Cooking Off the Grid (Indoor Edition)
Updated: Jan 24, 2022
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In an earlier post, we covered outdoor off grid cooking methods. But there are certain times cooking outdoors isn’t practical—like during adverse weather, for example. In this article, we’ll discuss several options for cooking indoors when you aren’t connected to the electricity grid.
My great-grandmother, Emma, used to cook on an old-fashioned wood stove. Every evening, after milking the cows, she’d put a jar of fresh milk on the back of the stove (which stayed warm with gentle heat overnight), so she could have clabbered milk for breakfast.
I’ve always wished for a wood stove like the one Emma had. As I began researching them a few years ago, I discovered more kinds of wood stoves, kerosene stoves, and cast iron stoves and ovens than I had ever imagined. Each has its pros and cons, from price to size to practicality.
One important side note: make sure you have adequate ventilation for your chosen indoor cooking method. You don’t want smoke or carbon monoxide to build up in your home. To ensure you’re staying safe around gas appliances, install a battery-powered carbon monoxide detector as a warning system.
Indoor cooking methods
Last year, our power went out for several hours after dark—right when I was putting pies in the oven. Since we were connected to the grid, I had to scramble for a way to finish baking the pies without electricity, and I was able to use my knowledge of baking in a propane grill to finish the job.
Still, an indoor option would have been preferable to cooking outside with a battery-operated lantern as my only light source (and a swarm of bugs that were drawn to the light!).
The first off grid kitchen cooking appliance most people think of is a propane stove. Modern propane stoves have fuel stored outdoors in a rented (or owned) propane tank. In many rural areas, you can rent a large propane tank from a propane company, and they will refill it every month.
The same propane tank can feed a propane refrigerator and tankless water heater, too. Check with your local propane dealer to find home propane delivery options near you.
Keep in mind that propane stoves and ovens need an ignition source. Often, this requires electricity, but there are also battery ignition systems.
If you would like to use a propane range off grid, make sure you get the ignition system that works best for you. You’ll want to choose a battery ignition unless you have a reliable solar or alternative power setup.
A kerosene stove may seem like something from yesteryear, but they are still available today, albeit harder to find than propane models.
Lehman’s sells an Amish-made kerosene stove that lights with a match—the Perfection Two-Burner Cookstove. Kerosene is a fairly clean-burning fuel with low carbon monoxide emissions.
Kerosene stoves are typically smaller than propane stoves or a full-size wood-burning stove/oven combo.
A wood stove is a practical cooking appliance if you live in an area with plenty of timber. Wood stoves do not depend on electricity, and wood is a renewable resource when ethically harvested.
You’ll need to find a dual-purpose wood stove if you want one for cooking meals and heating your home. Some models have a third benefit as a water heater. These come with a tank attached to the side or sitting on top toward the back.
The Kitchen Queen 480 is one example that can be used for all three purposes. Check manufacturer details to determine whether your chosen model can be plumbed into your home’s hot water delivery system.
Dual-purpose stoves that can be used for cooking and home heating are typically made from cast iron and can be extremely large and heavy.
The Magnum Soapstone Wood Cookstove is on the smaller side at 33.5”H x 23.7”D x 37.4”W and weighs approximately 441 pounds.
The Pioneer Princess, which has an optional 9-gallon reservoir, is at the larger end of the scale and comes in at a whopping 600 pounds (650 with the reservoir)!
Off-grid electricity: solar and wind
You have additional options for your off-grid kitchen if you can generate electricity through a solar panel array, wind turbine, or hydroelectric system. You’ll use less electricity to run a gas stove than an electric range—but you’ll still use more with an electric ignition than you would with a non-electric version.
YouTube chefs have turned single-burner butane stoves into a trendy kitchen accessory. Whereas propane camp stoves should only be used outdoors, butane stoves can be used indoors with proper ventilation.
Butane canisters are only functional in mild temperatures. If you’re using a butane burner indoors, extreme temperature fluctuations shouldn’t be an issue.
I’m including thermal cookers as an indoor off-grid option simply because they continue to slow-cook your food once you’ve removed the initial heat source.
A thermal cooker traps heat and maintains enough warmth to continue cooking for hours. If you prepare your recipe midday, the heat will slowly dissipate throughout the afternoon—providing you with a hot meal at dinnertime without heating your house or wasting precious fuel.
You’ll need to bring your food to a boil before placing it in the thermal cooker. Soups, stews, and meats or vegetables in sauces are well-suited to thermal cooking.
Other cooking gear and food storage
Maintaining heat is important while cooking off the grid. Using cast iron pans or a Dutch oven will help hold heat and keep food cooking with less fuel.
Although this isn’t exactly gear, if you have a root cellar in your off grid home, you can store canned and fermented foods (and long-lasting garden fruits and vegetables) at cool temperatures for extended periods of time.
Being able to cook food in large batches and preserve it for later use is important in an off grid environment. The less fuel you have to use over multiple cooking sessions, the better.
Wrapping it up
Living off the grid has many benefits, and you shouldn’t have to go without modern conveniences in exchange for living a sustainable lifestyle. By creating an off-the-grid kitchen and using fuel-efficient appliances, you can cook and bake all year long without worrying about the power grid going down.
If you’re interested in learning more essential off grid skills, check out this post!