5 DIY Ways To Cook Food Without Modern Appliances

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by Dwayne Hoover

While it’s important to know how to properly prepare food, sometimes you just want to use a light bulb or a car engine to cook your meal. Sure, you have a stove and a microwave and a grill, but nothing says good eats like biting into your culinary masterpiece knowing it was cooked with creativity. Which is why when we have our first cookout at The Modern Rogue HQ, we’ll be using things like ...


Solar-Powered Hot Dog Cooker

Hot dogs are the perfect food for weekend grilling with the family or sitting around a camp fire -- they’re easy to prepare and generally liked by most people. And for those who don’t like them, they’re still OK if you try not to think about what they’re made of, pile enough toppings on them, then wash each bite down with a generous swig of beer. But if you don’t want to waste your precious charcoal or propane preparing such an inferior food product, you can always cook them with solar power.

Using some everyday items you probably already have lying around the house, you can create your very own sun-powered hot dog rotisserie, and it’s pretty simple. Simply cut a parabolic curve on both sides of a cardboard box length-wise, fit some aluminum foil-covered poster board into the curves, make a couple of posts to hold the skewered hot dog, and BAM! Deliciousness.


Obviously, it does take a while to cook hot dogs this way, you can only cook one at a time, and the positioning of the box might require some tinkering depending on where you are and the time of day it is. But still, it’s objectively more badass than boiling or microwaving the damn things.

Sand Rocket Stove

If you’re not familiar with rocket stoves, they’re generally smaller, wood-burning cooking stoves that get super hot and are extremely efficient. They come in a variety of designs, many of them homemade, with people using everything from coffee cans to concrete blocks to build them. And the best part is that they use very little wood to generate a lot of heat.

Because of their simple design, you can use almost anything (that’s non-combustible) to make them. As long as you have a shorter chamber to hold and burn the wood connected to a longer chimney where the heat will escape, you’re good to go. So if you’re not feeling particularly crafty or don’t have any concrete blocks lying around, you can always just use a giant pile of sand.

Now, you do need a fair amount of sand for this to work – it’s not something you can whip up behind your apartment building, unless there happens to be an unused sandbox and your landlord doesn’t mind you starting fires in it, we guess. But if you have access to enough that you can dig a foot long feeding chamber and pile up enough to give you a two foot tall chimney, that’s all that’s needed.

Well, and a tube to craft the chimney. But still.

It might require some patience before you get it right because, well, you’re working with sand – either tunnel could cave in if you’re not careful. Also, this isn’t something you can put a huge pot of chili on for obvious, sand stove-collapsing reasons. Maybe it’s better as a backup cooking solution for a cloudy day when you can’t use your solar-powered hot dog cooker.

Pizza Box Oven

How many empty pizza boxes do you have sitting next to your trash can right now? No, wait! Don’t rush off to throw them away in embarrassment. They have a use, and it’s one that’ll transform you into the envy of your friends instead of the too-much-pizza-delivery laughing stock.

Again we’re harnessing the power of the sun, but this time we’re making a little mini oven that can cook things other than hot dogs, sort of like a solar-powered Easy-Bake. You begin by cutting a flap out of the lid and covering the underside of that flap with aluminum foil. Next you cover the opening you created on the underside of the lid with plastic wrap, making a window of sorts. From there you just line the bottom with black construction paper to absorb the sunlight, then put some rolled up newspaper around the edges of the inside of the box so the lid has a tighter seal. That’s it.

Pictured: A pizza (box) oven.

Place your food inside on a plate, close the lid, then angle the foil-covered flap you cut out so that as much sunlight makes it down through the window as possible. You should know, however, that you’re pretty limited as far as what you can cook with this, because it doesn’t get terribly hot. It’s basically good for things like melting cheese or reheating leftovers, like maybe the pizza you didn’t finish from the night before.

Altoids Tin Candle Stove

Having a portable method for cooking is ideal if you’re the camping or hiking type. Sure, portable camping stoves exist, but maybe yours ran out of fuel or it’s broken because you had to throw it at a charging bear who stormed the campsite or something.

Altoids tins are great, because not only do they hold minty, breath-saving freshness, they can also serve as little storage containers after they’re empty. They’re perfect for holding your spare change, buttons, or maybe even ammo for your balloon slingshot. And with nothing more than some cardboard and wax, they work pretty damn well as a tiny little stove you can throw in your backpack.

Simply cut some corrugated cardboard into thin strips that are as wide as the tin is deep and shove that stuff in there all spiraly-like. Next, find yourself some candles and melt down the wax, then pour it between the gaps in the cardboard, making sure you fill every single one without covering the cardboard entirely. From there it’s just ... well, lighting it.

AKA: The moment we were waiting for when we first heard the words “Altoids Tin Candle Stove.”

It’s the ideal portable stove solution, aside from the camping stove you had to chuck at that bear in self-defense, we guess. But hey, you had a rad backup plan, so you can still cook your food with dignity. Who’s laughing now, bear?

Clay Pot Smoker

Most of the time, it’s true that if you want a bigger payoff, you need to be willing to make a bigger investment. And this next one epitomizes that concept, because it requires a bit more than slapping some aluminum foil on a piece of cardboard or digging a couple of holes. But we dare say it’s totally worth it.

If you like the slow-cooked flavor of meats, you’ve likely considered purchasing some badass food smoker at some point, but were dissuaded by the price tag. Fortunately, you’re kind of a hoarder, and there is just all manner of random crap in your basement and garage and five sheds. “Hey, this giant clay pot may be useful, someday,” you tell people during your intervention. “No, I can't get rid of that single burner!” you plead. “Why must I be judged for wanting to keep that perfectly good gate handle?” you ask in the voice of a crazy person.

This time, however, you’re absolutely right.

Because those specific items “that you don’t need” (plus a few more) are just what’s perfect for making your very own, homemade smoker. It’s going to require some time, and maybe a trip to the store for the things that you don’t have, but it’s a cool-ass weekend DIY project which will result in delicious meat stuffs being delivered to your salivating facehole.

And smoky goodness being delivered directly to your noseholes.

Basically, you rig up a hot plate that sits in the bottom of the pot. A pan to hold the wood chips hovers above that, then a grill grate, a lid with a thermometer, a handle ... look, we could do an entire article on assembling one of these things, but somebody else already did. So if you want to make one of your own, pay that site a visit and let us know how it goes. Or maybe we will, and we’ll let you know how it goes.

Regardless, if the apocalypse happens tomorrow, at least we’re armed with some knowledge on how to cook our food when the electricity goes out and ... oh, crap. That clay pot smoker requires electricity. Well, at least we can still heat up our leftovers.

Like this article? Check out “5 Appliances You Can Make After The Apocalypse” and “Badass Kitchen Hacks That Will Have You Cooking Like A Pro”.

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