Cooking in an RV

I love to cook. And, as an added bonus, I’m decent at it (or so I’m told). I enjoy a good challenge when it comes to cooking and learning new things in the kitchen, and boy, is RV cooking a good challenge!

In theory, you can cook anything in an RV that you can cook in a house. In practice, there is a lot more to take into account.

Ingredient Storage and Availability

Some grocery stores are simply better stocked than others. Rural areas, especially, tend to have poor selection and sad produce. If we are in a town or small city one week, and we are going way out in the boonies next week, we may buy a few more things to tide us over (or we will make sure to buy harder to find ingredients when we see them). Unlike in a house, though, we don’t have the storage space to buy in bulk. We have all the space we need, but we don’t have any extra! Our fridge, though, with some very creative organizing, typically fits everything we need. We have to keep condiments to a minimum (not much door compartment storage) as well as large jugs (just one tall spot for milk) and glass (because arriving at your destination to find an explosion in your fridge is unpleasant). Otherwise, we are good!

We also have to be mindful of produce like bananas that is kept on the counter-tops. We have relatively large temperature swings compared to a house, so a lot of produce is unhappy in that environment. We stick to apples and berries, instead.

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Finding Farmer’s Markets is always a nice perk!

Water Usage and Dishes

This is the biggest change from cooking in a sticks & bricks house. Like I said, I love to cook. I love trying new recipes and learning new techniques. Often I will finish cooking and have filled the entire sink and counter with pots and pans!

IMG_1253
Juniper-smoked pork belly (gifted by a friend) with greens, grits, poached egg and hollandaise sauce. All made in the RV kitchen… used most of the pots and pans.

I’ve had to curb this in the RV because washing all that every night or two would run through our water in a hurry. (If you are new to our blog, we spend lots of time boondocking, or parked without water and sewer hookups, in the prettiest places we can find).

At any rate, I have gotten really good at one pot meals, where everything cooks together. Pasta, quinoa, lentils, beans, curries, and soups are all really good go-to options for us. (If you are looking for a recipe to try, I recommend this One Pot Mexican Quinoa! Vegan and gluten-free, so it’s good for entertaining friends with dietary restrictions while still being delicious. There is an auto-play video, be forewarned.) I have also been experimenting with making larger batches of food so we don’t need to wash large loads of dishes as often.

Tools

In a sticks and bricks house, I had a LOT of kitchen tools. In the RV, I… still have a lot of kitchen tools. But, in the RV, everything serves several purposes. I covered a lot of this in my post on RV Stuff We Really Needed: The Kitchen, so I won’t re-hash it here. BUT, we have added one very important cooking tool to our repertoire over the winter: the Instant Pot.

Instant Pot IP DUO 5 Quart

Apparently, this has become required equipment for full-timers everywhere, and I can see why. It has completely replaced my slow cooker as it can make all of those recipes in 1/10 the time with twice the flavor. It can make rice perfectly. It is a one pot wonder that’s easy to clean. It doesn’t infuse the whole RV with cooking scents, which in a small space, is definitely a positive! It has a “saute” function, so I can cook all the onions/garlic/whatever that go into a recipe prior to cooking without needing a separate pan. It has other functions to make things like beans or even yogurt.

I haven’t fully figured it out yet, but it has already proven itself to be a good alternative to the slow cooker, which tended to drain our batteries too much over the course of the day, and a good alternative/addition to the stove and oven, which are good for cooking certain foods, of course, but make the RV very warm.

Heat

Speaking of making the RV warm, that is the biggest drawback of using the oven. The other drawback is that it is small and very good at burning things. The stove is okay, but can also make the inside of the RV pretty warm if used for too long. This is alright if we know it’s going to be a cold night, but if it’s already 90 outside and you’re struggling to keep the RV temp down, the oven is just NOT an option. Many RV cooks use an outdoor grill or stove to help with this, and we want to replace our Coleman two-burner stove to have that option as well.

Coleman Classic 2-Burner Propane Stove

Power Demands

Our stove and oven operate on propane. An outdoor stove would operate on its own propane canisters. Other accessories require electric, and therefore solar power. The Instant Pot seems like the sweet spot for us of electric vs. heat vs. convenience. I made y’all a helpful chart! Yay, charts!

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Chart of RV cooking methods. The bigger the circle, the more convenient it is.

Anyways, our meals have not turned into a series of fast-food joints just because our life is a perpetual road trip. 😉 I have learned a lot and I love the challenge!

5 thoughts on “Cooking in an RV

  1. One pot and batch cooking are the key! I have experience cooking in a small kitchen but the heat and making my entire home smell like what I’m cooking are my concerns as well. I have heard that a pizza stone in the bottom of the oven will distribute the heat and make it cook more evenly. I haven’t tried it yet! I’m concerned about the glass in fridge breaking comment as I’m really hoping to use less plastic and have glass storage containers. Do you have a microwave or did you ditch it because of battery drain?

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    1. Hi Jenn!
      The pizza stone idea is great! There is no way a full-sized pizza stone would fit in our oven, though (we make a lot of pizza so we were all over that 😉 ). I wonder if they make small rectangular ones?

      As for glass, we don’t cut it out entirely by any means. We love our Pyrex storage containers and they are super durable. They have lasted so far being dropped out of upper cabinets plenty of times, jostled around down the road, and who knows what else. They are also easier to wash and more versatile to use than our break-proof plates and bowls. We also still have some maple syrup and salsa and stuff in glass in the fridge, so it’s not a huge concern. For us, it’s mostly that things occasionally take a flying leap out of the fridge after a travel day or when the fridge is super full. We have never had anything actually break open (…yet). You don’t have to change your plans, it’s just something to be mindful of when packing.

      We do have a microwave (it’s actually a full convection oven)! We use it mostly for heating up water and leftovers, so I left it out of this post. Surprisingly enough, our solar system is beefy enough to handle it, which we totally did not expect, so that’s nice. 🙂

      Sorry this was long- hopefully it helps!
      Allison

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      1. Sounds like an amazing solar setup! I hope to have solar and am planning and researching to make it happen. Don’t think I have a lot of room for a big battery bank though. And thank you for all the glass details. I have seen people use baskets in the fridge to prevent so much flying around on travel days. I am not well versed in pizza stones as I’ve never owned one. Maybe check thrift stores? You can break one, and sometimes just being in there will break it. I’m wary to use terra cota as it contains lead, which can be airborn with high temp.

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  2. Allison – they do make small rectangular pizza stones. My mom lines her oven with pizza bricks that are the size of a brick but the thickness of about two tiles.

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    1. Good to know. I think if we were ever stationary, I’d pick those up. I’ve heard they tend to break in transit, so I’m hesitant to do it now.

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