Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Aluminum Foil - Survival Cooking Essential

One of the nice aspects to blogging that I hadn't anticipated, is making friends. I had hoped to share useful information that would motivate and inspire others to become more self-reliant and able to take care of themselves in tougher times that are sure to come. But in the short time I've been posting, already I feel like you are my friends, and therefor feel an even greater interest in knowing that you will have the food and supplies you need to stay warm, fed, comfortable, or even alive, in the face of disaster. Planning doesn't have to be elaborate. "Simple" is the perfect place to start. You can always add to it from there.

We have to eat. Whether it's a hobo dinner, a reflector oven, or a make-shift griddle - If you have aluminum foil and sufficient heat, you can cook. This is "simple". I buy the large, restaurant supply rolls of aluminum foil at Costco Warehouse. You get a lot more for your money than in the smaller containers, and the heavy-duty foil will hold up much better than some of the very thin kitchen-use foil.

Hobo Dinners
Probably everyone knows what a Hobo Dinner is, but just in case: It's typically meat, onions, other vegetables and seasoning wrapped in foil and placed on a grate over a fire, or in the hot coals. You can really cook a whole lot of things this way - cobbler, cake, camp breads, stews, any vegetables or meats... Rather than completely wrapping the food, you can also form a "pot" shape to set over the heat source.

When cooking in a campfire, it's best to not have the foil right in the middle of the hottest part of the fire and glowing coals, or your food may burn. I learned that the hard way! Pulling some hot coals away into a pile and "burying" your foil dinner in them works great. Or set it on a grate of some kind, just above the heat. I've sat a foil dinner right at the edge of a good, hot fire and just turned it around a few times.

One of my favorite foil desserts is a Banana Boat.
~ Slice a banana from top to bottom on the inside of the curve. Cut clear through the banana without cutting into the peel on the back of the banana. Leave the banana in its peel.
~ Pull the banana open a little along the cut and stuff it with pieces of chocolate and marshmallows.
~ Set the banana on a sheet of foil and wrap it tightly around the banana, twisting and securing the ends.
~ Place it in the coals and let cook for about 10 to 20 minutes, depending on how much heat you have it in.
~Open the foil, grab a spoon and dig in!

Mmmmm! I love those!

Reflector Oven
There are several ways to make a reflector oven. A Solar Oven is a type of reflector oven made of reflective material that focuses the sun's rays onto the food. Or you can make a reflector to sit next to a fire and reflect its heat onto the food, like the one in the picture on the right.

A cardboard box can be lined with foil to set your dutch oven or other container inside with hot briquettes, like the picture on the left. I don't have any photos of my own, so I got these from Google Images to give you an idea of the different options.

The reflector oven I've used is a little different. I lined the inside of a box with foil. Then you set it upside down with one end propped up with rocks about an inch. Inside, you have hot briquettes, and 2 or 4 tin cans to set your cooking dish on top of. For now, you will have to get the idea from my not-so-professional sketches below. I have cooked a casserole and baked a cake this way. I've watched others bake bread  and cupcakes. They sat a cookie sheet on the tin cans and then put the bread pans on the cookie sheet. You would bake in this reflector oven the very same as you would in a conventional oven. I was really amazed at how simple and efficient it was.

When our weather turns nicer, I will do some reflector oven baking and take some good photos to show you how it works. Not that you need nice weather of course! This would be the perfect way to cook outside on the ground or a patio or apartment deck in the dead of winter. Just make sure your surface is heat safe. I'll also give more info on how many briquettes you need, depending on how hot you want your oven.

Makeshift foil griddle or pan
This is pretty basic. Lay foil flat over a fire grate, on top of a wood stove, or anywhere else that you can get sufficient heat. If you need to, you can shape the foil into a container to heat a small amount of water or soup or something else with liquid.

While we have easy access to the internet, is the time to search for and collect recipes that we like and other information that would be useful.

Aluminum Concerns
For many years, I have been leery of cooking with aluminum. The warnings came out long ago to throw out our aluminum cookware and replace them with steel or earthenware. We take in aluminum every day. It occurs naturally in the air, soil and water. It is sometimes used in pain killers and other medications, toothpaste, antiperspirant, baking powder, beer, bleached flour, grated cheese, table salt and a variety of other things. Municipal water can be one of our highest sources of aluminum intake.

I've done some research over the years and continue to find conflicting information. Some say that the minuscule amount of aluminum we would get from cooking is insignificant. But there is plenty of literature to warn of the dangers of Aluminum Toxicity. I continue to be cautious. The last time we made foil dinners (Hobo dinners), we wrapped the meat and vegetables in cabbage leaves and then wrapped that with the foil. The cabbage made the food taste even better but put something between it and the aluminum. We threw the leaves away.

In spite of my concerns, I have plenty of aluminum foil on hand for emergency cooking. It would be better to be able to cook with foil, than not cook at all. Also, you can fold a significant amount of foil into a flat shape that takes very little room for backpacking, or to put in an emergency 72-hour kit.

We would be wise to learn all we can and make educated decisions as we plan to provide for ourselves, families and others. I pray you are all taking steps to store necessities and gain needed skills, because  preparedness is peace of mind, not panic.


  1. Your blog posts are such a source of in formation to me! Thank you for taking the time to share your knowledge with us! I feel that is is only wise to be prepared.......

  2. I see plans for solar ovens all the time, I just need to get a good box and try my hand at making one. In the summertime I could probably just toss my food on the patio and let it fry!

  3. This is all cool stuff that we hope we never have to know, but good to know if we need it...

  4. Thanks everyone. Actually, it's a lot of FUN to do even when you don't need to - like a summer cook-out! There are groups of avid dutch oven cookers all over the country. If we take the time to experiment with it now, it won't add to the crisis of trying to do something new when you are already under stress.

  5. hi susan! your blog is soooo cool, such interesting stuff! i like it!

  6. Hello Susan! I am really happy to join you in blogging!
    Was a lucky moment to "discover" you. Thanks for so much sharing! Love: Julia/blue bird :-)

  7. Hey there Susan~ very interesting & informative post! I'd like to try this sometime. I don''t live anywhere permanently enough to stock up on canned goods/foil... but I do think about these things! I've got to try this out. In case of emergency, I'd only make it about 2 weeks w/ my dehydrated backpacker meals & 3 oz cookstove! Food for thought~ no pun intended! :)

  8. We adore cooking our food this way. My husband is a den leader to a pack of wolves and he enjoyed your tips on creating a reflector oven. Thank you for sharing.

  9. Hi Susan, I always learn a lot when I visit your blog. Thanks for your friendship Mhathy

  10. Thank you very much for sharing such informative things. Keep post such useful things...

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  11. Survival Things Our Great-Grandfathers Built Or Did Around The House

    People really should avert their gaze from the modern survival thinking for just a bit and also look at how folks 150 years ago did it.

    These guys were the last generation to practice basic things-for a living-that we call survival skills now.

    Survival Things Our Great Grandfathers Did Or Built Around The House.

    Are you ready to turn back the clocks to the 1800s for up to three years?

    Because this is what will happen after the next SHTF event.

    Click here to watch the video and spread the knowledge.



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