Cooking In Extremis

I saw this pic over at CW’s yesterday, and I have to say that I recommend the concept (as opposed to the item itself, which I’m not familiar with).

I have two of these little cooker types (two in case one breaks or malfunctions), and a dozen or so butane cylinders.  Used sparingly (meaning a cooking session of about 15-20 minutes), each cylinder will deliver close to a dozen meals (including a small kettle of boiling water for coffee or tea).  When we had a 5-day power outage in the Dallas area about five years ago, it was a godsend to have these around — yes, I could have fired up the propane BBQ but it’s overkill if all you want to cook is a single skillet or a kettle.  Pop a cast-iron grill plate on top, and you can cook a meal for two quite comfortably (and grill plates are easier to clean than iron skillets, too).

My cookers look like this (i.e. not as swanky as the one above):

The reason I like this as a SHTF thing (i.e. when there’s no electrical power and you can’t or don’t want to build a cooking fire) is size:  the cooker is small and light, and the little butane cylinders are easily stowable.  Also, they can be found at any Asian store, where both the cookers and butane are way cheaper than at camping stores.  (At our local Yuk Fu market (not its real name), the stove costs about $25 and the butane less than a dollar per cylinder, which is unbeatable).

You’re not supposed to use this setup indoors, of course, but if you have a fireplace (as we did) it’s not a problem as long as you remember to open the flue.

What we also used to do was use it as an outdoors table-top cooker, with the grill plate in place.  Best was to grill thinly-sliced lamb, with a dash of rosemary and salt, or similarly-sliced beef with rubbing spice and/or Liquid Smoke sprinkled over it.  Many was the spring- or fall evening spent around the table on the deck, each family member responsible for cooking their own meat, with sides of pita bread, tomato slices and hummus (for the lamb) and crusty French bread and cole slaw (with the beef).

And now, if you’ll excuse me, I’m off to the kitchen.


  1. After a day long power outage a few weeks ago I got one of those Gas One stoves, tried it a couple times, and like it. Might get another one. I will not however use the expensive butane cans with it. The stove comes with a hose to connect it to the 1lb propane bottles which are less expensive and can be refilled from the 20lb grill tank. You have to buy the connector fitting separately. Yes, the piezo igniter works well too. The stove comes in an attractive black hard plastic case. We keep the stove and 2 propane cannisters in one of the larders. I recommend. Here’s the one I bought: ($26.88 Prime)

  2. Our last home had a gas cook-top stove (electric oven for Mrs D’s baking), so when Hurricane Sandy made us her bitch and we were without power for nine days we could cook on the stove, the igniter didn’t work but it could be lit with a match.

    Alas, our current home has an electric range (which Mrs D doesn’t like), we have propane so I’ve suggested installing a propane stove (likely with an electric oven if we can find one).

    The one ghostsniper links to looks dandy though, and since I have a propane grill I’d probably buy the adapter to attach it to a 20lb tank. I ALWAYS have a full tank on-hand.

    Funny story: The summer after we bought our first home we had our first cook-out for the Mrs’ entire family. I ran out of propane. On a Sunday, in Bergen County NJ where there are blue laws and NOTHING is open. I managed to borrow a tank from a friend and continue the festivities, but now I always have at least two tanks and one full at all times. The only time in history a woman ever got mad at her husband for not having ENOUGH gas.

  3. @Mark. You’ll need to get a longer hose if you want to connect it to the 20# tank as the one that comes with it is only about 18″ long, and the end is designed to fit the smaller tanks. I too have 2 20# tanks and when one is empty the 2nd one is installed and the 1st one refilled. When we moved here 14 years ago I had 4 of the old skool tanks and ignorantly traded them in for the Blue Rhino ones at the convenience stores and actually threw 2 of them away. Well, only later did I find out that somewhere along the way a gov’t busybody had enacted a law that changed the way the valves work on the tanks. Before, a 2# tank could be filled to almost 20#, but with the new valves they cannot be filled to more than 17#. I know this because I took a new tank to a refill center and when it got to 17# it started blowing raw gas out of the valve and wouldn’t take any more.

    We have a 400gallon tank for the furnace and fireplace so we won’t get cold when the power goes out. I too wish we had a propane cooktop as it will work when the power is out (and thus wouldn’t need the portable job) and it heats/cooks stuff so much faster. When you turn a gas burner to high it is high right now, not 5 minutes from now.

    1. @ghostsniper: I saw a 4′ hose designed to connect the burner to a 20# tank. I currently have two tanks, and I’m seriously considering getting a couple more. There’s a local place that, during the summer, charges $5 to fill a 20# tank.

      We have a 500 gallon propane tank for heat and hot water, but if the power’s out the circulating pumps don’t work, so no heat. We also have a sewer pump, so with no power you need to be careful about flushing the toilet, once the tank is full it’ll start making a mess. The eventual plan is to get a propane powered generator, hooked up to the main tank, so we’ll have heat, light and toilets in the event of a power failure. Just need to make sure the propane company refills us more often if the power is out.

      I know my main tank only gets filled to 80% (so it holds 400 gallons of actual propane), there needs to be gas-space in the tank. I think what happened with the small tanks is people tried to get more than 20# in them, and you don’t want to be around when a tank decides it can’t handle the pressure. I remember when they changed the valves, I’d bought a new grill and the old tanks didn’t fit.

      1. If you want to power pumps you may need 220v so make sure the generator can handle that. Or, if you know an electrician he can wire you up a connector for each end of a heavy duty extension cord that will make 2 110v circuits on the generator function as 1 220v. My brother did that to my Troybilt 3550/5550 generator back in 2004 after hurricane Charlie took out the power for 9 days and we used it to charge our well equipment a couple times a day.

        FWIW, you can use an inverter of the proper size to connect your running vehicle battery to your furnace with an extension cord. Just make sure you cut the main circuit first, and fasten the panel door so no one else can open it, before you connect it up. I have the 1000w inverter, the cord, and the connectors but I still need to get the stuff to rewire the furnace so it will accept the extension cord.

  4. I don’t know how much S has to HTF but an item I have on my Amazon wish list is a Ghille Kettle. First saw it being manufactured on How Its Made on TV. Brilliant design to produce boiling water with just forest litter. You can see it in numerous videos on Youtube.

  5. I’ve had some version or other of one of these for over 30 years, starting way back when I was a Boy Scout:

    (The first one was wrecked by a kid (not me) who didn’t know what he was doing. The second one just disappeared a while back. I’m now on my third.)

    This latest version will run on either white gas (kinda spendy in its gallon can these days, but probably still cheaper than propane or butane) or the same unleaded gasoline that you put in your car (cheapish and widely available).

    There are also a smaller 2-burner stove, a 1-burner backpacking stove, and a lantern available that will run on the same fuels. For the stove, there’s even an adapter that will allow it to run on propane, if you should happen to have a supply of that:

  6. I used to be a camper so I still have my two burner Coleman propane stove. When we redid our house recently we went for a gas cooktop on purpose. The oven and combo-microwave/convection oven are separate. We have city water/sewage/natural gas so in a power outage we only need a generator to run essentials like refrigerators and freezers; two each and to charge the portable electronics. In the rehab we went with a very simple water heater that will run without electricity. You don’t know what hell is until you’ve spent time with women and no hot water. My portable generator is only 3500 Watts but it runs on propane. This is critical. I pulled mine out of the shed after three years of neglect and no storage preparation and it started in three pulls. Try that with gasoline.

    Mark, look for “dual fuel ranges”. Or, you could just get an AGA cooker. I’m sure Kim knows what they are.

  7. We have a Coleman two burner stove that has an attached fuel tank that will run on coleman fuel and gasoline. It folds up to the size of a small brief case. when we camp we “car camp” drive up to the camping spot, set up the tent and voilia or we rent a cabin at a camp ground. We also used it for power outages.

    I’m pretty sure this is it:

    A friend used a Jet Boil while in Afghanistan and he liked that a lot. THe Ghillie Stove looked really nice too. If I get a small backpack stove, I’d like something useful for something other than boiling water.


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