Cooking after the Apocalypse: How Many Portable Stoves Does a Survivor Need?

Photo credit: Quinn Dombrowski via Flickr

I’m planning for a worst-case scenario in terms of electricity. Because of where I am currently located, I know that there’s any number of things that could go wrong with the electrical grid – from a minor storm-related power outage, to a massive prolonged blackout. So how many portable stoves do I need, for cooking after the apocalypse?

So I’ve been rethinking my cook stove preparations to prepare for both a minor event as well as a SHTF scenario, and I think I’ve got a pretty good plan. I am looking at it in terms of layers of the shitake hitting the fan, I hope this gives you some ideas on how to plan for your own cooking needs.

Layer 1: In the car, on the go

In the car, I keep a little Swiss Army Stove. It’s a thing of beauty – it runs quite nicely on twigs and will heat water quite fast. Here it is in action:

Swiss Army Stove
My little Swiss Army stove – runs on twigs.


  • Runs on twigs and whatnot
  • Lightweight yet sturdy
  • Heats water quickly


  • Only good for one or two people
  • Limited weight capacity
  • Has to be operated outdoors


Swiss Army stoves are available on eBay. It’s a great little stove for keeping in the car or for your bug out bag. And while I love this little stove, what I really want is this. It’s new and runs on twigs and will recharge your USB devices at the same time.  I want it so bad.

Layer 2: Cooking during a minor power outage

The “storm of the century” has knocked out power. And it could be a week or more until it’s back up.

When the weather is imperfect, the last thing any of us wants to be doing is lighting charcoal outside. And many of us would say that it could endanger your security – if the hungry see you cooking corned beef hash, you may have another set of problems.

So in this scenario, I’m relying upon this butane stove. It can be run indoors (make sure you have ventilation); as one reviewer put it, this is the “perfect indoor gas stove substitute”. Here’s mine at home:

butane stove
My butane stove at home. Here’s where to get your own.

I did a test to see how long one butane cartridge will last. Here’s what I cooked on one cartridge:

  • 1 stir fry
  • 2 Spam and eggs
  • 2 Soup (warming up from a can)
  • Burgers and toasted buns
  • Boiled water for coffee
  • 1 Boiled a big pot of water

Not bad!



  • Inexpensive
  • Fuel is widely available
  • Can be used indoors


  • Relies upon a certain type of fuel
  • Lightweight – so not perfect for heavy canners

So for me, this butane stove is perfect for a weather-driven power outage or for the first leg of a disaster. I can stay indoors and out of rain or out of the eyes of wanna be visitors.

Layer 3: Cooking during a SHTF scenario

I used to lay awake at night worrying about this sort of thing. Cooking food and heating water are some of my biggest concerns. I want to be able to cook and preserve the harvests, so having a sturdy cook stove that will run on various fuels is important to me. Ideally, I should be able to smoke fish or meats.

Enter the Volcano stove. If you’re a regular reader, you’ve seen how we roast coffee on it. It’s really nice because it’s multi-fueled—-that way, we can start with propane. When the propane runs out, we go to our charcoal stockpile. When the coals run out, we can harvest wood to run it. A very good little stove. And because it’s heavy-duty, I can run my pressure canner* on it during the summer months (I don’t have A/C, so this will help keep my kitchen cool!). The manufacturer says it has a weight limit of 250 pounds.

Here’s mine in nature with its perfect partner, coffee:

brewing coffee without electricity


  • Heavy duty
  • Multi fueled
  • You can smoke on it (there’s a cool lid for that)


  • Must be used outdoors

So for me, in a long term SHTF scenario, the Volcano stove will be used for everything from roasting coffee beans, to pressure canning, to boiling pots of water. I sleep better at night now that I have this set up.

The one thing I still don’t have but would like to include is a thermal cooker. This one will cook two different things at the same time – all without heat! You just heat your food up for a bit in the beginning, put the lid on and seal it up, and hours later — food!

Santa did not bring me one for Christmas, so I’ll have to save up a bit.

How are you planning on cooking in a short-term vs. long-term disaster scenario? We’d all love to know more! 🙂

*A word of warning about pressure canners and outdoor stoves: some, like the Presto canners, explicitly state that they are not to be used on an outdoor stove. I originally bought this one because it is less expensive than the All American canners. So now, I need to double-back and upgrade my pressure canner in order to be able to use it on this stove as I intended. Don’t make the same mistake I did.

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    • Harold
    • January 14, 2014

    Nice post! We can use our wood stove to cook in an emergency during cooler months.

    1. Reply

      Hi Harold,

      That’s really ideal, isn’t it? If you have time, check out the butane stove – it’s really nice and I think my favorite for quick-and-easy post SHTF cooking!

      Thanks for stopping by!

    • Papa "J"
    • January 14, 2014

    I just LOVE the picture of the chef!!! My son is a chef and would be great at his restaurant.
    I have my solar oven, butane stove, propane stove, charcoal, Traeger grill – (Uses very little electricity). Also wood stove in my Bug out location.

    1. Reply

      Hey Papa “J”!

      Isn’t it funny? 🙂

      You are nicely set up my friend! I would have added a solar oven to the list but I’m not familiar enough to comment on one (yet). How do you like yours?

    • Dare Tuitt
    • January 14, 2014

    Although the large, industrial thermal cooker you show is ideal (and expensive), you may already have one if you own a quality thermos bottle, like a Stanley Thermos. Don’t use a cheap, glass-lined thermos bottle for this type of cooking! I own a couple of Stanley thermos bottles and will get more. They are perfect little thermal cookers and I intend to use them as a backup to my other off-grid cooking methods. For information on how to cook using a Stanley Thermos bottle, check here (no endorsement of this fellow’s philosophy, but his thermos cooking article is very informative) :

    1. Reply

      Hi Dare!

      That’s very interesting, will have to check that out!

      Thanks for stopping by and leaving the very helpful comment! You’re the best! 🙂

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