How to Cook Without Power

This is a timely, but difficult post to write. All kidding aside, when a disaster strikes, like the recent tornadoes in the southeastern U.S., it is best to be prepared. Access to good, healthy food is a deeply important issue to the Practical Cook in all circumstances, and it takes on heightened importance in trying times. Having made it through a number of hurricanes, ice storms, and the random tree limb, I’ve picked up a few tips on the way.

Snow Bears

Snow Bears

My thoughts are with all of those who suffered losses during the recent storms. My eldest daughter asked me why some people were unable to make it to safety during the tornado. That’s a hard question to answer, but I did, and used some advice given by Mr. Rogers during 9/11. Look for the helpers. In any bad situation, there are helpers. Providing good food can be one way to be a helper.

The Practical Cook’s Guide to Cooking Without Power

1. Keep your grill in good working condition, year-round. For a great resource on grilling most anything, visit (full disclosure, I used to work for the publisher). You can boil water on a grill, bringing coffee and ramen onto the menu.

2. Never be without some shelf-stable food and water. Most parents would rather go pantsless than snackless to even dressy occasions. Bring that mantra into your home life, too: granola bars, dried fruit, peanut butter, crackers, soup, water, juice.

3. Share your resources. If you have food that’s getting ready to spoil, especially meat, cook it on the grill and have a block party.

4. Own a cooler. Power outage + deep freezer full of stored pumped milk. Need I say more? Do not be without a cooler for extreme circumstances.

5. Eat out! Sometimes you have to accept that food may spoil and you’ve gone through everything that resembles a meal. Be kind to yourself and eat out. Food around the table with family and friends lifts spirits, and is especially important in times of crisis.

Winning the contest for extreme calm while filming a tornado, Steve Hoag:

How do you manage a meal without the usual kitchen comforts? Drop your thoughts, questions, or food pictures to practical cook at gmail dot com.

Coming up tomorrow, Braised Moroccan Chicken Recipe.

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