Author of Be Ready for Anything and Bloom Where You’re Planted online course
Everyone knows that practice makes for perfect prepping. But when is the last time you practiced your off-grid skills by cooking outside? As I learned when I went to take Selco’s Urban Survival Course in Croatia, not all survival gear is what it’s cracked up to be.
That’s the beautiful thing about summer. You can prep and it feels like a party instead of a chore. Take some time while the weather is hot to hone your off-grid cooking skills.
- For one thing, it will keep your home a lot cooler. One of the biggest ways we add ambient heat to our homes is by cooking. (More on non-tech tricks for keeping your home cool right here.)
- Secondly, an emergency is no time to waste food, which is a very real possibility when using an unfamiliar cooking method. There’s an art to it, and it takes some practice.
- And finally, let’s be honest, what doesn’t taste better when cooked outside?
Sometime this week, I challenge you to pick a day to cook all of your meals outside. Don’t stop with grilling meat. Make coffee and pancakes, cook up some vegetables, make sandwiches, and let everyone create their own shish-k-bobs. Get creative and practice your skills at the same time.
Why you need to practice
It’s really essential to practice the things you intend to do to survive well before an emergency for many reasons. Here are just a few:
What if you just plain suck at cooking outside? What if you “think” you can cook over a fire but you end up doing it wrong and dropping the chicken into the fire and burning it beyond recognition? What if that was the only chicken you had access to? Wouldn’t you rather practice now when you can simply order pizza if you destroy dinner? Figure things out now while you have time to learn, while supplies are not limited, and while you can easily create a Plan B.
What if you don’t have the right tools? You may discover that camp stove you were planning to use requires the use of some special skillet or tool that you don’t possess. Wouldn’t you rather learn that when you can order the appropriate doohicky from Amazon?
What if your cooking method doesn’t work the way you expected? Maybe your camp stove uses 3 times the propane you thought it would. Maybe your solar cooker location wasn’t as prime as you thought and your meat is raw in the middle. Perhaps cooking something on your charcoal grill takes far longer than you thought it would. There are all sorts of variables that you’d rather find out now than later.
What if you get hurt? A huge number of people get seriously burned cooking over an open fire. This doesn’t mean that you can’t do it safely, but work out the bugs while medical care is easily available instead of during a time when you are stranded in your home due to unsafe emergency conditions.
There are many more reasons to hone your skills, but those will get you thinking.
5 way to practice cooking outside
Here are some ways you can head outdoors, make a delicious meal, and practice a preparedness skill, all at the same time.
#1) Cook over an open fire
If you have a fire pit in your backyard, it’s time to practice your campfire cooking skills. A few tasty ways to do this:
- Put food on a stick and toast it over the flames – hot dogs (not my favorite but some folks love them) and marshmallows are the first things that come to mind, but many different foods can be toasted or cooked this way. Here are a few tasty ideas.
- Wrap food in foil and put it in the coals to cook. You can make entire personalized meals for each member of the family this way. Try some of these delicious treats.
- Make (or purchase) a spit and roast some meat the old fashioned way. Here’s how to do it.
- Put a cooking grate over your campfire. (I love this tripod version.)
- A cast-iron Dutch oven takes campfire cooking to an entirely different level. Check out these tasty meals.
#2) Use your barbecue for the entire meal.
We love anything cooked on our charcoal barbecue. It doesn’t matter if your grill is charcoal or propane, as long as you have plenty of fuel. I have grill baskets for veggies, as well as cast iron frying pans that can be oiled and used for things that would fall through the grates. This is a simple, delicious way to make your entire meal, including meat, veggies, and potatoes.
Here are some tips on propane storage safety.
#3) Use a solar cooker.
Whether you have a purchased sun oven or you use a plan like this to make your own, if you live in a hot, sunny, climate, you can make a delicious meal reminiscent of a crockpot dinner outdoors using only the power of the sun. This is an ideal prepper cooking method because it doesn’t require the storage of any type of fuel.
This book has 150 recipes for solar cooking.
#4) Use a rocket stove.
Try out some of your just-add-water meals and cook them over a rocket stove. My favorite is the Volcano 3-way stove because of the versatility – it can be powered by just about any type of biomass. I also like the Kelly Kettle. Any food that only requires boiling can be made on a rocket stove, but you’ll want to practice ahead of time to be able to keep the fire going for a suitable amount of time. (And as I’ve written, those little stoves may not always be worth the space in your bug out bag. It’s better to find this out now instead of discovering it after you’ve toted a stove around in your backpack unnecessarily.)
#5) Break out the camping stove.
If you have something like a Coleman camping stove fueled by propane, try it out on the patio. If you have some cast iron cookware, you can make basically anything you would prepare on your kitchen stove top with one of these. One piece of advice – stick with things that cook fairly quickly so you don’t burn through too much fuel all for one meal. Note: Sometimes these can be picked up for a song at a yard sale – that’s where ours came from and it had only been used a couple of times.
How do you keep your skills polished by cooking outside?
Share your delicious secrets in the comments below. And if you take the challenge, let me know how it went when you cooked everything outside for an entire day!