Cooking outdoors is a must in the summertime. While I do enjoy barbecuing on our gas grill, I love the thought of cooking outside in a more natural way. Cooking with fire, hot coals, the sun, or the earth is really appealing to me in a primal way. I especially love the idea of a wood fired brick or cob outdoor oven.
6 Ways to Cook Outdoors (without charcoal or propane)
When Joel and I were on our honeymoon last year in Costa Rica, one of the off grid eco resorts we stayed at had a brick pizza oven, and let me tell you, this was the best pizza I have ever had!
We are planning to build our own outdoor bread and pizza oven, hopefully this fall, and will be using The Backyard Bread & Pizza Oven eBook by Teri and Brian from Homestead Honey as a guide.
This is an awesome book with step by step instructions on how to do it, including great pictures. For now, though, I have these 6 ways to cook outdoors naturally, without charcoal or propane, to get your fires burning!
Over an Open Fire
The first way is pretty straightforward, as this is likely how our human ancestors cooked. Basically, you cook over a direct flame! Of course, we’ve all probably done this with marshmallows or hot dogs while camping, and food on a stick is the simplest way to go about it. But, you can also put a grill or grate over the fire and char up some burgers or veggies that way. Or you can hang a cast iron dutch oven over the flame (this tripod makes it easy) and make a big batch of soup or chili.
Here are some other great posts about cooking over an open fire:
- How to Cook on an Open Fire from Montana Homesteader
- How to Cook Over an Open Fire from Six Dollar Family
Use Those Hot Coals
For food that needs less heat than a direct flame, you can utilize the hot coals from a fire. This is a great method for using a cast iron dutch oven for baking, or for simply keeping things warm. The general idea is to first put the dutch oven on top of hot coals, then to put more hot coals on top.
Another common method is to wrap food in foil and place them in the hot coals. Potatoes or packets of veggies or fish work nicely. We’ve even made up sandwiches before a camping trip, wrapped them in foil, and put them on hot coals to heat them up (and melt the cheese). Delicious!
Here are some other great posts on cooking with hot coals:
- How to Bake Without an Oven from Homestead Honey
- Campfire Cooking: Rob Roy Cookies from Homestead Lady
- Dutch Oven Cooking: Zucchini Bread from Learning and Yearning
- Off Grid Cooking with Dutch Ovens from Melissa K. Norris
Get Hot With a Rocket Stove
Rocket stoves are the hot new thing, for good reason! They are simple to build, burn hot with little fuel, and output very little emissions. They are great for an emergency situation, or just as an extra burner for boiling water outside.
We always have the materials around for building one out of cinder blocks if the need arises. It’s a great tool that everyone should know how to build and use!
Here are three different rocket stove designs to consider:
- How to Build a Rocket Stove (with cinder blocks) from Attainable Sustainable
- Build a #10 Can Rocket Stove from Prepared Housewives
- Rocket Stove Firing Up (with clay) from Bibliophilia
Use the Sun With a Solar Oven
The sun is our original fire, so it make sense to cook with it! Solar ovens are an awesome idea and I’d love to own one someday. I’ve never used one myself, but I’ve heard from several people that the Sun Oven is a good one to try.
One of these days I’ll get one, as they are great to have around for emergency or off grid situations. Plus, it just sounds cool to say, “let me go pull the lasagna out of my solar oven.”
Here are some great posts on using a solar oven:
- Solar Cooking 101 from Trayer Wilderness
- How to Bake in a Solar Oven from Homestead Honey
- Solar Oven Slow Cooker Lasagne from Homestead Lady
- Solar Oven S’mores from Homestead Lady
- How to Hard Cook Eggs in a Solar Oven from The Homesteading Hippy
Use the Earth With a Pit Oven
I love this idea! Basically, first you dig a pit in the ground. Then you’ll either build a fire directly in the pit until it turns to coals, or you can move hot coals or hot rocks into the pit. Put some food in to cook, cover it with large leaves (or aluminum foil), then cover the whole thing with a layer of soil. So cool!
Here are two methods for using a pit or earth oven:
- How to Make an Underground Oven from Hometalk
- How to Build Your Own Earth Oven from Mother Earth News
My Fave: Build A Beautiful Cob and/or Brick Oven
This right here is what prompted me to write this post in the first place. I have a huge crush on outdoor cob and brick ovens! They look cool, are hand built, and are insanely functional.
We WILL have one someday, hopefully soon! I mean, how can anyone resist this?
The photo above is the one that Teri and Brian from Homestead Honey built. Learn how to build one like it with The Backyard Bread & Pizza Oven eBook.
This book is so awesome, you guys… I highly recommend it! I even love simply looking through it and dreaming of pizza ovens in my future. So inspiring! Definitely check it out.
The photo below is the brick oven at Saladero Eco Lodge in Costa Rica. This made some amazing pizza!
I’ll definitely keep you guys updated on our outdoor cob oven building adventure! For now, though, here are some great resources on building and cooking in outdoor brick or cob ovens:
- The Backyard Bread & Pizza Oven eBook by Teri & Brian at Homestead Honey
- Building an Outdoor Pizza Oven from Homestead Honey
- What Can You Cook in a Mud Oven? from They’re Not Our Goats
- Baking Bread With an Earth (cob) Oven from Living Echo Blog
I hope this post inspires you to get cooking outdoors! Have you used any of these methods? Tell me about it!
When we lost power over the weekend with Hurricane Matthew, we used our grill (obviously), Sun Oven, and sterno burner. I have to admit it was a little bit fun, except for hauling pond water to flush the toilets ;)