Cooking Food when the Power Goes Out in the Winter

According to the 2019-2020 Winter Reliability Assessment conducted by the North American Electric Reliability Corporation, despite ample availability of Planning Reserve Margins extreme weather conditions and loads can cause outages. Some of the factors behind winter power-cuts may include generator schedule maintenance, forced outages, faulty generation resource performance or constrained fuel supplies. In other words, no matter how robust your electric supplier is, it is nearly impossible to escape the winter blackouts without divine intervention.

In 2019, between September and November, at least two large-scale blackouts in North America affected nearly 2,000,000 people. Scary! Prevention is better than cure, and, you would need enough protein in your body to fight the winter bugbear. Therefore, your winter survival master plan must have a chapter dedicated to Cooking without Electricity. Worry not – I am not going to talk about some Man vs, Wild extreme level survival mumbo-jumbo. I will share some simple ideas about the sound use of resources and knowledge of everyday appliances that will make your winter days a bit easier.

Portable Butane Gas Stove – Camping or outdoor picnics under the stars is a big part of my social life. So, for me, a butane gas stove makes it to the top of the list. If you rely on electric stovetops or hobs, make sure you get yourself one of these before winter. The best thing about these mini stoves is that you can use it inside the house with a CRV (Countersink Release Vent) Safety Cap. Butane gas stoves are best for an emergency, fast-paced cooking, and, for a small stove, they generate a lot of heat. You can cook at least ten decent meals on it before the fuel runs out.

1 Burner Gas stove with Propane Tank or Gas Bottles – You would not want to end up with a stove that is for outdoor use only. After all, this is something you are looking to add to your winter survival kit. Before purchase, make sure your gas stove is fit for inside-the-house use.

I prefer the 1 Burner Gas stove that comes with four gas bottles which can be seamlessly fitted to the stove. Easy-peasy! Get a device with an automatic safety shut off. I like the ones with the built-in piezo lighters.

Portable Cylinders and Folding Stoves – If you live in a fairly blackout prone area, you might want to consider buying a portable cylinder with Butane, Propane and LPG gas mixtures. Check the safety valve before installing it. And, also look for dampers underneath your gas stove to avoid fuel waste.

Though propane has a better affinity to colder climates, it is most suitable for exterior storage and use. For interior use, it is wise to use Butane instead of Propane. Or, you might want to use a combination of two devices as I do. 

Folding Camp Stove with Canned Fuel – You must have seen those small burners in a buffet section yeah? These are called the folding camp stove, and I stack them for winter use with my portable cylinders and single burners. These stainless-steel small fire-breathers are great for heating pre-cooked meals. They come attached to canned fuel, duh, and are easily replaceable.

Last year, on a powerless day (second day running since the lights went off), I cooked in advance some quick meals on my portable cylinder stove under a pale sun in the morning. I relied on my folding camp stove to heat them up later and avoid going out in the cold every time I had hunger pangs.

Bobcat cooking systems: This is another great alternative for cooking inside the house. I have not used it, but many have recommended this tool. It uses cans of thermal fuel and the best part is it does not generate toxic fuels. It can burn up to four hours and can easily produce at least 6 emergency meals. 

*There are many varieties of grills (charcoal and propane) that may work as substitutes for electricity-based cooking hobs. However, I deliberately did not include them because these are meant for outside use only and, winter is not the best time to enjoy outdoor activities. 

Still, if you are comfortable with a grill, get one with a side burner that can be connected to a propane tank. You can keep it in your garage for easy deployment. 

Now, you might want to look into some healthy meal options during a winter outage, in case you have a growling tummy and your gas stove plays truant.

 Tacos – Power cuts in the winter do not necessarily mean settling in for bland food. You can try out a taco wrap with canned products. I like to mix my stuffing for the wrap with canned tomatoes, tuna, beans, and corn with a dash of lime juice, salt, honey, and Dijon mustard. Even without a taco, you can prepare the meal as a salad and have it with pita bread. 

Raw food – I am not a sucker for thinly sliced raw steaks that have never seen a source of heat. If you are like me, and raw meat is not an option, you can still get your nutrients from raw fruits, veggies, nuts and dry fruits. Almonds and cashews pack in a good dose of protein. You may also want to try out water-poached eggs, as opposed to hard-boiled eggs which take time to cook. 

Granola bowls and cereals or oatmeal – Since we are talking about winter survival during an outage, we must stack our shelves with granola, muesli, or oatmeal. I like to add fruit slices to my granola bowl or oatmeal. And, one more important ingredient is powdered milk, since bottled milk would go stale if not refrigerated.

Legacy Food Storage

Bread, butter, and jam – Not a particularly healthy option, but during an emergency, nothing beats a good old buttered loaf and jam. If the fridge is not working, this is a safe option. Moreover, you can make yourself and your family a sandwich by adding lettuce, canned beans or corns, or tuna if you like, and settle in.

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