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Cooking When The Lights Go Out

You have a few options for meal preparation if the power goes out. If you are adequately ready for each option, they are all positive options. To save fuel, no recipe should be cooked for more than 20 minutes, if possible. When selecting recipes, bear in mind that if the power is off and there is no ice to keep things cool, leftovers cannot be stored.

Use a camp stove, grill, Dutch oven, or grill (this must be done outside and can require special cookware)

On a canned heat stove, prepare "heat only" foods like canned soups, stew, and chili or "just add water" foods like instant soup and oats.

Utilize canned or prepared raw foods that don't require heating.

On a butane stove with one burner, prepare simple meals.

Butane stove

Compared to the canned heat stove, the butane stove will support larger cookware sizes, and regular kitchen cookware can be used. With good ventilation, a butane stove can be used inside. The gas flame is hotter and simpler to control than canned heat. These benefits make it possible to prepare recipes rather than just reheat canned goods.

Gas range

If you are fortunate enough to own a gas range, you can cook on the range top even when there is no power (as long as nothing has happened to the natural gas lines).

Chaffing dish and six-hour cans

I recently witnessed this approach being used at a Cooking without Power class. Six cans were used by the instructor to begin cooking her split pea soup. She put the lids on the cans and covered three when they were boiling, leaving the rest to simmer. Sam's Club sells these cans for 12/roughly $13.00 each.


Five canisters of propane can be legally stored and has an endless shelf life. Keep them out of your house; doing so could void your homeowners insurance.


Because it draws moisture from the air, use outside and store in an airtight container.


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