5 Ways to Have a Hot Meal When the Power Goes Out

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Written by Annabelle Short

If the power goes out before you prepare a hot meal, you will need to find other means of making the meal. You might think of using an emergency generator to power your electric stove or microwave, but this will not be an economical allocation of resources. These electric stoves use a lot of power within a short time. As such, the most practical way is to heat your food using other means. A standard gas stove will also not work if the power goes out, seeing that they use an electric ignition.

When seeking for a fast means of cooking when there is no power, cooking options that produce fumes (such as the use of charcoal) should be used outside the house or in a well-ventilated kitchen. For the cooking option you choose, ensure that you have the proper kitchen equipment. When the power goes out, you need to use a heating or cooking method that you are well versed with to avoid causing accidents.

Cooking Bags and Heating Units

Cooking bags and heating units will not cook food, but they will heat cold food for you. These are food packaging units that feature a built-in heating element. To heat your food, these packaging units need twisting, snapping, or shaking to trigger a chemical reaction that produces heat.

You will find this kind of packaging in Meals Ready to Eat (MREs) options. The portable cooking camping bags feature a pouch that chemically heats your food. If you will be camping in an area where there is no electricity, a food cooking bag will be ideal.

Folding Stoves with Canned Fuel

This is a tiny stove that folds with ease for storage. The stoves were designed for campers. It offers you a large surface to cook on and fits on a small round container. Most of these stoves use liquid, canned fuel or Sterno. While you can use these stoves for cooking a meal from scratch, they have a limited heat output and are most ideal for heating or warming food.

You can use them inside your kitchen or outside; they are 100 percent safe. Sterno cans are standard on buffets. When you are done using it, you fold it nicely and store it – the bag takes a tiny space.

Portable Butane Stoves

If you only need a stove to use in instances when there is no power, you need not need a whole unit with butane cylinders. Portable butane cylinders are ideal for use inside the house in a well-ventilated room and outside. You can use these to cook a meal from scratch, unlike other options that are best suited for heating or warming. However, the butane canisters are expensive and they only hold a small volume of fuel.

If you need a stove to use while camping, these stoves will be a good option seeing that they are the size of a laptop (only thicker).

Propane Grill

A propane grill can only be used outdoors. You can use your propane grill to grill meat in summer and also as a backup cooking option in case power goes out. You might already have this grill in your house and know how to use it. However, these grills are not ideal for use indoors and they are not easy to use during nasty weather. You need to have a spare propane container at all times.

Your propane cylinder needs to be kept outdoor and upright in a secure place – it should not be inside the house, the garage or anywhere near combustible materials. Again, keep the cylinder off water or factors that might cause rust.

Charcoal Grills

Charcoal grills can only be used outside to ensure carbon monoxide does not fill your house. They are also not ideal for a small amount of cooking because the grill takes a lot of time to prepare. If you need to heat or warm food, consider other options.

If you already have a charcoal grill, get a cylindrical chimney starter which ensures you do not use starter fluid. If you can get old newspaper, you can use them to light the briquettes instead of buying lighter fluid. When using a charcoal grill, you will need to give it up to 30 minutes to get to the right cooking temperature.

Cooking Tips when the Power Goes Out

Instead of thinking about how to cook a heat meal, think of how you will heat a meal instead. It is always easier to heat and eat already cooked foods than it is to cook meals. For example, canned beans are easier to prepare compared to dry beans which need soaking and extended cooking time. When shopping for emergency food, consider easy to prepare food items.

It is advisable to have tools in your kitchen that are people-powered. For instance, if your can opener will not work when the power goes out, you need to buy one that works manually. Again, you need to have the right equipment for the cooking option you choose. For instance, open fires and grills are hotter than your standard stove burner, and you need suitable pans and pots such as cast iron.

If you choose to use a charcoal grill, you need to ensure that you know how to use that grill. On days when you are free, practice cooking on the cooking method of your choice. Again, ensure that you can make a meal with minimal equipment. When you are grilling meat during summer, practice to use as minimal equipment as possible – this will train you to use the available equipment when power goes out.


Be careful with the method you choose, especially if you have never used that method. Some methods, such as the use of propane, can be dangerous in instances where there is gas leakage. Other methods need patience – unlike a standard electric stove that you can turn a knob, and you are ready to cook, charcoal needs to be prepared.


About the author: Annabelle Short is a housewife based in Alabama. She’s a mother of two. In her free time, she likes to go fishing. Her husband is a hunter. She has been working freelance for several years and would like to start home-based food business. You can check here site here: www.seriouslysmoked.com.


Image by Karolina Grabowska from Pixabay

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  1. Thanks for these great suggestions… especially buying food that is already cooked/easy to prepare. I wanted to mention that if you have a gas stove at home, you can still use it when the power goes out by lighting it with a match.

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