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Monday, October 14, 2013

Downsizing to the RV kitchen

PetitPlat - Stephanie Kilgast on
If you're used to cooking in a big kitchen in a sticks n bricks home, moving into the tighter confines of an RV galley can be a real change in viewpoint. Multiply this agony many times if you're actually considering a move to full-time RVing. How do you make good food in such a small space?

The first principle is to take some time and consider what you cook most. Does it really require major kitchen countertop appliances – or can you still cook comfortably with "hand gear"? What do you use the most at home? Can you adapt?

For us, our big, pretty-much-stationary rig has room in the kitchen for a Kitchenaid mixer with all those glorious attachments. Traveling in a 23 foot trailer means some serious rethinking – it's either the hubby or the Kitchenaid. Since the latter hasn't yet got an attachment for pumping out the holding tanks, the Kitchenaid doesn't get to come. We're just waiting for the day, though. But since we don't generally buy five pound blocks of cheese while out on the road (not enough room in the freezer), we can forgo the grating attachment and make do with a small, but good quality grater that fits in a drawer. We love crock pot meals, but we don't take a huge one with us, just a small one suitable for meals for two.

What many RVers have found important are simple stuff: Since you're probably cooking for fewer people, down-size the pans, but make sure you have good quality ones that nest inside one another. You may still find the need for a good-sized pot, particularly if you're into stews and chili. There's an edge for having good knives that hold an edge.

We've taken to collapsible silicon bowls. Yes, we still like to make a cake now and then, and for "bring a dish" gatherings, a good size bowl for fruit salad is great. We have a set of three silicon collapsible bowls that take less than 4" of shelf space, but "pop out" into unbelievably large containers.

One thing that anyone who's used a gas RV oven agrees on: Don't count on even heat. Turning whatever you're baking frequently helps to "even out" the cooking, but here's another thought. Invest in a pizza stone, then put your pan on top of it, or cook directly on it where feasible. The stone evens out the hot spots wonderfully.

Other tips from smart RVers: If you're not cooking for the whole football team, cut the recipe in half. Not only does it cut down on the amount of ingredients to carry, you can cook in a smaller pan. Skip the cookbooks – either put your faves onto small cards, or poke them into electronic storage on a laptop or tablet. Stackable (and nest-able) storage containers are great. You don't need to blast a lot of money into high-priced Tupperware, the "use now, toss away later" storage containers sold in Walmart stores work well.

We've "discovered" liner bags for slow cookers. Line the cooker with the bag, toss in the ingredients, cook 'em, eat 'em, then simply toss out the bag in the trash. No heavy duty cleaning at the sink, which is a blessing for anyone who struggles with health issues associated with hand washing. Another neat trick we heard: Reynolds brand Grilling Bags are designed to cook meals over a grill or fire. Yeah, their big enough to cook enough food for a family, but one RVer simply cuts them in half, then folds the cut edge up and has never had a failure with this "two for one" approach.

Got any great downsizing in the kitchen ideas? Give us a shout at russ (at sign) rvtravel dot com.


Cheese Queen said...

Another space saver is to make one kitchen implement do the work of two. For example, you can leave behind the ladle if you use stainless steel measuring cups with a handle.
By using your silicon 9" round cake pans for your next casserole or oven potato dish- (more than big enough for 2) you can eliminate the casserole dishes.

I'm not comfortable leaving an electrical appliance plugged in on the counter while we're gone (rambunctious cats!) so we do without a crockpot, but substitute a pressure pan to cook ultra fast.

A "stick" (immersion) blender will take the place of both your hand mixer and your Osterizer, and a hand-cranked egg beater will work just as well (with a little work-out, to boot!)

We've been full-timing for a number of years, and even though I'm a darn good scratch cook, I haven't missed all the kitchen appliances I left behind. We go back and forth as to whether or not to store a toaster (cheap Chinese junk burns out fairly quickly)but even toast is easily made on the cast iron griddle.

Get a good digital thermometer to monitor oven temperatures and a 12" unglazed ceramic tile or a pizza stone for the oven, and you're set!

Ray Shoemake said...

The answer to being uncomfortable leaving a slow cooker on in your RV while you are gone is answered by using a Thermal Cooker, there are several on the market, my favorite is by Thermos. You heat up the slow cook recipe in a pan on the stove, then place in Thermal Cooker container, seal it and leave it for 4 to 6 hours. No electricity needed.

EvFancy said...

CHEESE QUEEN: For years now, I've used one of those inexpensive Coleman wire toasters that sits on the stove burner. I used it way back when in my tent-camping days & it's been an excellent alternative for me. Not glamorous, but it works great, lasts forever, & it's easy to store because it collapses.
RAY: What a great tip!

Mark and Teri said...

Regarding that pizza stone you mentioned: While traveling, don't forget to store it in a towel in the oven or elsewhere like a drawer. They have the habit of cracking if jostled around against the oven walls and shelves.

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