Makeshift Grill Ideas: Cooking When the Grid Goes Down

Makeshift grill
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In my quest to think of creative (hopefully) ideas for articles on the Prepper Journal, I try to pull inspiration from a lot of places. Certainly my own efforts at prepping give me experiences that I can use to share information but I also read books, magazines, watch movies and TV shows and anytime I see something that I think would make an interesting or useful post idea, I write it down. There is a note page on my phone specifically geared toward post ideas I have had over the last almost two years now, and as I write on a topic I erase that from the list of ideas. Fortunately for me, the list is never empty but sometimes I will have a great idea, but not the words for an article. This post is a little different because it won’t be overly wordy but will hopefully share some ideas with you on makeshift grills that you can use to cook food if the grid goes down.

I was inspired to write this post while watching my favorite TV show, the Walking Dead. My wife and I only watch one TV show and this one, while I know it doesn’t appeal to everyone, is great in my opinion. It isn’t that I believe that flesh eating zombies are in our future, but the writing is creative and the scenarios the characters face are exactly the same (minus the walking dead) as any apocalyptic vision you can imagine. Take out the zombies and imagine a world after an economic collapse or pandemic and you would have similar problems as the characters in this show I think. Regardless, I like the show and frequently get ideas from it. They have also been showing more actions the characters take this year as the characters go about surviving as best they can without many modern conveniences.

I got the idea to write about makeshift grills from a recent episode. All cooking that happens in the Walking Dead is usually done over an open flame. If we have TEOTWAWKI we will all need to be more resourceful. Even if the whole world isn’t thrown for a SHTF loop, natural disasters like the 2011 Fukushima Tsunami victims pictured above demonstrate the need to improvise from time to time. Below are a series of photographs that I found illustrating several creative methods for cooking without the benefit of a stove top range or what we all might be faced with at some point and find ourselves cooking when the grid goes down.

One of my favorite ways to see a shopping cart used.

One of my favorite ways to see a shopping cart used.

A lot of these images share common traits and those are a source of heat which is usually wood or charcoal, a fire containment device to hold the combustibles and a grilling surface. You can see the resourceful use of the shopping cart in this case.


Simple bricks perform double duty as fire containment and rest for the pan.

Simple bricks perform double duty as fire containment and rest for the pan.

If you have a cooking pan like a cast iron grill, you can forgo the shopping cart and simply use bricks to rest your pan on.

Surplus shelving also works in a pinch.

Surplus shelving also works in a pinch.

There are lots of options for a grilling surface and you can see what looks like a simple cookie sheet in this photo that is suspended over stainless steel shelving. Another resourceful use of materials and you can see the grill has been placed on sticks. Yet another great use for that survival knife. The cooler of beer is a welcome plus too if you have it and makes those beer brats taste even better.

Who needs bricks when you have rocks?

Who needs bricks when you have rocks?

Need to grill that fresh fish you caught but you don’t have a frying pan or bricks? No worries! This man has grabbed what looks like a grill screen and placed it over some rocks that are surrounding his fire. The spatula is a plus but a knife or even a good stick works in a pinch.

Convert that firepit to Grill master.

Convert that seldom used fire-pit to Grill master.

Many of us have one of those fire pits that we purchase with the idea of sitting on the back porch with a fire blazing away as we all gather around with marshmallows or our favorite adult beverage. Yes, I have one but I can probably count on one hand the number of times we have actually used this in the last two years. At any rate, if I needed to, this makes a great grilling surface as well. You can use charcoal or I would probably use wood, throw that oven grate over the top and start cooking your hot dogs. Adult beverages optional.

Don't have a grill? Use aluminum baking pans instead.

Don’t have a grill? Use aluminum baking pans instead.

You can also use those disposable aluminum baking pans to keep your charcoals in. I don’t know how many uses you could get out of this method and you would want to ensure the bottom is well insulated (nice use of cinder blocks here) but the concept is the same.

50 gallon drum slow cooker.

50 gallon drum slow cooker.

This person probably had a little more time to set up their grill, but with the right equipment (cutting torch or a lot of time with a hacksaw) you could convert those old 50 gallon barrels you have lying around your yard into a perfect grill. Grab some of that unused fencing from the garden and you are all set to cook up those steaks that will go bad now that the power is out.

Forget a grill, we have a wheel-barrel.

Forget a grill, we have a wheel-barrel.

This guy looks like he knows how to party! And he is creative too. Now if you don’t like where your grill is positioned (like maybe too close to the dog house), you can simply move it. What a great use of his wheel-barrel to contain the fire and hold the grill surface too. Bonus is that he can roll the ashes over to the garden when he is finished!

Creative support options.

Creative support options.

This guy isn’t going to let one missing leg get in the way of his having some good eating and when he is done, the coffee water will be ready for a nice hot cup! Notice the metal sheeting used to place the coals or wood on as opposed to having them directly on the ground. I believe he is soaking the ground with water first.

So, do you have any creative makeshift grill ideas that you have used before?

If you liked this article, please rate it.

  • anonymous

    Quick lime, water and a heat resistant container. No flames portable. Chem reaction 400°

    • Nice, now we just need a Quick lime cooking time converter for that too!

  • Steve Cullen

    For my cooking needs I’ve several methods
    #1…propane bbq grill
    Camp Chef propane grill

    100 lbs of propane

    3 charcoal grills

    200lb of charcoal

    3 18″diameter grates placed on cinder blocks

    I have 2 rectangular bales of straw, 2 large bales of rabbit or hamster bedding wood chips.

    Take a handful of straw & bedding chips take 6-8 charcoal bricks and wood cuttings spray with lighter fluid & cook.

    15 cans of charcoal fluid to start camp fires.

    A ready supply of small wood cuttings to add to the straw and charcoal to cook over

    That way I can cook a variety of ways and means

    • Pat

      Sounds like you have things nicely covered Steve. When is the Cookout?

  • Methane Creator

    I was always told that the grills from refrigerators and shopping carts would impart bad metals to your food and to avoid them. Guess you could cover with tinfoil or burn them over a hot fire to make the silver plating flake off.

    • Pat

      Right, I think I would burn them for a while regardless to get things as sterile as possible.

  • desertrat

    To get a real idea of what type of zombies to expect read “One Second After”. ‘Know your enemy.’ Moving onward.

    Some good ideas seeing daylight again. Back back in the day doing ACW reenacting and needing period type fires for cooking, we’d throw 1-3 inches of dry dirt into a 20± inch round oil [change] catch pan resting on native rocks or brick dietrus laying about and build our cook/warm up fires. There was no scorched or burnt park grass.

    If one watched what they were doing, a 20 pound turkey could be easily roasted.

    This method would transfer to most any non-meltable container like the al pans etc that were mentioned.

    Should one find themselves in need of heat post disaster, modding a chimney into a mailbox or similar would make for an interior heater or stove.

    Caveat- I believe that ANY container or cook surfaces work a rounds should have been exposed to flame and heat to ‘cook off’ any toxic treatments applied to make them weather resistant, i.e. chroming on carts, galvanizing on oil pans, mail boxes, etc done out of doors and down wind of any user activity.

  • desertrat

    EDITOR: The hot link the site created goes to curtain rods and brass flush valves at Home Depot- not sure how that relates.

  • Douglas Murray


  • Event Horizon

    I can’t help but be a little disappointed by this article. Its like a pinterest post. Lots of ideas but is not really looked into, thoroughly discussed or thought through. If the SHTF, anyone can find a metal grid and use it, but what are the best makeshift ones? What materials and metals are sturdier, less likely to give off fumes or flake off on your food? What ones are more likely to fail, bow with heavy pots,… Well, I guess its time to do some real good old fashioned critical thinking research.