Elegant “Survival” Cooking…

Chaffing Dish, old school

Chaffing Dish, old school

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One of my “interests” is “ersatz cooking”. This can be “car camping” (where I found a neat little lunch boxed sized 12 VDC electric “oven” at the truck stop so enjoyed roast Cornish Game Hen and Potatoes while driving cross country – just plug in and drive a couple of hours ’till you can’t stand how good it smells! ;-) or it can be “After the Quake” with bricks and parts of house rubble for fuel…

One of the areas that I have sometimes wondered about is “camping in an apartment”. I’ve not thought about it much, as it’s been, well, “a long time” measured in over 1/3 century since I lived in an apartment… And even then it was a ‘patio unit’ so I had a hibachi / BBQ on the ‘patio’. But from time to time I’ve wondered what folks in, oh, a high rise in New York City could do in a major power outage. Rather like what happened in their (absolutely normal and expected) storm recently.

No patio at the 20th floor. Not a lot of ventilation (so things like indoor charcoal or even a gasoline stove are large Carbon Monoxide risks). It’s just not the kind of place where you can set up the camp stove and go.

The general “solution” I’ve leaned toward is the Sterno Folding Stove. It’s fairly cheap and works well. Sterno in a new sealed can on a shelf in the pantry is stable for years. (In the trunk of a car in summer in The West it can slowly evaporate over a year or two… yes, I had that happen.) But cans in the kitchen have sat for years and been unchanged.

But that folding stove can drive some folks nuts trying to put it together. I’ve often thought ‘there ought to be something’ that the average person in a $Million condo in NYC could have ‘on hand’ that would be usable. (Or even their servant in a tiny little flat in the poor side of town…)

Well, I think there is, and that we’ve all seen them; but not thought it through much.

The Chaffing Dish.

As the Wiki describes them:

A chafing dish (from the Old French chauffer, “to make warm”) is a kind of portable grate raised on a tripod, originally heated with charcoal in a brazier, and used for foods that require gentle cooking, away from the “fierce” heat of direct flames. The chafing dish could be used at table or provided with a cover for keeping food warm on a buffet. Double dishes that provide a protective water jacket are known as bains-marie and help keep delicate foods, such as fish, warm while preventing overcooking.

So not just for keeping precooked foods warm at conferences… but originally a kind of stove for gentle cooking.

Widely used at various presentations, meetings, parties, whatever. They clearly are ‘acceptable’ for indoor use and ‘safe’ for cooking on top of a cloth covered table. (Since that’s what they are used for all the time…)

Normally we see food presented in them, just ‘warming’. Sometimes with a ‘water pan’ between the food dish and the fire.

Yet in the old Family Restaurant we would cook some dishes in the ‘steam table’. The water bath server / chaffer is just a small ‘steam table’. Running at those temperatures it is remarkably like a ‘slow cooker’ in how you cook. (So put meats and stew vegetables in and wait…) Not the most fuel efficient kind of cooking as the heat loss is higher in slow cooking, fast hot cooking is more efficient as there is less time for heat loss. So while the Sterno Stove is ‘better’ for things like fried eggs and making hot water for instant coffee; the Chaffing Dish would do an “OK” job of cooking several kinds of foods. Especially things like warming cans of ravioli or canned stews and vegetables. Exactly the kind of “emergency food” a completely non-prepared city dweller would be likely to have and cook. (If you are eating most of your meals at ‘restaurants out’, it is unlikely you are skilled at cooking dry grains and rehydrating dehydrated vegetables & jerky to make ‘jerky stew’…)

It’s also the case that you can cook directly in the pans that have direct exposure to the heat. Yes, it may discolor the stainless steel a bit if you heat it enough to fry eggs in the ‘water pan’, but that pan IS a stainless steel pan. You can cook in it just like any other thin stainless steel pan.

Many even have a “fuel cup” with an adjustable lid / flame control, giving some control of the heat level. That lets you choose “slow cooker” vs “boiling” vs “fry”. (I’m sure many of you have been at ‘events’ where these were set too high and some bit of prepared food was cooking too fast right over the heat. That becomes a ‘feature’ if the food is raw and you have a spatula in hand cooking it…)

So if you happen to live in a high rise apartment, have been wondering how in the heck to ‘prepare’ for post disaster cooking, I think that in addition to a ‘Sterno Stove’ and cans of Sterno (and presuming you are not interested in learning to use an alcohol camp stove – that can also be used indoors) you ought to consider that Chaffing Dish (that many of us got for wedding gifts, stuck in the back of the pan shelf, and promptly forgot…) It even can look nice.

OK, no particular endorsement, but just a couple of links I ran into while looking at Chaffing Dishes:

An interesting small ( 4 qt so about 1/2 the ‘usual’ size) one with an industrial style. All of $30 at a restaurant supply place.

http://www.webstaurantstore.com/4-qt-economy-chafer-stainless-half-size-chafing-dish/100ECONHALF.html

An 8 quart foldable for cheap. $26.

http://www.webstaurantstore.com/8-qt-stainless-steel-economy-chafer-with-folding-frame/100FOLDCHAFE.html?utm_source=Amazon

Then there’s the ‘disposable’ approach. A chaffer / warmer that uses those thin aluminum ‘tin’ pans from Sterno, with fuel included:

http://www.amazon.com/The-Sterno-Group-LLC-ST07000/dp/B003E37WRE/ref=sr_1_15?s=kitchen&ie=UTF8&qid=1362258958&sr=1-15

Though it’s also $26, so has me wondering why I’d not just buy a more ‘industrial’ one…

You could even go much more ‘fancy’ at $51, but as a ‘5 qt round’ don’t know if it has a ‘water pan’:

http://www.amazon.com/Crown-Series-Round-Stainless-Chafer/dp/B001MG3D50/ref=pd_sim_k_38

So ‘warming’ canned stuff, slow cooking what was in the fridge when the power failed, stewing and wet cooking, and even some ‘not quite ideal’ frying on thin stainless steel if that’s the only choice. Still, post “Aw Shit” it’s a very “doable” option. And not the kind of thing that is ‘out of place’ in a New York City apartment. Just add a ‘flat’ of Sterno (from the same vendors very cheaply) and a shelf of canned food and you have a “one week solution” for not much space or cost. And if some visitor at a party opens that cabinet, they will not see “Red Neck Prepper”, but “Upscale Chaffing / Fondue”… just for those folks where that might matter ;-)

While I’d love to find an ‘old school’ style with a liquid alcohol burner, as in that top picture, it’s just a whole lot cheaper and easier to get the ‘economy 4 qt’ style and some cans of Sterno.

Economy Chaffing Dish

Economy Chaffing Dish

I could easily cook on one of those for a week, with a flat of Sterno cans, and be happy. At the end, ‘gentle’ frying on the bare metal ‘water pan’ would likely leave it a bit ugly, and I’d likely be tired of canned stew; but it’s cheap, and relatively ‘fumble proof’ for city apartment dwellers.

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About E.M.Smith

A technical managerial sort interested in things from Stonehenge to computer science. My present "hot buttons' are the mythology of Climate Change and ancient metrology; but things change...
This entry was posted in Emergency Preparation and Risks, Food and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

19 Responses to Elegant “Survival” Cooking…

  1. Tim Clark says:

    I’ve got a couple of cast suacepans that I use for camping, with lids. Work great with sterno or anything. I intentially use them as “crock pots” rather than frying. Hold the heat well.

  2. John F. Hultquist says:

    Years ago we would go trout fishing at a stream about 2-3 hours from home. We prepared an aluminum foil wrapped mixture of meat and veggies and laid it on the block. Upon arrival at our camping spot we usually started a fire to get the coals glowing and fished for an hour before eating. The meal was still hot and ready when dusk began.

    The trick was to cut different things in smaller or larger sizes so all got cooked uniformly. There were over 1 M results when I search with this string of words: cooking car engine aluminum wrapped

    Not as elegant as the “old school chaffing dish” but good food is good food regardless of how.

  3. Bob Highland says:

    I don’t know about “elegant”, but I reckon no home should be without one of these:

    http://www.gasmate.com.au/SCats.asp?SCatID=39&ProdID=255

    They’re always under $20 in Oz, and I bought mine for only $13. It uses butane canisters that you can buy in supermarkets, hardware/camping stores and $2 variety stores for about $5 for a pack of 4 x 220g. At full throttle a canister lasts for about 90 minutes. They’re rated at 7500 BTUs, which is effectively about 2KW, so there’s enough oomph to cook anything, while the adjustment range is very wide, so they can slow-simmer effectively too.

    The self-sealing canister is engaged/disengaged with a lever, so can even be left in situ when not in use and trusted not to leak. And there’s piezo ignition by turning the dial to just past full throttle. So from finding the plastic case it comes in to beginning to cook need take no more than about 10 seconds, even for people who can’t erect a deckchair. Along with most of my buddies who go camping and fishing, I’ve thrown away the bulky and expensive Primus gear and we just take a couple of these along instead.

    When I was growing up in England in the 50’s, my Dad would have killed for one of these. A regular Sunday pastime was to ‘go for a drive in the country’, when driving was still a pleasure. Of course, no British expedition is complete without a cup of tea, and thermos tea just doesn’t cut it, no sirree. And Ye Olde English Tea Shoppe proved similarly elusive, because in 50’s England everywhere was closed when you actually wanted to buy something. So the old boy went through a succession of methylated spirit/kerosene burner devices that were theoretically supposed to boil a kettle of water but somehow were barely up to the task. The slightest breeze would either extinguish them or vitiate the heat to blood temperature.

    We’d pull up in a quiet layby (a rest area at the side of the road, typically big enough for about 3-6 cars at a time) and he’d set up his gear, eager for the refreshing cuppa that surely could not be far way now. An hour or so later, after he’d crouched and blew, and sheltered, and fanned, and refilled, and muttered every foul imprecation he knew, red faced and down to the last match in the box, he would triumphantly announce to my mother that tea was ready. But he’d have to repeat himself a few times, because Mum and I were usually sound asleep in the car by this time.

    Another quirk of this experience was that, as soon as we’d decided to pull into a layby, minutes later other cars would pull up and commence the same bizarre ritual, having concluded that if we were there doing that, it must be the official “brew-up-a-cup-of-tea-and-have-a-pee-in-the-bushes” spot for the district. Thus I learned early in life that people and sheep are not so different.

    Aah, happy days, simpler times. But then again, I’m not sure my Dad would altogether approve of the convenience of my Gasmate appliance. I can see him sniffing his derision. “Too easy,” he’d say. “We used to have to work for our cup of tea.”

    Luxury.

  4. Sera says:

    I’ve still got one of the two burner sterno stoves- although the cardboard slip cover is a bit worn…

    http://www.laurelleaffarm.com/pages/camp_and_cabin/double-burner-camp-stove.htm#.UTLlNjeW-ts

    Used it in Miami during hurricane season back in the sixties and seventies. Many a can of Armour Star Chili on that baby. Good times.

  5. Pingback: the camp cook … | pindanpost

  6. Chuckles says:

    John F H. got in first, but don’t forget the manifold cooking implements available on road trips –

    http://www.roadroast.com/how.php

  7. E.M.Smith says:

    @Sera:

    My folding Sterno Stove is “the Stove I Want To Hate But Can’t”… It’s just so… so… Blah!

    Yet it always works. Has no offensive mode of behaviour. It’s cheap. It’s sturdy. Sigh.

    So I sporadically use it to make coffee, even on the carpet in the bedroom (when something is on TV such that I can’t stand to leave it… say “market action” or “The Bernanke Speaks” (at a particularly bad time…) or even “What blew up where again?”….

    So it’s on a shelf of the bookcase. About 20 seconds later it’s set up, 10 seconds after that, Sterno in and lit. One quick dash to the kitchen for water in a pot and Melita coffee filter on top of the cup… back to the stove…

    I’ve also been known to make lunch at one of the “rest areas” along the highway. Arizona once in particular I remember. Sandwich and soup, I think it was. Nothing for 30 miles in any direction. I had another stove in the car. This had soup ready (without worry of burning it) in less time that I could unpack and set up the other one…

    But I only paid something like $5 for the darned thing (and that was about 20 years ago… it just doesn’t ‘wear out’…) and it’s just a bit of tin and wire… Maybe I’ve feel better about it if it cost me $60 and needed a users manual to operate ;-)

    @Bob Highland:

    Oh! Good one! I’ve forgotten those little things. Looks like Amazon has a few dozen too, from a $90 high end Japanese thing down to about $18 for a ‘cheapy’.
    http://www.amazon.com/Grillex-GB-10K-Portable-Gas-Burner/dp/B0055QMXJK/ref=sr_1_4?s=home-garden&ie=UTF8&qid=1362297535&sr=1-4&keywords=butane+stove

    looks reasonable.

    Yeah, one of those would work well. I know the chaffing dish approach will not set of smoke detectors nor doe they seem to set of CO detectors; and they “pass inspection” with all sorts of “officials” who might not be keen on a gas stove… Yet… Come to think of it, I’ve seen buffets set up with folks making omelets on that kind of thing…

    I would likely also pass the “peek in the cupboard’ test… where the folks at a party would not think twice about it.

    Flame size is good, so decent for boiling water fast and would also fry a steak…

    Might need to assure better air flow to the room, though. Don’t know how long you could run one in an apartment with the air flow off. (Some high rise buildings do not have windows that open). OTOH, it would likely be best to not be using any flame inside then, or not for very long!

    Love the story of fussing with the stove! It used to be more common here, too, to see folks “cooking” at rest areas. Some, now, are “no open flame” areas and you get harassed. In Texas & New Mexico there were a places with BBQ pits just waiting for you to use them… I’ve learned to adjust my “presentation” to adapt to local norms. (One more than one occasion using a very small ‘stove’ on the front passenger footwell of the car. Tin pie pan under stove to protect carpet, catch spills, stove, pot… Compressed gas works best. Small butane or propane stoves. Sterno stove too, but a bit slow)

    @John F. Hultquist:

    I’ve read about that, but never could bring myself to try it. Too much of a ‘foody’ I guess… or just too much time sucking in burnt oil smells under the hood to want that ‘ambiance’ in my dinner…

    @Ian W:

    I have two of those. One for about $4 was the cheap fold up steel thing. The other at $12 is a very High Tec Titanium ‘stove’. 4/10 ounce:

    http://www.amazon.com/Esbit-Ultralight-Folding-Titanium-Tablets/dp/B002AQET2C/ref=sr_1_3?ie=UTF8&qid=1362299041&sr=8-3&keywords=titanium+camp+stove

    Tried it on the patio (before it went into one of the ‘car kits’ – the solid fuel pellets keep forever in a ‘car emergency kit’ and stand up to summer heat in Phoenix in the trunk…). It did fine at making water, but took two of the cheap small pellets, or about the size of one Esbit tablet.

    But the smell of the fumes! GAK! (That, and it soots up the pot bottom). OK when burning well, I guess, but if the thing sputters at the end, or you try blowing it out, GAK! I don’t think I’d want to try it ‘indoors’ with limited air flow… Maybe it’s just the particular fuel pellets I was using (cheap army surplus store hexamine things…) From the wiki:

    “Esbit’s Material Safety Data Sheet states combustion can create formaldehyde, ammonia, nitrogen oxide, hydrogen cyanide and ingestion may cause nausea, vomiting, gastrointestinal disturbances, and kidney damage. When burned, the chemical oxidation of the fuel yields noxious fumes, requiring foods being cooked to be contained in a receptacle such as a pot or pan, and burned tablets will leave a sticky dark residue on the bottom of pots. If they are stored or used under damp conditions then they can break up while burning and shed burning fragments.”

    I found that generally true. So “OK for emergency small kit for long storage and rare use” but not something I’d really want to cook over much…

    So I have two of them, in small car kits, that I’ve used maybe 3 times in 30 years… OTOH, the fuel keeps forever ;-)

    Maybe I just need to learn where to stand… (Downwind is out, and upwind causes an ‘eddy return current’… to the side seemed OK, but by then I was already smelly…)

    @Tim Clark:

    Most of the time for ‘cookware’ I use what was typically called a “Sierra Club Cup” (stainless steel, 12 ounce, wire handle) or a cheap 6 inch frying pan (aluminum). Then again, I’m typically in the ‘cook it fast and move on’ car travel mode rather than ‘sit around the camp for hours bored’ mode… I do have a nice cast iron dutch oven for that ;-)

    One can even use it to hold various fuels and fires and pretend it is the stove ;-) (Then re-season it ….)

    @All:

    I find my self looking at that top picture again and thinking it would be nice to find a modern equal. A chaffing dish with a built in alcohol burner (non-Sterno)… I wonder if Sterno has just completely eliminated that design?

  8. Sera says:

    We never used pots and pans to cook on our sterno stove, just heated up the can on the range top (only needed an oven mitt and spoon). So I was explaining to my little sister why we had to peel the labels off of the cans before we cooked them (you know where this is going) when she then ‘disappeared’ for about fifteen minutes. When she came back she said “All done!”, and we said “All done with what?”.

    Never turn your back on a five year old girl who just ‘learned’ something.

    So for the next few weeks our family played “What’s In The Can”, for $100.00, Alex. Mother was not amused, but everyone else thought it was hilarious- until someone opened up that can of asparagus that had been living on the shelf since before I was born. Good times.

  9. Bloke down the pub says:

    ” Not the most fuel efficient kind of cooking as the heat loss is higher in slow cooking, fast hot cooking is more efficient as there is less time for heat loss.”

    Just one gripe with this . In disaster recovery mode, you will most likely need some warmth as well, so the heat lost during cooking will not be going to waste. This is the same argument as the one in favour of filament light bulbs which eco warriors would have us ban. They might only be 10% efficient in that 90% of the electric gets turned into heat rather than light, but if you need the heat anyway, the electric isn’t being wasted.

  10. J Martin says:

    EM. You need one of these for the bedroom. A single plate induction hob £25 in the UK. (including delivery).

    http://www.thehut.com/electronics/new-arrivals-electronics/proletrix-induction-hob/10630419.html?utm_source=googleprod&utm_medium=cpc&utm_campaign=gp_technology&affil=thggpsad&gclid=CIXWhLnt4LUCFcbKtAodAgMAnw

    I used one for years until it snuffed it, so then bought one of those mini gas cookers. But I’m thinking of going back to the induction cooker. The butane one can stay in reserve for when the wind stops blowing.

  11. J Martin says:

    In fact, couldn’t resist and so I have just ordered the induction hob shown in the link above. It’s 1800W, max temp 220C, found another for £29.99 which is 2000W max temp 240C.

  12. adolfogiurfa says:

    The simplest the best: Alcohol burner. Any way alcohol can be prepared easily, if you have a distiller; then, summarizing the emergency needs: Both.

  13. E.M.Smith says:

    @All:

    Probably ought to also mention an ‘apartment friendly’ emergency lighting solution. The LED Lantern. No fire. No fumes. No risk. Long run time. Uses Alkaline Batteries that store in a cupboard for 5 to 10 years.

    This one is the bright but ‘classical’ lantern look:

    http://www.amazon.com/Coleman-Twin-High-Power-Lantern/dp/B001O3F5Y8/ref=pd_sim_sg_4

    At 580 lumens it’s about like a 50 ish Watt incandescent bulb. Enough for most things. (Not as bright as a full on gasoline lantern that can go twice to three times that, but more than enough for most things). Runs 10 hours on 8 D cells, or 100 hours on ‘low’.

    I’ve used Maglight LED flashlights as our ’emergency lights’ for the last decade plus. Prior to the LED, flashlights were for ‘an hour or two’ while the other stuff got set up. Now the LED lights mean they are usable for ‘days’. While I still want a ‘fuel lantern’ in inventory ( i.e. that Kerosene Coleman I got last year), it is as much as a “heater that makes light” as anything else. Just Light, there really isn’t much reason to use fuel driven lanterns in an LED world. Sad to say, but true…

    Not as expensive, nor as ‘campy’, this one makes 240 Lumens on 3 D cells for 40 hours on high, 90 on low. Only $24 bucks, though.

    http://www.amazon.com/Rayovac-Sportsman-LED-Lantern-SE3DLN/dp/B0018S4XIS/ref=pd_bxgy_sg_text_z

    Has a little green blinky light when off (which would drive me nuts) but if you need something to tell you where the light is…

    There’s lot of similar. So for an apartment with little dirt / outdoors / ventilation access; an LED light with a chafing dish / Sterno cooker and a load of cans of food and fuel is a low cost and effective ‘kit’. IMHO, of course.

    @Adolfo:

    Um, the “theme” of this posting is “apartment dweller” like in a NYC High Rise. Not the kind of place that is likely to be doing alcohol distillation…

    While I really like alcohol stoves, they do ‘have some issues’ for a “Not a camper” living in a NYC Highrise.

    The flame can be invisible in bright light, like cooking lunch in a sunny window location. It’s very easy to be burned then. (As I was reminded 2 days back when using alcohol to prime a kerosene burner test… and got a hot finger in the process…)

    Liquid fuels spill. That, simply put, is why Sterno has completely destroyed the ‘alcohol burner chafing dish’ market in the USA (and likely Europe). I did find an article on China, where they are still popular (as I was looking for one…). That article was about all the burns seen from using them and that spill / burn accidents were one of the major causes of burns in China.

    Methanol is toxic. Many folks are not keen on having a toxin around the house. (Me? No problem… ;-) Especially one that looks like water and smells like booze… Fuel ethanol is harder to find ( I found a 50 / 50 mix of methanol / ethanol ) and it tends to soot up pan bottoms if burned ‘in a puddle’. (Have not had time to try in a real burner yet).

    Finally,. as a larger open flame, it consumes air faster and can make more byproducts. For a “high rise” with closed ventilation and almost certainly with both smoke detectors and Carbon Monoxide detectors, one needs to ‘fly under the radar’. Sterno is known to do that. Larger alcohol burners? Don’t know…

    Then there is the “fumble fingers factor”. An apartment dweller who is not a camper (or they would already have camping equipment…) is quite likely inexperienced both at operating flame driven camping equipment and at cooking over fire. The lower BTU output of Sterno (and the water bath option) help guarantee very little risk of food burning / loss or screwing it up. Opening and lighting a can of Sterno is about as hard as opening a Starbucks Latte and adding sugar… Need to be a bit careful not to spill and / or crush but otherwise pretty easy. Basically, it’s hard to screw up opening a can and touching a match to the purple stuff.

    So that’s why I headed toward Sterno / gel fuel instead.

    But yeah, for folks who are “camp skilled”, an alcohol stove ought to work OK too.

    @J. Martin:

    It looks like a ‘way cool’ gizmo! But I’m trying to move away from electricity, not toward it… As our “marginal tariff” is headed to 50 cents / kW-hr, anything I do to clip the top tier is a benefit.

    Besides, I like playing with stoves ;-)

    @Bloke Down The Pub:

    For years I’d do a seasonal light bulb change. Incandescent in during the winter (as the heat is a feature) and out in the summer (as we don’t have A/C in the house so summer added heat is literally a pain…) I have now got a ‘lifetime supply’ of incandescent bulbs, thanks to our bulb ban, and while a couple of fixtures are now left ‘unchanged’ seasonally, Several still are.

    (Lets you clean the dust of the bulbs too, so gain of lumens / money savings… worth the labor).

    Generally, though, I have the California attitude about heat… We spend most of the year with the windows open… There’s 2 or 4 months in winter when we close them, mostly, maybe… but really, adding heat is just not something we think about much. The electronics and lights typically keep the place warm enough in winter, with the ‘gas furnace’ getting only modest use in a couple of months. (More now that the bulb change is reduced…)

    So yeah, I’ve got a ‘blind spot’ about things like NYC In Winter and heat or even just UK 11 months of the year and heat. ;-)

    @Sera:

    Oh My!

    I’ve heated food ‘in the can’ in the past. Now that we’ve gone to plastic sealers inside, some with Bisphenol-A, I don’t do that anymore. The “enamel” coating is, um, ill-defined…

    It’s also hard to stir ‘thick stuff’ like stew and chili beans. (Guess how I found out ;-)

    But in an emergency, yeah, it works.

  14. Sera says:

    Great. Forgot about those new can liners, but thanks for that- now I will have to come up with a new emergency plan. I always liked my ‘no washing pots and pans’ procedure, and I could always use the empty can to boil water for tea/coffee. Sigh.

  15. E.M.Smith says:

    @Sera:

    Enamel pans are “wipe out” most of the time. Have a couple of rolls of paper towels. Similarly, a teflon fry pan ‘wipes clean’ (enough). Water based (i.e. canned corn) is just rinse with a bit of water (that you then drink…). Cooking in a pan 3 meals a day, it will not sit long enough to ‘grow stuff’…

    Then there is Cast Iron that you are specifically told NOT to wash with soap… just ‘wipe and go’…

    As bacon cooks better in old bacon grease, I’ve ‘run a pan’ of bacon grease for over a week, just letting it build up as the bacon gets used up. Last of the bacon, I pour it off into a jar to set up and use it for shortening in things like biscuits… (YUM!) So that cast iron or teflon skillet gets washed once in a week or two; and does bacon and eggs every day. (“Laced Eggs” are a treat. Just put eggs in a deep puddle of bacon grease – so day two or three of the bacon ;-) – and use the spatula to slop hot grease over the tops. The edges puff up and become bubbly and, if hot enough, get a harder sometimes brown edging – the lace of ‘laced eggs’. So bacon and eggs for as long as you have bacon and eggs, with zero plan cleaning. Oh, don’t do that in bear country ;-)

    So one cast iron breakfast skillet. One Stainless Steel ‘wet pan’. One teflon “other stuff’ fry pan. Nearly no ‘washing’, just an occasional rinse of the ‘wet pan’. IFF you heat something like ravioli or stew in the ‘wet pan’, use bread / tortilla to wipe it ‘clean enough’ then make soup in it. Rinse after the soup… Remember that “pan water” can be used to make more soup, or just drink it.

    Life without soap is not so bad ;-)

  16. Sera says:

    Yep- I’ve got plenty of iron skillets (perfectly seasoned, thank you), but I need something a little more lightweight in case I need to become mobile. My Revere Ware hardly ever gets used because my motto is “If you can’t cook it in an iron skillet, it ain’t worth eating”. And, of course, I have the obligatory can of bacon grease (covered) next to the sink (not the gas stove). I have a super light propane single burner for camping, and I refill the bottles from by BBQ tank. Also have the propane heater (outdoors only) and lantern that hook up to the BBQ tank. My other sterno device is a fondue pot that has a teflon coating inside- great for outdoor concerts at Chastain Amphitheater. I really need to clean out my garage.

  17. adolfogiurfa says:

    This takes us to the question: How to separate ethanol (alcohol) from a fermented mix, without distilling? , perhaps if applying an electrical field phases would separate….just thinking

  18. E.M.Smith says:

    @Adolfo:

    Freezing works…

    @Sera:

    Oh, I ought to soften / qualify my prior concern on cans:

    The “risk” is only if you get to frying / browning temperatures. For “wet cooking” there isn’t much risk at all.

    The “canning temperature” is 240 F so the lining is designed to take that much and not break down or leak excessive chemicals into the contents.

    So as long as you are careful to only heat ‘wet stuff’ and not let the bottom of the can burn or dry out, the risk is nil. Where folks get in trouble is using a large can as a frying pan (after empty) or warming thick things like stew and ravioli and burning the bottom. (Ravioli is my ‘test case’ for slow warming / heating appliances. If it can heat ravioli and not burn them or leaving the top cold, it’s a good appliance ;-)

    So my “cans have a risk” is a generic statement. Add the caveats of “below 240 F and keep it wet” and it’s OK.

    Probably ought to have made that clear before, but I was in a hurry…

    Per “lightweight mobile” I had an “impulse buy” moment today at Bed Bath & Beyond… bought an ‘egg poacher’ and ‘small pot’. The pot holds one can of food with headspace. The egg poacher will do two eggs in one pan. Just so darned cute and $10 each…

    http://www.bedbathandbeyond.com/product.asp?SKU=14672494

    http://www.bedbathandbeyond.com/product.asp?SKU=14676864

    They also have a dinky frying pan at 5 1/2 inch (that I was lucky enough not to see or I’d have spent another $10…;-)

    http://www.bedbathandbeyond.com/product.asp?SKU=16677841

    Oh Dear, and a 5 1/2 inch square pan for making grilled cheese sandwiches… I love grilled cheese sandwiches…

    http://www.bedbathandbeyond.com/product.asp?SKU=205238

    Just the right size for a camping stove. I made a can of ravioli in the small pot ( it fit, and the sterno didn’t burn the bottom ravioli even though I didn’t stir…). I only poached one egg in the poacher, but it would fit two (and likely do better with more uniform depth… tomorrows test ;-)

    The small pot did a great job of boiling water for tea ( 11 ounces in my 12 ounce Starbucks Cup) and has pour spouts on the sides. (Comes with a lid, too. Important with small fires… but note that the lid is slightly different from the one on the poacher).

    Probably could find them cheaper somewhere else… but I was there… and they were the right size… and I wanted them…

    Not sure how “durable” they will be (as teflon coated pans usually have the coating give out after a while, especially with ‘camping tools’ or overly high heat – but the Sterno seems quite low enough if not run dry.)

    I also have a stainless steel camping set, but cleaning stainless is ‘not easy’ and frankly, having a handle instead of a bale over the top is a whole lot more convenient.

    Using Propane is a great solution, BTW. Just a bit pricy and hard to ‘scrounge fuel’ if you ‘go mobile’. But very convenient. I have a couple of ‘one burner’ propane camp stoves. For years one of them was on a shelf in the pantry for “spouse emergency kit”. I can run the “pump up gas stove” but the spouse was “not inclined to learn” it… So her stove and a bottle of propane were on the shelf. Just in case I was 40 miles of rubble away post-quake.

    Had a one mantle propane lantern too. ( It has since expired. Got knocked over and the globe cracked about 10 years back.) As LED lights have made so much progress, it isn’t really economic or beneficial ot burn fuel for light anymore; so I will likely not replace it. But it was a favorite… I’d make it go first. Then think about the “Coleman Gasoline Lantern” that never quite needed to be taken out of the box… One propane can and that light was all it really took for one end of the house. (On the dining room table it lit up the living room and kitchen too. We got lots of practice during Gov. Gray “out” Davis years…) Made decent heat for winter, too. “Century Mighty Lite” from before Primus absorbed them. Lasted a good 20 years or so I think. Before I fumbled it once too often.

    Now the only reason to use a ‘fuel lamp’ is if you need heat and want the light for free. Oh well. Technology moves on.

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