Whether your cabin is off-grid, or you simply want to minimize electrical use, cooking with propane can be a great solution. With a cabin that runs on solar power, I know that reducing my electrical usage where possible gives me a lot more flexibility without paying for a huge system.
So that begs the question. What if I use propane for cooking instead of electricity. That will save a ton of electricity right? Yeah, it actually will. But is it safe to use inside my cabin? The short answer is no, for various reasons. But there are ways that it can be done safely. Let me show you how.
Saving Electricity with Propane
A typical oven runs on somewhere between 2,500 and 5,000 watts. For a moderately sized generator, that’s going to max it out really fast. That means you can’t run anything but the oven while you’re baking or cooking. Even on a good solar system, you could run your battery down pretty quickly if you’re cooking with electric heat.
That’s why a lot of people use smaller ovens for their cabins. A small oven takes less power to heat to temperature. It also doesn’t have space to roast a turkey so you can kiss Thanksgiving at the cabin goodbye.
I don’t like to give up convenience when I don’t have to. I want full functionality whenever possible. That’s why I advocate for propane as long as you do it safely.
How to use a Propane Stove Indoors
The first thing you can check when determining if you should use a stove indoors is the UL (Underwriters Laboratories) certification. A lot of propane stoves and other products will not have this certification. You can usually find it on a sticker as well as in the owner’s manual. Before buying a stove specifically for indoor use, make sure you look for this certification. If the stove doesn’t have it, you shouldn’t use it indoors.
There are a lot of reasons why using propane indoors can be dangerous, but the number one reason is Carbon Monoxide. Carbon Monoxide is a by-product of burning. Some products, by design, don’t give off as much carbon dioxide to the room as others do. So some are inherently safer than others. Propane grills tend to give off more carbon monoxide and smoke making them less safe to use indoors. Some camp stoves, however, do have that UL certification and can be used indoors.
Make sure you cook in a well ventilated area. Gas stoves in people’s houses often have a vent hood above them. If you want to install a vent hood that would help pull most carbon monoxide out of the room. Another option is to just open a window or two while cooking. That’s not really any fun in the winter, though, so you’ll want to figure out the best solution for you depending on when and how you use your cabin.
Keep the stove clean. If food and grease drips down onto the burners, it will tend to burn leading to smoke. That’s one reason why grills are particularly dangerous indoors. They tend to get a lot of grease buildup which causes more smoke than you would normally see on an indoor stove. If you keep your stove clean, though, you will be in much better shape.
Don’t cook for long periods of time. If you’re using a camp stove that’s not really designed for indoor use (even if it is UL certified) then it’s probably best to not keep it running for hours at a time. Cook meals that don’t require long cook times. Not unless you want to go all the way with a full gas oven.
Use a Gas Oven with LP Conversion
If you really want full home convenience without using up all your electricity, you should go with a standard gas oven and range. This is my favorite option. Just make sure that the one you buy is able to be converted from natural gas to propane. Then all you need is a conversion kit to switch from gas to propane and you’re good to go.
These ovens still typically have an outlet. But instead of a 220V outlet that pulls 5,000 Watts they have a standard 110 outlet and pull only a small amount of power. This is usually just powering the panel with the clock and timer and in some cases it’ll power the igniter for the burners.
However, you can purchase a gas oven that uses no electricity at all. That would be my preference for the cabin.
Cook Outside the Cabin on a Grill
This option won’t work for everyone in every season of the year, but one option is to cook a portion of your meals outdoors on a grill.
I love outdoor cooking. I actually cook a lot of our food on the grill even at home. You’d be surprised what you can bake inside your grill using propane or even charcoal. Plus, good food cooked well on the grill has great flavor in my opinion.
Cooking on the grill can be a low-cost option compared to buying a gas oven and it will help you conserve electricity compared to using the electric oven.
Safety Tips for Indoor Propane Ovens
If you can, store the tank outside
I like to keep a large propane tank for my cabin. I get it filled annually or as needed and it provides me with all the propane I need without dragging little tanks up to the cabin with me all the time. But, even if you use small propane tanks, you’ll be better off if you store them outside and run a gas hose from the tank to the oven or stove inside.
Propane tanks often leak a little if you don’t turn them off at the tank. And having propane leaking slowly out into the cabin is a recipe for disaster. Gas leaks
Always turn off the vale on the tank when you’re not cooking
Whether you store the tank outside or not, it’s always good practice to turn off the valve at the tank when you’re not using it. Having it outdoors makes it a lot safer, and if you’re using the tank a lot I can see why you wouldn’t want to turn it off each time. Just make sure, then, that your connections are sealing well. Put some dish soap on the connections and open up the propane tank valve. If there are any leaks, you’ll see bubbles form.
But if you’re storing the tanks indoors, always close the valves as soon as you’re done using the tank. When it comes to propane, it’s best to play it safe.
Install a Carbon Monoxide Detector above the stove or oven
If you’re going to use a propane oven indoors, whether it’s a gas oven designed for indoors or a camp stove with UL certification, you want to make sure you’re not getting a buildup of carbon monoxide.
Carbon monoxide is really dangerous. It doesn’t take very much to knock you out and it doesn’t take very long to die when the carbon monoxide concentration gets high enough. It’s not something you want to mess around with.
But, I don’t want that to scare you out of using propane. People use gas ovens in their homes all the time. We also install gas fireplaces with ventless logs all the time. These fireplaces don’t require any ventilation to be safe for in-home use. So using a propane stove or oven indoors can be perfectly safe to do. But it’s best to monitor the levels of carbon monoxide nearby just to make sure.
Best practice is to install a carbon monoxide detector near where you have propane or natural gas burning. In this case, in the kitchen not far from the oven or stove.
Carbon monoxide detectors look and work a lot like smoke detectors. You install them on the wall or ceiling nearby and if the carbon monoxide level starts to get close to dangerous levels, an alarm sounds. This is warning you to get out. Here is a well priced carbo monoxide detector on amazon.
If you’re nearby when it goes off, here’s what you should do.
- Quickly turn off the oven or stove
- If you can do it quickly, open a nearby window
- Go outside for a while
Once the alarm turns itself off, it should be safe to go back inside.
If your alarm is going off regularly as you cook, then you probably need a different stove and/or better ventilation while cooking. Consider a vent hood or at least open a window while cooking.