Be Better Prepared with a Fireless Cooker

The solution to dealing with fuel shortages rests not with finding more fuel, but with relying more on fireless cookers.

| January 2015

Fireless Cooker

One of the major drawbacks of using fire to cook food is that much of the energy isn't trapped to heat the food and is wasted.

Photo by Fotolia/Pavel Klimenko

Green Wizardry (New Society Publishers, 2013), by John Michael Greer, proposes a modern mage for uncertain times, one who possesses a vast array of practical skills gleaned from the appropriate tech and organic gardening movements forged in the energy crisis of the 1970s. From the basic concepts of ecology to a plethora of practical techniques such as composting, green manure, low-tech food preservation and storage and more, Greer provides a comprehensive manual for today’s wizard-in-training. The following excerpt from Lesson 24, “Hayboxes and Sunboxes,” addresses the problem of using non-renewable fuel to cook our food and introduces us to fireless cookers.

You can purchase this book from the MOTHER EARTH NEWS store: Green Wizardry.

The principle of conserving differences is central to the appropriate tech toolkit, and it can be applied in a dizzying variety of ways. One good example is a simple, resilient technology that helps solve one of the most serious problems that poor people face now and the rest of us will be facing shortly. The technology was common all over the industrial world a century ago, and you’ve probably never heard of it.

Let’s start with the problem: cooking fuel. Most foodstuffs are safer to eat and easier to digest when they’ve been subjected to heat, which is why every human culture everywhere on Earth has the habit of cooking most meals. The one drawback is that the heat has to come from somewhere, and usually that requires burning some kind of fuel. Anywhere outside today’s industrial world, fuel doesn’t come cheap, and in most poor countries the struggle to find enough fuel to cook with is a major economic burden, not to mention a driving force behind deforestation and other ecological crises.

The obvious response, if you happen to think the way people in the modern industrial world think, is to deal with fuel shortages by finding and burning more fuel. That’s exactly the thinking that got us into our current predicament, though, so it’s worth looking at other options. To do that, we need to start with the thermodynamics of cooking.

Imagine, then, a saucepan on the stove cooking rice. It’s a metal container with a heat source under it, and inside it are two cups of water and a cup of grass seeds — that’s “rice” to you and me; the goal of the operation is to get enough heat and moisture into the grass seeds that will allow your digestive system to get at the starches, sugars, B vitamins, and other nutritious things inside the seed. So far, so good, but this is where a familiarity with the laws of thermodynamics comes in handy, because there’s a prodigious waste of energy going on.

5/18/2016 12:36:47 PM

You have not mentioned the obvious source of energy that is readily available to the good metal worker with an entrepreneurial spirit and that is wood gas. It is tremendously more efficient than just burning word and can provide cooking fuel, electrical power and heat in the winter. There are videos available on YouTube and also from FEMA.

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