Going off grid doesn’t have to be all or nothing! How about trying these three off grid cooking methods to get your feet wet in energy savings? You may not think of the last one as being an off grid cooking method but you may already be doing it! FYI, none of these methods involve a campfire.
This post is inspired by the off grid cooking information in our book, The Do It Yourself Homestead. We cover multiple way to redirect and conserve energy on the homestead, including off grid living ideas. Even converting your current homestead to be more “off grid-ish” no matter where you live. To learn more about the book, click below:
Off Grid Cooking with Family
The first thing I want to point out is that all of these methods are great for teaching to children. There are safe way to include our kids in our off grid cooking routines. From chopping veggies, to lighting fires, to tending pots – there’s something for every age child to do.
Here’s an article I wrote for Hobby Farms online that details kids and fire safety just a bit – click here. Here’s another from here at Homestead Lady that goes over general fire safety, including children.
Off Grid Cooking With Solar Ovens
To begin our off grid cooking journey we purchased an SOS Sport solar oven a few years ago and have enjoyed using it. Sadly, they’re no longer for sale. However, there are other brands of solar oven and I encourage you to check them out. The SOS is a very basic solar oven and operates like they all do.
The idea is to catch the suns rays to pull heat into the box/oven in order to cook your food without needing purchased power. The sun is, after all, one huge nuclear reactor shining down on us for free.
Some Great Solar Oven Features
Solar ovens act like slow cookers that don’t require any electricity to run. For best results, preheat it like any oven. That just means you need to set it out in the sun about a half hour to an hour before you need to use it.
We’ve cooked all kinds of things in ours from fish to soup to bread to “boiled” eggs. You can even learn to roast a chicken and several side dishes all at once in your solar oven!
Another really neat feature of this kind of cooking is that, unless you go off and leave for a really long time, you don’t burn food cooked in a solar oven.
Solar Oven Set Up
The SOS is light and easy to use, with only a few parts.
- The main body is a black box that has a plastic lid.
- The lid attaches with six metal clasps so it doesn’t blow away in the wind. This also keeps it safe from wayward kiddos who may run into the hot oven.
- There’s also a sun shield that attaches with spring clasps to magnify the sun’s heat and draw it into your oven.
The Design and Shape of the SOS Solar Oven
The wide design of this one means that you don’t have to turn it very often to follow the sun. Typically, with a sun oven, you maximize the suns rays for cooking by following its movement across the sky.
Some items require only a half hour to cook while others take several. Once the sun is off the solar oven, it stops actively cooking your food. I’m always busy and I appreciate the wide body of the SOS which means I don’t have to turn it as often.
I have a friend who has a Sun Oven and loves it. It’s quite a bit sturdier and deeper than mine. Plus, it folds up for toting around and isn’t too heavy. It has an internal thermometer, too, which is really handy.
I lost the thermometer that came with my SOS – I needed to attach it somehow so that didn’t happen. Sigh.
My biggest pet peeve with all solar ovens I’ve seen is that they aren’t big enough and sometimes too oddly shaped for certain pans. My SOS only hold my 9×13 casserole dish, but nothing bigger. I feed ten people at a time so I need bigger, especially for off grid cooking.
What I’d like to do is buy two to three more solar ovens so that I can make a main dish, side dish, bread and dessert all at once. If I were more hard core, I’d make my own solar oven; you can learn how to do that here.
Here are some of our favorite solar oven recipes and DIYs:
- Blueberry Banana Muffins from Homestead Honey
- From here at Homestead Lady we have a tutorial on how to make your own apple chips in your solar oven – this shows you how to use your solar oven as a dehydrator.
- Here’s a side by side comparison of solar oven baked rolls and electric oven rolls, in case you’re wondering if there’s a difference.
- We also have a little suggestion for a budget-friendly chicken dinner for the solar oven, as well as some solar oven lasagna, both of which are great for families.
- If you’ve gone Paleo, here are some solar oven Paleo breakfast scones. And here’s our favorite one, solar oven S’mores!
By the way, speaking of off grid cooking, to learn to make your own outdoor pizza oven, see below:
Off Grid Cooking With The Hot Box
Another item I love to use for off grid cooking is my Hot Box aka Wonder Box. These “ovens” are like bean bags that cook in your kitchen using only the heat from the pot inserted into them.
What is a Hot Box?
They’re super insulated bags with a top piece that acts like a lid. They were developed from the Wonder Boxes designed to help African moms cook a whole pot of something like rice using only a minimal amount of fuel.
The idea (which is not an historically new one) is that you:
- bring a pot of rice to boil
- then shut off the stove (or put out your cook fire)
- put the pot inside the into the bottom center of the box
- put a lid on the pan
- put the box’s lid on top of everything
You leave the pot in its insulated box for as long as it takes to cook the food. My brown rice, it usually takes about an hour-ish.
Make Your Own Hot Box
I decided to make my own hot box since I’m too cheap to buy them. Being frugal is part of why off grid cooking appeals to me in the first place.
Hot boxes are stuffed with polystyrene pellets and made with cotton fabric, or any other natural fiber. Even wool would work.
Make One With a Friend
I’m not much of seamstress so I went to a neighbor’s house so she could mentor me in putting them together. Making them together meant we were able to order the pellets together. We got a price break for ordering them in bulk but it would have been way too many pellets for just one person unless we were each making five boxes!
FYI, another friend suggested we stuff our boxes in the bathroom, better yet, the tub to minimize the mess. There’s major static electricity on the pellets and the little buggers can just go everywhere! And I mean, everywhere.
Uses of a Hot Box
For off grid cooking you can use these boxes for preparing grains, veggies and soups. You can also culture your homemade yogurt in them. I really like using them to cook grains because it protects them from being burned from over cooking on the stove.
Are you a soap maker? I mellow my soap batches in my boxes before I cut and cure them. I also use my boxes to keep cheese and dye vats up to temperature. The boxes will even keep things cool, if that’s what you need. You can put them in your car on the way to a picnic to keep your drink cool.
The boxes do take up space, so you have to find a place to put them where they won’t be crushed or ruined. However, I think they’re worth it.
For everything you need to know about cooking with hot boxes, visit My Food Storage Cookbook. Megan provided a lot of help for the off grid cooking section of the book, The Do It Yourself Homestead, and is quoted there with lots of helpful advice.
You can visit her shop and find her hot box, aka Wonder Oven, cookbook. Plus, she has hot box kits you can buy to sew up yourself OR fully sewn ovens you can simply purchase.
If You Don’t Have a Hot Box
Intrepid reader and seasoned off grid cook, Peggy, shares these great ideas for what to use if you don’t have a Hot Box:
“…For those who don’t have a wonder basket, even an old feather filled pillow or duvet or sleeping bag works wonderfully, important though is to make sure the lining is pure organic, cotton, linen, etc. and not a trace of synthetics so it doesn’t accidentally catch fire.”
Be sure to check the comments section below for more of her quality advice!
Off Grid Cooking With Your Grill
Another thing to consider for off grid cooking is using a propane grill. Or, if you have access to charcoal, a Webber Kettle type set up, that will work, too. Grillin’ is surely not a new concept but I think it bears mentioning here to make sure we’ve covered the basics.
Then, of course, there’s open fire or wood burning stove cooking. These options are awesome for off grid cooking but not so great for keeping cool, inside or out. Grills are easy to use and many people are already accustomed to using them.
We’re doing so far but are always on the lookout for more ideas on off grid cooking. What are you favorite ways to beat the heat and the energy bill while cooking? Tell me more about Dutch ovens, for instance. I have yet to learn to really use them without charcoal briquettes, which are cheating, in my opinion.
We’re slowly learning how to use campfire for cooking (without briquettes) – here’s our post on our first forays into outdoor cooking. And did you see our post on campfire cookies – I love S’mores, but how many marshmallows can you eat, really?
For a fun series on outdoor cooking with kids, please visit our series over at Hobby Farms.com on our editorial blog Farm Sprouts. Here they are in order: