It's time for Ultimate Iron Chef! Cooking... in space.

EQUIPMENT: Anything that can be found in an ordinary kitchen. Utensils, electric cooker, toaster... Things like oxygen canisters and centrifuges are not allowed. You are not allowed to modify your equipment to try and make a spaceship. You do have an electric power supply.

SUPPLIES: Anything you can find in the food sections of an ordinary supermarket. Vegetables, meat, milk, bottled water...

LOCATION: Earth orbit, outside a space ship. In other words, in vacuum, 0G, though you can pick where you want to be - would this be easier on the night side, or in the day side? Up to you.

Your task is to try and cook a delicious and normal meal.

Points for sophistication. Anyone can make freeze dried ice cream. You can potentially use a pressure cooker (if you have a good idea about how to use one in a vacuum).

  • $\begingroup$ Anything exposed to the vacuum of space would quickly lose all water... $\endgroup$
    – L.Dutch
    Aug 3, 2017 at 13:43
  • 4
    $\begingroup$ I think in principal this is an interesting question: What would one be able to cook in space? I just wish you formulated it less like a brain storm exercise and more like an actual question. $\endgroup$
    – Raditz_35
    Aug 3, 2017 at 13:44
  • 2
    $\begingroup$ In a forum where questions often are rancid with "magic" and tons of "handwavium", this question is about real things, in possible conditions, merely juxtaposed on an unlikely scenario. IMHO, change nothing. $\endgroup$
    – Joe
    Aug 3, 2017 at 14:00
  • 2
    $\begingroup$ And how is it supposed to help with creating fictional world, by the way? $\endgroup$
    – Mołot
    Aug 3, 2017 at 14:29
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ @Mołot Will do, thanks man. I can see where the requirements of that Hard Science tag can be a pain in the fundament too. My major point of aggravation with this is I don't cook that much, so asking for a sophisticated meal, grr.... $\endgroup$
    – Ash
    Aug 3, 2017 at 17:00

3 Answers 3


My Answer:

Whats's for dinner?

Beef Stew with Apple compote

Required Equipment: 1 Locking lid crockpot 4 fireglass-type Ramekins Geosynchronous orbit or Lagrange point orbit 1 small mirror ( 6"x 6") note vent hole in lid must be plugged prior to starting

Ingredients: Apple Compote

  • 4 medium apples, (preferred Fuji), peeled and sliced,
  • 8 oz chopped walnuts
  • 4 oz butter
  • 1/2 tsp ground nutmeg,
  • 4 oz water in flexible plastic container such as a bag

Ingredients: Beef Stew

  • 1lb beef top round, cubed into 1"
  • 1 medium white onion, cut into 8- 10 equal pieces
  • 1 lb peeled baby carrots
  • 2 lbs small red potatoes
  • 1/2 lb sliced white or Portobello mushrooms
  • 8 oz. dry red wine in flexible plastic container such as a bag
  • 32 oz water in flexible plastic container such as a bag
  • salt and pepper to taste

    1. Move all non-liquid ingredients into shadow Immediately on leaving the airlock, ingredients will begin outgassing, but should freeze within a minute or two. Liquid ingredients should remain pressurized until freezing is complete.

    2. Combine (while shaded) beef, onions, carrots, potatoes, mushrooms, salt, pepper in crockpot ( see link), leave in shadow. Retrieve liquids, with the lids or corks removed prior to decompression. Immediately move liquid (boiling) to crockpot, squeeze boiling liquids into crockpot before they freeze.

    3. Secure lid on crockpot, move into open sunlight until contents are thawed. Gently shake crockpot to mix ingredients, and face crockpot with glass lid toward the sun, apply a slow ( 1 rpm ) spin to help cook evenly, allow to heat in direct sunlight 2 hours.

      while that's cooking

    Apple Compote:

    1. In open sunlight, combine apple, walnuts, butter and nutmeg in sealed container by shaking vigorously until thoroughly mixed, water should remain pressurized until complete, then brought out of airlock into direct sunlight, and squirted while boiling into container with apple mixture

    2. Shake well until thoroughly mixed. open container, and spoon into ramekins, parking each in direct sunlight facing the sun.

    3. Ramekins should begin to outgas and bubble immediately, apples may begin to dry faster than they cook, use small mirror to focus additional sunlight to speed cooking.

    Retrieve all, and return to ship taking care to keep food in sunlight until airlock is repressurized.

    Serve with a medium dry red wine of choice.


Parabolic mirror

Easy one - take a parabolic mirror (e.g. a typical satellite dish, the one you can find in your kitchen and paint it shiny), put some heat resistant holder in the focus and there you go.

The heat in the focus can easily reach upper hundreds of kelvins (which is more than enough even for a grill) for a typical small (~1m) parabolic dish and you can regulate the temperature very easily. As a bonus, there is no air to take the thermal energy away. Add some water into an airtight (and strong) packing, and you get your classical boiled food (if fried/grilled is not for you).

If you do not have a satellite dish among the regular equipment in your kitchen, a huge metal ladle might do, or a pot cover, and you would be able to watch the TV cook.

Solar constant is about $1360\, \rm W\cdot m^{-2} $ [1] - that is (by definition) at 1 AU and outside of atmosphere (It's a total irradiation, not just inside the visible spectrum, but the maximum is in the visible spectrum anyway and polished metal surface would reflect IR and UV easily). Typical high-end mirror reflexivity can reach 90%, if we allow for non-visible spectrum and lower efficiency, we can get $500\, \rm W\cdot m^{-2} $ easily (note that for low cost, less than perfect reflexive cookers in our atmosphere and realistic weather the efficiency is very low, [2] got only 15% maximum energy efficiency). A typical hot plate consumes maybe 1 kW of electricity and is perfectly adequate for cooking (and the efficiency is likely rather low as well). That means $2\,\rm m ^2$ is more than enough to replace a typical hot plate.

Note that solar cooking is not uncommon, especially in developing countries without proper access to electricity. See [3] for a detailed description and fields testing of solar cooking in Indonesia.

A typical pressure cooker operates at 2 atm - that means 1 atm overpressure, which is perfect for vacuum - keeping the same 1 atm overpressure will give exactly 1 atm pressure in the cooker, which means the conditions for cooking are exactly what we are used at.

  • $\begingroup$ Yeah this except you can build the mirror easily enough from scratch using household items. $\endgroup$
    – Ash
    Aug 3, 2017 at 15:32

A simple one, but...

A microwave meal! The problem with cookers and hobs is that they always rely on these pesky things called atoms (and we are too sophisticated for those). In our vacuum of space, convection and conduction are a thing of the past! Relying on a flame to heat a metal pan is great, but you need oxygen for flames and, well, we haven't got much of that. Also the heat is transferred from the pan to the food using conduction, but our food would need to be in contact with the metal to receive the heat and this won't do because in zero G it would float off! No, that won't do...

Aha! But light doesn't use particles! (Well, arguably wave-particle duality does but those are different to the particle to which I refer.) A simple microwave will perform the jobs we need it to:

  1. It will contain our food, so we don't need to worry about it floating off and possibly crash-landing on a distant moon.
  2. The microwaves will heat the water molecules in our food, all without needing one of those pesky atmospheres.
  3. You can easily find a microwaveable meal from a supermarket, and it comes in a handy container that you can eat it out of once it is heated up!

So there you have it. Space-Microwaves(TM)!

Response to Michael


If the question specifies outside a space ship, I assumed they meant next to, or within plug-socket-and-extension-lead range (assuming the ship has a power source). Considering that we can use "Anything that can be found in an ordinary kitchen. Utensils, electric cooker, toaster... " I would say that an arbitrary power source and fuel source for those appliances is assumed but not explained.

If not, then the only power source would be the sun. Last time I checked, solar panels are not found in your average kitchen and I dare say the average kitchen drawer does not contain enough AA and AAA batteries to power a microwave for several minutes. If there is no power source, your Space-Microwave(TM) will not work.


To cool your microwave, you can take the outer surfaces off and press cold conductive materials onto the hot areas. These will take up some of the heat. Where to get those? Well, you could use the cooling element of a fridge but it uses compressed gases so that wouldn't work. You could put a large chunk of cold metal against it though. Wait, is there not a space ship? According to NASA:

Without thermal controls, the temperature of the orbiting Space Station's Sun-facing side would soar to 250 degrees F (121 C), while thermometers on the dark side would plunge to minus 250 degrees F (-157 C)

Well, grab the conductive elements of a cooker (or multiple cookers) and only microwave at night time, using the freezing cold cookers to absorb the excess heat.

Space Microwaves!

  • $\begingroup$ Where are you going to hook up the microwave? And more importantly, it might not use heat directly to cook the food under consideration, but it does give off plenty of excess heat in the process of generating microwaves at three- or four-digit wattages. Where and how are you going to dump that heat, without modifying the microwave (which of course means that things like adding proper radiators for heat dissipation is out)? And you may or may not need to take steps to ensure that the food doesn't make contact with the wrong interior surface... $\endgroup$
    – user
    Aug 3, 2017 at 14:04
  • $\begingroup$ You do have an electric power supply, edited the question to note that. $\endgroup$
    – Fhnuzoag
    Aug 3, 2017 at 14:19
  • $\begingroup$ @MichaelKjörling the food won't touch the surfaces because it will be cooked in its plastic container $\endgroup$
    – Aric
    Aug 3, 2017 at 14:27

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