Most freeze dried foods are simple to prepare. There's actually not any real "cooking" involved. Just add warm water and you're good to go. In ideal circumstances, that water can just come from the tap. However, during a disaster, there's a chance you might not have running water. In that case, you'll need to use your stored water. But how would you warm that water up? There are many answers to that question. Let's look at a few options.
Fuel tablets are waxy little fuel cubes. They are lightweight,so they're easy to carry on the go. They're packed in individual cells, which allows you to use one or two at a time without opening an entire package. They also burn pretty clean.
These burn hot and should easily be able to warm a pot of water. However, if you need your water completely boiled, you'll want to throw on an extra tablet to increase the burning temperature.
A 12-pack of fuel tablets usually runs around $7 to $8. Each individual tablet can burn from 10 to 12 minutes.
The tablets are made out of a solid fuel called hexamine. Hexamine is created by the chemical reaction between formaldehyde and ammonia, which both smell terrible on their own. Consequently, some people report an odd smell when burning their tablets.
Here are a few popular brands that make fuel tablets:
DIY Option: If you need fuel in a pinch you can make your own tablets from stuff you probably already have. Just coat some cotton balls with a layer of petroleum jelly. This won't burn quite as hot as a regular tablet. They're also a bit messy to work with and they don't burn as cleanly, but it's a good fallback plan.
ReadyFuel is an impressive product. We like it so much, we decided to carry it in our store. Read on to see why we love it so much.
ReadyFuel is a flammable gel. Each pack burns for up to 20 minutes—and it burns hot. We're talking 1,200°F (649°C). Boiling your water will be no problem at all.
It's easy to light, and it's even waterproof. You can pour water right onto the gel and still light it up with no problem. High altitudes? Low temperatures? That's no problem either. No wonder the military has been using it.
The fuel can be stored for up to 30 years. It won't evaporate, melt, or freeze. It's very light, making it great for either long-term storage or packing it with you.
This fuel is safe. It's non-toxic, and doesn't produce smoke. You can't even smell it. It's so stable that it's been approved to be sent through the mail and on airplanes.
One of the coolest features of ReadyFuel is that when it's done burning, all that's left is a little pile of sand. In our tests, we were able to touch the sand less than a minute after it stopped burning and it was cool to the touch.
You can pick up a 4-pack of ReadyFuel here.
Flameless MRE Heater
Flameless heaters are specifically made for use with MREs. In short, you put your MRE in the heater bag and add some water. Within 12-15 minutes your MRE will be nice and toasty.
Flameless heaters use a chemical reaction to create heat. The reaction will create hydrogen gas, so it's probably best to keep your distance. The reaction can be sped up by using salt water.
A common option for both the prepper and the camper is a portable gas stove. These stoves usually run on propane or butane.
The main benefit of a gas stove is reliability. As long as you have fuel, you can provide a strong even flame for cooking. You can use your stove to do pretty much anything you'd do on a regular home stove.
The main drawback is, of course, size. Not only is the stove big and heavy, but the gas tanks are too.
Coleman is easily the leader in portable gas stoves. You can check out some of their products here: http://www.coleman.com
An alcohol stove is a round metal container with holes in it. As the name suggests, it uses alcohol as its fuel source. Once the fuel is lit, the flames shoot out of the holes, making a nice wide heating surface.
One of the main advantages of alcohol burning stoves is that they're usually pretty light. They're quite compact too, making them great for a grab-and-go emergency pack.
You can use different types of alcohol to fuel your stove. Some of the commonly used options are isopropyl alcohol, denatured alcohol, pure grain alcohol, and Heet®.
There are several companies that manufacture these stoves. Here are a few popular ones:
DIY Option: You can make your very own alcohol burner with soda cans or other beverage containers. Here's one quick tutorial: http://www.instructables.com/id/DIY-Jet-Stove-Pocket-Sized-Alcohol-Powered-Stov/
Something to keep in mind is that alcohol will emit fumes. It's best to light your stove outdoors, or in a well-ventilated area to prevent toxic fume inhalation.
The Power Blanket is an awesome option if you have an extra $500. It wraps around your 55-gallon drum of water and heats the entire thing with an adjustable thermostat. This is definitely a high-end luxury item, and its high price tag puts it out of reach for most individuals.
If the Power Blanket fits into your budget, you can get more information here: http://www.powerblanket.com/
The Buddy Burner is a great DIY burner made from a small tin can. It uses cardboard and paraffin wax as its fuel.
Just grab an old tuna can, or some other similarly sized can. Cut a carboard strip off an old box, roll it into a circle, and then jam it into the can. Now melt some wax and pour it over the top of the cardboard until the can is filled. You can either purchase paraffin wax or just use an old candle. (You'll probably want to use an unscented candle.) That's all it takes to make one. When you're ready to use it, just light the wax.
There are a few great benefits of this little burner. First, it's easy to assemble. Second, you can make this from common materials that you'd probably be able to find in an emergency. Third, this little baby actually burns for about 1.5 - 2 hours on average. Not only can you boil water for rehydrating your freeze dried meal, you can also cook bacon, Spam, pancakes, eggs, etc.
For more detailed instructions, there is a great assembly tutorial here: http://scoutingmagazine.org/issues/9411/a-tcan.html.
Solar ovens have a few special features that other heating options don't have. First, they don't require any fuel. You don't actually need to burn anything, because it collects heat from the sun's rays. The second great feature is that once it traps enough heat in the cooking area, it stays hot for a long time. It's very similar to a real oven when it's running at full capacity. Lastly, solar ovens are reusable. As long as there is sun, you can keep your oven running hot.
Now, for the obvious drawback. If it's not a "bright and sunshiny day," it won't heat anything for you.
A solar oven is great to have on hand. It's very practical and economical because it's free to reuse. Just make sure you have a backup plan, in case of a cloudy day.
Prices can vary widely, depending on how much convenience you want. Here are some popular solar oven manufacturers:
DIY Option: If you want to build your own solar oven, there are tons of plans on the web. Here's the ultimate resource: http://solarcooking.org/plans/
There are some freeze dried foods that taste great without cooking. Freeze dried fruits and veggies make a great snack when they're still crunchy, making warm water unnecessary.
If you need help preparing your emergency food supply, feel free to ask us your questions. We're happy to help.