In many micro-houses it may be difficult to find space to bake/boil/fry/grill a big meal for 20 friends- a part of the good life that we would prefer not to dispense with. To the outdoors it is! Outdoor cooking & dining has the added benefit of keeping heat out of the kitchen in summer, and generally making everything taste better. Here we review outdoor kitchen options, with a preference for the greenest off-grid options in case electricity and natural gas lines are not available. (For indoor cooking, see the post on Kitchens)
- Sun: Perhaps the greenest option for off grid baking are solar ovens. I once owned and frequently used a Sun Oven. While they can work well, they clearly only work when the sun is out and bright, must be adjusted during long bakes, and even then they rarely break 350 degrees.
- Wood: while certainly not ‘micro’, when a full size oven is not possible inside a micro house, an outside wood fired oven is an attractive option. The traditional dome styled Pompeii style wood ovens build from refractory mortar are time tested. Downsides: expensive to buy/time consuming to build, difficult/impossible to move, long heat up times and high wood consumption. After a year of searching for better options I came across an Italian made Fontana Forni Gusto wood fired oven. It is great for baking, and unlike the larger brick pizza ovens, is far easier to modulate temperatures- and consumes 5x less wood than a normal wood fired brick oven. Also great is that the baking chamber is completely sealed from the firebox, which avoids smokiness in food like pies (you can always add woodchips in the chamber for smoke). While technically the convection fan and light require power, they are both optional to use. Extensively tested and recommended. On display at the Micro Showcase.
- Propane: there are relatively few outdoor ovens fired with a portable propane tank. There are portable Camp Chef ovens.
- Solar: the greenest option for outdoor stovetop is a solar parabolic mirror, such as the SolSource cooker. [Coming soon to the Showcase in 2015]
- Wood: The new generation rocket stoves are perhaps the greenest wood-fired stovetop, using a fraction of the wood that a open fire would require. There are a variety of very low cost DIY models made from cinderblocks (see youtube), or more refined models from EcoZoom, Envirofit, and StoveTec.
- Propane: For consistent stovetop cooking at any time, it may be that nothing beats a large propane burner for boiling/frying. There are a number of large propane ‘crawfish cookers’ available online with btu ratings for large cooking that one could never find in a residential range. On display at the Micro Showcase.
Grilling: the standard outdoor propane options here are an evident option. For efficient wood or charcoal grilling the EcoQue 15” grill uses considerably less fuel to grill. In general they advertise about 75% less fuel is needed for grilling, which seems about right. In a recent Showcase test, 14 briquettes were adequate to quickly cook baked vegetables and burgers for a party of 10. It can also bake small things, and is completely foldable and remarkably compact, fitting in a 2’x2′ bag 3” thick (definitely micro-style). EcoQue on display at Micro Showcase.