Homemade alternative stove-Nepal

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This is a post about how I’ve been cooking for my family during the gas embargo.  If you are currently living in Nepal and trying to cook, please read!!    I’d really like to hear what’s working for everyone else.  This is how to make an oil stove:


3 x small tuna tins, empty and clean

old pot that’s going to get really black and may never be the same again, and fits the three tins

thick cardboard

vegetable oil (I’m using sunflower)

the ring from your gas stove, if it fits securely on the pot that’s going to get black, like this




pot grippers or pliers like these


old newspaper

safe bench top or floor space, well ventilated and away from all the children, goats, etc

hot mits


Cut strips of card the width of the height of the tuna tins, plus 5m.

Coil within the tin, it will stick up a bit, this means more air can get in.

This card is too tight. It wont let enough air in, and will make too much smoke

This card is too tight. It won’t let enough air in, and will make too much smoke

This one is better!

This one is better!








Do all three tins. If tuna tins don’t fit, use another size, actually I use two tuna tins and one condensed milk tin hacked in half.


Fill each tuna tin with oil and place them in the pot. Wait for it to soak in and repeat a couple of times.




Use a lit candle to light the card, it will take a minute or two for the flame to get going.

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Place the ring on top, and then your pan.

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To extinguish, remove your pan with hot mits and put it on the newspaper ( it will be all black) Then remove the gas ring with the pliers or pot grippers and place it on the newspaper. Put the pan back on the black pot for a minute to put the fire out, keep your food warm, and wait for the smoke to settle.

Don’t use water to extinguish.


  • I add maybe 5mls oil each time I want to use my oil  tin stove. Or if I was simmering beans for half an hour I might add a bit of oil half way throughout if the flame was getting low.
  • Sometimes I use the pliers to poke the cardboard around a bit, and stir the flame up
  • If I was simmering on low heat, I might only light one or two of the tins.
  • After a week, the top of the cardboard was pretty black and disintegrating, and no longer able to hold oil. So I took the entire coil out and put it back upside down to use the bottom side.
  • Strangely, oil seems to leak a bit, so I spoon it up out of the pot and put it back in the oil tins


  • After another week, I’ll probably replace it with fresh cardboard, saving any oil left.

Other ideas

If you don’t have a gas ring or pot, or they don’t fit each other, or you don’t want to blacken your lovely stuff, you can place the tins directly on the (non wood) bench or floor. Then make a rack over them with the rack from an oven, or any metal racky thing.  Balance it on three or four things the same height. It won’t be as stable, so don’t stir fry vigorously.










You can use ripped up egg carton instead of coiled card if that’s what you have. I have used cotton wool instead of card board, but it’s not free and I suspect a bit smokier.

A great idea is to use old used oil, your own or from a restaurant.  Just filter out the worst of the burnt bits and blackness with a tea strainer, then a loose weave bit of cloth. So next time you deep fry, wait for the oil to cool and then store it in a glass jar for several re-usings, and eventually to burn in the oil stove. Re-use! Re-cycle! Yay!

IMG_0720photoYou can make a mini stove for coffee, or a small milk pot. I happen to have a mini gas ring on my stove which is perfect and sits on just one tuna tin.



I cook where my gas stove is meant to be, right under the exhaust fan, If the power is on, I run the fan. If not, I open the window and door, and hope that the wind is blowing the right way.

I don’t wash my pots. That is, I place the pot sideways on the sink and wash the inside only. It would take too much scrubbing to do the outside, and its will get black again within two minutes of cooking. I’m keeping my two black pots and kettle separate in a very black cardboard box, and not using any other pots.  It’s a bit like camping. ( Except we have a bathroom, and beds, so I’m TOTALLY not complaining)

My hands are wrecked from washing the black off. I try to use the pot grippers, and use old paper to undo my coffee pot to save touching it directly.  Then I wash my hands right at the end, it needs hardcore soap and scrubbing, so I try not to wash too often. And I wear my old jeans….

In conclusion,

I’ve been cooking like this for two weeks now,  thereby not using gas (unavailable), electricity  often off)  wood  (bit irresponsible/unsustainable) or kerosene (almost unavailable) And if I use recycled oil, it’s also almost free, and environmentally pretty good. It gets hot enough for stir frying, or popcorn, and quick enough to pressure cook rice in good time.  And it makes coffee. So, you know, the important stuff.

Oh, and this can happen to your face. But if you can’t have fun when the power is off, when can you?


Feel free to have a go, and please let me know if you’ve got any better ideas.

You can also read the story of what’s going on in Nepal and also all the things I tried before something worked.

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3 Responses to Homemade alternative stove-Nepal

  1. Malcolm December 1, 2015 at 7:37 am #

    Hi there, great to hear you have nutted out the cooking Jill, trust no permanent reminders for the kids to have a story to remind you in the future, heard a but about the story of the blockade the other day via uk so good you have an alternative for cooking. How is for getting veggies in your town is it still a viable option for meals at this stage. Started at the new hospital out east last Tuesday plenty to find out to be able to achieve a good out come for the clients, worked 6 days with just Thursday off so now off for 2 days, trust you all able to enjoy the abode gb

  2. fahmi September 28, 2016 at 5:04 pm #

    wow, your tehnich is unique, big like for you…


  1. The bit about ‘give thanks in all circumstances’ - Going Anyway - December 13, 2015

    […] I will leap for joy, because as I wiped up the milk that boiled over AGAIN, on the erratic oil stove I found the matches and half a candle underneath it. […]

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