Must-have kitchen items for preppers and survivalists
By Olivia Cook // May 17, 2023

Here are some basic must-have kitchen items and tools that will allow you to perform most food preparation/cooking tasks and still function in a possible scenario where you don't have power or need to ration your power. (h/t The Survival Mom)

Butter churn

There are essentially three types of butter churns: dash churn, barrel churn and paddle churn. (Related: Prepper must-haves: 25 non-electric kitchen items for your homestead.)

  • The dash churn is typically comprised of a dasher (pole) inserted into the lid of a barrel. The dasher is moved in a vertical motion, agitating the cream in the barrel.
  • The barrel churn is mounted on wooden legs and has a crank handle that will rotate the entire barrel.
  • The paddle churn has a crank handle operating a rotating paddle inside the churn.

Cast iron/stainless steel cookware

If you are cooking over a wood stove of any kind, you need durable stainless steel or cast iron cookware. Aluminum tends to warp on wood cook stoves.

Black cast iron pans heat evenly, hold the heat for a long time and do not warp.

Coffee percolator or French press

The design of today's models of coffee percolators remains essentially the same. At the base, you have a water chamber, which also holds the brewed coffee. The ground coffee is held in a metal basket that has been perforated to allow the water to flow through.

Like the percolator, the French press design hasn’t changed much since its creation. It essentially consists of a brew chamber and a plunger with a mesh filter attached. The most famous design has a glass brew chamber, but stainless steel is also popular. The coffee grounds are in constant contact with the hot water for the entire brewing process instead of making coffee with something like a pour-over brewer.

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Good kitchen knives

A good set of criteria to use for a food prep knife includes thin edge geometry, toughness versatility and mobility. If you can find old, carbon-steel knives in flea markets or yard sales, they're the best.

Grill pan/griddle

A reversible grill pan/griddle has one side that is a deeply ridged grill surface perfect for grilling or roasting meat and sturdy veggies. The other side is a flat, smooth griddle to make a big breakfast of bacon and eggs or bake up a batch of cookies.

The beauty of the grill pan/griddle combo is that it affords a much larger surface for cooking, allowing you to prepare more food at once.

Handheld can opener

Have at least two good, sturdy, hand-operated can openers. A Swing-a-way crank opener has been doing its thing for almost a hundred years. On a Swing-a-way easy crank opener, the leverage gained from the rotary handle makes it a breeze to open however many cans you want. It is a full-steel construction with a carbon steel cutting blade that never skips.

Hand-cranked dough maker and/or dough hook

Hand-crank bread dough makers were a popular bread machine before electricity and even up until the 1970s. It comes with an eight-quart stainless steel bowl and dough hook to replace the original aluminum tub. The yoke and handle are made of cast alloy. The bowl measures 12 inches in diameter and 6.5 inches tall.

The positive locking top holds the bowl in place while cranking. The two front ends of the yoke have pegs that fit holes in the bowl rim. The back knob of the yoke screws down through a hole in the bowl edge much like a woodworker's clamp. Just like they use to do when making large stiff batches of dough, cradle the bowl with one arm wrapped around holding on to the handle while you crank with the other hand.

Hand-cranked grain mill

A hand-cranked grain mill can be used to grind coffee beans, corn, cornmeal herbs, rice and spices. You can also use it to make nut butter, like chestnut butter, pinion butter and walnut butter. Its uses are virtually endless, especially if you eat a lot of whole-natural food.

Hand utensils

These include, but are not limited to, a cheese grater/slicer, ladles, meat tenderizing hammer, pastry cutter, potato/vegetable peeler, rolling pin, serving forks, serving spoons, sharpening steel, slotted spoons, spatulas and whisk. Metal (stainless steel) is much better than plastic; with stainless steel and cast-iron cookware, you don't have to worry about scratches.

Mortar and pestle

Mortars and pestles are great tools to grind, mix, pound, pulverize and smash both wet and dry ingredients. They are among the oldest tools, and they're not limited to the kitchen. The mortar is a durable bowl commonly made of stone, ceramic or wood. The pestle is a rounded grinding club often made of the same material as the mortar.

Tea kettle

Stainless steel or copper works best for this archaic kitchen appliance. In the winter, the steam from a tea kettle warms and moisturizes the air. Just don't let it boil down before refilling it.

Zeer pot

A zeer pot is a refrigeration method – a terra-cotta pot holding a small amount of food and surrounded by wet sand nested inside a larger one. Using the principle of evaporative cooling, it cools dairy, meat, medicines, produce and water.

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Watch this video to learn more about cooking essentials for outdoor camp cooking.

This video is from the Daily Videos channel on

More related stories:

13 essential non-electric kitchen tools for your off-grid homestead.

Survival basics. Alternative ways to cook without electricity.

The homesteader’s kitchen: Tools and ingredients you need to preserve food before SHTF.

Sources include: 1 2 3 4

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