Portable butane stoves are a handy cooking device designed for caterers, but they can also be a fantastic tool during a short term power outage or on a camping adventure. Most butane stoves will sit on a countertop, start easily with an automatic piezoelectric igniter, and use butane fuel canisters.
Are portable butane stoves safe to use indoors? Some butane stoves are designed for indoor use while others should only be used outdoors. If you intend to use your butane stove indoors, be sure to purchase one that is rated for indoor use.
The following stoves are examples of portable burner butane stoves that are available on Amazon and are rated for commercial indoor restaurant use. Remember not all butane stoves can be used indoors.
- Sterno Portable Butane Stove
- Gas One Portable Butane Stove with Carrying Case
- TECHEF – AGNI Portable Butane Gas Stove Burner
Safely Cooking Indoors on a Portable Butane Stove
Portable butane stoves that are rated for indoor use can be safely used in your home when precautions are taken. Butane stoves always require adequate ventilation to prevent carbon monoxide poisoning.
Butane fuel leakage is also a concern. Because butane is heavier than air, it does not dissipate into the air but settles in a low area, creating an explosive risk. Be careful not to allow the fuel cartridge to be engaged without an active flame.
Butane stoves rated for indoor use are designed to minimize leakage and carbon monoxide production. Camping stoves are designed for outdoor use and should not be used indoors. Read the label if in doubt.
We used a Sterno brand butane stove during our 30 Day Grid Down Cooking Challenge and found it to be quite convenient. We kept a carbon monoxide detector with a digital readout nearby and it never registered any level of carbon monoxide.
The only problem with the butane stove is that we went through a lot of relatively expensive fuel canisters. It would not be a good option for a long term power outage because the fuel is not sustainable.
How to Operate a Butane Stove
A portable butane stove is incredibly simple to operate. Our teenage kids only had to be shown once before quesadillas became a favorite snack food during our no power cooking challenge.
Follow these simple directions and you should be able to safely use your butane stove when the power goes out.
- Read the manufacturer’s directions and pay close attention to special precautions before attempting to operate your stove. Not all butane stoves are the same.
- Remove any flammables from the immediate area.
- Place the stove on a level surface away from any source of open flame.
- Inspect the stove and fuel canister for any signs of damage. Do not use it if the fuel canister is damaged in any way.
- Check to make sure that the dial is in the “off” position.
- Open the butane cartridge compartment and place the fuel canister inside of the compartment so that the notch on the top of the canister lines up with the little latch in the front of the compartment.
- Close the compartment cover.
- Press down the lock lever.
- Turn the dial counter-clockwise until you hear a “click.” Watch for the flame to ignite and then adjust the dial to control the flame.
- Do not leave the stove unattended.
Advantages to Cooking on a Portable Butane Stove
There are compelling advantages to butane stoves that are rated for indoor use. Cooking during a power outage is only a slight inconvenience with a butane stove.
Instantly Hot Flame – The thing I like best about our butane stove is that with a couple of simple motions I can have a hot, adjustable flame and can start cooking.
Indoor Short Term Power Outage Cooking – A butane stove is a great way to cook when the power goes out without requiring a lot of additional work. The stove is portable, compact and can be conveniently set on the countertop.
Ease of Operation – Our portable butane stove is incredibly easy to operate. It lights automatically without the need for matches.
Disadvantages to Cooking on a Portable Butane Stove
I like butane stoves but there are a few disadvantages worth discussing.
Ventilation Required – Even butane stoves rated for indoor use require ventilation in order to use safely. Be very careful to take precautions to ensure the stove is not producing carbon monoxide or leaking butane.
Expensive to Operate – The butane fuel cartridges are relatively expensive to purchase. As compared with propane in a refillable bottle, butane is typically 8-10 times the cost.
This is based on propane at $2.50 per gallon ($0.59 per pound) and butane at $2.50 per 8-ounce cartridge ($5.00 per pound). The amount of energy per pound is approximately the same for both butane and propane.
An 8-ounce butane fuel cartridge will provide 2 to 4 hours of cooking time. You may want to consider the following butane fuel cartridges from Amazon.
- GasOne Butane Fuel Canisters (12 Pack)
- Sterno Butane Fuel Cartridge (4 Pack)
- Sterno Butane Fuel Cartridge (12 Pack)
Butane fuel canisters can usually be purchased at sporting goods stores and restaurant supply stores. I have personally found the least expensive place to purchase both the stoves and the fuel is in Sam’s Club catering section.
Fuel Storage Safety – Butane canisters can be problematic when it comes to storing them safely. Butane stoves are fantastic for a short term power outage. It would be costly and potentially dangerous to store enough butane canisters to last through a long-term event. Once the fuel is gone, the stove is useless.
Ideas for Conserving and Stretching Butane Fuel Cartridges
It is very possible to stretch your fuel supply by using basic conservation techniques. These techniques apply to all cooking fuels, not just butane.
Retained Heat or Thermal Cooking – Just use the butane stove to bring foods up to a rolling boil and then use retained heat methods to complete the cooking process. Learn more about retained heat cooking in our post: Retained Heat Cooking: The Secret to Stretching Your Fuel Supplies.
Prepare Simple Foods – Change the menu to incorporate canned foods that are quickly warmed up in place of foods that require a longer cooking time. Canned beans instead of dry beans. Ramen noodles or potato flakes instead of boiling potatoes.
Cut Food Into Smaller Pieces – Start by cutting meats and vegetables in smaller pieces that require a shorter cooking time. Shredded potatoes can be fried in a few minutes while whole potatoes will take much longer to cook.
Cover the Cooking Pot – Sometimes it is the simplest techniques that are overlooked. Cover your cooking pot to help retain heat and speed up the cooking process.
Use a Pressure Cooker – A pressure cooker is a fantastic way to reduce the amount of energy required to cook foods.
In the photo below, we brought soaked, dried pinto beans up to pressure in a pressure cooker on the butane stove. Then we transferred them to a Wonder Oven and used the retained heat to complete cooking.
The pressure cooker was carefully covered with the Wonder Oven top pillow so that the rocker stayed level and did not release the pressure. We covered the entire basket with another small blanket let it work its magic.
Six hours later the beans were cooked and still above safe serving temperature. We saved a significant amount of fuel by combining conservation methods.
Possible Dangers Associated with Portable Burner Butane Stoves
It is important to exercise great care while using a butane stove. Open flame must always be respected and monitored.
Fuel leakage is a possibility. Butane is heavier than air and will pool in low lying areas.
Carbon monoxide is an odorless, deadly byproduct that can result from burning butane (as well as other fuels). Adequate ventilation and monitoring levels is important while the stove is in use.
Shelf-Life of Butane Fuel Cartridges
Butane fuel will never go bad or expire. Shelf-life of butane is limited only by the container, which will degrade over time. The official recommendation is 8 years.
We used a case of butane fuel cartridges which had been stored in the garage in the original packaging for over 10 years in our recent no power cooking challenge. The fuel performed well and the cartridges looked good. I did notice a few small signs of deterioration or rust on the metal that may indicate that we may be pushing the limits before too much longer.
Due to the explosive nature of butane, cartridges with any sign of damage (dent, hole, puncture) should not be used.
How to Safely Store Butane Fuel Cartridges?
Butane should always be stored in a cool, dry, well-ventilated area. Store butane fuel cartridges away from heat or any flame source. They are extremely flammable and exposure to heat or fire could result in detonation.
Do not store in temperatures over 110°F. Butane cartridges or canisters must be stored above freezing (32° F). Never store butane near any oxidizing materials (chlorine or concentrated oxygen).
Butane gas cartridges have clear warning labels printed on them. Be sure that you take a moment to read and follow the recommendations. To learn more about safely storing butane and other fuels for emergencies visit, How to Store Fuel Safely for Emergencies.
Bugging Out and Butane Stoves
A portable butane stove may be a handy tool for cooking in the event of a short-term evacuation scenario. It transports easily and provides a nice hot flame in seconds.
The butane stove is not the answer for any type of a long-term event because storing large quantities of fuel canisters is costly and potentially dangerous. Once the fuel is gone the stove is useless.
There are a few safety concerns when it comes to transporting butane fuel canisters. They should be transported upright and kept cool and dry. Exposing the fuel canister to heat (over 110°F), shaking, or dropping may cause the canister to leak or even explode.
Overall Review of Portable Burner Butane Stoves for Emergency Cooking
When it comes to convenience and performance, portable butane stoves are a fantastic solution for a short-term power outage. Ventilation is required for safe use and I recommend keeping a carbon monoxide detector with a digital readout nearby to monitor for any levels of carbon monoxide produced.
I am reluctant to unconditionally recommend portable butane stoves as a long-term emergency cooking solution due to the expense and storage limitations of the butane fuel cartridges. I will tell you that it was my go-to cooking device during our 30-Day Grid-Down Cooking Challenge. But that challenge only lasted a month.
Butane stoves are a perfect solution for cooking during a short-term power outage.
Thanks for being part of the solution!Jonathan and Kylene Jones