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by Bryan A. Thompson
Last Updated 2/10/2003
During times of emergency, you can't buy food from the grocery store, a restaurant, or convenience store. Cooking appliances such as microwave ovens, George Foreman Grills, coffee makers and electric ranges require a lot of electrical energy to cook your food. Cooking with propane will help to conserve electrical energy (and therefore gasoline or battery power).
Emergency Cooking Fuel
Natural Gas - If you already have natural gas stove, you're in luck. Make sure the bill is paid you're all set.
Propane - If you have a propane BBQ grill or propane stove, you're in pretty good shape. Make sure you keep the tank full and you can probably cook for an extended emergency.
Charcoal - Most of us have a BBQ grill of some sort. This can serve emergency cooking needs except for baked goods. Make sure you have charcoal and lighter fluid. This isn't convenient or easily sustained for 2 weeks, so I don't recommend it.
Sterno and other canned heat - It's difficult to boil water with Sterno. Some people refill the Sterno cans with denatured alcohol and that burns a lot hotter than the Sterno did. It all sounds pretty dangerous and the alcohol probably won't store well, so I'm not recommending it.
Trioxane Bars - The military uses these things to heat food. One bar weighs about 1 ounce and burns at 14,000BTU for 8 minutes. This is enough to boil a cup of water for coffee or heat a meal. This stuff is really convenient for backpackers - it's waterproof and doesn't require a stove to use the fuel.
Wood - if you have firewood, you can always cook over a fire the way they did way back. This takes a lot of storage space, so I'm not recommending it be used unless other methods are exhausted.
Emergency Cooking Appliances
Can Opener - Remember that can openers are (usually) necessary in an emergency situation. Solutions are to buy food in pull-top cans or buy a manual can opener.
Refrigerator - If you intend to use refrigerated food, make sure you can maintain power to the refrigerator or that you have a source of ice to keep the food cool. You should probably eat the frozen food first, then the refrigerated food, then start on the canned stuff. I store about 30 lbs of Blu-Ice blocks in my freezer. This creates a thermal mass that maintains frozen and refrigerated food for a long time after the power fails. I also have a large cooler that I can transfer food and Blu-Ice to in the event of an emergency. Storing food in a cooler minimizes the energy lost when you open the cooler. In an upright refrigerator, all the cold air spills out on the ground when you open the door.
Coleman Stove - These always impressed me as dangerous, but they do work. They can be powered by Coleman Fuel, gasoline or propane. I have a 2 burner dual-fuel stove, and I bought a propane adapter for maximum flexibility. I also bought an adapter set (coupler and hose) to attach the Coleman stove to the 20lb propane tank I use with my BBQ grill.
BBQ Grill - Most of us have these, and they can be used for cooking in an emergency situations.
Wood Stove - If you heat or cook with wood, this might work for you.
Energy Required for Heating Water
It takes 422.04 Watt Hours of energy to heat water from 32F to 212F. It takes 229.77 Watt Hours of energy to heat water from 32F to 130F.
See the heating survey page for more information on how much energy it takes to heat water for cooking or bathing.
Energy Required for Refrigeration
Click here for more information on refrigeration in an emergency situation.
23W of Electrical Energy when operating in steady-state mode. This is a legitimate use for electricity and can easily be sustained by a UPS.