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Your Primitive Kitchen

lydia fire

If I ever find myself in a world very different from where I am today, meaning if I have no electricity and no running water, either here in my home or somewhere I have had to relocate to, I want to be prepared. I want my family and me to survive. I don’t want us to get sick with some bug or other. More than survive……

I want to live and do well. And because of that, I realize that I need a plan for cooking and preparing food. So I got to thinking; what would I need if I had to permanently prepare and cook food without electricity?  I have cooked over a fire for months at a time, so I know I can do it but I also know it takes planning and particular tools.

So, here is my list of items you need to acquire if you anticipate having long term power outages or living in an area where there is no access to electricity. This list assumes you have already taken care of procuring an alternative cooking method like wood stove, cook stove, outdoor fire pit, etc.

1. Matches.  I’m a pro at starting a fire with flint, steel and tinder but hey, matches are easier. I really believe you should have several ways of starting a fire on hand at all times.  Matches are easier. They’re lightweight and relatively cheap. Buy them in bulk and store them where they won’t get wet.

2. Cast iron cookware. There are other kinds of cookware that you could get as well; stainless steel, porcelain covered steel or iron. Cast iron will take a beating and last a life time if you take care of it. It holds up well to cooking over coals and heats evenly even when you are cooking over a wood stove.  In fact, I wouldn’t cook on a wood stove for any length of time using anything else.

3. The right kind of utensils. Iron and steel utensils are best.  If you’re cooking on a fire or wood stove, you’re going to want to lose the plastic utensils.  ‘Nuf said.

4. Pots, pans, roasters, etc.  Be sure that all your pots and pans and things are made from tough materials like porcelain coated steel, iron or stainless steel.

5. Dish pans. These kinds of pans are so helpful in all areas of homekeeping.  You’ll find yourself using them in the garden, to do dishes, to bathe babies and everything else.  I like the ones that I pick up at antique stores and flea markets that are porcelain coated steel. Watch for holes if you are buying them used.

6. Lots of cotton dish cloths and dish towels.  Cotton is easier to care for than blends and they can be bleached as kitchen towels usually need. I always by white for that reason. Don’t forget to buy or make heavy pads or mitts to move hot cookware around.

7. A bucket and shovel for removing ashes from your fire pit, fire ring etc.

8. A tripod is a great tool to keep you  from having to place all your cooking pots directly on the fire, its especially good for soups and stews. My son made me one using three big juniper trees and some rope. I hang my pot from a large chain using cast iron S hooks. See the picture at the top of this page.

Now, if you are setting up a kitchen outdoors, you’ll need other things like a good source of water, shelter for your cooking area and food prep area, shelter for your food that is up high away from predators and out of the weather. Always store your food at least 30 feet away from your food prep area. This will discourage scavengers and night time visitors to your kitchen area. You’ll also need a place to keep wood to allow it to dry and a place to prepare and store kindling and tools.

The only other things you’ll need is practice cooking over that fire, so I recommend you do it now while you don’t really have to!



  1. Yolanda

    This is such a good article! One thing I would add is some sort of metal grate and maybe some bricks or blocks to set it up over the fire. It makes my outdoor “kitchen” much more versatile. How could I keep rain off of my outdoor kitchen (tripod and fire ring) in case of inclement weather? Do you have any ideas for this? Thank you!
    Yolanda recently posted.."Play Dough"

    • Sylvia

      Yolanda, yes a grate would be wonderful to have!
      I guess for a shelter you would need to figure out how long-term it needs to be. A tent fly, not too low, could work. For longer term use a wooden shelter, just a roof and 4 posts would do. I used to wonder if any kind of shelter needed a vent in the center. But I’ve cooked underneath a fly when we do our civil war reenacting and it works fine as long as you don’t get a huge fire blazing, which is not what you need for cooking anyway!

      • Yolanda

        Thank you, Sylvia. All good ideas. I couldn’t help but laugh when I visualized using a tent fly or tarp and having my fire melt a big hole in it. Oops! 😉 I do love to cook outdoors. 5 years ago, we had hurricane winds come through here (in Indiana!) and our power was out for 6 days. I cooked outside the whole time and it was so fun. Fortunately, the weather was perfect. Warm days, cools nights, no rain. I even managed to make a pie! I also burned some biscuits and found the best way to make them (for me) is in a cast iron skillet, flipping them over halfway through the baking.

        • Sylvia

          Oh, a hole melted in the fly would be the worst! lol
          And that’s how I make biscuits a lot of times too!