“How do you cook?” is one question that we frequently get asked by those who know that we are living out of our suburban while building a cabin in the woods. Most people expect our cooking operation to be pretty low-key or non-existent, but in reality our outdoor kitchen can do most things that a normal kitchen can do, and in some cases more!
For starters, we do all of our cooking on an old school three burner Coleman propane camp stove that we picked up at a garage sale a while ago for a few bucks. The stove is designed to work with those green, disposable, one pound propane cylinders, but at around $4 each, I was reluctant to make things with a longer cook time (soups, grains, and beans) because of the amount of fuel (and dollars) consumed. I did some research and bought an adapter so that I could hook the camp stove up to a 20 pound refillable bulk propane tank. This ended up being a huge money saver (now we pay less than $1 per pound of propane vs $4/lb with those disposable cans) and helped to ease the guilt of going through all of those disposable cylinders (though technically recyclable, I’ve never found a facility that will take them). Note: this is the adapter that we use- one end connects directly to the propane bulk tank, and the other connects to the hose that came with the stove (originally meant to connect a green cylinder to the stove but now it connects to stove to the adapter hose to the bulk tank). And because I couldn’t find a clear answer on this when I was doing research: no you do not need to buy a pressure regulator for the bulk tank because either A) your camp stove has a built-in one or B) (as was our case) there is already a regulator on the hose that is normally used to connect the stove to the green, disposable propane cylinder, and the propane from the bulk tank still must flow through this regulator to get to the stove.
To further reduce our propane consumption (because we are frugal and also because nobody likes unnecessary C02 emissions) we also bought a 6 quart pressure cooker. Pressure cookers basically work by pressurizing the pot, which effectively raises the boiling point of water inside, allowing steam to get way hotter than usual, which in turn cooks the food faster. It’s the same reason why when you’re at high elevations (lower pressure) water boils at a lower temperature, meaning that your food will take longer to cook because it can’t get as hot (pV=nRT anybody?).
Science dorkiness aside, I was initially a little afraid of the concept of pressure cooking (because having a pressurized pot of really really hot food in the house slightly terrifies me) but our friend Jack, who also lives in a cabin in the woods and uses a pressure cooker convinced me otherwise. And boy am I glad! The best things about the pressure cooker are that it saves you TIME and MONEY, which sounds like an infomercial, but this is actually true.
We eat a TON of beans and lentils, which we buy in bulk in dry form (way cheaper than buying the canned kind) and are able to cook them in no time at all in the pressure cooker. I can cook lentils in 3 minutes and beans (though they still need to be pre-soaked using either the traditional or the quick method) in 5 minutes. With the cold weather we’ve been having, we’ve also been eating lots of soups, which I can throw together and eat 5 minutes later. Truly amazing. Oh and did I mention that pressure cooked food has been shown to be more nutritious than traditionally cooked food because the reduced cook time keeps the nutrients more in tact? This just keeps getting better.
As a side note, pressure cooker instructions say that after cooking, you should “let the pressure in the cooker drop of its own accord” but let’s be real- ain’t nobody got time for that! So I always cheat and push down on the sealing valve with a stick to release the pressure. A ton of steam comes out in this process so you might want to open a window or go outside to do it.
I do some fancy cooking in the pressure cooker, but mostly I am cooking quick, easy, nutritious, and inexpensive meals, since we are so busy clearing a perimeter for the cabin. Here is a super simple recipe for curried lentils with spinach that can be made in a pressure cooker our just a regular pot.
So that about does it for how we cook, and now the pressure is on (ha ha) for us to get that cabin built!