Outdoor Cooking/Kitchen

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white belt
Posts: 528
Joined: Sat May 21, 2011 12:15 am

Outdoor Cooking/Kitchen

Post by white belt »

As we approach summer in my region, I'm brainstorming strategies to keep my living space cool with minimal air conditioning use. There are many resources that are focused on staying cool with minimal energy like Low Tech Magazine, RetroSuburbia, and Brad Lancaster's books so I'm not going to talk about that here.

It is counterproductive to heat up a small living space while cooking in the summer, so I'm exploring possibilities for an outdoor kitchen setup. I live in a house converted into multiple apartments, so my solution space is focused on something that is temporary and can be set up on a balcony, patio, porch, etc. This should still be applicable to someone living in any type of house as long as you have some kind of outdoor access. I'm likely going to stick with "camping" setups that can easily be set up and broken down. Of course since this is ERE land, systems thinking and DIY are highly encouraged.

First off, we have a few videos for inspiration:

Rob Greenfield: https://youtu.be/Hr5s0ps9rAQ?t=222

Brad Lancaster: https://youtu.be/KcAMXm9zITg?t=1229


The way I see it, a kitchen has the following functions:

-food storage
-food preparation
-cooking

I'm not planning on implementing outdoor food storage at the moment and I might start with just doing most of the food preparation (washing, cutting, etc) in my indoor kitchen. Cooking is what generates the most heat so that's primarily what I'm looking to put outside. Eventually maybe I'll add some kind of outdoor bucket sink which can utilize rain water and easily recycle gray water back to the landscape.


Here are the common cooking functions I use:

-stove top (frying, boiling, etc)
-oven (baking)
-instapot (pressure cooking, slow cooking, etc)

Obviously the instapot is pretty straightforward because I can just place that outside and run an extension cord to an outlet. Stove top should be relatively easy too with some kind of camping stove setup, although I'm not sure whether an electric induction burner or propane burner is a better idea. There's probably pros and cons to both (fire hazard is a consideration for most apartment balconies, so you probably wanna stick with an induction burner if that is your situation).

The oven is trickier. A solar oven might be possible if the area gets enough sun. The only other option I know of is a small convection oven, but that's not something I have on hand currently.

I'm starting this as a resource thread and I'd be curious to get input from others about their experiences outdoor cooking. I've grilled before, but that's about the extent of it. Insects may become a concern during certain times of the year, but maybe they can be mitigated by using lids/screens on pots and pans. I realize how ridiculous it is in our modern society that cooking outside is considered unheard of rather than the default like it was for thousands of years.

Anyone else move their cooking outdoors during the hotter months?

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Alphaville
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Re: Outdoor Cooking/Kitchen

Post by Alphaville »

summer kitchens are great. even while they are rare these days due to ac it's not unusual to change cooking styles for the season, e.g. grilling.

i don't like using the regular oven in the summer so if bread happens it's in the form of flatbreads/tortillas--these cook great outdoors. without getting into solar ovens, you can make "sun tea" on a windowsill, then refrigerate. some people i think make tea directly in fridge? i wouldn't but ymmv.

i might experiment with solar oven (in a can) this season but wind could be a problem. we have vey windy springs,

and a smoker grill can replace an oven for some things, but.. might be $$.

plus one generally consumes more cold foods and drinks. salads (i rarely eat salad in winter, but eat in summer). instead of baking granola i can just soak rolled oats and eat them cold with some chopped nuts. instead of hot beans i'll eat hummus (but garbanzo needs cooking). cold brew coffee is great in summer too. been thinking about mesophiles for milk ferment, but those don''t like it too warm, so we'll see.

more smoothies too: some frozen fruit, some good fats, some protein = breakfast of champions. for lunch you can make gazpacho in the same blender.

potatoes can be pressure cooked in advance by the window, and eaten cold.

also quick preps: frying an egg just takes a minute, not worth taking outside. especially on induction.

os since you have instapot you might want to look into their "air fryer" lid which is a convection blower (oven). for small portions can double as electric grill. yes it ks a consumer item but a homeotelic purchase cheaper than standalone machine.

ertyu
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Re: Outdoor Cooking/Kitchen

Post by ertyu »

It is quite common in my corner of eastern europe to store food inside (fridge) and prepare food inside (chopping etc - kitchen/dining table) but keep one's cooking stove on one's balcony. My parents have this set-up, and it's what I'll do too once my apartment becomes more habitable. Having one's cooking stove on the balcony eliminates the need for an extractor hood. My balcony is covered - see picture - so in the winter, cooking outside is also a small help with heating the outside wall - or at least with preventing it from getting as cold as it would have otherwise. People whose cooking set-up is on their balcony usually cook outside year round.

Houses also often have a "summer kitchen." This keeps smells and heat outside during the summer. Usually, there is a garden table, too, and food preparation/consumption usually moves there for the hotter months (and back inside during the winter). This is where people would build a stone/brick oven, have barbecue, etc.

This is the balcony where I will cook:

Image

Most people where I am usually use a refrigerator year-round. I do not currently use one, and my place will probably not be in good enough repair to use one in the summer either, but if I do get a refrigerator I plan to turn it off during the colder months and keep any food out on this balcony also. As it's got glass windows, seagulls, crows and pigeons will not have access. This balcony is also north-facing, so temperature there is low in the winter (thus the need for glass on the balcony to create an air pocket around the outside apartment wall).

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C40
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Re: Outdoor Cooking/Kitchen

Post by C40 »

My apartment has the cooking area outside. Fridge inside. I saw that Rob Greenfield's outdoor kitchen is very similar to mine. Sink, stove, covering. A little working area. Rain can be a big problem, when the rain is cold and wind blows it into the kitchen, I don't cook. I might ask my landlord to add a plastic barrier on one side to block the wind. It gets very hot here so I guess having the stoves outside helped reduce AC use. When my girlfriend stayed with me, in the summer, she would often ask to bring the cooked food inside to eat lunch in the AC.

basuragomi
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Re: Outdoor Cooking/Kitchen

Post by basuragomi »

Playing devil's advocate, if you isolate your kitchen into an independent air circulation cell apart from your living space then the energy waste can be greatly reduced. This is what I did with a heavy curtain and a few fans.

Your kitchen warms your space in the following ways:
- Heat transfer conductively through walls and doors.
- Heat transfer via convection/forced-air mixing e.g. central HVAC
- Moisture input raising relative humidity and perceived temperature
- Thermic effect of food + hot food

What is the relative impact of each?

#1 is air mixing. With even moderate AC operation heat from the kitchen will be well-mixed with the rest of your living space.
#2 is moisture input. A boiling pot can put 100g of water/minute into the air. Boiling a pot of pasta would be a kilo of water. With 100m^3 apartment volume at 25C that is 0.7% absolute humidity = 45% relative humidity added! If you're cooking for an hour with AC off the perceived temperature could be 5-7C higher from added humidity alone.
#3 is thermic effect of food. But this can be countered with cold drinks.
#4 is conductive heat transfer. Drywall framing would have RSI of about 1. Ovens seem to get to about 50C all over when running so pumping about 1000W into the walls.

Using something like a door, dust barrier door or curtains you can cut off airflow from the conditioned space to the kitchen and ventilate the kitchen independently with outside air. I use a box fan pointing directly out a window, with air intake from another window.

#1: air mixing is greatly reduced, so your AC isn't working against the kitchen but instead only cooling the walls/barrier.
#2: air mixing is greatly reduced, so humidity is not impacted by cooking.
#3: is still an issue but mitigated by the living space being cooler.
#4: is mitigated by cooling the kitchen using outside air.

So with a door or curtain you can remove the majority of heating issues from cooking. Going to a fully-outdoors, 100% effective (ignoring air mixing from going in/out) method seems like a huge amount of work compared to a method which is 90% effective and requires much less set-up and investment.

tsch
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Location: Sonoma County, CA

Re: Outdoor Cooking/Kitchen

Post by tsch »

I have a sort of hybrid system for hot weather, of minimizing indoor heat and adding outdoor cooking.

My little studio is pretty well-insulated, so if I can let it cool as much as possible at night and then close all windows and sun-facing curtains in the morning,it does pretty well. But cooking heats it up fast. I have a little Vornado fan that I sit next to the stove, pointed at the slightly opened door, and drape a towel over the opening to limit it to where the fan blows through. It's janky as hell* but it exhausts cooking heat really well.

Then I have a propane "tailgater" (Blackstone brand) combo grill/griddle outside and can just move to outdoor cooking as I need to. The grill is a grillbox that fits over the burner...I can remove it to use a cooking pot or wok. So it's pretty versatile for anything I want to cook. I do propane because high heat days are also likely to be power blackout days. It's a biggish portable system, so I can stow it away during the rainy season. Or what used to be the rainy season. It was a splurge but I've really liked having it the past couple of years.

I dream of a nice outdoor kitchen someday. If you protect it from the elements enough in the right climate, it could be full-time and I think that would be very nice. Rob's is beautiful, thanks for the link.

*The Vornado is a great little fan for small spaces. Also janky as hell is my air filtering system I make with it: I cut an air duct filter out if it's frame, wrap it around the back of the Vornado like a little cap, squeezing the sides of the air filter together and duct taping them into shape that just stays on. Also good for fire season. :-/

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Alphaville
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Re: Outdoor Cooking/Kitchen

Post by Alphaville »

basuragomi wrote:
Tue Mar 02, 2021 9:49 am
Using something like a door, dust barrier door or curtains you can cut off airflow from the conditioned space to the kitchen and ventilate the kitchen independently with outside air. I use a box fan pointing directly out a window, with air intake from another window.

[…]

So with a door or curtain you can remove the majority of heating issues from cooking. Going to a fully-outdoors, 100% effective (ignoring air mixing from going in/out) method seems like a huge amount of work compared to a method which is 90% effective and requires much less set-up and investment.
yes , if your apt. layout permits it, i.e. has door + window and/or exhaust fan to outside.

but some small apartment kitchens are at the entrance, which only would let you vent to corridor. and some are in the middle with no windows, so heat gets trapped--which is great in winter but in summer kills ya. exhaust hoods can help but some hoods just recirculate.

also yes if you run ac, but i avoid it and go with a ceiling fan 24/7 instead. i only use ac when we have forest fires/bad air quality/heat waves.

there is also the insufficient heat pump that cools but just barely (i had one many years ago). o man! mid-atlantic summers can be the worst.

in the us southwest swamp coolers are pretty common instead of ac. they create positive pressure, so air exchange is not an issue, but when humidity increases it stops working.

last thing is some air exchange is necessary for fresh air so might as well do it while carrying a crockpot (but beware of raccoons lolol). but yeah somethin like going out to a sunny west terrace in summer could make things awful. so many factors to consider...

fridge, too, is a constant heat source. it can turn very unpleasant and make one want to crawl inside it :lol: (i've been there...)

not a last thing after all: it can help to cook things early in the morning, while the house is still cool, if you have the chance.

also, microwave ovens seem pretty efficient... toaster oven also an option https://blog.constellation.com/2016/05/ ... fficiency/

Western Red Cedar
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Re: Outdoor Cooking/Kitchen

Post by Western Red Cedar »

One might consider utilizing outdoor barbecue spaces as a potential strategy. Most of our city parks, along with the state parks, have barbecues for outdoor grilling and cooking. I have my own barbecue on my patio/porch, but it is a lot of fun to get together with friends, grill, play some bocce ball or frisbee, and enjoy the great outdoors.

My family has been using these regularly for birthday parties during the pandemic.

horsewoman
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Re: Outdoor Cooking/Kitchen

Post by horsewoman »

This is rather for the rural folks - in summer I often prepare a dish of chopped vegetables and feta cheese in a metal pan and cook it over a camp fire (three legged hanging grill), served with flat bread also baked in a pan over the fire.

When I was a kid we had a pergola with a outdoor fireplace, made of bricks with a chimney. My dad built it himself. Happy days...

Lucky C
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Re: Outdoor Cooking/Kitchen

Post by Lucky C »

I just eat more cold foods and microwave or pressure cooker meals during heat waves. If a summer day is unusually cold, that's when we do our baking :)

daylen
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Re: Outdoor Cooking/Kitchen

Post by daylen »

This Youtube channel is literally called wilderness cooking. In his most popular video he made this primitive underground oven/smoker thing.

https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCj4KP2 ... p2w_BAHy8g

white belt
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Re: Outdoor Cooking/Kitchen

Post by white belt »

Thanks for the information everyone!

I think when I get settled into my new place I'm going to opt for a 2 burner propane camping stove with 20 lb propane tank. I've looked for used ones a bit online but they seem to be around the same price as new (~$40). I also haven't found any good DIY options yet.

I like the flexibility of being able to take it to a different location or camp with it. I also like having an alternate fuel source for cooking in case power goes out or SHTF (most of my apartments have had electric stove tops). It'll be something I just set up on the porch or in the yard if I don't have a porch.

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Jean
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Re: Outdoor Cooking/Kitchen

Post by Jean »

daylen wrote:
Wed Mar 10, 2021 7:07 pm
This Youtube channel is literally called wilderness cooking. In his most popular video he made this primitive underground oven/smoker thing.

https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCj4KP2 ... p2w_BAHy8g
I see that youtube recommend us the same channels.
I didn't link it because i thought the testicle kebab would be taken as some form of trolling.

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