What’s Inside: The article is about how to cook without electricity when the grid goes out or you’ve made a lifestyle choice to live off grid. Cooking without electricity can be accomplished using alternative cooking methods such as gas stoves, wood-fired stoves of various sizes, barbecue grills, or solar ovens. Planning ahead and preserving food by canning, fermenting, or dehydrating will expand your options for meals without electricity. The article includes information on how to cook without electricity, so you’ll be able to feed your family well, even when the power goes out. 

How To Cook Without Electricity 

Services that we have come to rely on in our modern society are becoming increasingly erratic and unreliable. Electricity is one such modern convenience that is becoming unstable and uncertain. How do you cook without electricity when the power goes out or choose to go without electricity as a lifestyle choice? 

Cooking without electricity can be accomplished using alternative cooking methods such as gas stoves, wood-fired stoves of various sizes, barbecue grills, or solar ovens. Planning ahead and preserving food by canning, fermenting, pickling or dehydrating will expand your options for meals without electricity. 

Homesteaders have been facing the challenges of cooking without electricity for a long time, but failing electricity infrastructure and supply is beginning to be a problem for urban dwellers as much as for people in rural areas. As an example, I currently live in Southern California, and especially during the summer when electricity demands are high, there are regular, scheduled power outages, not to mention unplanned power outages.

Fortunately, there are many alternative options for a hearty meal without electricity, which I’ll get into in the remainder of this article.

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Methods To Cook Without Electricity 

One of the aspects of modern society that I do not like and that makes me feel trapped is our increased reliance on the authorities to provide the services we need to live a comfortable life. 

The price we pay for comfort and convenience is a dependence on our governments and municipalities to provide for our needs. 

This dependence on the system hits hard when the services we have come to depend upon no longer function. 

Many people, including urban dwellers like me, are becoming aware of this vulnerability in their lifestyles and are looking for ways to regain their independence. 

Fortunately, there are options available to prepare healthy meals without the need to rely on electricity. 

I will detail some options that you may find interesting and useful and will give you the means to put food on the table when the electricity grid is down. These methods of how to cook food without electricity would also be useful if you choose an alternative lifestyle of self-reliance. 

Cook With Gas Instead of Electricity 

Gas is a useful alternative to electricity in your home to cook food without electricity or heat food, such as leftovers, without electricity. 

Many homes already have piped gas as an alternative option for cooking and heating, but you are still reliant on the gas company providing the gas supply. 

Other alternatives are propane gas cylinders to power gas stoves, which allow you to keep several cylinders in reserve to prepare for limited gas supplies. 

Cooking with gas can also be used as a backup for people with electric stoves, even those living in apartments. 

Small countertop gas stoves or camping butane stoves are available, which you can store away, along with a small propane or butane gas canister or cylinder, depending on the type of gas stove you choose.  These are great options if you’re looking for an off grid stove. You can get all of the ones I linked to on Amazon.

Pro tip: Note that portable gas stoves (Amazon) are still worth having on hand, even if you have a gas stove in your kitchen. I have a gas stove in my kitchen, but when I tried to use it once when the power was out, I found out that even though it’s a gas stove, it still requires electricity to light.

The main disadvantages to cooking with gas stoves are stockpiling gas which is a fire risk, and the suppliers running out of gas when the electricity grid is down. Most suppliers use electric pumps to refill gas cylinders. 

Use a Wood Stove Instead of Electricity 

A wood burning stove not only adds warmth and charm to a home, but also is a great option for cooking without electricity.
If you are fortunate enough to have a wood burning stove, they are a great way to cook without electricity.

A wood stove may seem an archaic option, and it has some drawbacks, but it is still a viable option in some circumstances. 

Many people think that wood stoves are only applicable in a rural setting. In some cases, this is true since some urban municipalities ban the use of wood-burning appliances. 

However, if your local laws allow wood-fired options, several options are available to cook a hearty meal without electricity. 

  • Indoor wood stoves. These are large appliances that would be a permanent fixture in your home. 
  • Rocket stoves. A rocket stove (Amazon) is a highly efficient outdoor, small-footprint wood stove that uses small sticks and twigs as fuel. It can be a suitable cooking method for suburban and rural homesteads. 
  • Small outdoor wood stoves. Small camping outdoor wood stoves (Amazon) are an alternative to an indoor wood stove or as a backup to an electric stove. 

Issues with Using Gas or Wood to Cook When the Power is Out

Even though my condo has a balcony, I can’t cook on the balcony due to HOA restrictions.

Before choosing to cook with wood or gas when the power goes out, it’s important to be aware of not just regulations in the state, city, or county where you live, but also any regulations your HOA may impose.

As an example, my husband and I own a condo in Colorado. We have two balconies, so it seems like a perfect place to use a gas grill, or a portable camp stove. Unfortunately, the HOA rules for our condo do not allow for cooking with any type of flame, including barbecue grills.

I do understand that the reason for this is for the safety of everyone in the complex, since grills and camp stoves can be fire hazards.

Use a Thermal Cooker

What I’ve personally decided to do is have a small camp stove on hand, and a few canisters of fuel to use in a true emergency. Since I’m really not supposed to use something like a camp stove EVER, to minimize any use of one, my plan is to use a thermal cooker (Amazon) to drastically reduce the amount of time I am breaking any rules.

Even if you don’t have restrictions like I do, a thermal cooker (Amazon) is a great way to use less propane or butane, since you only have to cook the food for 10-15 minutes before allowing it to finish cooking in the thermal cooker. This method works even when cooking things such as dry beans that tend to take a long time to cook.

Use The Sun to Cook Without Electricity

Cooking with a sun oven to cook without electricity.
Sun ovens are a great way to use the power of the sun to cook without electricity.

Solar power is a green source of electricity that often comes to mind as an alternative to grid electricity, but you can also use the sun for cooking food without electricity. 

Sun ovens are a modern take on ancient principles of using the sun to prepare meals. The All American Sun Oven (Amazon) is a prime example of a solar oven that can prepare many different meals. 

A sun oven can be used in any urban or rural setting, provided you have enough sunshine to provide the energy to cook your meal. 

Surprisingly, the sun oven does not need a lot of sunlight to cook a warm meal, but it is not an option on thick overcast, or rainy weather days, which is the main downfall of this option. 

Cook On a Charcoal Grill When the Grid Is Down 

cooking on a charcoal grill is an inexpensive way to cook without electricity.
Charcoal grills are a great, inexpensive option for cooking without electricity.

A charcoal grill (Amazon) is an option that many homes have on hand for cooking outdoors for social occasions. Many people are not aware of the cooking potential of a charcoal grill for making entire meals, including casseroles and even baking bread. 

Learn how to cook a wide range of foods and meals on your charcoal grill, and you will have an alternative method of cooking or reheating food and feeding your family when electricity is not an option. 

You can even buy accessories for your grill on Amazon, such as this pizza oven. Imagine being able to make fresh, piping hot pizza in the middle of a power outage!

The advantage of most charcoal grills is that they can be used with charcoal or wood, offering a variety of fuel sources for cooking. 

If your local laws do not allow for a charcoal grill, a gas grill can be an alternative, especially for apartment dwellers. However, you may face the same challenges with propane supplies for a gas grill during an extended grid outage. 

Cook On an Open Fire 

Many people forget about the simple cooking method on an open campfire as an alternative to cooking with electricity. 

Our modern lifestyle has caused us to forget this most basic means of cooking our food. Some local laws restrict or prohibit open woodfires in some areas, so you must check your local laws before using this option. 

However, it is one of the simplest forms of cooking food without electricity and requires the least additional equipment. 

Cooking on an open fire is as simple as creating a campfire in your backyard, using a few bricks or stones as a windbreak and a basic grill to place over the fire as a platform for cooking. 

When it comes to cooking over an open fire, I recommend cast iron cookware. I generally buy Lodge brand cast iron cookware on Amazon. It’s very reasonably priced, and if buying goods made in America matters to you, that’s another plus of the Lodge brand.

This method of cooking food without electricity has some drawbacks, such as it is an outdoor method that poses challenges in inclement weather. However, with a little ingenuity, it is a fairly simple matter to rig up a temporary shelter to cook outdoors on a campfire. 

Prepare Meals That Don’t Need Electricity 

Preparing meals that don’t need electricity can be a short-term or long-term option, requiring some planning to put the necessary alternative measures in place. 

The short-term option is to make sandwiches, salads, or open canned foods that you have on hand in your home. This is a short-term solution because you can only prepare meals for as long as you have supplies of these items. 

The short-term alternatives are a backstop if your electricity outage will only be for a few hours, but what if the outage lasts several days? 

An extended electricity outage not only limits your food-making options but will also cause the fresh food in your refrigerator to spoil, reducing your food supply and the meals you can prepare without electricity. 

Many homesteaders plan ahead and use canning and other preserving methods such as dehydrating to store food purchased from grocery stores, or excess from their food gardens. 

Dehydrating and canning can boost your food stores and allow you to simply open these foods and use them to prepare a meal that requires no electricity. 

Pickling, fermenting, canning and dehydrating are food storage methods that require planning ahead and preparation in anticipation of having no electricity to cook food. 

The advantage of this option is that you can preserve food in an inner-city apartment, a suburban home, or a rural homestead! 


Electricity suppliers worldwide are struggling to keep the lights on due to various reasons, which can catch you unprepared and unable to cook food. A few simple backup plans, which can include cooking on gas, wood fires, or making use of the sun, can make the difference between having a warm cooked meal or making do with what you have. 

Basic preparations towards self-reliance can go a long way to make life a little more convenient and comfortable when the grid goes down for extended periods! 

I hope you found this article helpful and that you now feel more equipped when it comes to how to cook without power.

Here’s a recap of the various resources for cooking without electricity that you can pick up on Amazon.

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