Emergency Cooking / Food Preservation

Emergency Cooking

Emergency cooking will involve an open flame. You must have proper ventilation, a window or door open 1 inch will provide sufficient fresh air if the open flame cooking device is placed in front of (or close to) the opening. This keeps exhaust fumes from spreading through the room. Do not leave a propane camp stove, or the burners on a natural gas stove burning while you sleep. Do not use charcoal briquettes inside for cooking-doing this has killed people. Do not use wood inside a house for cooking unless you have a fireplace or properly installed wood stove. If you need a campfire, build it in a safe place outside.

Carbon Monoxide Poisoning

Symptoms of carbon monoxide poisoning include headache, lethargy, blurry vision, room feels "stuffy', ringing in the ears. If symptoms occur, get fresh air into the room immediately or move everybody out fast. Pregnant women and unborn babies are particularly at risk. Seek medical attention! A box of baking soda is a good emergency fire extinguisher; sugar is not.

Wood Stoves, Fireplaces, Dutch Ovens, Charcoal Briquettes & Gas Grills

Use bricks to make a stand for a pot or to hold a grill in an open fireplace. Dutch ovens can be cooked in fires outside in the yard or in the fireplace. Charcoal briquettes can be used with cast iron skillets, Dutch ovens, and other pots and pans, but such cooking must be done outside.

Camp Stoves

Small 1 to 3 burner propane camp stoves can be used indoors (with adequate ventilation), liquid Coleman/white gas fuel stoves and gas grills must be used outdoors. Most kerosene heaters get hot enough on top to cook food. To bake on top of a camp stove:
  1. Place a cast iron skillet or cookie sheet on top of the burner(s).
  2. Put something on top of this to raise the cooking pan up and allow air to circulate underneath. This could be a low cake pan, or empty tuna cans, or the trivet from your gas range.
  3. Put the food to be baked in a covered pan on top of the "risers."
  4. Make a tent from several layers of foil over the cake pan, so that air can circulate beneath it, and put a small vent hole in the top of the aluminum foil. Large cans or pot lids also work. Keep an eye on the food as it is baking. You may have to flip biscuits so that they brown on top.

Chafing Dish Cooking

Chafing dishes come in many different sizes and use small cans of jelled fuel for heat, some use candles or denatured alcohol burners. A fondue pot is a
type of chafing dish. The small stand supporting the chafing dish can be used with a skillet or omelet pan, or a pot for soup or stew. It takes up to a half hour to warm a can of food with a candle. Buddy burners can also be used with chafing dishes. Buddy burners and candles can be used with chafing dishes.

Solar Cookers

Solar cookers are made with cardboard boxes, aluminum foil, duct tape, and glass. Such ovens can get to 350 degrees, hot enough to bake meats and casseroles. A solar cooker works by reflecting light onto a dark pot through a clear transparent cover such as glass or an oven baking bag, and insulating the pot so that the heat does not radiate out but rather cooks the food. Crock-pot recipes will generally work in a solar cooker. Work with materials you have at hand to create an insulated container with a clear top the sun can be reflected upon.

Non-Electric Crock Pot

Use a box or bucket big enough to pack 4 inches of insulating material on all sides, top and bottom. Line the inside with aluminum foil, and put insulating material on the bottom (such as newspapers, cloth, sawdust, hay). Bring the food to a boil, cover the pot (3 to 6 quarts) and put it in the container. Pack the top and the spaces between the pot and the sides of the box or bucket with insulating material, and put the lid on. Good for up to 4 hours cooking.

Food cooks faster in covered pots. Be thrifty with scarce fuels, combine methods such as using a camp stove to bring beans to a boil, and then the non-electric crock pot to finish the job.

Food Safety in a Disaster

Cold foods must be kept cold (below 45 degrees Fahrenheit) to prevent spoilage. If the power goes off, open your refrigerator and freezer as little as possible. Wrap them in blankets or newspapers, or stack bags of clothes or mattresses against the walls and on the tops. Shield them from direct sunlight, and don't heat the rooms they are in. Eat the items in the refrigerator first, the same day the power goes off. If you are frugal in opening the freezer the food inside will stay below 45 degrees for 3 to 5 days.

Be careful about storing prepared foods without refrigeration. If it is cold winter, put food in an insulated box (such as an ice chest) in an unheated room or porch. Pack it with snow or ice. Put a thermometer in the room and check it several times a day to make sure it is staying below 45 degrees. Protect the cold box from sunlight. When cooking, estimate food portions carefully, as you may not be able to refrigerate the leftovers. Spoiled foods may not have an offensive odor, so while the presence of a bad odor is a sure indicator of spoilage, its absence may not be an assurance of safety. Don't take chances with food safety! If in doubt, throw it out.

Easily Spoiled Foods

Creamed foods, soft cheeses (cream cheese, spreads, cottage cheese), gravy, mayonnaise, salad dressings, pork, and poultry spoil quickly. Dispose of them if the refrigerator has been without power for 12 hours. Seafood, chopped meat, and poultry sandwich fillings are not safe after 4 hours without refrigeration.

Hard Cheese Preservation

Hard cheeses will be fine at room temperature for several days. To preserve for longer periods:
  1. Dip the cheese into a salt solution (salty enough that an egg floats) and place on a rack to dry overnight.
  2. On the 2nd day, rub with salt and leave on the rack.
  3. Do this again a 3rd day. By this time a rind should be developing. If it feels dry and smooth, continue to the waxing; if not, rub with salt and let dry another day.
  4. Waxing: Apply 3 or 4 coats of wax (either with a brush, or by dipping into melted wax, melt the wax in a double boiler, which is a pot of water with a smaller pot inside), let the wax dry between each coat. Wrap with cheese cloth, and continue the process of drip drying until several layers later the cheese is completely covered with a smooth wax exterior. It will continue to age inside, but remain good. If you do find mold on hard cheese, simply scrape or cut of off and use the rest of the cheese.