Excerpt from Apocalypse Chow!
"Charcoal is as impractical and inefficient for cooking as a wood fire. When you build a substantial enough charcoal fire for cooking, the charcoal will continue to burn long after you have eaten. You can't conserve charcoal very well, or of course, use it again. If you do use charcoal for boiling water, place a saucepan with the lid on atop the grill and close the cover, if possible. Make sure you use a plan with handles that won't melt or catch fire. Grilling would be done as you do on the Fourth of July, but if the disaster continues on for several days, unless you have a garage full of dry charcoal, you'll be out of fuel and out of luck.
Other ways to cook
If you foolishly ignored the authorities or, worse, neglected to buy this book in time and you've found yourself in a disaster or blackout unprepared, you aren't completely out of luck. With some Sterno (canned heat) or a chafing dish, you may not be able to boil enough water for pasta, but you will be able to warm up some soup. You can always heat a pan with a kitchen or plumber's torch, or heat cans of food on the manifold of a car engine.
This may not be as stupid as it sounds, once you realize that Chris Maynard and Bill Scheller wrote an entire cookbook, titled "Manifold Destiny: The One! The Only! Guide to Cooking on Your Car Engine, for the new "mechanic's cuisine." As temping as it might be, we don't recommend using signal flares for cooking.
In case you aren't smart enough to figure this out on your own, you should never burn charcoal inside your house. You also want to use the utmost caution when using an open flame indoors. Whenever possible, take your stove outside and do your cooking in the great outdoors. Also, never use candles indoors for light. Instead, use a bona fide camping light or safe oil lamp or battery-operated lights. I'm not going to mention this again."
Stay tuned for more tips and recipes from Apocalypse Chow!