Grid Down Cooking

Grid Down Cooking�

What are the alternative cooking sources when the power goes out? Firstly I’d like to talk about fuel types and then go into specifics of stoves before hitting on emergency cookers.�

Fuel Types;

Butane is a gaseous component of natural gas, much like gasoline is a component of crude oil. While petroleum products like gasoline are refined, natural gas products like butane are extracted. This is the bottled gas sold for use in camping stoves and outdoor gas-powered grills. Propane may deliver more energy than butane, but butane has a certain property that makes it ideal for containment. When butane is compressed, it becomes a liquid very quickly. Once it is released into the air, however, it reacts with an ignition source to become a highly flammable gas. Unlike some other natural gas derivatives, butane only releases carbon dioxide as a waste product, not carbon monoxide.

Advantages include:

many commercial options

high heat output


generally much lighter than liquid petrol stoves

very easy to operate

easy to simmer

maintenance free

burn clean and relatively quiet


Disadvantages include:

weight of fuel containers (around half the weight of fuel; but still lighter than metal ones for liquid petrol)

bulk of canisters (if you have to carry more than you need)

heavier than alcohol stoves

non-refillable canister makes weight planning/adjusting difficult for short trips

may not work well at subfreezing temperatures

flame can be easily blown out with wind

danger if canister damaged

pierceable canisters cannot be removed from stoves without loss of fuel and are dangerous to store on the stove as they may leak �

Denatured Alcohol/Metholated Spirits (“metho”) is a mixture of ethyl alcohol (95%) and methyl alcohol (%5). The methyl alcohol is poisonous and is added to prevent the methylated spirits being used as cheap drinking alcohol.


Lightweight – few ounces versus a pound or more

Simplicity – just add fuel and light a match – no pumping, priming or pre-lighting required

Reliable – many designs are fail-proof

Quiet – generally can’t be heard

Odorless – if you spill alcohol all over your gear, you won’t smell like a gas pump for the rest of your trip

Availability of Fuel – can be found at any hardware store or gas station (great for thru-hikers)

No Maintenance – no time or repair kit need for adjustments and cleaning

Safety – fuel not explosive and can be easily extinguished

Easily Transportable Fuel – don’t need a heavy metal container to transport fuel – a disposable plastic water bottle is more than ample

Low Cost – the cheapest around or even free (use common recycled items)

Eco Friendly – uses a clean renewable energy source

DIY (Do It Yourself) – Tools, metal and fire! DIY stoving is so satisfying that is has become it’s own hobby


Reduced Output – about half the heat output per ounce compared to other liquid fuels (white gas, butane, etc) and not appropriate for groups, long treks (greater than a one to two weeks without refitting) or melting snow

Invisible Flame – refilling with fuel or handling the stove can be dangerous to those that depend solely on the sense of sight for evaluating dangers

Cold Sensitive – most setups depend on vaporization of fuel and may not work well in frozen environments

Lacks Brand Name – North Face wearing, Mountain House eating, Starbucks drinking, Honda Element driving “outdoors people” will refer to you as “ghetto” and/or “trailer park”

Durability – if you step on your stove made from pop cans, you might have to say goodbye to hot meals for the rest of your trip

DIY (Do It Yourself) – Many of the stove designs out there require you to fabricate your own setup which can prove to be challenging or inconvenient for many�

White Gas/Coleman Fuel historically called white gas Coleman fuel is a petroleum naptha product marketed by The Coleman Company. It is a liquid petroleum distillate fuel �

Propane/LPG� is a three-carbon alkane, normally a gas, but compressible to a transportable liquid. It is derived from other petroleum products during oil or natural gas processing. When used as vehicle fuel, it is commonly known as liquefied petroleum gas (LPG or LP-gas), which can be a mixture of propane along with small amounts of propylene, butane, and butylene.�



Advantages include:

generally weigh a bit more than other stoves but since you don’t have to carry fuel this system may be lighter than other systems for long trips

able to melt enormous amounts of snow without carrying huge amounts of fuel

cheap to make, free fuel

potential for unlimited hot water and even water purification

smoke may get rid or decrease the amount of bugs in your campsite

use as a heater to warm up cold bones on chilly evenings and brisk mornings

produce less overall pollution than other fuels (no drilling, refining, transporting, etc)

renewable energy source

a wood fire is magical

Disadvantages include:

weight, bulk

blackening of pots and everything your pot and stove touches in your pack

everything you hike with will smell like smoke

need to hunt for fuel at the end of the day or during your trek

dependence on availability of dry burnable wood

slow cook time

need to fiddle with the fire

knowledge of fire building required

potential to start forest fire in dry windy areas

may be banned in your hike area �



Kerosene, known as paraffin oil in the United Kingdom, is a flammable liquid obtained by distilling petroleum at a high temperature.

Advantages include:

easy to find

high heat output

easy to find and inexpensive fuels (often the only fuel option available in many remote places)

the only type of stoves that may work in extremely cold environments (Alaska, Antarctica, Himalayas, Northern Europe in their respective winters)

some can burn a variety of fuels

fuels have high heat to weight ratio

Disadvantages include:

outrageous weight to include weight of fuel containers


caustic fuel

explosive fuel



many don’t simmer well unless you block the flame from your pot while wasting fuel

stove cost

jet noise (pressurized versions)

flare ups can be dangerous

some fuels blacken pots with soot

significant maintenance concerns

complicated to operate (a plus for some)

most require pumping

fuel storage concerns

skin exposure to fuels extreme cold can be dangerous �


Requires fuel that could otherwise be used elsewhere and electrical compentry that breaks down.Noise is also an issue in a PAW environment, letting others know you have supplies and fuel.�

Types of Stoves;

Firstly there are a few other advantages and disadvantages of fuels here in oz, relating to selecting a stove. �

Butane type cookers, of which Im about to purchase my first as a backup are great little units but only have fuel for sale within capital cities. Yourd be lucky to find any cartridges any where else. Purchasing them in bulk from supermarket sales are the cheapest option but not a renewable resorce. Great for short term meals that are safe to store for long periods of time as compared to liquid fuels and can be used inside safely. Im purchasing one for easier cooking inside my bus instead of carrying LPG containers which need to be attached to the outside of the vehicle.�

Metho can be brought anywhere and trangia type cookers although slow are the backbone of back up systems for cooking. A very safe fuel to use aswell.

Coleman fuel, once again hard to find anywhere but major camping stores. �

LPG, requires a fill point. If stocks are low, then your buggered. I used a high pressure camping stove for several years and found I’d run out of gas within a fortnight when using all the time. I changed to a low pressure unit from a marine shop. A maxbuilt/tudor brand made from stainles steel. Its still going after 10 years and used it everyday in� an old double decker bus for three years straight . Found a 4.5 litre bottle would last me around 3 to 4 months. Not only cooking everyday but also boiling water for dish wahing. Low pressure units are the way to go. I just looked up the price of these and they have doubled with the cost of stainless in the last few years.

Charcoal I tend to use with a webber BBQ for long term cooking. Meaning anything that requires 2 to 3 hours of cooking time such as roasts etc. Its of no use lighting up a dozen charcoal briquettes for a cuppa. Whenever a roast is finished always have something else ready to go on to use up the heat such as bread or seasoning pots etc. Ive found if storing briquettes in the shed with any moisture present, they eventually become hard to ignite. For this reason Ive started storing them in screw top plastic drums with rubber seals. A good storable backup. Importing a volcano stove would cost more than the unit itself and Ive found out from the manufacturer that its best to use charcoal and not large pieces of timber in the unit. Using briquettes with a camp oven is another option and very easy to do.

For this reason several stoves are really neccessary and not just one type of fuel. This is also a good idea if fuels for one type of cooker become hard to find, there will be a backup for your backup.�

Using kero, petrol or diesel. Id rather keep the petrol and diesel for running vehicles, power tools and lighting than for cooking and from the city have to drive over 45 minutes to a rural area to find 20 litre drums of kero, or else its one litre plastic bottles from camping stores at quadrupple the price. If I was set on using petrol for cooking. Id rather run a small genny but the amount of fuel used for output when compared to low pressure gas units has out weighed the temptation.�

What I use

I have the following set up. A gas Heatlie BBQ for fryups using 9 kilo gas bottles that last for several months each. Larger sized bottles than this are hard to lift and find places that will refill them. The tudor two burner bench top cooker that can attach to the BBQ with an accessory hose for boiling and grilling. The webber for charcoal briquettes for long cooking times that would otherwise exhaust fuel supplies. My backup is old faithfull. My trangia using metho. For quick cookups the butane single burner with a small stash of canisters. Timber is available everywhere city and country along the roads, parks etc. Having an open fire is a waste of fuel when rationing and uncontrollable within a domestic area. Ive found a small practical cooker called an ozpig, that contains the fire and conserves fuel better. The small chimney also keeps smoke out of your face.

Im going to try and make my own pizza oven for a project in the near future for baking but still trying to figure out a stand, so its movable. That leaves emergency stoves, which are the old cat food tin/pepsi can/tuna can stoves that are home made. see links below on construction and designs. Knowing how to make these can get you out of a bind if metho is available. The pocket cooker for firewood use is another option , once again as a backup to your emergency backup and folds down for eay storage.

Emergency Stove links

Catfood Can Stoves�

Tuna Can Stove

Pepsi Can Stoves�

Home Made Pizza Ovens�

Pizza oven Info

Food cooked on a wood fire has a very special flavour about it, and having a wood fired pizza oven in your own garden is a fantastic addition. It is a good idea, when taking on a project like this, to get advice from a builder or structural engineer, and always check with your local council.�

Pizza Oven Design
This design is constructed in an adobe style brick dome that is mud rendered. Large wooden posts support the base and raise the oven to a level that is ergonomic and comfortable to use.�

Try to use reused materials wherever possible. Some that were sourced for this project were: �
Timber bearers for framing, tin from the roof of a house, �
Sand, cement, gravel & reinforceing mesh for the concrete slab, �
Second-hand, solid, common bricks for the oven,�
Firebricks and mortar for the base of the oven,�
Clay, sand and straw for the adobe render. �

Ensure there are no overhanging branches or debris in the area that could pose a fire risk.�
The ground surface should be comfortable to work on, but it is most important that the base of the oven is level and is positioned at approximately hip height to give a comfortable cooking and serving surface. �

The posts are going to take the weight of the concrete slab and that of the pizza oven. Find a central point from which to measure the radius of the pizza oven. It is underneath the circumference of the oven that will carry most of the weight. The posts should be positioned to bear this weight.�

Construction – the Base
Treated turpentine posts have been used in this construction. This is very dense timber and has an extremely long life. Ensure that the posts are made from a strong, long-lasting material. �
Notch the posts ready to slot in the bearers. The bearers will support the concrete slab. The slab will rest on top of the four posts.�
Dig the holes, leaving the soil at the bottom of the hole loose to allow for the post to be easily twisted into position and levelled. Check that all four posts are level before proceeding to firm the posts in the ground. The bearers should form a level framework through the posts and sit flush into the top of them.�
Place the tin on top of the bearers, to the shape of the concrete base and secure it with self-tapping screws. Place and secure a framework around the perimeter of the tin, which will contain the concrete. �
Place a circle of old hose, made to the circumference of the base of the proposed pizza oven, onto the tin in a rough outline of the position it will take. Also mark the entrance door. This is just to check that the design will fit the proportions of the base, and its orientation in relation to the garden. Remove before laying the reinforcing mesh.�
Place reinforcing mesh over the base, tying pieces together with wire, using supports to elevate it above the base. Do not allow the steel mesh to come in contact with the roofing tin because corrosion will occur.�
Concrete recipe – 3 parts sand : 2 parts gravel or blue metal : 1 part cement. Pour the concrete, tamping it down to fill all the voids, using a float to smooth over the surface. �
Allow the base to cure for several days before beginning the construction of the dome.�

Construction – the Dome
Place the second-hand bricks in the shape of the outline of the dome. These bricks will be a firm base on which to build the dome.�
Place an insulation layer of double washed river sand in the base of the dome to a depth of 40 – 100 mm. This layer provides thermal mass to trap the heat, so the thicker it is the more successfully it will hold heat in the oven.�
Place a layer of refractory firebricks on top of the sand, covering the entire area of the bottom of the pizza oven. Place the whole bricks tightly together then mark them to the outside edge and cut them with an angle grinder.�
A refractory mortar must be used to fix the bricks together for the oven. Ordinary cement mortar will crack and crumble when exposed to the heat of the oven.�
Use more of the washed river sand to fill in the gaps around the edge between the refractory bricks and the clay bricks, and also leaving a thin layer around the edge to prevent any mortar from getting on the refractory bricks�
To create the angle on the bricks: cut the bricks in half, with the bricks inside the oven touching, and with a gap of 15 mm on the outside of the dome, the construction will gradually arch over, but a well shaped dome is achieved in combination with a good eye. The brickwork does not need to be extraordinarily neat, because it will be covered with the adobe finish and the holes and gaps will be filled with this finishing layer. �
Fondue is an additive for cement that will cause it to set more quickly. This can be used when the bricks are beginning to arch over and tend to be difficult to hold in position. Another trick is to place boxes or similar behind the bricks to hold them in position.�
An alternative is to shape a dome of moist, firm, bush sand over the pizza oven base and build the brick construction over the top of it. Place a sheet of black plastic over the firebricks first, to keep them clean. The form of the bricks will follow the shape of the sand dome. To cut some corners, foam boxes can be used to fill some of the space under the sand, and will also lessen the need to dig out and remove so much sand when the brick dome is completed. Ensure that this material can be easily removed through the doorway.�
Construct some formwork for the entrance door to the pizza oven. Ensure that the width of the door is larger than the largest tray that you intend to use for cooking. The arch could be shaped from two pieces of plywood that are joined together by strips of timber. This formwork will hold the shape of the doorway while the bricks are set in place over the top of it. The height of this should be no more than 63% of the internal height of the dome. �

Applying the Adobe Render
Before applying the adobe render the bricks should be wet down thoroughly. Because the bricks are very porous they will draw out all the moisture in the clay finish. The slower the drying process the less cracks there will be when it dries.�
The adobe render is mixed at proportions of 30% clay : 70% sand with some added straw to bind the mix together.�
Apply the mixture about 6 cm thick all over the whole dome.�
When the mortar has set, remove the formwork used for the door, and remove the sand and supports that have been used inside the oven to build the dome.�
Once this first coat of mud render is completely dry, a second finishing layer can be applied to weatherproof the surface. One alternative is to apply a layer of cement render made from 3 parts washed sand : 1 part cement : 1 part lime (optional). Coloured oxide can be added to create any desired coloured finish. This will need to cure for several weeks before the oven can be fired up. Another alternative is to paint the surface with cement slurry made from just cement and water with added coloured oxide if desired, or a waterproofing agent like bondcrete and cement can be used.�
The oven can be given an individual touch that complements the design or style of the landscape in which it has been built. Sculptural additions can be made, or surface textures, patterns or motifs can be applied – glass, broken china, marbles, pebbles; it is only limited by the imagination. The oven can be given a creative touch or can remain as a simple earthy construction. �

This design has allowed for a chimney. This is not necessary in an outdoor oven, but if this oven were to be built inside, it would need to be flued to the outside of the building.�