What to do When the Stove Breaks – The Less Than Perfect Kitchen

I have had my share of less than reliable stoves over the years.  Funny as it may seem, my mom’s O’Keefe and Merritt stove, which now is on display in my dining room, is the oldest stove I’ve ever used. If I had natural gas in my current home, I would still use this stove daily.  No computerized parts.  No electronic gizmos.  Just plain old mechanics that have endured for sixty years.  I cooked on this stove in our former home, and I miss using it.  It’s a great stove!

Early in our marriage, Copper and I rented a duplex with a stove that worked sometimes, and didn’t work at all other times.  I can remember putting a pan of water on and bringing it to a boil, adding my oatmeal, and turning the stove down only to return later to a stone cold pot of half-cooked oats!  I baked a beautiful cake in the oven one day, but the next day the chicken didn’t cook even though it had been in the oven for several hours.  The next time I used the oven, the biscuits burned!  Oy!  I used my crock pot and a toaster oven a lot during the months we lived in that unit.

As I mentioned yesterday, the oven in our current home was not operational for the first several months we  lived here. Corin, Dani and I prepared all of our family meals on the stove top or in a crock pot.  Even though the stove has been replaced and the oven works properly now, there are times when there just is not enough room in the smallish oven.

Here are some ideas that have worked for me.  Some utilize things that you may already have on hand. Other things you might keep an eye out for while thrifting or garage-saleing, r add them to your Christmas or birthday wish list. In case of an emergency, it’s good to know what might work that you already have on hand.

The tried and true Crock-Pot.  I have three, of various sizes, and ages, and use them all.  If you are looking at  used crock pots, if at all possible, buy one that has the removable cooking pot, which makes the clean up so much easier.  However, if all you can find are the style with the non-removable pots, these are still a great investment.  A crock pot can cook most any type of meat, vegetable, soup, stew or bean dish.  I’ve never done so, but I know that it is even possible to bake in them.  I use my crock pots year round.  There’s nothing like a wonderful cooked-all-day dish to warm you up on a winter evening, and preparing roasts in the crock pot in the summer keeps the house cooler than using the oven.

An Electric Fry Pan.  Copper bought me a nice, big one at Costco for Christmas a few years ago, and I love it. Besides the obvious meats, potatoes, etc., you can use your electric fry pan to prepare pasta and vegetables, too.  You can “bake” biscuits and other non-yeast rolls in the electric skillet, too.  Remember, necessity breeds invention.

Another item that I wouldn’t be without, and that would be great to have if your oven is broken, is the roaster oven.  This was another Christmas gift a few years ago from Copper, and I love it. During the holidays, if I have a turkey or ham in the oven, there is no room for anything else.  I can cook my turkey or ham in the roaster, which frees up the regular oven for side dishes, rolls, etc.  In the days when we home churched, I frequently brought the roaster oven in when we had too many shared dishes for the regular oven.  It has been used to bake casseroles, roast meats, keep already prepared dishes warm while others cooked, etc.  I can remember my mom using hers to make a HUGE amount of chili beans for a gathering she and dad hosted.  She mixed, cooked and served them right in her roaster!  Mom also filled hers with water and tons of hot dogs once for a school function.  A family at the church we attend now brings their roaster to our weekly shared meal frequently filled with meat balls, and another family filled theirs with huge potatoes, rubbed with olive oil, for a baked potato buffet at their home. Not only are roaster ovens super handy, they are also a breeze to clean.  If my oven ever goes on the fritz again, my roaster will have a place of honor on the counter!! Watch for these when you go thrifting!

I lived without a microwave oven for many, many years; but I know the convenience of a microwave is great. They are also wonderful to have if your regular stove is on the fritz!  Again, you can cook most anything in the microwave, but you may have to stagger your dishes if you’re cooking for a family using only a microwave.

An Electric “hot pot” or electric tea kettle can be used to heat soups or to cook small amounts of pasta. This isn’t a great idea, especially for a family, but when the stove breaks, it might be just the thing.

My mother-in-love was a dedicated toaster oven user.  I’ve not had one for more than twenty years, though I was glad to have one early in our marriage.  Perhaps when Copper and I are empty-nesters this will be a good appliance for us to have on hand.  However, if you have one, you can use it to prepare anything that you would prepare in an oven or broiler.  The only drawback would be its size if your family is large.

Do you have a camp stove?  How about an outdoor grill?  These can both be used for everyday cooking if your stove is broken.  We’ve used our outdoor grill to prepare entire meals.  Vegetables steam nicely wrapped in foil and placed on the grill.  You can bake potatoes on the grill, too.  Some vegetables grill nicely without being wrapped.  Try soaking corn on the cob, still in its husk, in salt water for a couple of hours and then roast on the grill right in the husk!  Yummy!  Marinated sliced zucchini is also good.  Our gas grill has a side burner that we can cook on, but you can put any pan (so long as it doesn’t have plastic handles) on the grill, too, in a pinch.

Your camp stove can be set up on a porch or in the garage with the door open to cook on, too.  However, do NOT bring a propane fired camp stove into your home to cook on.  The fumes are dangerous and could be fatal to your family.  Keep the camp stove outside where there is adequate ventilation!!!

I have prepared a few meals on top of our wood stove in the living room.  The top surface is not very big, but a cast iron skillet will fit.  One dish meals, meats, etc., would all cook well here.  It’s also possible to place a dutch oven inside the wood stove on top of the coals, and with a few coals on the lid, to cook in, too. I’ve never mastered this technique, but you can find lots of information about this cool skill for home or camping on the Internet.

Copper’s uncle built his own solar oven and used it to cook meals one entire summer.  He and his wife baked breads and cakes, roasted meats, and made all sorts of great things in their solar oven.  He built his very inexpensively with items he had on hand.  If this interests you, I’m sure you can find plenty of information on line about building and using your own solar oven.

As always, if your stove and/or oven should stop working, look at what you have on hand.  Be creative!  Think of new uses for old things!!  Ask your children.  My kids have often surprised me by coming up with a great solution for a problem I could not see my way through.

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