Sunday, November 2, 2014

Outdoor Cooking Options

After the Storm by Renee Williams,
acrylic on canvas covered board
One of the concepts that's mentioned in SHTF scenarios on a fairly consistent basis is the potential for power to be out for more than just a few hours.  Being able to feed yourself regardless of the state of public utilities is a necessity.

Liquid-fueled camp stoves come in handy for a lot of cooking options, ranging from boiling rice or pasta to putting together a hearty stew, throwing together veggies, or even frying those fish you just caught and cleaned.  Unfortunately, the variety of methods available on a camp stove are somewhat limited: boiling, steaming, sauteing or frying are pretty much your only options, unless you invest a lot of money into various "extras" to sit on top of the stove itself. 

Example extra: the Coleman camp oven. 
Camp stoves also have the drawback of requiring a fuel source that might be difficult to replenish during a long term outage.

Grills are a fantastic option as long as you don't mind having limited choices concerning methods of food preparation.  There are only so many ways to grill meat and vegetables before you've run out of tricks to keep things interesting. In a pinch you can set a pot on top of them if you don't have a camp stove, which means that grills can pull double duty as boilers in the long term.

Grills also have a point of superiority over camp stoves where availability of fuel is concerned.  It doesn't require anything specialized, or difficult to manufacture, to fuel a grill.  It just requires a bit of time and a willingness to put forth the sheer physical effort to go gather wood.

Eventually, though, both of these methods fall short in one important area, an area that perhaps only a dedicated cook would consider a necessity in the kitchen:  neither camp stoves nor grills provide a consistent means of baking!

Coleman has actually tried solving that problem during the past few years with the introduction of their propane fueled Camp Stove/Oven Combo.  Unfortunately, while the Coleman combo unit works really well - I've had an opportunity to use one during camp outs with friends who invested in one - they tend to be on the prohibitively expensive side.  Like,in excess of $200 each kind of expensive. (Editor's Note: currently available from Amazon for $166.99!)

The only other drawback besides price is the extremely limited amount of space inside the oven itself.  The interior dimensions of the unit are barely large enough for a 9x9 pan.  Throw away the notion of using anything much larger than that -- it simply won't fit.  If all you plan to do is toss a can of biscuits in to fix for breakfast during a weekend campout with 3-4 people, you're all set.  Anything beyond that, and you'll need to look for an alternative.

Don't get me wrong, I applaud the Coleman company for making this bad boy.  It works great, it's relatively lightweight, and the hook-ups between the unit and a propane tank are easy to connect.  If you do a lot of camping, and have the money to invest in something of this nature, it's worth what you'll spend on it. Sadly, the unit comes with the same drawback that all camp stoves carry when it comes to fuel availability.

For long term periods of being off-grid after a SHTF happening,  I prefer to look at a more permanent solution than simply hoping I can find Coleman fuel.  I took a look at the various options out there, and I looked especially closely at the options from ancient and medieval sources that most people don't consider any longer. And thanks to connections in my medieval crowd, I was offered an opportunity to oversee the building of an earth oven for outdoor use.

Over the course of the next few weeks, I'm going to be presenting a series of articles that details the construction of that first Viking Village project, along with sites where you can get plans for something similar.  Next week I'll begin that set of articles with details about the first stage of our oven construction.

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