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Identify what you need to put aside – pt 8 – Cooking

The next article in our series ‘Identify what you need to put aside‘ is Cooking.

Cooking in a survival situation does two things for us. One it converts raw meat into cooked meat which can be consumed or stored and it also makes the food warm which saves us energy and warms us up. We could survive without it but we don’t need to if we are prepared. We won’t go into recipes or exactly how to cook a perfect egg here. We will just look at options available to provide cooking facilities in the event that we have a survival type scenario.

What exactly do we need?
To put it simply we want our food heated until the food is cooked. This destroys bacteria and microbes in the food that our bodies long ago stopped processing and they now makes us ill, sometimes fatally. Cooking pre processes that food for us.
Cooking also prepares the food for storage. We can take items of fruit, veg, meat and fish and by cooking them we can extend their storage life, sometimes for months. We use this to extend our stores to last all year round.
Heating the food also warms up our bodies. Although we are warm blooded and our bodies regulate their own temperature any help it can get reduces our calorific requirements. Food calories consumed perform different tasks depending on requirements. One of those is keeping our bodies at body temperature. That is why we eat more in the winter and don’t feel hungry during the summer. As food is going to be scarce then we don’t want to waste it heating our bodies when we can do that directly.

How do we cook our food now?
There are several ways we can do this.

  • Camp fire
  • Clay oven
  • Electric oven
  • Gas stove
  • Microwave
  • Solar oven
  • Wood burning stove

As we are preparing we see a requirement for cooking and will usually put aside some facilities to do so. We usually put aside gas stoves, a supply of gas or fuel and/or a generator for electricity. Power generation is a separate article so we won’t go into detail here but we can, initially, ensure that the usual ways to cook are available to us and these ways may still be available to use depending on our power requirements as clearly an electric oven and a microwave require electricity to function. The same with gas powered devices, they require gas in one form or another to function. If so then we need not bother any further until either; the electricity is disrupted, the gas runs out or the unit itself breaks, elements wear out and break and electronics fail for a variety of reasons.

What are our fall back options?
Without electricity or gas we have only two real options available to us.

  • Wood
  • Solar

Both are viable sources of cooking power even in the UK with wood being the most popular by far.

Wood Cooking
This simply requires picking wood or debris and burning it to create heat. It is the quickest and easiest way and can be done anywhere, with or without containers or cooking implements. That is a basic campfire. Some flasks used for boiling water have a compartment for the fuel. You can also make more permanent cooking facilities by building a clay oven or using a metal stove both of which can be further enhanced by adding facilities such as grills and/or spit roasting skewers. A clay oven can be made easily with old bricks, some cement or even some earth. People use them now to have barbecues and instructions can be found in our Homestead Files. You already should have matches and/or flints in your kits but ensure you have some for starting a fire here. In the olden days there was a role for someone to keep the fire going as it was difficult to start and was precious. We are not quite there yet, give the greens time, and we have many ways to start our fires burning even in bad weather.

Solar Cooking
A much less known solution in the UK. Solar power is used by boat owners to dry fish they have caught at sea and some people use it to cook and dry fruit, fish and meat. It uses no power besides the suns output but does however require the construction of a special oven. The sun in the UK, except for a few weeks of the year, is insufficient to cook with, it needs a bit of help and we provide that help by constructing a solar oven. Basically this is a small greenhouse with a reflector capability that focuses the suns rays on the centre of the oven, where the food is placed for cooking. Instructions for building a simple solar oven can be found in this article on constructing a solar cooker while instructions for more sophisticated units can be found in Homestead Files. Solar cooking is slow, normally taking twice as long as an ordinary oven, and is very dependant on the weather which is why it is usually used for drying food rather than cooking it where it can simply be left until it is complete.

Preparation
Add your gas requirements to your supplies list now. Gas stove and gas for fuel. After all you may be unable to collect wood for a fire or even build a fire in your refuge. A solar oven may also be unsuitable initially due to the time of year or location security requirements. Gas will be a good solution at that stage with a move to wood and solar as soon as practical. To this end you should also add the components for a solar oven, a small wood stove and a wood burning oven, plus more fire starting tools such as flints and matches to your supplies list.

You can even start using the solar and wood burning items now which will save on your energy costs and prepare the way for the energy meters which are planned for installation over the next few years so the government can control your fuel and power.

Next up is part 9 in the series, Keeping Warm.

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