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Off Grid solutions for kitchens  RSS feed

 
Eric Hoffmann
Posts: 6
Location: Idaho Falls, Idaho
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Recently I've been intrigued by off grid living. I would love to live separate from the municipal utilities (with the exception of Internet of course) but I was wondering about some of my activities. The primary example I'm thinking of is cooking, I'm quite a good cook and I like to cook often. While there are many off grid solutions for cooking, many of them better than the usual solution like cob ovens for breads and pizza, there are some shortcomings, or, at least I don't know how to approach the problem. Take for example cooking chicken stock. The stock must be simmered for 8+ hours, not boiled, but simmered. A good stock requires an even, low, heat for a very long period of time. Currently at home this is easy, just throw it on the stove just above "LOW" and let it sit all day. The energy demands for this staple product would drain a small PV system's batteries in no time (even using an induction range) and I don't want to use a gas range. I'd also rather not tend a wood fire for precise temperature for 8-12 hours. Has anyone dealt with this? I'm really very curious, I know this community is amazingly resourceful.

I'm hoping some Permie wisdom will come my way, I'm sure there's a solution, I just haven't the faintest idea.

If anyone else has any questions feel free to tack them on. If there are any quirky or otherwise interesting solutions to off grid cooking that you would like to contribute feel free to do so! Information is best when it is shared.

Thanks
 
Dan Boone
gardener
Posts: 1786
Location: Central Oklahoma (zone 7a)
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Some of the old technologies may be easier to use than you seem to think. There is no constant tending for precise temperature with a traditional wood-fired cast-iron cook stove. If you feed it good wood, the only attention it needs is being fed that wood when the firebox is empty. The rate for that depends on how much room heat you are needing to generate -- you burn the stove to achieve desired room temperature, because you can pick your desired *cooking* temp by placing the pot nearer or further from the hottest part of the cooktop.

Simmering is dead EASY, requiring no more attention than the basic amount necessary to keep the fire going, which you do as an unconscious habit when you're heating with wood anyway. Now, *baking* tends to require a fast hot fire that needs more attention. But that's just for an hour or so.

The biggest problem in the modern world is obtaining your cast-iron wood cook stove. They really don't make them like they used to and finding an old one for sale (at ANY price) is rare.
 
Burra Maluca
Mother Tree
Posts: 9893
Location: Portugal
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Just throwing a few suggestions out.

Solar cooker.
Hay box.
Slow-cooker/crockpot powered by solar electric, maybe in conjunction with a hay-box.
 
Judith Browning
Posts: 5858
Location: Arkansas Ozarks zone 7 alluvial,black,deep loam/clay with few rocks, wonderful creek bottom!
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I totally agree with cooking on a wood stove...we do six or seven months out of the year. It is the ultimate 'slow' cooker....there are some things I just don't bother cooking except on the wood stove...soups, broths, carmelized sweet potatoes, skillet cornbreads...........
Another idea is in this thread about HAY BOX COOKING. I have not tried it but intend to this summer. We cook on propane during the heat of the summer...usually cooking and canning early morning hours. I really like the idea of bringing a pot of beans to a boil and packing in an insulated box for the day.
 
Cj Sloane
pollinator
Posts: 3729
Location: Vermont, off grid for 24 years!
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My first thought was the hay cooker would work but... it (the chicken soup) wouldn't evaporate so you'd have to tinker quite a bit to make that work. For other dishes it would work.

I think a pressure cooker on a wood stove would be the way to go ... but that's not how I went this week when I made enough chicken soup for 30 (3 gallons) for my upcoming seder for Passover.

I am off grid but I use propane. I even used propane to scald the chickens (pre-plucking) though I have used a rocket stove in the past.

 
R Scott
Posts: 3349
Location: Kansas Zone 6a
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My wife made ginger snaps in the propane grill for my birthday when we were off-gridding. Propane is a really easy way to do finely controlled cooking, especially in the summer.

Woodstoves work wonderfully awesome, too. I often would start stock after dinner and it would be perfect by morning. You can pressure can/cook on a woodstove. Once you know your fire and top, you know where to put the pan to get "medium low"

You can set up a woodstove on a porch/deck/outdoor kitchen for the summer.
 
Marcos Buenijo
pollinator
Posts: 583
Location: Southwest U.S.
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Cooking with electricity can be viable in the off grid setting. Cooking during the day while a PV array is producing could eliminate battery discharge. Also, a wood gasifier stove can be precisely controlled with respect to output. See this for one example: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=m_jWz3H-48M . Propane was mentioned, and of course this would work, but many do not consider it's use to be "off grid" - I don't know where you stand on this, but it's an obvious solution.
 
Robert James
Posts: 44
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For the winter time I love my wood stove, I don't know what I am going to do this summer, I am going to need some ideas too.
 
R Scott
Posts: 3349
Location: Kansas Zone 6a
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If you want to buy: http://www.silverfire.us/stoves The hunter model is cool that it is made to tie into a chimney, so you can use it indoors in the summer instead of firing up the big cookstove.

Or you can make your own rocket cookstove.
 
Bill Bianchi
Posts: 227
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A methane digester might work for you if you have the means to feed it. I saw one used in India exclusively for cooking. Was a water piston setup. Apparently, it produced enough methane for daily cooking needs.

The hay box was a good suggestion, as well.
 
William Bronson
Posts: 1413
Location: Cincinnati, Ohio,Price Hill 45205
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http://www.thermoscooking.com/

My brother was just talking about this, he learned about it from some
Indonesia(I think) in-laws.
High tech haybox/low tech slow cooker.


Funny thing, the Chambers stove that came with our house is designed to do much the same thing. Both the oven and the recessed "well" are highly insulated and the oven has a massive cast iron plate at the bottom.
It came with the original manual the function of which was purposefully obscured, to appear as a recipe book.
Essentially it teaches you how to heat the oven and then cook your meal with the fire out.
The dial tops out at 550 degrees probably not accurstely,but it does kill thermometer probes and silicon oven mitts. ..
Now I am working on a conventional oven converted to be powered by a rocket stove. The insulation can be upgraded and thermal mass can be added.I want it for woodfired bread and pizza making, but I can already see it as a way to cook anything.
A digital thermometer with a probe and a remote alert might free you from constant monitering,if they can be set to alert when tempature s get to low...
 
Bill Bianchi
Posts: 227
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Solar cookers were not as well received and used in the 3rd world as expected. They worked, and many did use them, but not as many as expected. The problem? Solar cooking after dark, when many preferred to eat dinner, or early in the morning for breakfast, didn't work so well. People continued to burn wood for cooking. Just illustrates that different methods must be tailored to the wants and actual requirements of the end users, even if one thinks their requirements aren't as important as a workable solution.

So, the challenge went out. Develop a solar cooker that could cook food at night and early in the morning. Two ideas that came out were to use hay boxes that would slow cook food until dinner time and the other was to heat up oil, that oil stored in an insulated container for later cooking use after the sun was down. Essentially, the oil became the thermal mass to store heat.

I like the idea of heating up oil, whether by fire in an efficient furnace or by concentrated solar, because oil doesn't burst into steam when heated above water's boiling point, can be moved from the heat source to the point of use via a pump, can be heated with a variety of locally available energy sources, can be used for a variety of heating applications, and can be stored in an insulated container for multiple heating uses at a later point.

I know some hate the idea of heating up oil for heating applications, but it apparently works and is beginning to see use in places that need it. Perhaps some day, when people from other places demonstrate that heated oil works for cooking & heating needs, it won't seem like such a ludicrous idea here.
 
Dawn Hoff
Posts: 501
Location: AndalucĂ­a, Spain
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I make bone broth (mostly from chicken) almost every week in my hay-box - I bring the broth to a boil, put it in the box and leave it there 12-24 hours, bring it to the boil again and put it back or sieve it and put in the fridge. It works fine. The temperature stays quite high for 5-6 hours, but I prefer to simmer it longer for the bones to release more gelantine. It is true that I don't get a reduction from using a haybox, I'dbeed to simmer it in a different manner - I have been thinking about a solar oven, but I imagine it would steam up?

I do a lot of long slow cooking in my bread-oven: we make pizza about once a week and afterwards I make bread and at the same time I put in some kind of simmer meal: pulled pork, shredded beef, Spainish Oxtail stew, Beuf bourginon, Ireish stew etc (sometimes I brown the meats before putting it in the oven). We leave in the coals and after a few hours we move the casserole really close to them, and next day at the same time as we had pizza, the simmer dish is ready and still warm (if you are worked about bacteria, you can always vring it to the boil before serving). After that any leftover topping from the pizza can be thrown in the oven and dried. That way we have food for 3 days on one burn of the oven and no waste from making pizza.
 
B.E. Ward
Posts: 79
Location: Aside the Salish Sea
bee books forest garden
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I didn't see this mentioned in the thread, but in at least one of his hour-plus talks on YouTube, Ben Falk talks about their wood stove and how they cook several things (including some long simmers, IIRC) at the same time.
 
Seth Peterson
Posts: 94
Location: Berkeley, CA
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Hey permies,
Great topic, great ideas! I think you all hit on some important solutions.

Hay box cookers:
I used one at wheaton lab for three weeks,
I'm September, and it was amazing. It was a wooden box filled with wool insulation. I could boil a pot of water and pork back fat and put it in the box overnight to render slowly and safely using no energy inputs. And, in the morning the pot was still too hot to touch and I would heat it to boiling, again, in five minutes. And put it back in the box to render. I did the same with bone broth, as mentioned, perfect even temperature for fish (20 mins), veggies 2-4hrs, chicken about 8 hrs, pork and beef 12 hours plus and reheat once.

I was thoroughly impressed at its crock pot like abilities, in fact I can control temp better than crock pots which may vary up and down with a thermostat, and may not let you use the whole range low temp cooking (some models don't have lower settings cause they aren't 'food safe'). And all of this with no energy inputs for the hatbox. Just the beautiful box sam barber made.

Solar cookers:
Are great, I saw Beka cook a meatloaf at 275 f. Plenty hot. Takes some practice but this is another great method. And as mentioned, combines perfectly with the haybox, cook in the solar cooker, keep warm in the haybox.

Wood stoves:
But here is where I disagree, you see the third element I used at Paul and Jocelyn's place last month were the rocket stove cookers. One designed and built by matt and another designed and built by Tim. And they were awesome. They both have me complete control over heat and the ability to cook on a flat top or oven (Tim's cock it and lock it rocket) and the ability to use a wok, a smoker, a big pot or a pressure canner, all with RMH technology that is much more efficient than wood stoves and the rest. This lets me bake, steam, boil, reduce, roast, fry, etc. at any time I want and any temperature I want. And the side effect is that it heats my house.

So for me, this trifecta is virtually unbeatable: a rocket stove cooker, a hay box and a solar oven allows me to take advantage of low input even temperature cooking with out any sacrifices due to a rocket mass heater that warms my dwelling as I cook each night. The more I think about it the better it becomes.

Seth
A permaculture chef


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Tom barker's creation is an oven, flat top griddle and water heater all in one unit of switchblade wizardry
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Matt's bro hang out rocket stove smoker, with heated bench. Smoker can be reached by a wok, pot, canner, etc.
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Peter built this LARGE RMH that can hear an auditorium, I'm sure it could heat my dinner in the process.
 
Dawn Hoff
Posts: 501
Location: AndalucĂ­a, Spain
26
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I just wrote at small blog-post about our hay-box - I love it, and I use it every day. It has actually made my life easier.
http://soloenespana.wordpress.com/2014/10/12/haybox-cooking/
 
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