Tag Archives: mud oven

Five Ways to Cook Without Power

We had a pretty wild snowstorm last week– we got about 2.5 feet of snow dumped on us at once, everything shut down, and our county was in a state of emergency with a travel ban due to avalanches on nearby roads.

Thankfully, our power did NOT go out. But it made me think about whether or not we would have been prepared if it had. With no ability to leave the house, an outage would have made things a bit complicated!

Candles & oil lamp- check. Water bottles- check. Shelf-stable food- check. Extra blankets and layers of clothing- check. Shelter- check. And, happily for us, we also had the ability to cook without power if needed.

When the power goes out and you can't get anywhere, what would you eat?

Almost four years ago, my husband built us a beautiful mud oven in our back yard. (You can read the post on that process here.)  It was made with mostly found materials and runs on small logs and manpower. It’s delightful to use for cooking any day of the week, but it would be especially useful during a power outage.

Of course, power outages don’t only happen in winter, and there are other reasons to use alternative cooking methods besides an outage. Saving money on bills, reducing heat in the house in the summer, or just enjoying the charm of cooking outdoors- cooking without power is a skill for all occasions.

Thus, I present to you: cooking options that don’t involve electricity. (This post contains affiliate links.)

  1. Open Fire Cooking

Sounds obvious, right? However, I’m often ashamed of how long it takes me to start a fire, and I know I’m probably not alone in my challenges. Here are some posts with tips on cooking over an open fire:

2. Solar Ovens

Solar ovens are what they sound like: cooking with no fuel but the sun! Now that’s cheap power! I have never tried a solar oven, but they are apparently a popular off-grid cooking option. Here are several posts with more information & solar oven recipes:

3. Dutch Ovens

Obviously, a dutch oven can be used indoors in a conventional oven. However, its durability lends itself to alternative cooking methods very well. If you’ve managed to find yourself a good cast iron dutch oven, be happy. You can do a lot with it! Here are a few examples:

4. Alternative Stoves

Who says you need a nice cook top to saute something? Check out these posts for some alternatives to the conventional range.

5. Earth & Brick Ovens

Jas Townsend– one of our original mud oven inspirations:

Other Inspiring Posts

What other ways have you cooked without electricity? Share below in the comments!

Be prepared for your next outage, camping trip, or just for a bit of fun cooking the old-fashioned way.


What Can You Cook in a Mud Oven?

When an earthen oven comes to mind, most folks envision wood-fired pizza at a traditional (or progressive) restaurant. While pizza is a perennial favorite of ours, a mud oven is actually a very versatile cooking tool. What can you cook in it? Well, the short answer is: pretty much anything you can cook in a regular oven!

What Can You Cook in a Mud Oven

A little over two years ago, my husband almost single-handedly built a mud oven (or cob oven, or earthen oven, whichever sounds nicest to you) in our backyard. Since then we’ve had many mud oven pizza parties and bread bake-offs, but we’ve also tried several other types of food in our outdoor oven.

Before trying to cook in a mud oven, you should know how it heats. (My hubby is the mud oven guy around here, so he always takes care of this part.) First, he spends two-three hours burning a very hot fire to thoroughly heat the oven. After it’s quite hot, he pushes the coals to the edges of the oven and we bake pizza. (At this point it’s probably about 700 degrees in there, and the pizzas are done quite quickly!)

Next, he scrapes out the coals and wipes out the oven floor with a wet mop (reserved only for this purpose). He allows to heat to evenly “soak” the inside of the oven. It cools down a good bit- to about 450-500, so we generally use this stage to bake sourdough loaves and/or pies.

After this, the oven gradually cools on its own. We will often bake a casserole, soup, or stew as the oven cools to about 350. The temperature will eventually cool enough (between 100-200) to serve as an overnight dehydrator.

As you can see, mud oven baking is usually a whole day event for us. Planning ahead can help us to take full advantage of the long lasting heat, and we can make an entire week’s worth of meals at one time if we are organized! (Note the key word: IF. 🙂 )

10448850_1597398590529067_1983041558_n_002(A picture of our mud oven pizza from my Instagram feed.)

We have personally tried making the following with various levels of success:

  • Pizza
  • Pie
  • Breads- sourdough, yeast breads, quick breads
  • Muffins
  • Soups
  • Casseroles
  • A whole turkey
  • Dehydrated fruits and herbs

September 2015 088(Apple pies that were baked in the mud oven.)

You could also try:

  • Scones
  • Cake
  • Cookies
  • Meats, poultry, fish
  • Side dishes

We have also used our mud oven as a combination oven/stovetop by placing a Dutch oven inside and piling the coals up around it. It boiled what was in the pot just as if it was soup on a burner. I’m not sure how it would work for sautéing anything, but if you’re feeling adventurous, let me know how your experiments turn out!

It’s important to remember that a mud oven’s temperature is much more variable than a conventional oven’s. So make sure that you’re using cookware that will stand up to the high heat that a mud oven holds. (Cast iron cookware or no cookware at all when it’s really hot, Dutch ovens at about 450, Pyrex glassware or other regular bakeware for when it cools to be around 425 or lower.)

Do you have a mud oven? What’s been your favorite thing to cook in it? We’d love to try it here at our place!

If you want to build your own oven, we’d highly recommend Kiko Denzer’s book, Build Your Own Earth Oven (affiliate link). You can read how my husband built ours here.