How to cook after a disaster (cookware and utensils)

May 25, 2017

If the grid were to go down for an extended period of time and you’re having to cook for your family with the available fuel sources you have on hand, whether that be propane from a cooking grill or cooking over a fire pit, having the right cookware and utensils will make all the difference. In this article, we’ll cover the items you’ll need to make sure cooking the food you have will not be an issue.

A month ago I did a video entitled “How to cook after a disaster, fuel sources” where I discussed the cooking fuel options you should have to ensure you’ll be able to cook if your power or gas lines went down. In this article, we’ll discuss the cookware and utensils you should have to make sure you have everything you need to cook. We’ll focus on short and medium term disasters (and a little long-term) cookware and utensils. We won’t be going into a deep discussion of long-term grid cookware you need on hand (like grinders, mills or canning tools), but rather covering items you may already have in your kitchen. Once I get into prepping articless focusing on long-term prepping (and by long-term prepping, I mean scenarios where the grid doesn’t bounce back), we’ll discuss long-term cookware options you should have. In addition, we’ll cover other items you may not have considered in your preps that can make a big difference if the typical fuel sources like propane are exhausted and you’re left cooking over fires or coals. I’ll also put the links in the description section below of the items I discuss in this article for you to purchase if you want to support this channel (as always, thanks for purchasing products from my links as it helps the channel a great deal).

Alright, so in this article, we’ll discuss the following:

  • Items you should have on hand to cook with
  • Cast Iron cooking options
  • Plates and eating utensils
  • Cooking items for your bug out bag

So what are the items you should have on hand and may already have in your kitchen?

These items are listed in no specific order and we’ll go through the items I’d recommend. Your items may differ based on the types of food you eat and I’d love to get your feedback in the comment section below if I overlooked anything. Again, this is coming from the perspective of a short to medium range disaster and is a good starting point for you to build the cookware you’ll need to ensure you and your family can cook the food you’ve got stored.

  • Matches.  You can pick these up for cheap at the dollar store or so many other places. Can’t have enough of these on hand.
  • Can-opener.  Have a good sturdy hand operated can opener and also keep a couple of P-38’s on hand for backup (I keep these on my keychain) and also remember your multi-tool knife as it may already have this.
  • Cooking thermometer.  This will be very valuable to ensure you’ve cooked your food thoroughly to help avoid getting sick.
  • Cutting board or boards
  • Cheese grater
  • Knives.  Probably best to go with some good quality carbon knives. Also be sure to have a knife sharpener.
  • Pots & Pans.  Make sure to have some good quality stainless steel pots and pans.
    A large stew pot will come in handy as well which can also be used for doing dishes (a subject we’ll cover more later).
  • Water filter.  Probably one of my most used preps, having a good water filter on hand will be extremely important to make sure your water is filtered and safe for cooking. We use a Berkey water filter daily and if there were an emergency, having a clean source of water will be very important.
  • Roasting Pans
  • Pyrex glass 4-cup measuring cup
  • Vegetable peelers.  Probably a few extra wouldn’t hurt as well so multiple people can work on peeling.
  • Strainer.  This will come in handy especially with cooking pasta.
  • Serving spoons and ladle
  • Tea Kettle.  Preferably stainless steel or copper.
  • Metal spatulas.  While we have cheap plastic ones at home, remember when you’re cooking over a fire, you’re going to want something a little more substantial that won’t melt.
  • Serving spoons & forks
  • Whisk
  • Large mixing bowls.  Again, go for the stainless steel option if possible.
  • French press for coffee.  I’ve said it before, but without coffee, I’d be in a world of hurt. Plus having coffee for those times where you’re exhausted and need a bit of a pick up will come in handy.
  • Measuring cups

Cast Iron

As I was researching and preparing this article, most articles discussing cookware in the context of prepping all pointed back to Cast Iron cookware. There’s a lot of reasons to have Cast Iron, especially when it comes to needing cookware that can handle the high temperature of cooking over a wooden stove, open fire or coals. Most of the pots and pans you may already may not endure prolonged use over a fire. While the nice department store pot or pan you have may have cost you a lot of money, it won’t handle the extremes that cast iron can handle.

Now, as I studied Cast Iron skillets options on the market, the name that repeatedly came up was Lodge. And just a disclaimer, I haven’t received any type of payment from Lodge to discuss or promote their products, but when I find a product that I’m willing to buy for myself and I know my subscriber base will enjoy, I’m more than glad to share it with the community. They actually manufacture their products here in the U.S. which is a rarity in this day and age. There’s a lot of cast iron skillets you can purchase online that come from China but some of these have lead. For the price point, you’d be hard-pressed to find a better deal with this level of quality than their products. Having said that, I purchased their Dutch oven awhile back and was very impressed with the quality.

I think every prepper should have a cast iron skillet. They’ve been popular for years and are one of the most durable of cookware. A good 12-inch skillet has a lot of applications. You can use it on the stove top to cook eggs or stir fry or use it in the oven to cook a deep dish pizza. It can be used indoors or outdoors and can withstand some very high temperatures that your standard cookware can just not handle. Their surface is very hard, so you don’t have to worry about damaging when stirring food. In a grid down, disaster scenario, I can’t think of another option I’d want in my kitchen. Even after being heated up, they maintain their heat for a considerable time after which allows for fuel efficiency. They are built like a tank and as long they are seasoned and dried, they’ll perform. Even if they have been neglected and not properly seasoned, they can be easily reseasoned. And oh, you might want to pick up some mitts or an Ove glove when handling these as they get very hot. The only downside is their weight which wouldn’t be practical in a bug out scenario (which we’ll cover momentarily), but for those staying in their home or going to a bug out location, having a cast iron skillet and dutch oven will be very important.

Not only is cookware important, but let’s cover plates and utensils

Apart from the normal plates and utensils you already use on a daily basis in your home, you might want to give consideration to disposable paper plates and bowls. Again, as mentioned earlier, we’re covering options in this article from short to medium range disasters. Having disposable options will help reduce clean-up and the water you’d have to use to do dishes and would ensure you always have sanitary items to eat with. Plus when in a stressful situation like you’d encounter after a disaster, having to do a lot of dishes would just be one more thing you don’t want to deal with. Also the benefit of having yet another fuel source, in this case, paper plates, could come in handy. I’d avoid styrofoam plates though as these will add to trash that will be difficult to dispose of.

We typically keep a supply of paper plates and paper napkins in the garage for parties and when we go camping. Also having paper cups will be useful as well. We also keep a lot of disposable forks, spoons, and knives stored in the garage for social events and again, having 1 less thing that has to be cleaned can be helpful. Having a supply of rolls of paper towels is something you should also consider.

You may already have cooking gear in your bug out bag gear, and if you don’t, I’d recommend you most definitely do.

Most of what we’ve discussed so far are items you’d want to have in your home to use if staying in your home is an option. If staying in your house is not an option though and you have to leave, here’s the items I keep in my bug out bag.

  • In my personal bug out bag, I keep a solo stove and pot for heating water and cooking. I also have a titanium cup and spork.
  • In my wife’s bag, I have a similar setup with the Stanley Camp 24oz. Cook Set which includes a couple of cups. Again, it’s important that you consider cooking gear when needing to be mobile. While the options for cooking gear when you’re bugging out obviously won’t be nearly as much as when you’re staying in your home, these basic items are important to have.

So there you have it. For some of you, these are options you may already have in your home, but for others, some of these options I presented may give you some additional options to consider.

In a future article, I will discuss dish sanitation and clean up in the event the sewage and water lines are down.

As always, I enjoy feedback from the community as you guys teach me a lot. If you have any insight into anything I didn’t cover, please comment below. Also, if you enjoyed the article, please feel free to like or share on social media.

As always, be safe out there!

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