Learning to cook without electricity

Published: Thursday, Feb. 21 2008 12:22 a.m. MST

Kylene Jones stirs soup in a chafing dish while teaching a class on how to cook safely without electricity at Macey's Little Theatre in Orem on Jan. 24.

Tim Hussin, Deseret Morning News

OREM — When the power goes out, it's good to know how to make dinner without electricity.

It's even better to know how to make dinner without endangering the family or the home.

Kylene and Jon Jones are trying to teach people how to do that — using everything from an apple box to a solar sun box oven and fuels that can be used safely indoors as well as out.

They recently shared their ideas at a Macey's Little Theatre class in Orem.

"Have you got food storage?" Kylene Jones asked. "You've got to cook with it, you know!"

Jon Jones said there are basically four types of people when it comes to planning for disaster or an emergency: the oblivious, those who don't want to deal with it, those who know it needs to be done but haven't the time and those who prepare wisely.

"We're talking about a lifestyle here," said Jon Jones, who is an engineer and with his wife, a parent of 11 children. The two became intrigued with storage and have been giving lectures on various aspects of preparedness for the past several years.

Kylene Jones said there are a few basic principles that apply to cooking without electricity.

Conserve fuel so you don't need a lot

Plan to be able to cook indoors and out, in the home or evacuated, in cold and hot weather

Remember, any flame can produce carbon monoxide — the cooking area must be well ventilated

The pair listed various kinds of fuels and energy-producing products that can work in various situations, emphasizing that different emergencies will require different things.

Kylene Jones said she likes canned heat for basic cooking because it lights easily, burns hot and she can simply take away a can to lower the cooking temperature.

She said Coleman fuel or white gas is very effective but also very dangerous and must be stored out of the house.

Kerosene must be used with great caution but requires very little oxygen.

Propane has an indefinite shelf life but homeowners may only keep up to five of the 20-lb. containers. If the propane leaks, it lingers and will explode at a spark or flame.

Butane stoves are lightweight but won't work well in cold weather.

Charcoal briquets are easy to use and inexpensive but should never be burned indoors.

"We preach options," Jon Jones said.

He and his wife showed off a number of simple ovens that can be made from cardboard boxes and powered with coals:

• The Apple Box Oven — Covered with foil, the lid of a box that apples are shipped in is simple to make, inexpensive and portable. Notches should be cut in the bottom of the sides or put it on a rack to lift it from the ground. Use 10-14 coals to bake at 350 degrees for up to 45-55 minutes.

• The Paper Box Oven — Covered with foil, a box used to transport reams of paper is inexpensive, portable, and smaller than an apple box so it needs fewer coals, only 8-10.

Wooden dowels pushed through the top help with air circulation. A blanket cover will conserve energy and hold in heat.

• A Dutch Oven — is easy to use and store but must be used outside and they're heavy so they're not really portable.

Other fuel options include fuel gel that can be squeezed out to start fires, solid fuel cubes that burn very hotly for a very short time (to boil water) and MRE heaters that heat instantly.

Battery packs need venting and maintenance.

Portable generators are expensive and require fuel storage to run them.

Wood burning stoves need dry, clean wood.

Portable grills are relatively inexpensive and can burn any available debris as fuel, said Kylene Jones.

"Think creatively, that's the point," Jon Jones said.

Kylene Jones encouraged learning to use pressure cookers and thermos cookers because they are so efficient.

"You're going to want to conserve the energy you have," she said.

Solar ovens are a good option but obviously need sunlight to operate and water never comes to boil in a solar oven.

• A Solar Funnel Cooker — developed by Dr. Steven Jones of Brigham Young University, is safe, portable, inexpensive and cooks food quickly with a black-painted jar, a solar funnel and a wire mesh sleeve. "BYU will be marketing these," Jon Jones said.

• Sola Parabolic Cookers — cook fast but are bulky and pricey.

• The Sun Oven — costs about $280 but is easy, safe, portable and the "fuel" is free. "I cooked an 18-lb. turkey in four hours in mine," Kylene Jones said.

For more information, pictures and details about ovens, cookers and fuels see the Jones Web site at: yourfamilyark.org.


E-mail: haddoc@desnews.com