Our rv cooking setup – been there lived that electricity vampires

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Cooking in your RV can be challenging but it offers several benefits over taking the lazy way out and ordering a pizza or visiting a local eatery. First, it’s by far the biggest way to save money while on the road. Going out to eat, particularly if you travel in a large group as we do can easily surpass $100 for a single meal. In contrast, we run about $5/day per person for all meals combined when can stick to keeping the meal creation at the campsite. If we couponned (another story for another time) or used other money saving techniques we could probably do even better.

Finally, you can better control what you eat which can lead to a much healthier lifestyle. We try to buy fresh ingredients and even make a lot of things (like bread) ourselves so we know it contains fewer processed ingredients and far fewer things we cannot pronounce. The results are often as good or better then food we would get eating out.

Let’s not sugar coat things here. As a general rule of thumb, RV appliances are terrible. That stands to reason because they are basically made to be used occasionally – or not at all. It can be a shock to go from double ovens in your home that talk to Alexa and cook just about anything perfectly with the touch of a button to a tiny stove that won’t do anything until you figure out how to light the old school pilot. The most common reason people don’t like to cook in their RV’s is the perceived poor quality of the appliances. That’s not to say that great results can’t be had, you just have to understand the limitations of what you have to work with and how you can overcome those issues. Let’s take a look at what you typically have to work with.

The typical RV stove is run on propane and relies on technology your great grandparents would equate to “the good ole’ days” for operation. If you are shopping for an RV and plan to use the stove frequently you’ll want to pay particular attention to the size of the stove. They will all be about the same width and depth, but there are at least two different heights – small and tiny. We have the tiny one, which leaves space for a drawer underneath it. While, the extra storage space is great, the oven space is so small inside that you cannot put a whole chicken in a pan and put it in the oven without the top of the chicken touching the top of the oven. So, if you’re shopping for an RV opt for the taller stove if you can.

Regardless of the stove size you have, don’t expect to just toss food in there and cook it to perfection like you did at home (unless your home had an RV stove). electricity omd In the vast majority of cases, you will burn the bottoms and have the top barely warm in fairly short order. Why is that? RV stoves are made to be small and lightweight (and cheap). That means the burner is going to be very close to your food. Since it’s small, there is only one burner and that burner usually runs right down the middle of the stove box. To offer some protection to the food from the direct heat there is usually a thin metal divider right above the burner. That thin metal sheet helps some. It dissipates heat well enough to burn 2 rows of cookies in 2 minutes instead of one row in 3o seconds. For most of us that is still not good enough. To really make the stove useful, you have to dissipate that heat much better. You can do that by putting a tile or pizza stone on top of the metal plate and under the cooking rack. If you use a tile it should be an unglazed tile like terra cotta or something similar. You can get them at the big box stores. Thickness is important and you may have to experiment a little but anything 1/4″ or thicker should make a huge improvement in your ability to bake consistent food in your oven. The tile or pizza stone should be as large as possible without covering any of the vent holes that allow the hot air to go from the lower burner chamber to the upper baking area.

For our stove we purchased a 14″ x 14″ x 1″ thick pizza stone made by California Pizza Stones from Amazon. It fit in the stove, but covered the vent holes in the divider plate. We used a tile saw to cut it down to 12.5″ x 12.5″ and it works great. At 1″ thick, it barely fits between the divider the backing rack when it’s in the lowest position. gas yourself A 1/2″ or even 3/4″ thick stone would probably have given the same results without the tight squeeze. A quick search of Amazon shows that California Pizza Stones now sells a 12″ x 12″ x 1/2″ stone, which would probably be perfect.

Once you have your heat dispersed properly in the oven then it’s time to move on to controlling and measuring that heat. First off, with the stone in there the oven will heat slower so make sure you keep and eye on it the first couple of uses. Our’s takes 20 – 30 minutes to reach stable temperature so if you are used to pre-heating your oven (as you should) then keep that in mind.

As far as temp goes, the control knob is a best guess circa 1923. For example, ours tends to run about 25 degrees low. To get an accurate reading, grab an oven thermometer with a hook on it. We hook ours right to the oven rack and the door still closes just fine with it on. After a few uses, you’ll get a good idea of where you need to set your thermostat to get the temp you need.

Unless you’re a huge fan of Aunt Edna’s world famous moisture free chicken, a good probe thermometer is also essential. I’ve found the biggest factor in making great meals is making sure it’s cooked to the proper temperature. You can’t do that without a thermometer and you can pick one up these days for $10 – $20 so there’s no reason not to have one.

• Ours has 2 back burners and one in the front. Lodge makes a reversible cast iron griddle (smooth on one side, ridged on the other) that covers both back burners perfectly. It’s 16.75″ x 9.5″ and makes a nice wide surface for making eggs, pancakes, french toast or just about anything you’d make in a fry pan quickly. We use ours quite frequently.

Aside from popcorn, melting things like butter or chocolate or heating frozen veggies a plain old microwave is pretty useless. Yeah, it can heat up your chicken nuggets too, but that’s not really cooking either. If’ you’re shopping for an RV or want to upgrade the one you have, get rid if the plain microwave and get a convection microwave. electricity towers health risks Convection microwaves are the best of both worlds. The cook fast and can brown things up nice and pretty. These are about as close as you’ll get to a higher end convection home stove in an RV.

Since we’re on the topic of cooking with things that came with the RV, let’s talk outdoor kitchens for a minute. I love ours. I would never by an RV without one (at least, I can’t think of time that I would). I also almost never cook with it. I realize that sounds crazy but consider this. Our outdoor kitchen is like most you’ll see. It has a small (120V only fridge – more on that in a minute). A tiny two burner cooktop, a sink, a TV, a stereo system and some storage cabinets.

Our outdoor sink just drains right on the ground. Technically, that is grey water which makes doing that illegal just about everywhere. I’m not worried about the grey water police throwing the book at me but just having it drip on your toes is reason enough not to use it and getting out hoses and things to prevent if from dripping on your toes isn’t worth the effort.

The real benefit to the outdoor kitchen is that it brings the heart of the RV outside. There’s entertainment, storage and a fridge which are basically the only things you use routinely inside other then the bed. This gets the family outside and provides access to the things I need for my real outdoor cooking adventures – which I’ll get to later.

One note on the outdoor fridge. electricity merit badge pamphlet Since it only runs on 120V A/C, unless you have it tied to an inverter, it will be off when you travel or otherwise don’t have access to shore power. Ours has a tiny freezer in it which collects ice. If it’s going to be off for awhile we either defrost and dry it out thoroughly or we put a dry rag across the bottom and close the door. As the ice melts, the rag will soak it up. If you don’t do that, the water will leak out and eventually cause water damage in your outdoor kitchen. Make sure you don’t leave the wet rag in there too long with the door closed – it’ll get stinky.

Pretty standard household stuff. We’ve had a lot of other things that we’ve tossed – like a bread maker. And there are other things we’ve had in storage that we’ve considered taking but have not. We basically have a rule. If we use it, we keep it. If we can’t remember the last time we used it, it goes. z gas cd juarez That was the case with the bread maker as well as an oil fryer we had. The oil fryer was replaced with the air fryer and we really love it – its the most used cooking appliance we have, seeing action almost every day.

Of the things we own but don’t have with us, the one big one (literally and figuratively) is the Kitchenaid mixer. In our house, I loved that thing – it’s great. Unfortunately, its heavy and large so we can’t justify having it in the RV based on how much I think we would use it. That’s judgement call though, I know there are many people that do RV with them and are glad they do.

Pressure cookers (most common brand is the Instantpot). We’ve talked about it several times and I just can’t make myself do it. There are reports out there of people injured by them (steam or boiling liquid burns) even when using them properly. “Properly” of course is hard to define, in most cases that means per the manufacturer’s instructions. Unfortunately, these produce super heated liquids which under certain conditions can suddenly boil violently (appear to explode) with disastrous results. This is a physics/chemistry issue so it affects all cookers of this type. So you have to know what you’re doing when it comes to that sorta thing to make sure it doesn’t happen to you. The dangers are amplified in the small space of an RV. From the kitchen, the kids on the couch are not out of range of a boiling steam explosion. Even if they were 100% safe (no cooking appliance is), I love to cook and to me the pressure cooker is a tool for making food, not cooking. There are those occasions where tossing a bunch of stuff in a pot, closing a lid, pushing a button and eating 10 minutes later would be nice but that’s generally not my style. So, no pressure cooker here.

First and foremost know the rules for your area and be smart about it. If there’s a red flag warning and 30 mpg winds then don’t be lighting fires outside – even on your gas grill. We’ve been in places that didn’t allow any outside fires, others gas only, still others we could have wood fires but you had to have your own fire pit. We were at another place that had a bonfire so big you could roast marshmallows a 1/4 mile away. gas tax nj So, know the rules and always error on the safe side if you don’t.

Cooking over an actual wood fire is by far my favorite way to cook. There’s just nothing like it, from the experience of doing it right down to how the food tastes. There is nothing more rewarding than creating a perfectly cooked meal over an open fire. The best part is that there is almost nothing you can’t cook over an open fire. There are things that are easier to cook or that may come out more consistently over our gas system, like pizza or bread. However, even those things are doable. We typically do burgers, steaks, wings, chilli, hams, corn and potatoes over the fire and it’s always great.

The other nice thing is that it can be super inexpensive. Many campgrounds provide fire pits with cooking grates already on them. All you need is the food, some wood and a little know how and you’re all set. Even if the campground doesn’t offer that, but wood fires are allowed all you need is a $30 portable fire pit and a $20 cooking tripod and you’re all set. We have an Ozark Trail tripod that we picked up from Walmart for about $20 which looks identical to the Coleman model linked below. It has 3 collapsible shock corded legs, a cooking grate and a chain mechanism so set the grate height. It’s about 5′ tall, weights a pound or two and folds up into a tiny space for storage while traveling. It can also double as a lantern holder when you’re not using it to cook. It’s the perfect cooking tool and we get outstanding results with it.

The Explorer 2 burner with the optional 14″ full width grill. Inside there are two cast iron grates and heat diffusers that do a decent job eliminating hot spots. gas under a dollar We can cook 40 wings, 12 burgers or a 16 lb turkey on it. The Explorer 2 burner with the optional 14″ pizza oven. This is our favorite attachment and it makes amazing pizza. It’s also great for baking bread and making toasted submarine sandwiches. It will cook two 12″ pizzas at a time.

We purchased an 10′ low pressure propane hose for ours that allows us to just plug it into the RV’s propane system via the factory quick connect. This hose has a 3/8″ female nut on the end to connect to the grill and a male quick connect fitting on the other end to connect into the RV system. This can be used on any propane grill with that 3/8″ port.

The accessories can be purchased to cover one or both burners. So you can have a griddle over the one burner and a grill box over the other. We have all the accessories that cover both burners and that works well for us. Camp Chef also makes a ton of other stoves and accessories (including a stainless steel version of this model) that will fit just about any need. Ours is over 6 years old and still going strong after a lot of use all over the country – it is our primary cooking appliance so I can’t say enough about it’s durability for the price.

While the specific products I list here work great for us, you can easily mix it up if your needs are different. There are excellent gas, wood fired and electric grills on the market in a wide variety of sizes to meet almost any need. I think the setup is the desire to get out and master using them, and the time spent with family and friends doing so is the most important part.