Baking without Electricity
(or baking without electricity)

Thanks for stopping by!

I've had several letters sent to me inquiring how to bake breads should 
we run into a crisis with no electricity come 12:01 AM January 1, 2000.

Here I will attempt to give you as many suggestions, recipes and ideas you can try
BEFORE that time and date. Have fun! and be prepared!

First things First - DON'T Panic!!
You won't starve. Think of it as an adventure!

We have been avid campers & outdoor people for close to 3 decades.
We love the challenge and enjoyment of cooking outdoors.

Because the concern of the possibility there may not be electricity,
I first want to cover SAFETYPLEASE be CAREFUL with FIRE!

Keep children away at ALL times.

In order to bake or cook we need to provide a source of heat.
Those of you that have gas ovens/ranges are set if you are hooked up to LP (liquid propane),
if you are hooked up to Natural gas you will probably need to find an alternative heat source.
[Thanks to one of my visitors who reminded me that Natural Gas
is often controlled by computers (that need electricity)]
(If your range is equiped with an electronic ignitor -
better find out now, what or how to light it if there is no electricity)

In order to provide this source of heat we are looking at a potential fire hazard
which brings with it burns, and more seriously, a chance of explosions
Please take extreme caution when using briquettes, campstoves, 
charcoal grill, gas grill or whatever source of heat you decide to use.

Please do not use any of these indoors.
In order to cook, in the event there is no electricity, you will need to experiment OUTDOORS!
(exception is if you have a fireplace - but please use extreme caution here too).

Some sources of heat are:

(NEVER EVER use GASOLINE to start any fire in these apparatuses.)

To aid in the baking I suggest you purchase a Reflector oven, or a Dutch oven.

They both come with directions and can be purchased at an Outdoors/Camping Supplies store.
If you don't know where one of these are located in your area
"Let your fingers do the walking in those Yellow Pages of your Phone Book!" or
contact your local Boy Scout Service center they may be able to tell you where to get these.

The Oven

Reflector ovens : Great - excellent way to bake breads, cakes, rolls and more.
These sit on or near your source of heat (follow manufactures directions).

Dutch Ovens : More of a challenge but an excellent way to bake/cook
if you have the patience to learn.
These are not the "dutch oven" kettles that came with your kitchen cookware. 
These are heavy cast iron or aluminum kettles with 3 little legs on the bottom 
and a lid that has an edge (lip) that is about 1 inch high. 
They come in several sizes so there should be one that can be

purchased to fit any size household.
These were used in the past by those folks that were gone all during the day 
(such as herdsman and cowboys), their supper would be cooking slowly all day - 
sometimes buried beneath the ground.

They would come home to a hot meal at the end of a long day.
(Sound familiar - kind a like Crock Pot cooking!)

Pots, Pans, Kettles : Now these can come from your kitchen or from a friends kitchen or your camping gear. I suggest a large stock pot at least 6 quarts (10 quarts is better) with a lid and a round cake pan that will sit inside the big pot/kettle upside down. When we have been camping this "oven" has provided us with cakes and biscuits we've stirred up from quickbread type recipes.

Baking pans

Suggestions for this includes: pie tins (aluminum), cake pans, of course bread pans (probably the mini loaf pans would be better, they will certainly bake faster). You'll have to experiment to find out what will work best. Smaller will most likely be better than bigger.

Bread recipes

You can use any of the recipes in my Bread Making Step by Step guide. By all means only make small batches of bread. When you have no electricity anticipate baking may take you several hours to make a few loaves. I strongly encourage you to try rolls, biscuits and flat breads. They may be easier to make.

Actual Baking

Once you have your Reflector oven figured out. You should start heating it several minutes before placing your loaf or rolls in it. Just like you need to preheat your kitchen oven you will need to preheat this make-shift oven.

In the case of the Dutch oven, if you are going to use charcoal briquettes you will need to start the briquettes about an hour before you are ready to begin baking. You will need 1 briquette for each 10 degrees you need to raise the temperature. 350 degrees - you will need at least 35 briquettes - all glowing red! You will place the majority of them under the kettle (use a tongs to move the coals around) and several on the lid. You need to experiment. Of course follow the directions that come with the kettle.

Although I, myself, have not done any dutch oven baking, I have watched our Boy Scouts use them. They have produced some excellent tasting Pizza (deep dish of course), Apple and Blueberry cobblers and much more. These I have tasted and know that it can be done with a little practice by anyone.

A Note from Momma Anita:

A friend just sent me the link to your website. I bake outdoors using my dutch oven, and was interested in your bread recipes. I thought I might point out a few tips that I have learned. Bread--plain ol' homemade white bread--is truly not hard at all. It is just shaped different.

I use a standard white bread recipe (my family has wheat allergies):

1 cup plus 5 T. water

2 T. oil

2 tsp. salt

3 T. sugar (or honey)

2 T. dry milk

4 cups flour

1-3/4 t. active dry yeast

I throw the yeast and sugar in the water, let sit until foamy. Mix in the oil, salt, dry milk and 2 cups flour. Add flour a half cup or so at a time until you have a nice dough. Knead for 10 minutes, let rise until double, about an hour. Punch down, put it into a well-seasoned dutch oven sprayed with a Pam. Let it rise again for 45 minutes or so in the dutch oven. I use a charcoal chimney to prepare my coals (no charcoal lighter needed!) and my coals are ready in about 10-15 minutes.

You stated in your website, "You will place the majority of them under the kettle (use a tongs to move the coals around) and several on the lid. " This is incorrect for baking--it is exactly the opposite. There should be more coals on top than on bottom for baking. If there are more coals on bottom than on top, the bottom will burn before the bread is done. I use 8 on bottom and 16 on top for my 12" dutch oven. My bread usually takes around an hour. I've made pot pie (throw in the fixin's, top it with a pie crust) and in terms of other meals, more coals on bottom is appropriate, but not for baking bread.

This method of bread baking will turn out a nice, 3-4" high, 12" round loaf. I slice it straight across lengthwise, and then cut those slices in half, and you have a long crescent-shaped sandwich. :) On hot days, baking my "Porch Bread" is so much better than having that oven on all day! I will admit to having used my bread machine for making the dough. I am an accomplished breadmaker, so didn't need the practice kneading the dough myself. I'll have enough practice next year. :) After the dough cycle is done, I just pour the dough into my dutch oven and put it right on the coals, no more rising necessary. I've made this bread successfully on 50 degree days and 70 degree days. I put it inside my Weber grill with the lid on to hold the heat in.

Hope I've helped. Let me know if there are any questions about my porch bread I might answer.


Thanks for the helpful information! PK

The Pots and Pan oven - You should preheat this too. This method of baking is recommended for Coleman camp stoves or possibly the gas grills. In any case, be careful as the outside of the "oven" will get very hot! Please note you will need to watch the temperature/baking closely. Don't use too high of heat. Once your oven is warm you will most likely be able to maintain a constant temperature at a lower setting. When your bread, or cake or rolls are done baking you will need to remove the whole "oven" to a place to cool BEFORE you can lift the "goodies" from the oven. If you have more to bake it won't take it long to cool down so you can remove it. USE your Oven Mitts to protect your hands!! Then replace your "oven" to its heat source for warm up for the next batch.

Try not to peek at your breads in any of the "OVENS". Just as with your regular kitchen oven, the temperature will drop when you open up the lids/ door.

You will need to set up your ovens in a wind-free location so the wind won't cool your oven down.

Some suggested recipes besides my breads would be:


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This page created February 13, 1999. Last Updated on July 22, 2004

Copyright © 1999-2007 Penny Keay
Please do not use my information without my written permission.