Canned Heat

About Canned Heat

When the electricity goes out, it’s important to have alternative indoor cooking fuels ready to go. Canned heat fits the bill very nicely. It has proven to be a very popular fuel source for emergency prep because they are easy to store and easy to use. These cans are filled with flammable hydrocarbon-jellied alcohol that burns slowly and directly from the can itself. It’s basically a disposable version of the alcohol burner. It does not cook as fast but it's still worth utilizing.

Some canned heat products can be safely burned indoors without ventilation restrictions. Other types of canned heat require adequate ventilation. Read the can carefully before purchasing, so you know what you are getting. To play it safe, always use proper ventilation when you are using canned heat indoors.

How to use canned heat

All it takes is the strike of a match or the use of a lighter to start the can’s heating cycle. You may have to be patient, holding the match or lighter to the wick for about 30 seconds to give it time to catch fire. When ignited, a very hot blue flame is produced that is hot enough to boil water. It's also great for cooking food slowly or keeping food warm.

More cans mean more heat and more water that can be boiled at one time. However, be aware that manufacturers do not recommend using more than two cans at a time.

What equipment should I use with canned heat?

Canned heat can be used in folding camp stoves, sterno stoves, and other smaller portable-type cooking equipment such as a wood stoves or charcoal grills. Sterno Stoves come with instructions on how to use canned heat. Follow the instructions for best results. You can also use regular pots and pans if you place them on top of a wire rack just above the flame.

How much do I need?

Popular brand names include but aren't limited to: Sterno, Safe Heat, ThermaFuel, and Heat Cell. Burn times can vary between 45 minutes to 9 hours per can, based on the can purchased. To get an idea of what is needed to boil water, here is how much jellied alcohol is needed to bring two cups of water to a boil, three times per day.

per day: 3 ounces | per week: 3 cans | per month: 12 cans

  • Okay for indoor use
  • Burns odorless, safe, and clean with no residual soot
  • Lightweight, dependable
  • Stacks and stores neatly
  • Great for those living in apartments that lack lots of storage space.
  • Canned heat creates a flame that goes straight up. This creates the need for frequent stirring when cooking or heating up food to prevent scorching.
  • Canned heat does not burn as hot as other denatured alcohols and requires a significantly longer cook time.
  • If you want to try canned heat before buying larger quantities, individual cans are available at camping stores.
  • Try using a lid or 2 cans at a time for faster results. It is not recommended that you use more than two cans at a time.
Use Requirements
  • Use adequate ventilation if used indoors.
  • Use caution as the flame may be almost invisible in some brands.
  • Do not blow on flames to extinguish them. Rather smother the flame with the lid instead.
  • The can must completely cool down before replacing the lid or it will be difficult to take off the next time you want to use it.
Storage Conditions
  • Do not store canned heat in a hot garage.
  • Store in a cool, dry place.
  • Store upright, away from heat sources.
  • Dispose of any dented or damaged cans.
  • Store away from food.
  • Do not store together with oxidizing, acidic, or alkalis (caustic solutions) materials.
Shelf Life

Shelf life varies per brand - 10 years to indefinite.