It’s often been said that a good cook can work with whatever tools are at hand to create a tasty meal. That may be the case, but what about the size of the kitchen in which he or she is asked to prepare everything?
Experienced RVers know that as great as living on the road may be, the kitchen space in even the largest RV is extremely limited.
The counter space is minimal, the storage space is tight, and you really need to get creative to cram everything you need into your fridge. Plus, cookware is probably one or two pots at best, plus a knife and a few wooden spoons. Usually there are only two burners on the stove. Maybe there’s a toaster. There’s possibly a microwave. If you’re lucky, you’ve got a full-sized sink. And, if you’re working with an outdoor galley kitchen, you have the elements — and flies — to contend with.
Despite all these obstacles, great RV cooking is possible in the small space you have at hand! With a little bit of ingenuity and a fair amount of patience, you can certainly prepare outstanding meals in your RV, no matter what size it is and no matter how many mouths you have to feed. Here are eight tips to up your RV cooking game.
1. Plan Ahead
Just like you shouldn’t go to the grocery store when you’re feeling hungry, you shouldn’t start thinking about what you’re going to eat ten minutes before mealtime. Try to plan out meals at least a few days in advance and shop for a few days at at time. (How many days you can shop for will depend on how many people you’re feeding, and how much refrigerator and storage space your RV has).
The less comfortable you are in the kitchen — any kitchen — the more important it is to plan, as planning will make you feel more in control. Spontaneous RV cooking can work, but you’re more likely to have good results if your meal prep skills are at least intermediate level.
2. Keep it Simple
You’d be hard pressed to find a person who doesn’t love being presented with a fancy, well-composed plate of high quality and well prepared food. However, from a cooking standpoint, those meals are usually best left to at-home cooking in a more well-equipped kitchen. For RV cooking, it’s always best to streamline and simplify. This means dishes that can be made in a single pot or pan. Think rich stews with lots of ingredients, hearty soups, and big stir fry dishes.
3. Invest in a Few Good Pieces of Cookware For Your RV
While it may be tempting to pick up a whole cookware set for your RV kitchen, it’s just not practical. There’s no place to put all of those pots and pans (and lids!), and you probably don’t have enough burners to use them all anyway. Instead, buy a large six or eight quart pot. Stainless steel is good, though cast iron may be better. A large crock pot is also great for RV cooking, though keep in mind that you’ll need a reliable source of electricity for at least four and as many as eight hours to use it.
4. Prep Ahead
If you know you’ll be cooking in your RV for a few days, try to do all of your chopping, slicing, cutting, and ingredient portioning in one session. (Having some zip top bags or small containers on hand will help with storage). Doing this will not only save you time, but will save you water because you won’t have to wash as many cutting boards and knives each day.
If you’re going out in your RV for just a few days, prepping everything in your home kitchen before you leave will cut down on meal prep time once you’re on the road. Or, to make life even easier, buy your ingredients pre-prepped: the produce section in most grocery stores stocks items such as chopped vegetables and pre-washed greens.
5. Go Cold!
You don’t have to cook anything to have a great homemade meal. Think cold salads with lots of delicious ingredients and hearty sandwiches that go beyond the ordinary ham and cheese. Having cold meals is especially great in the summer, or in warmer climates, because you don’t have to heat up your entire vehicle (and yourself) by cooking hot food. Plus, eating cold salads and sandwiches is a fantastic way to enjoy fresh and healthy produce.
6. Cook Once, Eat Twice
Plan for, store, and eat leftovers! Now, this may not be super easy to do if you’ve got a lot of people to feed. However, if you’re camping with just one other person (or even two other people), this is a great way to maximize your fun time and still have tasty and affordable meals when you’re hungry.
7. Skip the Kitchen and Use Fire!
RV cooking doesn’t have to mean actually cooking in your RV. Instead, head outside and cook your meal over a grill, or even better, a campfire. Many RV parks have fire pits and grills for guests, so you may not even need to bring your own. Plus, when you cook outside, there’s usually very little prep needed to get big flavors.
As for what you can cook, you’ve got a lot of options. Burgers, hot dogs, chicken, and even more elaborate things like steaks and fish are perfect on a grill. Potatoes can be wrapped in foil, and veggies can be brushed with a bit of oil and either tossed on the grates or threaded on bamboo skewers. If you’re feeling really adventurous, try grilling some fresh fruit; things like pineapple slices or halved and pitted peaches are delicious with some charring, especially with a scoop of vanilla ice cream on top. Nothing beats the taste of food cooked over an open fire — it’s a real camping treat!
8. Don’t Forget to Clean Up
Yes we know — this is the least fun part of cooking, whether it’s in your RV or your home. Still, it has to be done. Letting dirty dishes pile up in your small RV kitchen sink will smell bad, attract bugs, and discourage you from eating more meals in or around your vehicle. Have everyone pitch in with the washing, drying, and putting away, and it shouldn’t take long at all.
Whether you’re spending just a few days or an entire season in your RV, you don’t need to limit your meals to cold cereal and cheese sandwiches. And, unless you’re especially flush, you certainly don’t want to eat in a restaurant or get takeout for every meal. RV cooking is definitely your best bet!
Even if your RV kitchen space is small, and even if your cooking tools are limited, you can still create delicious, healthy meals that will leave you and your fellow travelers feeling full and satisfied. We hope these eight tips help you make the most of your RV cooking time! And, as the illustrious Julia Child used to say, bon appetit!