Cooking Outdoors {Plus a Rocket Stove Dinner!}

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StoveTec Final Final

My husband likes to tease me sometimes by saying I was meant for a different era. We do have our disagreements, however in this respect I tend to agree with him. 😉

Case in point: I love camping. Real camping. Sleeping-bag-under-the-stars-don’t-waste-my-time-with-a-tent camping.

I love to be covered in dirt. Every time we feel a storm moving in, I secretly hope the power goes out for at least twenty-four hours. I would prefer not to shower but once a week. I don’t own a pair of shorts. Not one. I carry a knife and a set of pliers on my hip almost everywhere I go. Not to mention my fascination with chuck wagons, cow camps, range rifles, cast iron, and leather in general.

Not unusual things in some circles. However, in my demographic of late-twenties American females, I’m regarded as somewhat of an oddity.

I do believe that of all the things which make me, wellme, my husband’s favorite of these traits would be my love for outdoor cooking. Gads, I wonder why he loves that so much! 😉

I. Love. Food.

There, I said it. I do. I love food, and I especially love to cook outdoors. My favorite time of day for such an activity is early morning. Sunrise. Tending a hot fire and a warm meal while the cool air kisses your cheeks is one thing that everyone on Earth ought to experience in their lifetime.

Cooking outdoors, or cooking without power, can be extremely simple and enjoyable. However, it takes practice to feel truly confident doing so. Begin now, and if the necessity for cooking without power arises, rest assured knowing you are prepared to feed your family!

The fact of the matter is, faced with the challenge of preparing meals in the absence of power, most people would feel utterly overwhelmed.

Methods and Reasoning for Cooking Without Power

There are several reasons to sharpen your outdoor cooking skills:

  • Emergency Preparedness
  • Camping
  • Barbecues
  • Pure enjoyment

There are also multiple ways in which to cook outdoors:

  • Fire
  • Rocket Stove
  • BBQ Grill (propane)
  • Charcoal
  • Camping Stove
  • Solar Oven

I Like It Hot!

Right now, I am going to concentrate on the rocket stove. This little guy is, by far, my favorite friend in the outdoors.

Versions of the rocket stove have been around for centuries. You can find hundreds of plans on Pinterest and Google to build your own. (Like this one!) A rocket stove is extremely efficient and the design is simple.

A can-type stove consists of a combustion chamber (where your fuel is burned) which allows for maximum temperature to be sent up through a vertical insulated chimney. The result is a stove which burns very little fuel, wastes very little heat (all the energy is sent to the cooking surface), and gives off very few emissions.

It has been used in many energy poor areas of the world for cooking purposes, the heating of spaces, and the sterilization of water.

I can prepare a four-course meal on my rocket stove using one 2″x4″ piece of lumber a foot long, and I’ll still have wood left when I’m done. I have also prepared meals using only scrub, or twigs, from my yard. These stoves are built to burn any biomass you can find!

StoveTec Collage resized

A Rocket Stove Menu

Below you’ll find basic instructions for a rocket stove dinner, and you can vary it based on what’s in season. Do start with organic, locally-grown, pastured meat and high-quality organic produce. I visited the farmers market and purchased several in-season veggies I knew would work well for this dinner (my variations are pictured above). If you need help sourcing local organic meats and produce, visit Local Harvest online.

You’ll need:

  • meat
  • veggies
  • ghee, coconut oil, or olive oil for sautéing
  • butter
  • salt and pepper
  • minced garlic and/or garlic powder
  • 2 quarts water
  • potatoes

And here are the steps to prepare this delicious and easy rocket stove meal.

1. Marinate your meat. Cut away excess fat from the meat of your choice. Cut the meat into 2-inch cubes for even cooking. Place the meat inside a dish or plastic bag with olive oil, salt, pepper, and garlic and let it rest in the refrigerator for an hour.

2. Prepare your vegetable ingredients. Wash and cut your potatoes into 2″ cubes. Set aside. Wash and cut your veggies into manageable pieces. I used asparagus and bush beans, which I cut into 2″ lengths, and peas in the pod which I left whole.  Set aside.

3. Light your stove. Refer to the manufacturer (or YouTube) for instructions on the proper way to light a rocket stove. Place your cast iron skillet or pot on top to preheat. Since I boil potatoes first in this recipe, I set a deep pot full of water on the rocket stove rather than my skillet.

4. Make the garlic mashers. Boil your cubed potatoes in water and a little salt until they’re soft. Drain the excess water and add any goodies you desire. My garlic masher add-ins consist of salt, butter, garlic powder, parmesan cheese, green onions, and parsley. Mmmmmmm. Mash them with a wooden spoon, put the lid on your pot, and set it aside.

5. Make the meat and veggie main dish. Dump your marinated meat into a hot skillet. I like to add butter to my skillet for the sauteing; it accompanies the oil used for marinating. Saute the meat until it is cooked through. Place the meat into a covered container and set aside. Use the juice/leftover oil in your skillet to saute your vegetables. Sprinkle with salt, pepper, and garlic powder while they’re cooking. Once they’re almost done, place the meat back in the skillet, and saute it all together until the veggies are tender and the meat is slightly browned.

Voila! Bon Appétit!

What Keeps the Fire Glowing?

During the cooking process, in order to keep a flame going, you will need to feed the fire. In order to do this on a rocket stove, you just push your fuel sticks further into the combustion chamber every few minutes.

What Can I Cook On a Rocket Stove?

The kinds of things you can cook on a rocket stove (or on any other alternative cooking systems outdoors) are limitless! Here are a few ideas to help you get started:

Stir Fry. Think meat. Think veggies. Ground beef, ground pork, chicken, steak strips, pork loin, bacon. Peas, asparagus, bush beans, pole beans, bean sprouts, broccoli, shredded carrots, cauliflower, cabbage. Really — if you have it, and it can be sautéed, you can make a stir fry with it! Make sure hard veggies, like carrots, are shredded or cut into small chunks. Just as I did in the instructions above, cook your meat in an oil or animal fat, and set aside. Then cook your veggies in the remaining oil or animal fat left over from the meat, and then return your meat to the pan to brown it and finish the dish. Tada!

Skillet Casseroles. Skillet dishes are a wonderful addition to every kitchen, both inside and out! Essentially, you’re making hamburger helper from scratch, minus the nasty non-foods and additives, plus the wholesome goodness of real foods and true home cooking! We really enjoy a Cheesy Hamburger Pasta skillet dish that can SO easily be cooked on a rocket stove. Wardee offers a free video series that includes a tutorial on easy-peasy skillet dishes! Go sign up for your free video series now!

Stews/Boiled Dishes. Mexican Meatball Soup, White Chicken Chili, and Pantry Stew are all excellent options for a rocket stove. Place all your ingredients in a Dutch Oven and simmer until you’re ready to eat. Potatoes, dumplings, spaghetti noodles and other pastas are all “rocket stoveable”, too!

Skillet Breads. No power to bake, but you want bread? Done. Heat a skillet on your rocket stove and make flour tortillas, corn tortillas, or corn cakes.

I’m Convinced! Where Can I Get Mine?

I purchased my Rocket Stove through StoveTec. Or, another option is SilverFire, a rocket stove company started by my friend Todd Albi, the founder and former general manager of StoveTec (he branched off and started a new company, apparently improving the Rocket Stove in the process). I have several of the StoveTec stoves, but I have not (yet) had the opportunity to try out one of the new SilverFire stoves. So if you do, you can let me know how you like it. :)

Update: Todd Albi from SilverFire is a guest on Wardee’s podcast! Click here to listen.

Outdoor cooking newbies: What are you going to try for your first dish in the wild?! What recipe would you like to be able to convert for powerless cooking?

Old hats: What is your favorite method for cooking outdoors? What’s your favorite recipe or technique for outdoor cooking?

This post may contain affiliate links. We only recommend products and services we wholeheartedly endorse. Thank you for supporting Traditional Cooking School by GNOWFGLINS with your purchases. Our family thanks you!


  1. says

    This is great! Thank you. We are setting up an outdoor kitchen for a new cabin we’re building and I wondered about the rocket stove. I’m amazed at how little wood that is used.

  2. Stephanie says

    Wow! I need to get me a rocket stove… STAT! I didn’t realize how little fuel you needed to run it! Thank you for the info… Great job Laura! (No shorts, really?!?)

    • says

      Seriously! I promise! NO shorts!! But if you saw the shade of white on my legs, you’d know why. Hehe. I am doing the world a favor by not bearing these bad boys!! 😉

  3. Tammy R. says

    This sounds great! I would love to try cooking dinner sometime this way. It is amazing how little wood they take – which makes me wonder if there is anyone using these to boil down maple sap in the spring for maple syrup making?! We went through sooo much wood this last spring for our fist time of boiling it down – I keep thinking there must be a better way – maybe this is it?

    • says

      Tammy, that is a fabulous idea!! I did a little digging, and it looks like other folks in your situation have felt the same as you. Here are a few links to get you started on your rocket stove sap boiling journey: It looks like people are creating their own rocket stoves for the most part, but one of the SilverFire or StoveTec stoves would be a great option for this as well! Keep us updated on what you decide to do! I would LOVE to see this in action from someone first-hand.

      • Tammy R. says

        Thank you, I will check out the links Laura, when time permits! We boiled down syrup this year on our own for the first time and while it was a big learning experience, I would love to be able to cut down the amount of wood we burned through using the barrel stove boiler my husband made for it. Are you on facebook? That would be where I would post about a syrup making like I did this spring :-)

        Also where are you? I am in Michigan, just wondered about these group buys you do? Thanks!

        • says

          Tammy, I would be lying if I said I wasn’t envious of your maple syrup adventures! I have always held a fondness for the entire process. For some reason it appeals to me, even though I have always lived on the west coast where it doesn’t happen as often.

          I am on Facebook! I would love to keep in touch there and hear what you’re up to. :)

          We are in Oregon. I did live in Ann Arbor for a year though. I LOVE Michigan! Also, you can set up a group buy for these stoves from all over the US. Essentially, you get discounts for buying pallets at a time. So there are price breaks at 24 stoves, 48 stoves, 96 stoves, etc. Here is the blog post for the group buy we’re doing on the SilverFire stoves – this will at least give you an idea of the cost:

  4. Melissa Pistorius says

    Thus is great! I have a rocket stove from way back when you ordered them, but have yet to use it! I want to start cooking outdoors at least once a week!

    • says

      Once a week is an awesome goal! When I really have my act together, I’ll cook on mine once a week. Desserts on these are AWESOME too. “Baked” apples and volcano cakes, fried peaches and cream… mmmmmmmm. Now I’m hungry. Way to go! 😉

    • says

      Lucy, we have group buys going on semi-regularly and that would help you save some moola as well since you’re semi-local. :) I’ll contact you privately for more details on that!

    • says

      You sure can! This technology is one of the most efficient for air quality. The emissions from a stove like this are so little in quantity, you can *almost* cook on one of these indoors. Many people do so just by setting the stove in their fireplace. Not endorsing that, by any means — everyone has to do their own research. 😉 But it is done regularly!

    • says

      Dooooooooooo it Maddy!!!!!!! And one GREAT point on a stove like this: even when that bad boy is burning full boar, the sides of this stove are JUST warm to the touch. You can cook on one of these, and as long as your wee ones keep their hands off the pan, there’s no way they’re going to get burned. The insulation is such that all the heat stays inside and up the chimney. :) Even if just for camping! Wait… you do camp… don’t you? *crickets* Hehe.

  5. Maren says

    The review and information is so refreshing. Didn’t feel like I was being sold a product, but being given unbiased priceless information for my family. Keep it up GNOWFGLINS & Mrs Cherry.

    • says

      You would be FABULOUS on one of these suckers! I really think you will absolutely love this. We have a group buy happening soon. I’ll keep you updated. 😉

  6. Samantha Ames says

    I have had mine for about a year now, but this next week we will be using it for the first time. So, excited!

    • says

      Sam, keep me updated on how it goes! If you have any questions, or come across any problems, just comment on here or give me a ring and I’ll answer to the best of my ability!! What do you plan on making first?!

      • Sam Ames says

        I am unsure if it will still work as first expected. The joy of having an Autistic teen with bipolar means big heavy things get thrown down the stairs. I think it has been tossed downstairs about five times over this past year :-( it’s center has a crack, but we are hoping it still works the same. As for what I am going to cook first…having toddlers and it being camping…probably Mac n cheese and hot dogs :-/ and probably potatoes, eggs and hamburger at some point. Although, after selling the fifth wheel to you guys, I am having a hard time coming up with enough ideas for the entire five day stretch that doesn’t require refrigeration

        • says

          I am guessing it will still function. When you say a crack “in the center” do you mean in the steal base? The ceramic? The cast iron top? Even though you may lose a small amount of efficiency, you should be able to cook on it just fine. :) You are such a brave and amiable soul, dear Sam. <3

  7. Travis Cherry says

    I happen to have had the opportunity to partake of the above photographed meal… and it was… well… a bit of heaven. I was impressed with how much and how quick it all came together on a seemingly small stove. And all from a 3 to 4 foot stick of 2″ x 2″ Western Hemlock – a local species. Pretty sure I could cook with one of them there stoves… though perhaps with a less celestial outcome. Props to the outdoor chef!

    • says

      You are silly! How was I blessed with such wonderful and flattering in-laws! 😉 You keep clearing my table after dinner, and I will keep feeding you! Okay I’ll feed you regardless. :) Thanks, Trav.

  8. Melissa says

    Fantastic article, Laura!!! :) I recently ordered a rocket stove from stovetec and I can’t wait to try it out! Your enthusiasm for life is contagious. :)

  9. Tina Marchant says

    I have a rocket stove and have yet had occasion to use it. It sounds like I just need to bust it out without having any other reason than to just have fun. Sounds like a great learning opportunity for me and for the kids. Wish I could get away for camping to really put it through its paces.

    • says

      Tina, I LOVE mine for camping. Especially since – in our area – we are provided with endless fuel sources all around us. The amount of biomass in Oregon is off the charts! Everything is burnable here! Your kids will love this, and I mentioned above to another mom that there is a really great thing about these stoves that I didn’t talk about in the article: even when the stove is red hot inside, the metal is barely warm on the outside. They’re insulated so well that – unless your kiddos put their hands down the hatch or on a hot pan, they’re not going to get burned by one of these. :) You can pick it up and move it with your bare hands.

  10. says

    LOVE these ideas! And like you – I love it HOT! But unlike you, my idea of camping is in an RV. LOL! The rocket stove is SO cool, I can’t believe I was in the dark on this … Thanks for enlightening us! I’m sharing this on FB and pinning today! Hugs, Kelly

    • says

      Kelly, when I was introduced to these stoves, I felt the same as you! I couldn’t believe I hadn’t heard of them before. I was so excited. There are so many options for making or purchasing them, as well. I think you will have a blast with it! And RV camping is still roughing it! Just ask my hubby. Hehe. 😉

  11. Tim says

    This is all very cool. I am interested in the solar oven also. Can’t wait till you post about that. Do they really work?

    • says

      Tim, I am so glad you asked! A resounding YES!! They work, alright! I live in Oregon. We’re a tad low on sunshine a lot of the year. Yet, people here love solar ovens. That ought to express how well they work. :)

  12. Susan Oakley says

    I used mine for the first time this weekend at the coast. It was amazing. I used twigs off the beach to boil water, and the only trouble I had was a wind of about 15 mph. It made it difficult to get the wood to catch before it blew it out, but after it caught it took no time to get the bratwurst hot. Love it.

    • says

      And they were DELICIOUS, if I may say so myself!! I still think the cheesy burger noodles the other night were great as well. I am in awe every time I use one of these stoves how little it takes to make a meal. Amazing!

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