3 Off Grid Cooking Methods

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.3 Off Grid Cooking Methods l You may already be using at least one of these l Homestead Lady (.com)


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: 

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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 learning how to use it. 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. To learn more about how solar ovens work, click here.

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. For our Budget Chicken Dinner in a solar oven, please visit this link.

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.

Off Grid Cooking SOS Solar Oven componenets www.homesteadlady.comThe Design and Shape

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

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:

By the way, speaking of off grid cooking, to learn to make your own outdoor pizza oven, see below:

The Backyard Bread & Pizza Oven, a step by step guide to building your own outdoor wood-fired pizza

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. Off Grid Cooking - The hot box - an insulated, bean bag "oven" - www.homesteadlady.com

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.

I found this good tutorial from Prepared Not Scared with the pattern, if you’re interested in making one.

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.

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.

Creating Your Off-Grid Homestead, by Teri Page of Homestead-Honey.com

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

Off grid cooking kebabs www.homesteadlady.comAnother 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.

Other Ideas?

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:

This post from Grow, Forage, Cook, Ferment has a few other ideas for off grid cooking methods – click here.

Cover photo gratefully attributed to this Wikipedia Commons user.

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12 thoughts on “3 Off Grid Cooking Methods

  1. I have the Sun Oven and I love it as well. It’s relatively new to me but I’ve used it quite a few times for baking bread and dehydrating a few things. “life issues” have kept me from bringing it out much so far this year but I’m ready to jump back in. I love how it keeps the cooking heat outside. Thanks for sharing this article.

    ~Taylor-Made Ranch~
    Wolfe City, Texas

  2. I had never heard of a solar oven. I am definitely looking more into that. And we love kebabs too, we pronounce them the same way (kebobs). Currently, we are house hunting. I can’t wait to homestead in a real house, and not our one-bedroom apartment. I just pray that God points us in the right direction. I love that I found your blog! I’ll be checking in more often. =)

    Check out my blog if you like at:

    1. It sounds from your blog like you’re growing quite a bit in that apartment! Good luck Homestead Hunting!

  3. I have heard of this and glad to see some more information on this. I’ve seen some people make their own sun ovens, but I’m even more interested to see ones that are actually manufactured. Great read!!!

  4. Thanks for sharing on the “Keeping It Real” blog hop…I really need to get a sun oven. Currently I try to incorporate our crockpot and outdoor grill to help stop heating the house up..the sun oven would be a great tool for those hot lazy days.

    1. I love my crockpot and grill, too; the sun oven and hot bag are great if I have to go somewhere and don’t want food to burn. Plus, I don’t have to worry that some appliance is going to short out while I’m gone.

      The sun oven is a lot easier to clean than my electric one, too!

  5. For the last 2 years I have used my car as an oven during the hot months of summer.The space under the back window is flat and large enough for 2 cookie sheets.I have made kale chips,raisins,dried apples and cherries.In the afternoon, it easily reaches temps similar to a dehydrator and items dry very quickly.I spread the food out in a single layer with parchment paper between the food and the metal trays.

    1. Thanks for sharing your way of cooking! We have been using parabolic solar cookers for over 20 years, and I find they work best in combination with a wonder basket. The latter works really well also in reducing our carbon footprint if one combines with conventional cookers, gas or electricity, and hence also work really well in an urban setting.
      We have experimented with different kinds of filling aka insulation material, and we have found that feathers, cotton, kapok and rice husks work really well. My personal favorite is kapok, but not everyone has access to that.
      To avoid spilling full pots (the less airspace in the pot, the better food will cook) I sometimes put a towel between pot lid and wonder basket lid. And, 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.
      I also love the wonder basket for making yoghurts or pasteurizing liquids.
      Wish you the best!

      1. Thank you for sharing all that! I had to search for what kapok is – fascinating. Great advice about using a down pillow or sleeping bag; I will add that to the post with your name so that everyone can share your wisdom! I find the science of solar powered anything to be so compelling. The sun is a huge nuclear reactor that anyone can use for free, after all!

        Thank you for stopping by!

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