Generators

A generator could be a game changer during a shorter disaster or emergency. The longer things continue, the more dangerous running a generator will be. In addition to that, you will need to have enough fuel stored. A generator is a great alternative energy source for preppers, but it does have its limitations.

Solar Generators

If you have a few bucks to spend and live in an area with plenty of sunshine, a solar generator could be one of the best options for cooking in a disaster or emergency. While these are silent, you must consider cooking smells and smoke. The Goal Zero pictured below comes with a hefty price tag.

Coleman Stoves & Camp Grills

Because of its versatility, a Coleman grill or a camp stove might be a good option for off-the-grid cooking. These are portable, making them ideal for bugging out (in a vehicle), and they won’t give off as much cooking smell as a full propane grill would.

Backyard Propane & Charcoal Grills

Very few people these days don’t have a backyard grill of some sort. Whether it’s a charcoal grill or a propane grill, these are a must-have for the preparedness-minded. While not ideal for longer-term disasters, they are perfect for most grid-down scenarios.

The Sun Oven & Solar Ovens

My favorite and the best option is the All American Sun Oven or any solar oven. These give off no cooking smell; you can cook just about anything in these as long as size permits. A Sun Oven can also pasteurize and boil water in an emergency.

Wood Fire Options

Building a fire with firewood might be easy for preppers to cook meals in a disaster, but they come with risks. The smoke, smells, and light they put out could alert the whole neighborhood that you have food. From firepits to folding stoves, there are plenty of options.

Fireplaces & Wood Burning Stoves

A fireplace or wood-burning stove not only helps keep the house warm but can also be used to heat water or cook meals. Learn to cook meals in a Dutch oven, or get a grate that fits inside; you can cook anything. You can also place pots and pans outside a wood-burning stove.

Gas Stoves & Ranges

An indoor gas stove does not necessarily mean you can cook without electricity. Most modern stoves have an interlock feature, meaning you can’t use them without electricity. If you are one of the lucky ones, good for you.

Sterno & Canned Heat

One of the few options to cook indoors during a power outage is canned heat or Sterno. I recently reviewed the Vesta Instafire stove and its “extra hot” fuel, and it’s great. Their canned heat does burn hotter than the typical Sterno fuel. 

Hot Plates

I threw hot plates in here because they are a viable off-the-grid cooking option, but they take a lot of energy to run. At an average of 1200 watts, if you have the means to use them, this is another indoor cooking option for preppers.

Closing Thoughts

In any disaster or emergency, we need to consider all the cooking options available. While you can pop open a can of Spaghetti O’s, that might get a little old after a while. Preppers should think about each disaster scenario and the length of time it lasts because of the associated dangers.

If you have any other emergency cooking options or anything to add to the ones I have listed, leave a comment below.


Survival and being prepared should not only be a passion, it should be a lifestyle. The definition of a prepper is "An individual or group that prepares or makes preparations in advance of, or prior to, any change in normal circumstances, without substantial resources from outside sources" Like the Government, police etc. I don't believe that the end of the world will be the "end of the world" I believe it will be the end of the world as we know it now. You can also find me on Google Plus and Twitter

    2 replies to "Emergency Off-Grid Cooking Options & Precautions for Preppers"

    • Reg

      I’m planning on using a butane stove. Butane has been available and not really shot up in price. The little stove I have can also burn propane which may be a plus.

    • metalheaddoc

      If you do have a power source, a microwave will heat food up quickly.

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